It’s actually kind of pretty, considering what it is, Valerie thought to herself as she stared at the glass walls of her prison. She had known ahead of time that she would log in here. Mclean and Daniel had both gotten on early and then sent her forum messages warning what would happen, but it still didn’t prepare her for the feeling that came with it: helplessness. They probably didn’t understand what it was like to be in prison, but Valerie had been stuck in a chair that felt like a prison for years.
11 hours and 32 minutes left, she counted as a minute passed on her timer. Each jailable offense in a starting land wasn’t worth more than two or three minutes in the glass prison, but the number of offenses they were being charged with had pushed a simple game creator’s concept of “a few minutes of time out for bad behavior” to her and her friends being forced to wait an entire day in their solitary confinement cells. She wanted to send them messages, but even that function was disabled for the duration of the punishment.
She was alone, trapped and helpless. It was a far too familiar feeling. And now I get to spend an entire day not walking around again, she thought bitterly. The worst part about it was that she was being punished by the people she had worked so hard to protect last night. They had spent hours upon hours helping save the White-Wings, and now she was in a White-Wing prison with her new friends.
The guards changed for the first time since she got to the cell. It had been over an hour and a half since she first arrived, and she was already used to the quiet terror of being able to see a world around her that she couldn’t interact with. She could see their lips moving but no sound came out.
Tim, she thought, suddenly. The new guard wasn’t a guard . . . It was Tim. What’s he doing here? He’s supposed to be leading missions and helping starting players level up. Why is he here? Did he get demoted to guard duty because of me? Crap, I got the only cute guy who has ever asked me out demoted to guard duty.
Tim looked at her for less than half a second, then frowned and turned his back, facing the hall like every other guard. Great, he’s not just mad at me, he’s giving me the cold shoulder, she thought, letting her back slide down the cell wall until her butt hit the floor and her knees pressed against her chest. She didn’t just feel helpless. She felt small.
Just as she was about to cry, she heard the door open. She looked up to see Tim with his stupid grin staring at her.
“I leave you alone for less than two days, and you end up in a cell waiting to be exiled?” he asked, laughing a bit as he did.
“I . . . I’m going to be exiled?” she said, not sure what part of the news was more shocking, the fact he was here or the fact she was going to be exiled.
“Yeah, the order hasn’t gone out yet and won’t even come with a trial, but I heard a few higher ups talking about it earlier today when you first came in,” he said. “You’re apparently the talk of the ranks.”
“I thought the Sun God Empire didn’t exile people?” she asked, confused. This was never part of the game’s starter manual.
“It doesn’t generally, but you and your two friends are the exception,” he explained. “I know, from what the other two said, you were doing what you did to save the White-Wings, but without evidence it just looks like you carelessly murdered hundreds of citizens of the Sun God Empire.”
“This is our thanks then . . .” she muttered, having already known what would happen without evidence. Hopefully, what they had done, killing off the non-boss-level enemies, would be enough, but somehow she knew better. That last Fire-Walker wasn’t in the Level 20 to 30 range of the others. He was in an entirely different field of power. If this was her favorite anime, his power reading would have broken the scouter. “Well, what do we do now?”
“That’s easy, we need to beat the word of mouth to the harbor and take the first ship to wherever,” he said, looking both ways as he signaled her out of the prison cell. “Otherwise, once news reaches the harbor about what you three look like, you won’t be able to get off the island and no city will give you safe haven.”
Valerie got up and started to the door. So we’ll have to sneak out on a boat just as a war starts. Sounds exciting, she thought.
“Oh, and I forgot to mention one more important detail absolutely essential to your escape,” he said, smiling brighter than he ever had before.
“What’s that?” she asked. How is he so happy during a crisis?
“This,” he said, grabbing her arm and pulling her towards him where he had a firm kiss waiting. “If I’m going to play Prince Charming and save the damsel from the tower, I figured I might as well get paid in advance,” he joked.
Valerie wanted to say something back, but the kiss had done nothing but leave her cheeks so red she could have played the body double of a tomato. I’m over twenty years old, and I’m just now getting my first kiss . . . from an NPC? Granted, he’s definitely a handsome NPC, and the kiss definitely was breathtaking . . .
“Now, let’s go. Your friends are waiting,” he said, breaking the awkward silence, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the hall before she could even react.
The entire trip to her friends, Valerie’s head was spinning from what had just happened. Maybe it was the sudden excitement of the heroic rescue, or maybe it was the kiss, but Valerie couldn’t stop smiling.
Unfortunately, this excited daze stopped her from paying attention to what was going on around her. When they reached her friends, she darted in front and opened their cell door–the two had been kept together unlike her–only to hear them shouting.
“Behind you!” Mclean shouted, pointing as she turned the handle on her door.
Then Tim, standing behind her, said something she couldn’t make out at all.
Valerie turned around to look at what was going on only to be stopped still. Time seemed to freeze and nothing seemed to move except for her and Tim. He opened his mouth and gurgles of blood came out in place of words. Her heart cried. She gulped, and she told herself to breathe, but nothing started the world back up again.
“Ha!” the White-Wing behind Tim shouted to himself arrogantly. “I bet this stupid heretic’s death will earn me a promotion.”
That . . . That . . . That damn bas– HE KILLED TIM! Her mind raged and something inside of her felt like it snapped. She clinched her teeth together so hard her jaw started to get sore, and her grip closed so tightly that her fingers felt like they might come off. Her wings snapped out and everything inside her rushed to the top. It was as if the second hand on a clock had skipped a few notches. She had gone from standing still to kneeling over Tim’s murderer, stabbing him again and again with his own knife.
“Val . . . I think that’s enough,” Daniel said, watching the scene unfold in front of him. “We need to go.”
“Yeah, we need to have been gone yesterday,” Mclean said.
Valerie looked at Tim’s still warm body lying out on the floor less than ten feet away. She wanted to do something for him, but she couldn’t think of anything. The others were right: they needed to leave quickly.
“Come on, Valerie! Let’s go!” Daniel urged again.
“Okay, okay, we need to get to the harbor. This wasn’t just jail time, they’re going to exile us, and at this point we either have to summon our own boat or pray one comes and misses the harbor,” Valerie informed the other two.
“Right, let’s get moving then. We’re on a clock. You guys don’t have to log off any time soon, do you?” Mclean asked.
“Nope. I guess we’re going to have quality flying time together,” Daniel answered. “Anyone know how to play cards in the air?”
Now I get to run just like the heretics I spent days hunting down and killing, Valerie thought, taking to the air with her two friends. Let them hunt . . . We’re not going down without a fight.