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Look, Page Questlines Take Their Toll

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    Aila soars above Derse, dipping down and narrowly avoiding towers before swooping back up. Yeah, she’s the only one to still dream on a moon, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have fun alone. Dreams are for relaxing. And god does she need to relax after that disaster of a- no. She’s not here to think about her problems, or her puzzles, or conflicts. She’s sleeping to escape. The game hasn’t changed her coping methods at all. Sleeping to escape is perfectly healthy when if she didn’t, she’d only get 5 hours of sleep most nights. Right? Yeah. So what if it’s the middle of the day? She’s planning to wait until night anyway. When there’s nobody around to see her fail, or panic, or get overwhelmed. Then she can work. It’s been working so far, after all. Nobody’s picked up on the real reason she works while the others sleep. It helps that she’s actually a night owl anyway.

    ...She doesn’t want to wake up. She wants to sleep forever. But this isn’t really sleeping; she’s still conscious, in a way. She doesn’t think she likes it, but it’s better than dealing with everything. With that thought, she slows her flying and looks longingly into the void above. She knows she shouldn’t feel so drawn to it- she’s a light player, after all- but it’s just like a dreamless sleep, isn’t it? That’s really what she wants. She sighs. Kori would flip if she could hear her thoughts, and she’s still got a team to lead. She has to at least let them get their happy ending. She’ll paste on that smile. She’ll help with their quests. And once everyone else is happy, she’ll give herself to the void. Whispering picks up around her at this thought, this promise. She shushes them. No. She doesn’t want company. She doesn’t want power, or to make a deal. She wants the silence of being surrounded by nothing at all. Unless they can give her that while still securing a future for everyone else, she won’t accept. She can take care of her wishes in her own time, otherwise. The whispering stops. And she wakes up.

    Aila opens her eyes with a start, a ringtone of some sort jolting her from her sleep. She quickly sits up and looks over to see a blurry Lyla. She grabs her glasses from her nightstand and puts them on, watching as Lyla fumbles with her phone in one hand until she can decline the call. Then Lyla turns to look at her, wearing a guilty expression. “Lyla? What are you doing here?”

    “I noticed you’ve been acting weird so I decided I’d come check on you?” Lyla’s answer sounds more like a question. “Which. Now that you’re up.” Lyla looks directly at Aila, a serious and concerned expression on her face. “Are you okay?”

    The concern in Lyla’s voice startles Aila, and in her still-sleepy haze, she barely catches herself from just blurting out the truth. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

    “Are you sure?” Lyla asks again.

    “Of course! Just a little tired still,” Aila lies unashamedly. “...Why do you ask?”

    “Because I found this journal.” Aila’s eyes widen and she’s suddenly completely awake as Lyla holds up an unmarked black journal.

    She scrambles out of bed to try and snatch it back. “Oh god no. You didn’t read it, right? No, of course you read it, you’re asking if I’m okay- Why did you grab it in the first place?”

    Lyla easily dodges Aila’s clumsy attempt at grabbing the journal. “I assumed it was like, a sketchbook or something. And uh. You’ve been acting like I used to. So I snooped a little. But you’re not okay.” Aila looks away as Lyla continues. “Does Kori know?”

    Aila shakes her head and sits down on her bed. “No. Nobody knows. Except you now, I guess.” She looks up suddenly, panic flashing in her eyes. “You won’t tell her, right? Please don’t tell her.”

    “Telling someone helps. Trust me. It really, really does.” The panic shown on Aila’s face gets more obvious, and she opens her mouth to say something, but Lyla cuts her off. “...But no. I won’t tell her. You’ve gotta tell her yourself.”

    Aila’s silent for a moment, then she starts mumbling quietly. “Kori’s got so much on her plate as the Time player. I don’t want to worry her. I just want to sleep.”

    Lyla awkwardly sits down next to her. “Yeah. I get that. You can tell her in your own time. But you can talk to me, alright?” She hesitantly places a hand on Aila’s shoulder.

    Aila looks at her and almost gives in before protesting. “But Kodi and Kori…”

    “...are our moirails, and yeah, there’s rules on quadrants. But there’s no rules on the human emotion called friendship. It’s not like we ever needed to stick to quadrants anyway. We’re all just huge dorks who chose to.”

    “You already read the journal, so I might as well talk to you about it, huh.” Aila sighs and drops her mask, then leans against Lyla’s side. She starts rambling, and Lyla listens. “I’m tired. All the time. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. I’m just. Tired. I’m tired of all this. Everyone I knew before except for Kori is dead. Making a new universe won’t change that, and it won’t make things better. It’ll just be tiring. I don’t want to lead. I just wanna sleep. Every time I go to sleep I find myself hoping I won’t wake up. The only thing keeping me going is giving you guys a happy ending. Louise told me that if I die, the timeline’s doomed. So I have to keep going for everyone else. You all deserve your own universe to rule, to be gods in. I can’t take that away.” Aila looks up at Lyla, eyes completely dry despite the broken look in them. “Dying would be selfish. But god do I want to be selfish. And I know that’s not okay but it’s all I know.”

    “I know,” Lyla starts. “I never wanted to wake up, either. Sometimes I still don’t,” she admits, “but getting up got easier and now I’m doing relatively alright. I wanted to die, Ail. But it gets better. I promise you, it gets better. Not perfect, at least not yet, but… I don’t want to die anymore. Probably because of the antidepressants, but hey, if I’m getting there, so will you. Don’t promise yourself to the void yet, alright? You might just change your mind.”

    “...Okay. No promises to the void,” Aila repeats quietly. After a moment’s pause, she mumbles something Lyla can barely catch. “Can you… stay for a little? I just need someone here.”

    Lyla moves her arm around Aila in response. “Yeah. I can.”