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“What do you want to play next?” Kristoph asked.
“I don’t care. It’s up to you,” Shan replied.
“Yeah, you pick,” Zhuyu answered.
“Come on guys, don’t do this to me. Just pick a game already!” Kristoph protested, looking through the selection of games on the floor.
“Pick the one you like,” Shui said, refilling his cup.
“Let’s play this then. Are you okay with that?” Kristoph decided, holding up a game.
On the cover, a muscular man carried a gun. He stood back to back with a woman holding a submachine gun. The roman numeral for five was at the top, etched with a dark golden border and blood dripping from it.
“What’s it about?” I asked, inspecting the box.
“Virus outbreak and zombies. Good stuff,” Kristoph replied.
“Lau, be Kristoph’s partner again,” Zhuyu suggested.
“No, no. I’m fine now. I already played enough,” Shui refused, shaking his head.
“Come on, Lau. Do it. I promise I won’t be salty this time, I swear,” Kristoph urged, picking up the second controller off the floor.
“You should do it. Those lanterns though,” Shan encouraged, smiling.
“Good times, those lanterns. Don’t you want to do that again, Lau?” Zhuyu said, laughing as well.
Must be some kind of inside joke. Felicity texted on her phone while all the boys talked. Tess disappeared at some point, vanishing from the living room. There were only so many places she could be. Most likely the bathroom.
“No, Kristoph will be better off with you as partner,” Lau said, shaking his head.
“Alright, alright. Let’s do this,” Zhuyu finally agreed, picking up the second controller.
Kristoph and Zhuyu organized their stock of weapons. Zhuyu grabbed his glasses from a nearby wooden shelf, placing them on. I watched the screen and saw a weird split screen with a lot of black on the border.
“Watch out for the bat!” Shan pointed out.
“Get it! Did you get it?” Kristoph asked, tilting the camera upward.
“Almost. Crap, I’m running low on machine gun ammo,” Zhuyu replied, missing a few shots.
“There’s some over here. Get it. Uh, my inventory is pretty full. Trade me for a grenade,” Kristoph said.
Zhuyu moved his character over to Kristoph’s location. He picked up the machine gun ammo and then opened the menu, transferring items over. They continued on for a few minutes, nothing much happening except gathering items. All of a sudden, a cutscene played. A man with a large white mask jumped off a platform with a reeving chainsaw.
“Damn it. He’s here and coming after me! Get away, get away,” Kristoph shouted, frantically pushing down on his analog stick.
“Wait, I’m gonna try sniping him. Crap, he’s after me now,” Zhuyu said, changing his weapon.
“It’s shotgun time. I’ll try blasting him while you keep him distracted,” Kristoph declared, switching over to a shotgun.
“He’s behind you! Run!” Shan said, pointing at Zhuyu’s screen.
For a good five minutes, there was a lot of shouting and excitement. Kristoph ran around in a circle, shooting the chainsaw man whenever he had the chance. Zhuyu moved his character up to higher ground, attempting head shots. He landed two but did nothing compared to Kristoph’s shotgun shells.
“This makes no sense. My shotgun works better than headshots. Man, this sucks,” Kristoph noticed.
“You got him! Yes!” Zhuyu said, letting out a sigh of relief.
I reached out for my cup. Tess handed it to me. Wait, when did she get here again? I poured myself a drink, watching the two advance further and finally finish the chapter.
“I want to re-do that chapter we messed up last time,” Kristoph said, the loading screen appearing.
“You sure? I mean, the only thing we missed was the gun,” Zhuyu asked.
“Yeah, you can just buy the Magnum again. You even said that it wasn’t that good,” Shan remarked.
“Fine. Let’s just keep going,” Kristoph relented.
“Tess or Tomo, you want to play? I have to eat dinner soon. Lau doesn’t want to do it so if you feel up for it, take the controller,” Zhuyu asked.
Tess shook her head, declining the offer. Guess it was up to me. Zhuyu played five more minutes before handing the controller over. I felt bad we were intruding on his dinner time like this. No one else seemed to mind though.
“How does this work?” I asked, looking down at the controller.
“There’s different controls. Maybe you should try them out and see which one works the best for you,” Kristoph revealed, opening up the menu.
There were four different control schemes. One involved rotating the camera with the analog sticks, while another focused on shooting with the buttons instead of the triggers, and so on. After testing them all out, I found one suitable for my play style.
“Follow me. I’ll point out things you’ll need to do,” Kristoph said, moving his character forward.
For the next ten minutes, Kristoph pointed out enemies, allowing me to discover my timing. I missed a lot at first but soon grew accustomed to it. I still wasn’t great at head shots yet. However, Kristoph assured me those were pretty difficult, so I felt a little better.
“Hmm, this is kind of fun but a little frustrating too,” I commented as the boss slaughtered us for the second time in a row.
“Yeah, he’s really fast. We have to find a way to stop him somehow,” Kristoph agreed, placing his controller down on the floor.
“Maybe Lau should switch in and you’ll figure something out,” Shan suggested, laughing after his sentence.
“Hell no! What do you think I am? I trust in her,” Kristoph vouched for me.
“Alright, if that’s what you want,” Shan said, grabbing chips off the plate.
I glanced back and saw Felicity still texting. Was it some business related matter? I glanced back to the TV screen and Kristoph pointed at a ladder. He transferred his grenades over, telling me to hurl them on his command. This strategy worked out and we finally beat the boss.
“Finally! That took way too long. We got a bad grade though, I want to re-do it,” Kristoph said, placing the controller down on the ground.
“Man, you got a B. That isn’t even that bad,” Shan said, shaking his head.
“I know, right? That’s good,” Shui agreed.
“You don’t what you’re talking about. It just doesn’t feel right that we got a B. Whatever, I guess we’ll just go to the next chapter,” Kristoph finally said.
As we started the next chapter, Zhuyu returned. He glanced at the screen and I held the controller toward him.
“You keep playing, Tomo. I’ll just watch. I’ve been through two chapters with Kristoph already. I think I’ll take a break,” Zhuyu shook his head, sitting next to Shui.
“If that’s what you want,” I responded.
We completed the first part of the chapter and Kristoph decided that was enough for today. Zhuyu was on his laptop. Both Shui and Shan were playing that 10×10 puzzle game on their phones. Ichaival texted on his phone. What time was it? I pulled out my phone and saw it was already 10. Oh, I should probably call my parents.
“Do you have a charger?” I asked, noticing my battery was low.
“I got you covered,” Shan said, pulling a cord out of his backpack.
I took the cord and searched for an outlet. Zhuyu pointed behind his old couch and Shan plugged it in for me. I called my parents but there was no response. Weird, they should be home right now.
“Something wrong, Tomo?” Zhuyu asked, noticing the concerned look on my face.
“Uh, I’m not sure. I called my parents but they didn’t pick up. They usually have their phones with them,” I replied.
“Have you tried your home phone?” Zhuyu asked.
“I’ll call it now. I hope nothing’s wrong,” I replied.
I waited but no one picked up. It went to the voicemail. This was very weird. I knew for sure my parents were home. Okay, calm down, Yuki. Nothing to worry about yet. Just try again after a few minutes.
“And they’re still not picking up,” I said, placing my phone down on the floor.
“Just wait and see if they call you back. You shouldn’t worry too much,” Zhuyu suggested, adjusting his glasses.
That was easy for you to say. Damn you, Zhuyu. Actually, that was a bit harsh. I should be more considerate; my personal feelings were getting in the way right now.
“Do you want me to drive you back?” Felicity said, standing up.
After Felicity’s suggestion, my phone vibrated on the floor. Oh, looks like I was worried for nothing.
“Mom, where are you?” I asked, relieved.
“Sorry about that, Yuki. Your dad left his phone at home and my phone was on silent. I didn’t notice your calls until we were at the airport,” Mom replied.
“Can you repeat what you just said?” I asked.
“Oh, your dad’s….,” she began.
“After that,” I interrupted.
“Ah, we’re at the airport right now. I didn’t check my phone until we got here,” Mom said.
Okay, I definitely was not hearing things. I heard the word “airport”. What were they doing there and should I be even more worried than before?
“Yuki, Yuki! Are you still there?” Mom yelled.
“Yes, I’m still here. So what are you doing at the airport exactly?” I asked, a sinking feeling forming in my chest.
“Sorry, can you wait a minute? Your dad is asking me something right now,” Mom cut our conversation short.
I waited, straining my ears for anything that could alleviate my worries. I heard the typical airport announcement. No need to worry about them lying.
“Good…. place…. yeah…. let’s visit,” Mom’s voice started cutting off.
“Will…. Yuki…. okay?” Dad’s voice came through.
My parents were abandoning me. They were going somewhere and leaving me alone. Why, could it be their goal was testing my independence and seeing how I acted during their absence? Man, this was really getting to me. I needed a quick break.
“Mom, are you still there?” I asked, suppressing my nervousness.
“Yuki, sorry about that. I’ll call you back later. I’m losing signal,” Mom replied and hung up.
I felt crushed inside. My phone slipped out of my hand. Zhuyu dashed toward me, catching the phone before it fell to the ground.
“Tomo, you okay?” he asked, handing my phone back to me.
“I got some really bad news,” I said, staring at the carpeted floor.
“Yeah, what was it?” Zhuyu asked.
“Wait, you actually want to hear it?” I retorted, caught off guard by Zhuyu’s concern.
“If you want to tell us. I mean, you don’t have to,” Zhuyu replied.
Hmm, although his response sounded insincere, that might not be a bad idea. In fact, Tess may even be impressed I was opening up to everyone else.
“Well, my parents are at the airport right now. And I heard some rather unsettling details,” I revealed.
Zhuyu blinked and I couldn’t tell if he actually cared. Shan looked up from his phone at my words. Shui, Ichaival, and Kristoph stared at the television, too engrossed in the game to pay attention to my statement. Felicity gave me an encouraging look, no doubt meant to ease my worries. Tess stared at me with her usual cool expression. This was not really helping.
“What do you mean by unsettling details?” Shan asked, taking a break from playing his game.
“My parents are embarking on a trip,” I replied.
“Did they specifically say they were doing that?” Shan questioned.
“Well, they didn’t exactly say that. But, I could guess from what I overheard,” I replied.
“There you go,” Shan concluded.
“That only ever happens in anime or the movies. Most parents don’t leave without saying anything,” Zhuyu commented.
“True, there’s some truth behind that,” Shan nodded.
“Don’t worry, Yuki! If your parents do go somewhere, you can stay with me until they come back! It’ll be like having two sisters!” Felicity offered.
Zhuyu whispered something to Shan that made him laugh. I was grateful for Felicity’s offer but I hoped it wouldn’t come to something like that. I probably jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“Tomo, whatever happens, you still have to study. That might occupy your mind enough that you won’t be worried,” Tess finally contributed.
Yeah, Tess, that definitely made me feel better. I sighed and considered my options. No, what was I doing? Before doing any of that, I should wait for Mom and see what she had to say.
“Rest assured, Tomo, your parents are not the type of people who go somewhere without telling you. Everything will be okay,” Tess followed up with a more comforting statement.
“Yuki, sorry about that. I needed to confirm something,” Mom explained, calling back.
“What were you checking on?” I asked, bracing myself.
“Yuki, I forgot to tell you, but one of your cousins is coming over. She’ll be staying with us for awhile,” Mom revealed.
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“Her parents are being relocated for their jobs so she’ll stay with us,” Mom answered.
“That’s pretty sudden. I don’t know exactly what to say. Is she already here?” I inquired.
“Yes, we just found her. She’ll be at our house soon. When are you coming home?” Mom answered.
“I actually wanted to tell you that I would be home late. Do you want me to come home earlier and help out?” I asked, glancing over at Felicity.
“No, stay as long as you want,” Mom answered.
After a few more words, I hung up and checked the time. I finally saw the small wooden framed clock hanging above the TV. It read 12. Wait, when had it become so late already?
“Tomo, that clock’s fast an hour. It’s only eleven,” Zhuyu said.
“I was wondering why it had become so late all of a sudden,” I said.
“So, Yuki, what’s the big news?” Felicity asked.
“My parents aren’t going on a trip. Turns out that my cousin will be staying at my house for awhile,” I revealed.
“Oh, sounds fun! Introduce us to her when she’s ready!” Felicity suggested, giving a persuasive, dazzling smile.
Zhuyu and Shan exchanged looks at Felicity’s statement. It was understandable. Felicity was overbearing at times and she just showed it. Tess did not seem to care, only nodding at my statement.
“You heading home then?” Zhuyu asked.
“No, I think I’ll stay awhile,” I decided.
Synopsis: The online game <