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Amadani and I

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Romules
Member
Last seen: 1 day 7 hours ago
Joined: 11/24/2018 - 18:51

WoW is a very interesting game. Not in terms of its base mechanics and gameplay loops but in terms of the social aspects that both invigorate and plague it. There is a cornucopia of social interactions that can take place but at the same time they feel neutered in comparison to the days of yester-year. It is near impossible to find people to talk to, whether in or out of guild, because the main gameplay loop has been designed to rush players through daily content to constantly stay on track. There are support systems in place but they seem to discourage communication rather then aid it. On top of that, there is no denying that the WoW community has only grown more toxic and impossible to handle. Why am I harping on such common topics that we all know about? Well, I'm burnt out. In the middle of being burnt out, I found myself reminiscing about my first time enterting WoW. Sure, there are nostalgia goggles in place to make the tedious aspects look fun but there was something back that made it worth while.

Vanilla: Terra Nova and Amadani

When I first got into WoW, I was in the 8th year for grade school; which would put me at roughly 13-14 years old. I was a lonely kid and had zero friends with little chance or want to socially interact with anybody around me. One day, I caught my brother playing WoW. He was in the middle of a Scholomance Raid slowly crawling through each room with what seemed like extreme caution and anxiety. Everything about it looked engrossing. It was a far cry from what I was used to. Seeing that one instance made me want to get WoW. So, later that week I got a physical copy of WoW and found myself with my first character: Wynri, a night elf warrior. After hitting a few levels and having interactions with other players, my brother got me into his old guild, Terra Nova. It was a quiet experience but it was interesting seeing guild chat light up on a daily basis. 

At one point, I was Scarlet Monastery ready and saw a message in guild chat, "Hey, would anyone like to do or need SM? I have a few quests." I replied and decided to help out. This was my first real interaction with a guildie. I didn't say too much but she started off with a memorable greeting, "Hello hello! I'm Amadani! Ask Me Anything Dani! I'm always happy to learn and share what I know so please don't be shy!" Instead of doing any Scarlet Monsatry wing, we just sat at the borderline of Duskwood and Stranglethorn Vale while talking about anything and everything. Next thing I knew, we were spending every afternoon and night questing and talking with each other. We were a priest/warrior combo and we ran through content with ease. We always worked together in quests and dungeon while leading the way. It was always so much fun how in tandem we were with each other.

Eventually as we drew closer the 50's, the guild decided to label us as the "Official, Unofficial, Couple." We found it hillarious in part because at that point the guild was nothing but married couples who knew each other in the real world. Amadani and I had shared and discussed our hobbies, interests, and trends but we never disclosed our personal information. That part didn't seem to ever bother us. Whenever we were both online, we would invite each other, get to questing, and start chatting. It was our own escape. It almost felt odd to even consider anything outside of that.

As our time progressed, we consumed the lore, mechanics, and loops of WoW and passed on what we knew. I remember we both had hybrid builds that people considered a joke at the time but are now considered the top tier meta of Vanilla. It seems that we always tried to break the mold with what was deemed possible and show that there was even greater skill to be unlocked. Trying to get together a dungeon was an exercise of patience. Typically, other guildies would be off in their own world and asking general chat for DPS grew tiresome. So, we would just go into dungeons and take on the Duo-Challenge. It took longer but we always managed to clear each level appropiate dungeon by ourselves. It was our personnal victory. All of hard work and effort would finally pay off.

Guild Chat: Amadani: Ding!

Guild Chat: Wynri: Ding!

We both hit level 60 at the same time with the same slime mob in Eastern Plaguelands. We were both thrilled! But, before I could continue, she stopped me and asked, "Hey, do you want to get on Vent and talk there?" We never talked on Vent before. She and I would always just stick to text. It was never really a question before. I said, "Hm... this is new but I'd love too!" We both entered Vent, hit the first open channel and exchanged our first verbal greeting. She quickly followed up, "You know me as Amadani...." She paused briefly. "My real name is Claire. I'm 15 years old. My hair is black and I'm very nervous right now so please say something!" I was quiet. I couldn't think of what to say. I took a deep breath.

She asked again, "Please say something?" I don't know why but I found myself absolutely wracked with stress and anxiety. I finally spoke up, "Hey, I'm Andrew. I'm 14 years old. My hair is also black, how about that?" We both laughed harder then we ever had in our previous talks. I think it was parts of fear, anxiety, and excitement all mixed together.

I continued, "It's really lovely to hear your voice." With a sigh of relief, she gently said, "And you as well." We sat quietly for a few moments. Neither of our avatars moved. Eventually all the mobs we killed spawned on us. I broke the silence, "I think the game is telling us to get a move on now." She laughed and agreed.

Little did we realize that Vent had exploded with actviity. The few guildies that were on had told everyone else that we were in a channel. Next thing you know, just about the entire guild is online and gossiping about us.

Guild Chat: Dextro (Guild Officer): Hey, Ama and Wyn, are you two having a good time in there? :D :D :D

Guild chat: Various strings of "lol" and text emojis filled the chat box.

We both felt incredibly embarrassed but we thought of a clever reply.

Guild Chat: Amadani: You can ask me about anything... except that :)

We laughed it off and went back to our Plaguelands quests and delving into the mystery of the lore that surrounded the zone.

Eventually, we became geared enough to enter the guild raids. After weeks of farming LBRS, UBRS, BRD, UD Strat, Scholomance, getting attuned, getting rep, and doing everything under the sun, we finally entered our first raid together. We were both highly anticipating Molten Core and the experience of a 40 strong raid group. Unfortunately, the officers of our classes were not pleased with our specs. We had to defend our hybrid specs and explain that we've had far superior results when compared to the standard set-up. Our theory crafting wasn't welcomed. We were scoffed at and not taken seriously. We talked in whispers and saw how we had flasks, potions, scrolls, and even a world buff while the rest of the raid didn't bother. Most of our questions were not taken kindly and were quickly shot down. Eventually, we were demoted to the bottom of the tier list for tier and general loot. It was frustrating to say the least.

We found ourselves going through MC, BWL, and AQ20 but never to the higher end of content. We quietly discussed alternate methods of raiding. We both settled on leading our own Zul'Gurub raid. It was a success and we made it to Hakkar. With this raid, we had invited PUGs to fill out the DPS. One of those PUGs ended up taking to us about joining their guild's raids. We thought it over and agreed that as long as we're treated fairly we'll join. We stopped raiding with Terra Nova but remainded under their guild name. Eventually we would hit the tiers of Naxxramas and found new joys and experiences.

The Burning Crusade was around the corner. I asked Amadani to meet me at Tanaris. We rode down south to the ancient gate that lead to Uldum. We both clipped through the gate and sat at the pedestal. Within the confines of that ancient, undeveloped, and cancelled zone, we had agreed to do something that we both were unsure about. It was a topic that felt taboo. But we were excited and eager for more. 

"Let's form our own guild for the Burning Crusade!"

We were both excited little kids thinking over the prospect of leading more raids, learning mechanics, and even creating new alts to learn the classes we had the least experience with. The converstion wound down as the time hit close to 2:00AM. Amadani, Claire, said one last thing before logging off, "We can do this. I know we can. More importantly, I'm happy to do this as long as you're there. I want to continue on with you. So, think of a good name for the guild and we'll take tomorrow, okay? And I get last say tonight! Good night!" She laughed and logged off.

To be continued(?) with "Terra Nova's Anger" and "Band of the Hawk: March into the Burning Depths"

 

Romules
Member
Last seen: 1 day 7 hours ago
Joined: 11/24/2018 - 18:51

Terra Nova’s Anger

Amadani and I were ambitious with our goal. We had begun to plan out methods of recruitment, opening lines to people of interest, adjusting our alt’s professions, and other min/maxing. There was a mutual understand between us that we knew this would require a lot of work, there may be potential failure, and we will certainly have to handle venomous social interactions. Regardless of all of that, we knew exactly what we wanted and the potential future. With the Burning Crusade breathing down our necks, we made haste to farm materials and auction off everything we could make or gather to form a properly funded guild bank.

Between our arrangements, there was one valuable task that we have both delayed; telling the officers and guild leads we were leaving and why. Originally, I was under the mind set of “not owing them anything” but Amadani, Claire, warmed me up, and made truly valid points: they’re decent people, they invited us as low-level nothings when no one else did, and they gave us a positive community to log on and interact with when possible. There were valid points but even then, I found myself to be overly cautious. Though I could loosely agree on her sentiments, there was still one clear resounding fact. I just didn’t know them that well. I haven’t had many communications with them. Unlike myself, Amadani was a social butterfly and freely mingled among them while I chose to sit quietly and listen. It was rare for me to speak with them. From the few sets of interactions I had, I only knew a handful of the regular members. Regardless, Amadani wanted this done with open communication and even ask for advice. I found that optimistic.

“Today’s the day! Are you ready?” She whimsically strung the words together but whether for excitement or to veil her nerves was unknown to me. My answer was neutral and plain, but I was nervous. I just couldn’t shake the feeling away. I told her the rules of engagement and battle plan:

  1. Approach amicably and address our current state of affairs.
  2. Ruminate on the positive interactions and progress made by Terra Nova regardless of our own progression.
  3. Begin to explain our departure and inquire for advice.
  4. If the situation goes south, then we quietly bow out and wish them the best.

For a simple interaction between young teenagers and adults, we probably over analyzed everything.

The time had finally come. 7:00PM had arrived and the timely arrival of our guild leader, Saro, followed suite. Then Daenerys, raid leader, popped online. Finally, the officers: Carbon, Silica, Raystora, Dextro, Yimmy, and Gravel. Amadani had told me that they were all couples and have been married for years at this point. She reassured me that, although flawed like any human, they weren’t half bad. (Saro and Daenerys, Carbon and Silica, Raystora and Dextro, and Yimmy and Gravel.) The most assured fact I knew was that they all lived within the same city and were friends or family of one another.

Saro whispered me, “We’re all on vent whenever you two wanna hop on and let us know what’s going on.” I gave a half-hearted reply, “No problem, we’re about ready for the execution squad haha.” He laughed and asked not to keep them waiting too long.

The two of us logged on vent and saw the string of officer names but it was under a different channel, “Inquisition”. She spoke with nerves rattling her voice, “That’s not good. One of them probably had a bad day….” The Inquisition channel was typically reserved for disciplinary actions for problem guild members or for them to rant when a bad mood struck. It was the first red flag, one of many that I should have spotted.

I assured her and parroted the hope of a civil conversation. We both joined the Inquisition channel.

“Ho’ there! Welcome!” Saro’s name pinged as he spoke. “Not to rush you both but we do have a raid soon so the quicker we get this done then the better. So, what did you want to talk about?”

Carbon interjected, “Maybe they just want some relationship advice!” Gravel chimed in, “Or a place to meet up! You know at that age…” The officers burst out laughing and were quick to throw more backhanded comments. While playful, their tone seemed to hint at a more malevolent nature.

Raystora calmed down the officers and the one-sided war of words halted. She dryly asked, “Well, what’s the problem? Finally want to raid with us?” Carbon didn’t waste a moment to reply, “Nah nah nah, they’re too good for us. Check out their Naxx gear!”

“Enough! Let them speak already.” It was Yimmy who set the line. “How can they speak if you keep going on? Now stop being jerks and let them speak their mind.” Her voice was meek but carried authority with it. For one reason or another, they listened to her. It was quiet, our moment to speak was up.

I quickly messaged Amadani: “They all seem tense. Let me take lead?” She agreed.

I began to speak while my voice cracked and corrected, “Well, Amadani and I have been raiding with another guild and we’ve done great. We also know you all have done a great job at progressing through content and making headway.” That was lie. They’ve been stuck in BWL and AQ40 for months. It was a bad lie but I wanted to set a positive tone. I went on about how things have been great for everyone. It felt long winded but at least they weren’t interrupting me.

I finally ended with the rehearsed line, “Amadani and I have decided to leave Terra Nova but also form a new guild for the new expansion. We were hoping-“

“Oh so that’s it, you just want to take away our best players!” It was Carbon again. More accusations quickly followed. More negative comments were being said. “You both think you’re just better then all of us! Just because you progressed in the game doesn’t mean either of you are worth a damn. You could have been easily carried through that and showed no effort!” Saro was quick and direct.

For the first time, Daenerys finally spoke, “Just leave then, we don’t care. You both are crap and add nothing. Just two stupid kids that don’t know anything –”

“Then why do I know about you cheating on Saro with Dextro?!” Amadani laced her words with venom as her anger boomed over vent. “If we’re so stupid, then how do I know about you cheating on, Saro? Huh?  How many times was it? I don’t know if I should count the afternoon or weekend trips you told me about.” Vent exploded. There was yelling from all sides and any sense of control was long gone.

Amadani had dropped the mother of all bombs.

As the officers blew up at each other, Amadani and I spoke in party chat.

Wynri: What even is?????

Amadani: They were insulting us and treating us like crap. I don’t know. I just didn’t like how they spoke to you or me. I got fed up!

Wynri: I mean… how did you even know about that??

Amadani: She would get drunk and message me things. I kinda just listened and found out stuff I really never wanted to know about.

Wynri: … This went far worse then I imagined.

Amadani: Sorry, I wanted it to be positive and end with a fond farewell but yeah…

Wynri: Yeah…

We both decided to leave vent as the officers continued to yell at each other. Several more details came to light in the middle of that chaos which just made us want to get out of their as fast as possible. It was awkward, baffling, and disappointing.

We both left Terra Nova as soon as possible.

The following days were spent recruiting and committing to the connections we had lined up. In the middle of the acquisitions, we received a message from a former-guildie. In the wake of our leaving, Terra Nova had imploded and disbanded. We had inadvertently opened Pandora’s Box and triggered the destruction of a guild. It was a sobering moment for us. We both vowed to make sure that didn’t happen to our guild.

The Burning Crusade was just a few days away. The fel embers licked at our boots as our minds flooded with anticipation. Our new guild had come together with very capable and positive players. We had set the foundation, she and I just had to build atop it now.

She and I stood by the war table betwixt horde, alliance, and demons. The small portal shimmered with demonic life as we stared it down. Her sweet voice spun over to me, “You know, I like it. Your name for the guild.”

“Ah! Great, I’m glad. I’m sure you know where it comes from.” I could feel her smile as she continued to speak, “Indeed, I do!”

A brief silence sat between us.

With a giggle she spoke our guild name, “Band of the Hawk…, going to lead us into victory?”

“We’ll both lead this to victory! Gruul’s Lair will go down the first night!” I spoke with certainty and confidence, a rarity. Amadani giggled again, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait!”

-----------------------------

This was an awkward exchange. It was difficult to remember the exact words said but there was one thing we both took away from this entire encounter: Don't ever let it happen to us. People are imperfect, it's part of the perfection of it all. Unfortunately, there were far more elements that I did not know about until Claire told me. Ultimately, it drove me more to just be up front and avoid the cloak and dagger of it all. The officers of Terra Nova seem to have bottled up more then a fair share and it erupted. Unfortunately, it was a powder keg that exploded and resulted in social destruction. Amadani and I never wished them any ill will. We still hope they're doing just fine. This is the process of growing up. We learn new things and have new encounters. Not all of them will be perfect. At the most, we took away many valuables lessons that we would use in our future.

To be continued with "Band of the Hawk: March into the Burning Depths" and "Crippling Anxiety: Meeting Amadani for the First Time"

Romules
Member
Last seen: 1 day 7 hours ago
Joined: 11/24/2018 - 18:51

Band of the Hawk: March into the Burning Depths

The Burning Crusade had arrived, and the servers were not ready. Off in the distance, Illidan was laughing while Blizzard was scrambling to get everything sorted out. The queue times were unbearable and anyone lucky enough to get in would get booted out. It was a tenuous test of patience that slowly wore down my patience.  “I’m in!” Amadani had managed to get past the chaos and onto the server. She quickly made a mad dash towards the Blasted Lands.

As I continued to battle the queue and log in servers, Amadani described the scenario. Virtually everyone on the server was at the Blasted Lands and destroying the FPS counter. She cited renowned names from the server and spotted a few of our guildmates. It was frustrating not being able to be there at that exact moment. The Dark Portal was going to be active soon.

Finally, I broke through the queue and got in. I was cutting it close.

She immediately invited me and told me to hurry. The flight paths were all broken so I had to get there on my mount from Karazhan. The time had come, people tried bolting through the portal, but it couldn’t handle the load of desperate people eager for new content. I made it to the Blasted Lands, the weight of the low FPS was crushing. I found Amadani and we decided to bolt for the Dark Portal. We raced through and saw the loading screen.

She shouted over vent, “What?! We’re in!?? No way! Yes, we--- Whoa!” Hellfire Peninsula greeted us with its war-torn visage. Numerous Horde and Alliance raced to the quest giver as armies of the Legion battled it out with our forces. Instead of following along, we took it all in. She and I gawked at what we saw while trying to put words together.

I broke our reverie, “Let’s go quest and explore! We have a lot to do!” Amadani agreed. “We can finally quest again!”

At this moment, we truly were two kids in a candy store eagerly running around and stuffing full sized candy bars into our mouths. Although it didn’t seem like it, we had a plan.

We established a plan for everyone in the guild to follow: hit 70, get attuned for the raids, and start doing heroic dungeons. We had given ourselves less then 2 weeks to reach these goals and attack Gruul’s Lair.  Everyone was willing and agreed to it.

By the time Amadani and I had completed Hellfire Peninsula, we were both at level 65 with a few runs of Ramparts and Blood Furnace completed. We progress through Zangramarsh and into Nagrand. All the meanwhile, time was flying right by. The entire day had gone and went but we were both eager to keep going. The only thing that forced us to stop was school the next day. Both of us were daze and exhausted but even we had to stop lest we sought the fury of our parents.

With an adorably exhausted tone Amadani said, “Just one more…”

“We can’t. It’s 2AM. We have to stop. But you know what? This has been absolutely amazing. The lore, the zones, the new talents, and you. It’s all been so incredible. And go figure that we have yet to upgrade our Naxx gear too.” I was exhausted but I always caught a second wind when it was just us talking.

She laughed and sighed. “This has been just the best. A lot of the guild is actually on pace with us too!” I could hear her yawn and groan.

“Sleep?” I asked, and she agreed.

The next day we went right back to it but with adjustments. We decided to skip certain quests and race to attunements as we leveled. Our minds constantly raced with new ideas to optimize our route. The faster we did it, then the quicker we could help others complete the dungeon portions. All the while, we continued our conversations and enjoyed every moment we had with one another.

At times, we questioned our routes and wondered if we should slow down so we can have more time together, but we would always lament and cite all the other new quests we’d find that we could do. No matter what, we both set on our goals and it would all eventually pay off.

We were the first to hit 70 and quickly aimed to get everyone attuned. At this moment, we were dubbed the mom and dad of the guild as we always asked, “Did you get attuned? Did you get these quests? Don’t forget to get your mount upgrade! Shadowmoon Valley is dangerous, be careful! Don’t go out while your PVP flagged, those hordies play rough!” Although guildies found it annoying at times, they would always come back and thank us for helping them out.

In two weeks, we had successfully managed to get everyone attuned with a decent array of heroic gear among everyone. It was difficult but it never stopped being fun. As I lead groups the dungeons and examined their playstyles, Amadani would spread her social butterfly wings and talk with everyone. She was able to pinpoint if anyone was frustrated, needed help, confused about new talents, and if they were alright at the end of the day. Taking everything surmised from this, we figured out who to promote to officers.

Hayabusa, a gnome rogue, would become our melee officer. He was boisterous, opiniated, and left himself unmuted far too often but would always put himself out there to help guildies with dungeons, quests, and talents. Selina, a human mage, earned her spot as ranged officer. She was quiet, meek, and didn’t like using voice but she could type up encyclopedia entries on the fly with regards to classes and specs. She even taught Amadani how to become a top tier shadow priest. I asked Amadani if she wanted to be the healer officer, but she declined the role as she felt someone else was more suited for it. Magpie was nominated for the role. She was probably our oldest member. She had an amazing knowledge of everything healers. At a moment, she can name all of the big cooldowns and how to effectively use them in combat. It also helped that she was as sweet as could be. She would go on to help Selina find her voice. Finally, I took the role of tanking officer. Unfortunately, not many people wanted to be tanks and the ones that did, by their own admission, didn’t feel confident enough to lead.

We had chosen these people in part because they were all talented but remained lovely people. They had earned our trust. If neither Amadani or I could be present, we could rely on our selected officers to take charge.

With all of guild building out of the way and our timetable at an end, we made our way to Gruul’s Lair. It would be our first raid together as a guild. The mood was a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Some wondered if we were pushing too early while others still felt unprepared. It was tough to quell the concerns, but we told everyone that no matter what we were going to have fun.

We had all entered the cavernous depths of the ogre’s lair. Vent was a mixture of jokes and general chatter until we faced High King Maulgar and his goon squad. The entire mood of the raid would be set with this attempt. It would determine everyone’s thoughts and have longstanding effects for the entire expansion. It had to go right. Everyone had read the guide and went into position.

As I went over a few key mechanics someone shouted, “OH GOD NO!” Maulgar and company raced forward and slaughtered few of us. “Everyone out! Reset it!” As we raced out, I could hear a few unhappy people in vent.

Before I could say a word, a loud eruption echoed over vent. Everyone stopped in their tracks. Hayabusa asked what we were all thinking, “Was that- Did someone- No, nah… Did someone just fart?”

One of our guildies spoke up, “Sorry… I face pulled and got so nervous and I couldn’t hold it in, and I forgot to mute myself.” We all laughed hard. We had to give Hayabusa a moment because he couldn’t breathe from how hard he was laughing.

After a moment, I reassured everyone, “Don’t worry. It happens. We got this now. Let the fart be our trumpet of victory!” Everyone laughed again.

Gruul’s Lair would be cleared that night with 2 attempts on Maulgar and one attempt on Gruul. It couldn’t have gone any better. We would take our victory and move towards the first bosses of Serpent Shrine Cavern. What would follow over the next few months was a well-paced progression through Serpent Shrine Cavern, The Eye, Gruul’s Lair, and Magtheridon’s Lair. All the meanwhile, we had successfully portioned off our guild into teams for Karazhan.

Selina, Hayabusa, and Magpie would always leave notes on how their Karazhan teams were doing. Thankfully, everyone was hitting a good pace with weekly clears. Everyone was working together and felt in sync with fellow guildies. Most importantly, no drama had crept up.

One fateful day, Selina had asked to call an officer meeting. Amadani and I had no clue as to why she wanted to speak to everyone. We tried running all of the worst-case scenarios but were still left confused. For once, we felt unprepared. All of us joined vent. Selina was quick to speak up, “Hi! Well, hello, I’m glad you two are here! And to say that,…. Wait, let me start over! Good afternoon!”

Hayabusa laughed.

“I’m trying!” Selina pleaded. Her soft-spoken nature quickly exposed her anxiety. She took a deep breath. Magpie chipped in and offered her encouragement, “Don’t worry, you’re doing fine. Compose yourself and start again.”

Selina took another deep breath and started over, “I’m glad both of you could come online. I know you two are pretty busy running heroics and setting up the raid for all of us.” She paused for a moment. “To clear anything up, there’s nothing wrong! Everything is actually pretty amazing! But, we all got to talking. You see, we want to progress a bit more.”

Amadani kept her tone neutral and flat, “But, we are progressing. We have Kara, Gruul, Mag and the first half of Eye and SSC on farm. The only big thing stopping us is how buggy the last few fights are. I mean, we can try to push them but it really isn’t fun when losing to a bugged mechanic.”

Selina sounded a bit flustered, “No, no. I totally understand that. It’s just… well, we’re ranked #5 on this server. We could have been the first on the server to kill Big Green Mag but we waited longer to get to him.”

I found myself slightly offended now. “Right, we waited on Mag because our tanks weren’t geared enough to handle the first phase. We just had to get them a bit more gear to handle the huge hits they could take. If not, we’d have mostly dead tanks or tapped out healers.”

“No, no.” Selina sighed. “Sorry, I’m being told I’m not getting to the point. Basically, we’re happy with the progress but we feel that Band of the Hawk could be the #1 guild on the server.”

I was surprised to hear that. So much so that I messaged Amadani in party chat.

Wynri: Did she really say that?

Amadani: Yup yup yup!

Wynri: Wait, why is she speaking for everyone?

Amadani: I betcha it was Magpie’s idea. It’s so awesome hearing her speak!!!

Wynri: Agreed.

Wynri: We could be top on the server, but we’d have to be careful. We don’t want to burn anyone out.

Amadani: Let me ask something.

“I have to ask this.” Amadani chose her words carefully. It slowly felt like a situation where people could leave upset. “Now, I’m not saying against or in favor of. I want to ask, why? Do you think it would be more fun? Is it just the three of you or do other guildies feel the same?”

Selina tapped into her statistical mode, “The officers and I discussed it, yes. But I also surveyed the guild and asked them to lend their thoughts. I asked them for a yes or no reply as to whether we should push ourselves further for the next tier of raiding. It was a 100% yes vote. We all want to hit the #1 rank and we feel we’re capable of just that.” Magpie excitedly cheered Selina on, “Excellent! I’m so proud of you!” Selina quietly replied with a thank you.

                Wynri: Well, that was a good answer. If everyone is okay with it then I think we should do it.

Amadani: I have some reservations, but I guess I do agree too. I just hope we don’t attack each other while doing this.

Wynri: I think that goes for us as well.

I was impressed by my officers and respected the effort they put into this. “Alright, let’s do it then. Next raid, I’ll do a general vote to confirm it. No offense, but I’d like to make sure that everyone is still okay with it myself. With that said, we should prepare more consumables for the guild vault. More importantly, when it comes to progression like this there seems to come more anger or drama. I’d like to keep that in check. We’ve all been amazing about that so far. I just want to keep it up.”

Hayabusa, Magpie, Selina, and Amadani all agreed.

Hayabusa shouted, “Okay!” and then returned to a normal volume, “Alright. I’m cool with all of this and I gotta go now. Man, so weird to not be the one talking. But good job, Selina. Alright, see ya all tomorrow night.” He promptly logged off.

Magpie followed up, “Indeed. As long as everyone is happy then I’m happy too. And well done again Selina! We need to hear you more during raids too!” Selina didn’t reply but I could just feel her turning ten shades of red.

Amadani showered her with praise as well. She let them know that we wanted to relax for a while now. We all left the officer channel but Amadani and I moved over to our private channel.

She asked me to meet her at the Caverns of Time.

Typically, we would be too tired to finish our left-over quests after such heavy raiding. So, we would always fly off to the Caverns of Time, go into Escape from Durnholde Keep, and visit Southshore. We would watch the origin of the Ashbringer and examine the interactions of the future leaders of the Argent Dawn and Scarlet Crusade. There were various little bits of lore that we loved to look over. More importantly, it was a quiet spot to relax in.

We went to our typical spot. She began to speak but she would stop herself. At this point, I knew she only did that when she was nervous about something.

I calmly asked her, “Is everything okay?”

“No, everything is fine. I, um…, I just wanted to ask you something.” She left her mic open this time. I could hear her playing with her hair, trying to sort her words out. “So… my sister is going to visit her friends in New York and I was thinking of going with her. I already got permission from my parents for it, so no problem there. It’s just, well, I’d like to see you. It’d just be for a day though. You know, we have to take the morning train, and then get back in time to catch the last one out. Then we’d drive back home. And the travel time is kinda long and I’m talking too much.”

My brain struggled to process what I just heard, “You mean… New York? Like the city? Where I live?”

She gave me a weak yes.

“Well… yeah, I mean… if you’ll be in the city then, yes. I’d love to see you.” I stuttered and fumbled over my words, but she understood me. “When will you be here?”

“Next week Saturday!” She replied with enthusiasm. “It’s a date then!”

“A date… yeah, a date! Wow. This is exciting, right? Haha” She replied with her cheery giggle. “Okay then, I’m going to get some sleep. Thank you for making my night.” She wished me a good night and logged off.

My mind finally caught up with what just happened. I’m going to see Amadani, Claire, next week on Saturday and it’s going to be a date!

Claire and I had never really shared what we look like, let alone a picture of each other. It just so happened to be another thing that just never came up. It immediately became a worry as my mind raced. Innumerable negative thoughts raced through my head. My pathetically low level of confidence sank further down.

I took a deep breath. Another. Another. Still, my mind wouldn’t stop racing. After a half hour, I finally calmed down enough to think. I had never been on a date before. I had no clue what to do or expect. So I decided to google it like any other reasonable person.

I typed into the search bar “what to do on a date”. I felt like a moron. It was like the guys in Office Space looking up money laundering in the dictionary.

Most of the recommendations that popped up sounded idiotic. I kept thinking to myself that Claire wouldn’t like that. It took two hours of research to realize how dumb I was. I finally went with what I did know about her and I went from there. We both shared so many interest and hobbies. I already knew of plenty of places to take her to. I just had to stop myself from overthinking.

At the end of it, I hoped she would be happy with everything and have a good time. Then it hit me; I’m a broke high school student. I still remember shouting out loud, “Damn it!” I accidently woke up my parents.

---------------------------

To be continued with "Crippling Anxiety: Meeting Amadani" and "Black Temple: Fall From Grace"

Romules
Member
Last seen: 1 day 7 hours ago
Joined: 11/24/2018 - 18:51

Crippling Anxiety: Meeting Amadani

Time…Never enough time.” Moroes’ dying words clung onto me, feeding off my burgeoning anxiety.

There was less than a week until my date with Amadani and I had far too much to figure out. There were various segments to take into consideration, but the primary concern was finances. At this point, I’m just a broke high school student schlepping week to week and working with scraps. The idea of conjuring up enough for a date seemed impossible. Asking for it from my parents was an immediate no. Activities at my high school could net in some cash but the turnover time would take too long.

I examined several possible avenues throughout my school, but the options were slim and viciously fought over by numerous other students. By the middle of the school day, I thought I had no possible way to make this work. That is until I heard members of the football team.

Within the sectioned off hallway of our locker assignments, I could hear them griping about one particular class. The complaints were loud and clear whilst the blame was laid at the teacher. I listened closely to their dilemma of tenuous grade scores and difficult essays. They discussed a teacher I had taken before, Mr. DeWitt, and his writing intensive Ancient European History class. These guys had managed to fall behind and were struggling to stay out of the red zone.

I decided to myself that I can write out their essays, score them an easy A, and get enough for my date. I took the class before and found it far too easy. I figured out the formatting and style that the professor preferred and was able to churn out each assignment with little to no effort.

I finally drummed up the courage to speak to all of them. At first, they were rather hostile but quickly became more relaxed. My reputation during high school was mixed. I was the quiet student that preferred to be alone. Over time, they had all dredged-up rumors that I would be a future school shooter and choose to fear and evade me to avoid becoming a target. It was absolutely ridiculous, but I wore it like armor. Thanks to these fear mongering rumors, I was able to negotiate with them and settle on a price. I made sure the cash was up front.

Over the next few days, my time in WoW dwindled down to just an hour or so and raid blocks. While I did find the essay material straight forward, there was a matter of the quantity of essays. Between the 8 of them I had to write out 16 essays. At a few points I cursed the Peloponnesian War and condemned all of Athens and Sparta to a special place in hell.

Most of the guild members and officers grew worried about me. They found my lack of presence disturbing. Every other time, I had to assure them that I was fine and just had extra schoolwork to handle. They were reluctant to accept my answers.

By Thursday, all the essays were completed. I handed them off to my ever-grateful clients and they raced off to hand them in before the first period. They all came back to me after the last period and told me they got all A’s. They had tried to convince me to do it again, but I declined.

All in all, I gained $160; $10 for each essay. It was an exhausting task, but I got it done. Finances were secured.

Next up, I decided to make a bold move. When I got back on WoW, I messaged Selina.

                Wynri: Hey Catwoman, do you have a moment?

                Selina: Sure, what’s up?

                Wynri: Vent, please!

                Selina: Uh… okay…

We both jumped onto vent and joined a private channel. I didn’t want to waste too much time and decided to go straight to the desired topic. “So… you and Amadani talk a lot, don’t you?” She was quiet. A minute passed. Then another. Another. She finally replied, “Um… we do. Why?”

I could hear it in her voice how nervous she was. It was as if I cornered a terrified stray cat, and it was ready to run away at any moment. “Okay, you already know that Amadani and I won’t be present for this Saturday’s raid. I was wonder-“

She cut me off and nervously asked, “Is this about your date?”

I clung onto her reply with a tight grasp, “Ah ha! Alright, so you do know about that! Perfect! Help me out, Selina. I know both of you are close. Has she told you anything about it? Is there anything that I can know to not screw this up? Better yet, just any advice?”

She laughed nervously and struggled to piece words together. “Well yeah, we do talk a lot. But… uh, I don’t know how to say this.”

I tried to carefully prod her for more information. I was hoping to fish for any small bits and pieces, but her nerves seemed to dominated and strangled any form of verbiage she could produce.

That’s when I saw Magpie join vent and hopped into our channel. Selina had used her “Phone a Friend” lifeline.

Magpie chirped in, “Good evening to you two. Selina told me she just needed some help speaking.” She sounded almost amused.

With a sigh I replied, “I’m gonna take a guess and say that you knew about this date too.”

She let out a hearty laugh, “Ahh, you two are adorable. If it makes you feel better, Amadani messaged both of us and asked for advice as well.”

Selina quietly added on, “Yes… we talked about it a few days ago. Sorry…” Magpie was quick to soothe Selina. “Now, there’s no need to apologize. You did nothing wrong. Are you okay with saying what was on your mind now?”

There was a comfortable silence between us.

Selina let out a calm answer, “Yes… Sorry Wyn. I’m still working on being vocal. I guess I was just overthinking things to much. Um, I can’t give you much advice. I already told Amadani a few things. I’m not sure if it helps or not, but she is nervous too. Uhh, maybe the best thing I can tell you is to just be yourself. That’s what I think at least.” As she finished her thoughts her words grew quiet.

Before I could reply, Magpie chipped in her words of wisdom. “You know, you two are truly adorable. You both came to us asking for advice. Now, my advice to you will be different from hers: Be mindful and pay attention to the details.”

I took in her words carefully. I stopped myself from letting my thoughts run wild.

“You’ll be fine. Don’t you worry now.” Magpie added a bit of her whimsey again. She genuinely sounded like a fairy godmother.

I laid back in my chair and took a few deep breaths. “Thank you, both of you. I’m sorry for bringing this up to the two of you. I’m honestly just nervous about the whole thing.” Selina interjected herself, but she sounded confident this time; much to my surprise. “I know about being nervous. With my first date, I was petrified. I was a half hour late because I was too scared to show up. I just decided to suck it up and go. I ended up having a nice time. So, if I can do it then so you can you.”

Magpie lovingly cheered on Selina. It was always a noteworthy moment when she spoke up and asserted her thoughts.

I thanked them both again for their thoughts and what they were able to impart me with. We ended up chatting for a bit more before we all logged off. Their advice would sink in and calm my nerves for the night. Amadani had told them both of the upcoming date and received unique advice as well. For a moment, I found myself lamenting over what it may have been. I had to tell myself to calm down and just rest.

On Friday, I decided to assign Selina the role of raid leader with Magpie and Hayabusa as support. Time and again she proved that she had a confident voice with the capability to lead. With Magpie and Hayabusa, they can easily lead the raid. A few guildies asked where mommy and daddy were going. I just told them we were going out, dinners in the fridge, and that they’ll be alright.

Amadani logged in and quickly messaged me.

                Amadani: Hey!

                Wynri: Hey you!

                Amadani: I’m not going to stay on long. I have to go to bed early to catch the first morning train.

                Wynri: :( Makes sense but still…

                Amadani: Let’s exchange numbers! That way we can find each other at Penn Station.

                Wynri: Sure :)

We exchanged numbers and caught up with a few more details about Saturday’s raid. With little fanfare, Amadani told me, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” and logged off.

My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. It’s really going to happen.

My phone vibrated. I checked it and saw a text message from Amadani, “Will be there @ 9:30AM :D” I thumbed a quick response, “See you then :)”

I logged off from WoW and decided to get some rest.

I woke up at 7:00 and got myself ready. I found myself pacing back and forth while trying to figure out ways to calm down. My heart was racing, and my thoughts refused to slow down for even a moment. The minutes were speeding passed me.

8:30AM.

I got myself together and practically ran out the door. I went down a few blocks and realized I forgot my phone. For the first time, it was going to be essential. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to find Amadani. I thought to myself how idiotic I was and ran back. With phone in hand, I ran back out. This time, I made sure to have everything I needed.

I found myself inside a train heading into the city. Everything around me felt non-existent as my mind went wild. A 50-minute ride felt like seconds thanks to the speed of my thoughts. I got off at my stop and checked the time.

9:10AM.

I was a bit early. I finally slowed down my pace and made my way into Penn Station.

In all my time in the city, I had never been inside Penn Station. I had no idea so many train routes crossed through here as thousands of people commuted on a daily basis. I tried to be proactive and find the train Amadani was coming in but quickly realized that I never asked her that detail. I decided to patiently wait in the central hub area.

There wasn’t much else I could do besides overthink and panic myself further. Time drifted to a crawl. The sea of people in front of me lagged into a slow march. I closed my eyes and let my thoughts follow along. Finally, I was able to stop myself and think clearly. I took a few deep breaths.

My phone shook with life. My moment of zen ended and everything around me came back to life.

I fished my phone out of my pocket and answered it, “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me!” Her voice came through with a mixture of fear and excitement. “I’m by the Help and Security Desk.”

“Ahh, okay. I’ll be right there.” I slowly made my way through the sea of people. She continued on, “I’m with my older sister too. Um….”

As I neared the end of the hub, I saw the locations she pointed out and a few people as well. “I’m coming to you now. I’m the dorky guy with the Akira shirt and Yu Yu Hakusho hoodie.” With the description given, I could see one girl looking at my direction. She held her arm up in the air with a large smile beaming across her face.

I walked up to her and felt my mind go blank. All I could muster up was, “Amadani?” Her smile grew even wider. It was absolutely divine.

“Wynri?” She replied. I nodded my head.

“Ah, we’re not in WoW right now so I guess Andrew and Claire is better.” Her smile didn’t stop but I noticed her hands were trembling. The woman next to Claire nudged her. “Oh, right, sorry!” She laughed nervously. “Andrew, this is my sister, Morgan.” Morgan extended her hand forward and I shook it, but my mind was still catching up and processing what I was seeing.

Claire was right there in front of me. I had never seen anyone or anything so beautiful in my life, and nothing has ever come close. Her long raven black hair was brushed to the side and rested over her shoulder. Her fair complexion complimented it perfectly. She wore a lovely white sun dress that fit perfectly on her petite frame. It took me a moment to realize that her arms were wrapped with bandages. But then I saw her dazzling blue eyes looking back at me and it took all of my willpower to not go completely stupid.

Morgan snapped back my attention, “So, Andrew. I expect you to bring back my sister by 8:00PM, okay? I also expect you to treat her with respect and to not do anything stupid. Do you understand?”

Claire groaned, “You don’t have to talk as if I’m not here. Besides, we’ll be fine. Trust me.”

The sisters looked at each other. They seemed to tell each other a hundred different things just from their mannerisms. Morgan let go of my hand, I didn’t even realize we were still shaking hands. “My point still stands. 8:00PM. Claire, I’ll call you during the day to check in.”

She groaned again. “Okay, okay, okay.”

My thoughts finally managed to piece together a sentence that wasn’t cave man speak, “Don’t worry, I understand.” She quickly shot back, “I hope you do.”

She turned back to Claire and explained where she would be and which one of her friends to contact in the event of an emergency in case of anything.

They hugged each other and Morgan began to walk away.

“So… how do I look?” Claire sheepishly asked such a simple question, but my mind drew a blank. I knew she looked jaw droppingly beautiful, but I couldn’t say it. Morgan turned around and caught my attention. She mouthed, “You look amazing!” I looked back at Claire and told her exactly that.

Her delightful smile was back on her face.

Morgan gave me a half smile and left for her destination.

Claire and I made our way out of Penn Station and back into a city station. I looked over her way and asked, “Do you have any place in mind where you’d like to go?” She thought it over and shook her head, “Honestly, I don’t. A lot of this is kind of new to me. I’m so used to being in the suburbs. This is almost overwhelming.”

“Alright, no problem! I have a few spots to take you too.” She quickly walked beside me and took my hand, our fingers interlaced. Her hand felt soft and delicate. She looked up to me and smiled again. I returned the gesture.

We slowly made our way deeper into the city. All the while, we did what we would always do: talk about anything and everything. It felt perfectly normal. Instead of flying through locations in WoW, we were walking together in the city.

She was eager to see numerous locations and stores along the way. I almost felt like I was being dragged from place to place while she took everything in. Eventually, we made it to our destination: Chinatown’s Arcade District. Interlaced among the street blocks were various arcades filled to the brim with cabinets ranging from fighting to shooting games.

Claire’s eye lit up. “You have entire arcades here?! The most I have is a strip mall that had three cabinets! Come on! Let’s go in!” We ran through the street and into the first arcade. It was a brightly lit room with rows upon rows of arcade cabinets. The sounds of various games folded over each other as gamers played on and watched each other.

Claire was already running up to change her dollars into quarters. Change in hand, she ran back to me and asked, “What should we play first—”She stopped mid-sentence and looked around. “Wait, I know that announcer!” She quickly walked down a row of cabinets and stopped at one, “It is here!” I caught up with her and looked at it.

She had found the Capcom vs SNK 2 fighting cabinet.

“Wait, hold on. You’ve played this before?” I was shocked to say the least. A wicked grin crossed her face, “Please tell me you have as well!”

I nodded. “There was a mini-mall near me where I played a bunch of fighting games.” She placed her hand on my chest and looked up at me, “Does that mean you’re good?” I gave a half-hearted laugh, “Well, if you want to lose a few rounds…”

She quickly slammed her quarters into the coin slot. “Bring it on!” I nestled a few quarters out of my pocket and slid them in. I wasn’t sure whether I should take her seriously or not. That is until we entered the character select screen and she immediately choose her three fighters. It was swift, calculated, and confident. She knew how to play. I choose my three characters, stretched my hands, and cracked my knuckles.

The loading screen finally transitioned into the Aomori arena. Our characters taunted off and we quickly were set free. She was quick but patient. She knew how to punish my air attacks, frame block super moves, and string together combos. I was thoroughly impressed and quickly lost my first character. I had to take her seriously.

My second character entered the arena. I made sure not to hold back. She quickly lost her first character. Her second fighter entered, and we found ourselves more evenly matched. I lost this exchange due to being at lower health. All the while, Claire was quiet. She only occasional let out a cheer.

My third character came onto the screen. We exchanged blows and when it was all set and done, she had won. We both played incredibly well.

She let go of the controls and stretched her arms up into the air, “You’re definitely better than I thought you’d be! Let’s see what else they have!” We ended up going through a lot of the fighting games. It turns out that she was well versed in versus fighting games. From X-Men vs Street Fighter to Garou: Mark of the Wolves, there was an endless array of options that were exceptional at taking away our quarters.

We found ourselves at our first cooperative game, Time Crisis 3. There were two large light guns attached. She and I took a gun each and started the game. As we shot our way through terrorists, I checked the time. 2:30PM. We had already spent so much of our time together.

I took a few hits and had to use a continue.

I looked over at Claire and was about to ask her if she wanted to get something to eat but I noticed her bandages were coming undone. I didn’t see any bruises or anything that required medical attention, but I saw dozens of scars across her skin. Long, deep scars in forms of lines, and x shapes. “Hey Claire…” She was fixated on the game, “Keep your eyes up, you’re falling behind in points!”

“Claire, your bandages…” She immediately stopped what she was doing. She quickly put the light gun down. Panic and fear took over. Her eyes began to welt with tears as she struggled to put everything back together. Claire’s breathing became erratic and unmanaged.

I took a step towards her and held her arm loosely. I did my best to rewrap the bandages around her arm. “It’s okay, don’t worry. It’s a bit hot in here, let’s step outside for a bit.” She wiped tears away from her eyes and nodded.

We went across the street and sat on a bench close by. She chose to sit a bit farther away from me. I was genuinely worried about her. I had never heard her afraid or on the verge of tears, now I had seen both. “Are you alright?” I asked Claire with the utmost care.

She didn’t respond. Her silence seemed to be an answer enough. I looked around and told her to stay here. I came back with two ice-creams and handed her one.

She accepted it.

As we ate, she cried again. I extended my hand towards her cheek, “May I?” She didn’t reply. I wiped the tears off her cheeks.

Finally, Claire spoke, “Please don’t judge me.”

I was legitimately confused, “Why would I do that?” She shot back, “Because… you saw. You know what I did.” I shook my head, “I’m not here to judge anyone. More importantly, I want to know if you’re okay.”

With a nod she gave her answer. “I’m sorry I never told you.”

I let out a quick laugh, “You don’t have to apologize for anything. To be fair, you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to talk about it. But you know you can talk to me about anything. You know I’m here for you.”

I could see a smile forming on the edges of her lips. “You’re too nice to me….” She sighed, “There were times where I was depressed. When I did it, it helped me forget about things. It helped to take the edge off things. Then, I felt like I should do it because I thought things were my fault.”

I waited a moment to see if she would continue. I made sure to listen to her every word and only reply when she was finished. “What things? Sorry. You don’t have to tell me that.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ve always wanted to tell you. I was just scared of what you would think.” Another sigh escaped her. “Long story short, my sister and I lost our parents a long time ago. Morgan took on part time jobs and dropped out of college to support us. I thought it was all my fault, so I started… doing this. My sister found out and talked me through it. I haven’t done it since. The only problem is that I can’t get rid of these scars. On top of that, I wanted to look pretty for you. I didn’t have much beyond long sleeves and hoodies. So, Morgan bought me this dress. But I didn’t know what you’d think so I still tried to hide my scars and… and… I’m talking too much.” Her tears began to flow down her cheeks again. It hurt to see her so upset.

 I listened closely to what she said and sighed. There was a lot to process there but at the moment I just wanted her to feel better. So I told her the truth. “You know what I think? I think that you’re perfect the way you are. It’s through our imperfections that we become who we are. Imperfect perfection. It probably sounds completely stupid, but I still think you’re the same amazing person I know and adore. What we go through just helps us become who we are and trust me when I say that I find you amazing.”

She laughed through her tears. “Stop being insightful!”

“You don’t need to wear bandages to hide anything. You are you, and I’m here for you.” I extended my hand and she reached for it.

We sat there for a moment just holding hands in in our comfortable silence.

“Andrew…” Claire paused for a moment. She turned her gaze towards me and smiled. “I think you’re the amazing one.” I lightly laughed.

“Are you sure it’s okay?” She asked with mixed concern.

I nodded my head.

Her sapphire eyes looked deep into me. She slowly began to undo her bindings, “I trust you, Andrew. More than anyone I know.”

Her arms were bare and exposed with dozens upon dozens of scars all over. I took her hand once more, “You’re so beautiful.” Her big, gorgeous smile once again lay on her face.

She opened her purse and finally I was taken aback, “Hold up, is that duct tape?” She giggled and showed me more closely. “Yeah, this is a hand me down purse. I had to salvage it as best as I could. So far, duct tape has done just fine keeping it together!” She placed her bandages inside her purse.

Her phone began to ring. I immediately laughed, “Sailor Moon!” The ringtone was the late 80’s Sailor Moon S Transformation theme. She giggled again and struck the Sailor Scout pose and cited one of the Sailor Scout phrases, “In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!” She seemed calm and distracted now. That alone was a relief.

Claire picked up her phone. It was Morgan screaming at her. Apparently, she had missed around 10 calls. It quickly turned into trying to explain why, how, and that it wouldn’t happen again.

I could clearly hear Morgan yell out, “Don’t ever do that to me again!”

The phone conversation ended. Claire was visible disappointed that she scared her sister.

“Hey, are you still hungry? There isn’t a problem that good food can’t fix.” It was a quick thought to distract her.

She took my hand again, “Yes, lets. But can you hold onto my phone. I don’t want to miss another call.” I happily obliged and placed it inside my jean pocket.

I took Claire to a ramen bar where she found a world of new flavors. She had never had ramen before, so it was an especially special treat to have. We each had our fill but more importantly she seemed to have recovered emotionally and mentally. She would occasionally rub her arms, but I would lay my hand on hers and give a quiet smile.

Afterwards, she wanted to check the anime and game stores nearby.  They were all large locations filled to the brim with imported goods and hard to find merchandise. We went to the general anime store first and explored each floor.

Claire immediately morphed into a kid that entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. She had never seen a store with so much anime merchandise. We passed by the manga section and found our favorite ones. I pulled out volume 1 of Yu Yu Hakusho and showed it to her, “This is by far one of my top favorite manga and anime.” She took it and replied shyly, “I uh… never heard of it.”

“What?! It was on the Toonami block with Sailor Moon! How could you not have heard of it?!”  I was blown away and partially insulted that she never heard of it. I turned around and pointed at the back of my hoodie. Across the back was the main character, Yusuke Urameshi, using his iconic ability, the Spirit Gun.

I quickly summarized the first episode to her. “It’s the story of a delinquent teenager that everyone had given up on. He would find a kid playing to close to the street and chastised him for it. The kid ran into traffic and was going to get struck. Until, our delinquent, Yusuke, leapt forward, pushing the kid out of the way. He was immediately killed. As a ghost now he would meet the Grim Reaper only to be told that everyone in the afterlife was shocked that Yusuke had sacrificed himself. They would begin to work out a deal to bring Yusuke back to life."

“That is cool!” She quickly went into her purse and dug around for something. “What are you looking for?” I asked.

She continued to look around, “I’m just counting how much money I have. I spent a lot of it at the arcade.” She finally put her purse down and checked the price on the manga and frowned. “I don’t have enough money to get it. I’ll get it next time! Promise!” She placed it back on the shelf and went around to keep exploring.

We both stopped in our tracks a saw a manga special to us. She pulled it out from the shelf and presented it, “Berserk! I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in person.” Claire thumbed through the pages and found it. “Here they are! The Band of the Hawk!” The page was of the Band of the Hawk in one of their more ferocious battles. Blood and guts adorned each panel as the main characters lead the charge.

With a hint of worry she brought up the raid, “You know, I hope they’ll be okay tonight.” I quickly assured her, “Don’t worry, they’ll be just fine. Let’s not worry about that though.”

She laughed and agreed. “Right, mommy and daddy are on break. They know how to use the microwave to heat dinner up.” We both laughed and kept on exploring.

As we went to leave, she spotted something out of the corner of eye and let out a gasp. She quickly held it and told me to come look. Claire had found a Sailor Moon purse. It was similar to her shoulder purse sans duct tape and of far higher quality. The outer flap had the shape of a cat face while the interior had a Sailor Moon design. The zipper design was of the Sailor Moon wand too. Claire absolutely adored it. She tried it on, examined everything about it, and then quickly grew sad. “I can’t afford it.” She sighed as the price tag slid through her fingers. “I definitely can’t afford it.”

“It can’t be that bad.” I went to check the price: $49.99. “Okay, never mind.” She quicky found another item. A Sailor Moon Necklace. It was of the Magic Wand that had a star for each Sailor Scout. The price was equally devastating at $39.99. She let out a laugh, “It’s not fair to have such cool things out here for sale. They should hide them from me next time.” I laughed with her. Just seeing her joy made me happy.

Claire went over to the attendant and asked if there was a bathroom she could use. Luckily for her, there was one. She quickly ran off to use it.

I began to plot. I counted what I had left and committed to my plan of action. I quickly grabbed the necklace, purse, and ran up to the second floor to grab the Yu Yu Hakusho manga.

With immediate swiftness, I had the cashier process everything. The woman behind the counter commented, “Ooh, are you buying this for your girlfriend? That’s very sweet of you.” I gave an embarrassed laugh.

“Here, I’ll give this to you for free.” The wonderful saint that she is pulled out a Sailor Moon decorated gift box. She put the other items in the purse and placed it inside the box. I almost wanted to get on my knees and express my gratitude. “It’s nice to see young couples. Here you go now.” She handed me everything in a black bag and I happily paid the sum.

I profusely thanked her again. She just laughed and said it was no problem at all.

Claire came back out, “Oh, what did you get?” I gave her my own impish smile, “I just got a few Berserk manga’s I didn’t have.”

“Oh, great! You’ll have to tell me about it when you finish them.” We both left the store and thanked the worker on our way out. We quickly made our way to the video game store. Claire had shown me her DS Lite and was curious what games were available. Upon further examination, I found out she had only three games for it: Phoenix Wright, Advance Wars, and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. That was something I was hoping to fix.

We found our way into the store and quickly examined the DS section. After some time, she had pointed out a series she had never played: Castlevania. “What?! You’re note serious right?” I was flummoxed by this revelation.

She shook her head with an almost mischievous grin, “It’s kinda fun to see you shocked.” She giggled and wrapped her arm around my own.

I pointed towards Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. Claire closely examined it and seemed fascinated. I told her the long history of the resurrections of Dracula and the longstanding Belmont Clan meant to defeat him. Her interest was piqued as she probed for more information. I explained to her that new characters, Jonathan and Charlotte, worked together to go through the massive castle and hop through portraits to enter other stages.  “Okay, I’m definitely interested in it now.”

Her phone rang. I quickly passed it over as she made her way outside to answer it.

I counted my money again and took a deep breath. I barely had enough to cover the charge. Without hesitation I purchased the game and added it to the bag. I met Claire outside.

“It’s getting close to 8:00PM.” She seemed pained and disappointed.

I checked the time. 6:30. Crap. The day had really flown by us.

“Is there anything in particular you want to do before we go back to Penn Station?” It was a difficult question to ask. It meant that the end was drawing near but at least we could do one more fun thing before then.

She took a moment to think it over. “Most of the arcade games would take too long. There is one thing I’d like to do….”

Claire stepped close to me. Her blue eyes looked up and stole my focus. It was enough to get my heart racing. She laid her had on my chest and leaned in towards me. The next thing I knew we were kissing. It was absolutely surreal. Hundreds of emotions raced through my mind, but they immediately halted. I could only clearly think of her sapphire eyes and her soft lips. I closed my eyes and placed my hand on her cheek. If she couldn’t feel my heart pounding through my chest then surly, she did now.

She pulled back and continued her gaze towards me. In that moment, I could only admire her beauty.

Claire smiled wide, “I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you.”

I laughed nervously.

I had just been hit with a cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. My heart couldn’t and wouldn’t stop. My body was going into overdrive. I understood at that moment why characters in shows would think of the foulest, most obscene, things to calm themselves after being kissed by the girl of their dreams. I tried doing exactly that but it didn’t work.

Claire turned her head and asked, “Are you okay?”

I couldn’t even fumble an answer out. I decided to hell with it. I leaned in towards her and saw her light up with a smile. We kissed again. She adjusted her hand and giggled. “Your heart is really worked up. Just like mine.” She took my hand and guided it over her chest. I could feel her heart thumping just as fast.

The adrenaline finally caught up with us. Our hands were trembling.

We couldn’t help but laugh. As we felt our hearts race a million beats per minute and our hands tremble, our mouths both spoke out words that made us smile.

“I love you.” We said it to each other at the same time.

We laughed harder than before.

I took a moment and listened to her heart. I also realized that she was freezing. I took a step back, took off my hoodie, and put it on her. “Here, you’re freezing.” She nestled the fabric between her fingers and wrapped herself up. She took my hand again and placed it back on her chest. “Can you tell?” I closed my eyes and focused. Her heartbeat had slowed down but speed right back up.

“That’s what you do to me. Thank you, Andrew.” She wrapped her arms around my waist. I lifted the hood to cover up her head and placed my arms around her. I wanted to make sure she was warm.

Time had proven a clever enemy. It moved unrelentingly forward while never wavering in its trajectory. Claire and I had to make our way back to Penn Station. If we were late, she might miss her return train home. More importantly, I’m sure I would have felt her sister’s fury come crashing down upon me. That wasn’t a scenario I relished.

We both took the city train and went back to Penn Station. The entire way back, Claire was wrapped around my arm. Typically, I hated how long the trains took but this time I was nothing but grateful for it.

Back at Penn Station there was little commotion. The crowd density had diminished which allowed us another moment together.

Worry and sadness plagued her face once more. “I hate that today has to end.” There was no venom behind her voice, only exposed sorrow.

I wasn’t sure what to say this time. While my mind had recovered from earlier, I just couldn’t piece together a proper reply. “I agree…” It was all I could muster. I could feel the crippling sorrow eek its way through my throat and into the pit of my stomach.

Again, her phone would ring. She promptly answered it.

Morgan was close by and would arrive soon. Claire hung up. The reality of the situation lay heavy on both of us.

I fumbled with my fingers and felt the bag in my hands. I quickly remembered what I had in my possession. After having my thoughts sapped multiple times, I completely forgot I even had her gift.

Claire was lost in her own world as a forlorn demeanor crept onto her. I gently nudged her.

“Hmm?” She replied. I took the gift box out from its bag and presented it to her. “This is for you.”

Shock now took hold of her. “You didn’t buy yourself the manga? I mean, you didn’t have to. Um…” Her delicate hands gingerly accepted it. She gently felt the box and admired the design as a smile slowly took hold of her mouth.

Finally, she opened it.

There was nothing but a mixture of joy and surprise from her. “You didn’t have to, really!”

I perked up as she went to put on her new Sailor Moon purse. “I know I didn’t have to, but I wanted to.”

She stopped a moment and look bewildered, “It’s a bit heavier than I remember…” Her hands went down and opened it. She found the rest of the items and looked completely shocked.

Her reactions were incredibly entertaining. “Ahh, I see why you enjoyed my shock from earlier. It is entertaining!” A devilish smile took hold as she let out a soft giggle.

She carefully examined each item before looking up to me with her hauntingly beautiful eyes. “No one’s ever done anything like this for me before. Thank you so much.” I offered to help her switch the contents of her purse. Then I unlatched the necklace and carefully helped her put it on. The latch was foreign to me and it took a few tries to get it right. I placed her old purse in the gift box and inside the bag. I handed it to her. As she took it back, she leaned up to me and kissed me again.

That’s when I saw her sister staring at us wide eyed.

I found myself immediately nudging Claire. Our reverie was cut incredibly short this time.

Morgan walked up to us and stood by her sister. “Well, I’m going to say that you two had fun.” I felt my face light up 100 shades of red. Claire shoved her, “Shut up…” Of course, Claire was equally beet red.

I noticed Morgan eyeing up Claire, examining her arms, new purse and necklace. They began to quietly whisper to each other. I took a step back and did my best to not ease drop. It felt wrong to listen in on their conversation. Although, I quickly figured out from Morgan’s worried look that it must been related to her bandage free arm.

I saw Claire shaking her head a few times. They both seemed relieved.

8:10PM had struck.

Morgan closed the gap between us, seemingly less suspicious of me. “Thanks for showing my sister a good time. We’ll be coming here again soon. So don’t worry about that detail.” Claire came close and asked for a bit of privacy. Morgan teased her a bit but obliged.

“Thank you again for everything. I wish the day didn’t have to end but…” Her thoughts trailed off. She quickly wrapped her arms around me and let go. She started to take off my hoodie but I quickly stopped her. “Keep it. Trust me. I don’t want you getting cold on your way back home.” We both smiled at each other.

8:15PM.

Claire leaned towards me and finished our interrupted kiss. “I meant what I said. I do love you.” She placed her hand back on my chest. Her eyes closed as my heartbeat trailed along her palm. Again, she took my hand and guided it onto her chest. “Remember, this is what you do to me.”

My eyes lay shut as I felt the thumping of her heart.

“Give me a call as you get home, please? I just want to know that you got back safe.” She nodded and followed up, “You do the same for me.”

I agreed.

Morgan approached us once more, “I’m sorry you two, but we have to get going. The train is in the station now.” Claire was quiet but went towards her sister.

Morgan wished me a safe trip home. Claire waved her goodbye with a mixture of sadness and joy. As they turned around and walked away, I could clearly hear Morgan say, “Okay, details. I saw you two kissing!”

I laughed to myself and made my way home.

I made sure to message her. Claire thanked me and happily shared that she was enjoying Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.

It was well into our scheduled raid time. I decided to log in to just see how things were going.

As I passed the loading screen, I saw guild chat explode with variations of “Daddy’s home!” I quickly got whispers from my officers. They had forgotten strategies for a few encounters.

I logged onto vent and went to the officer channel. Without a moment’s hesitation, Selina asked, “So how did the date go?” Magpie followed up, “Yes, please, tell us!”

I took a deep sigh and let them know it went well. I quickly asked, “Which boss are you stuck on?”

“None.” Selina replied. “We just wanted to know how your date went first.”

I laughed and told them both off.

They quickly went back to the raid. At that point, I honestly didn’t care about the raid. I was just anticipating Claire’s next message.

Two hours had passed until I heard from her. She made it home just fine and found herself deeply invested into Castlevania. We told each other good night but this time she promised to call me in the morning.

I went to bed but found myself eagerly anticipating her call.

-------------------------

To be continued.