Davesprite drummed his fingers against the plastic table, his expression unreadable as he idly looked over the crowded field. All around him colorful booths advertising various clubs and student organizations had been set up, desperately vying for the attention of any student that happened to pass by. Several groups of students idled about nearby, some occasionally glancing at him as they passed by. But they never approached, never expressed interest in joining. They never do. Some might smile at him or give him weird looks, while others might ignore him entirely. But in the end, they always behaved in the same predictable way.
Right on cue, a pair of students in wrestleball gear passed by. One of them gave him a dirty look, whispering to his friend as they gave his table a wide berth. But their actions don’t bother him. They don’t so much as sting. In the end, the other students were just voiceless bits of data, and they just did what they always did.
His attention shifted to a booth across the pathway. Meowkie stood by herself, looking out for a certain someone. Cousin, of course. She always looks for them. Just like all the other datable caricatures in Dating Sim Hell World.
The slightest of smiles — a wistful, wry smile — crossed his face for mere seconds before he turned away. Cousin dated her in a recent cycle. They certainly wouldn’t go for her again so soon. He almost felt bad for her. Without Cousin there for her, she’d just get pushed around by the other students and blamed for things out of her control. Just like she always did.
His gaze shifted away again, spotting the adorable alien in question conversing with Blue Max. Ah, so that’s who they’d selected this time. It’s not the first time they’d dated Blue Max, and he doubted it would be the last. He supposed Cousin had a soft spot for the sensitive ones. At least they weren’t dating Hiromi or Terezi this time; those routes always made him cringe just a little.
Shifting his gaze further still, he spotted a speck of purple down the path, standing out against the colorful crowd. Anti-Bravoman was watching the exchange as well. Davesprite let out a disinterested hum, leaning forward to rest his chin on the palm of one of his hands. That poor sap got chosen just last time. Who knew when he’d be selected again?
Cousin and Blue Max began to walk back towards the school, Anti watching them go. Davesprite rose from his seat, preparing to go off and dow who knows what, but he paused. Huh, had Anti always watched Cousin leave? He shook his head. Oh, what was he saying, of course he must have. The game always played out the same. No matter what Cousin did, everything went down the same predetermined paths.
The other students begin to disperse, and the little effects of Cousin’s choice are evident. Davesprite counted them off on his head. Taira won’t immediately go to the wrestleball game. Instead, he’ll gather up a couple of the other players and go heckle Blue Max at his club. But everyone else would still follow their usual patterns, just without Cousin. Meowkie would go do her hall monitor thing, Richard would go to culinary club, and Anti-Bravoman would go to poetry club. Just like everyone else would do their own clubs.
He wouldn’t bother with his webcomic club, of course. Despite how much the game tries to compel him, he hadn’t bothered with that in a long time. After the first dozen or so cycles, he’d abandoned his schedule, doing whatever he pleased when the game didn’t call for him to interact with Cousin. Admittedly, doing what he pleased usually meant doing nothing, but that didn’t matter. So long as he didn’t get in the way of Cousin, everything would go fine. The game wouldn’t care. The game wouldn’t compel him to move elsewhere.
But as he began floating away, he realized something was off.
Instead of wandering off like all the others, Anti-Bravoman was still rooted to the spot. At first, he thought it must have been a little error. Sometimes the game glitched, after all. He’d return to his normal path soon enough, none the wiser that there was ever anything wrong.
Anti glanced up, noticing Davesprite. He locked eyes with him for just a moment, then suddenly let out a squeak and averted his gaze. Davesprite fully expected him to turn and run off towards Poetry club. Maybe he’d go, too. Watching Anti make a fool of himself trying to act cool and edgy might be fun.
But Anti didn’t run off towards the café. Instead, he turned and dashed towards the school steps. Davesprite’s mouth dropped open as he stared where Anti had disappeared.
That. That wasn’t normal. Throughout all the resets he’d experienced, Davesprite had never seen Anti enter the school on club day. This was new. And as much as the voice in the back of his head told him that this wasn’t anything important, and that he was probably just forgetting something, he couldn’t help but be curious.
So, despite a little itch telling him to do otherwise, he floated through the doors and after Anti.
Davesprite’s search for the rogue student brought him to the roof, where he found Anti sitting on the edge with his back turned, kicking his feet idly. His bullshit guide abilities tell him that there are no events that are supposed to happen up here today, a fact that helped alleviate that itching feeling that he was in a place he shouldn’t be.
Yet, at the same time, it gave him an uneasy, twisting feeling in his stomach that threatened to make him sick. (Could he even get sick?) There was something wrong. Neither of them were supposed to be here. But more importantly, Anti-Bravoman wasn’t supposed to be here.
Uncertain of how to break the silence, Davesprite floated just a bit closer but said nothing, silently closing the door behind him. Sure, he could just float up to him and go, “hey you know you’re not supposed to be here right don’t you have poetry club to get to or something?” But something about that didn’t feel right in the moment. So instead, he opts to just say, “hey.”
Anti jolted at the sound of his voice, letting out an out-of-character, high-pitched squeak of alarm. He scrambled to his feet and spun around, looking ready to bolt at a moment’s notice. But then his eyes lit up with recognition, and he relaxed slightly. He tilted his head.
“…Davesprite?” There was confusion in his voice, but it wasn’t the hesitant confusion of someone trying to recognize the face of someone they were vaguely familiar with. No, it was the confusion of someone who wasn’t expecting to see anyone else. “What are you doing up here?”
Offering a coy smile and a shrug of his shoulders, Davesprite did the best he could to play it off. “Can’t a guy get a little privacy? I mean the roof is supposed to be off limits and all. But it’s kinda hard to enforce that when a student can fly don’t you think? But anyways what about you? You up here doing like. Some Batman shtick or something? Like. I can see you doing a deep gravelly voice. Monologuing about how dark and broody you are and how the world can’t understand you or something. Some pseudo deep poetic bullshit like that. Speaking of that don’t you like. Go to poetry club or something today?”
Anti flinched and turned his head away, his gaze dropping back towards the ground. “They wouldn’t understand the… inky depths of my soul. The darkness that dwells within me. The depressive state of my innermost being. But that’s enough focusing on my inner demons. What about you, aren’t you supposed to be at poetry club or something?”
He had to suppress a snort to prevent himself from laughing out loud at Anti’s edgy antics. Teasing, whether lighthearted or not, would be the fastest way to get nowhere with his questions. He shrugged. “Poetry club sounds cool and all but I prefer making shitty comics to spitting hot rhymes these days.”
He approached the edge of the roof, taking a seat next to where Anti had been a moment before. His tail curled around, hanging over the edge beside him as he patted the edge, inviting Anti to sit beside him.
Anti stared at him for a moment before sitting back down a few feet back. Then he laid back, his arms behind his head. “I mean,” he began, keeping his gaze on the clouds above them, “no one is going to miss me if I don’t go to poetry club. Cousin might ask about it but all I gotta do is make up a little lie. It’s not like it changes anything in the end.”
Something about the way he said that made Davesprite suck in a breath. It’s familiar, in a way. Like Anti took the words right out of his mouth. He blinked a couple times, digesting the statement before turning back to look at Anti. As soon as Anti realized he was staring, though, he sat back up and looked away.
“I mean. Think about it,” Anti said quickly. Maybe almost too quickly. Or maybe Davesprite was just overthinking things. “It’s not like I have any friends here. I don’t help people out with their bike problems or participate in any of the other clubs or anything. Or just. Have friends in general. If I don’t show up, no one’s going to know.”
He has a point. But at the same time, that didn’t make the nagging feeling in the back of his head go away. Because he knew the way this game worked. He knew Anti wasn't actively involved in any route but his own, and that he only ever made passive remarks about his actions. But still. The game had a way that it did things. Everyone was a caricature, unable to deviate from their script. Everyone but himself.
Or so he thought.
Davesprite realized that he had zoned out. Anti was still rambling, trying to come up with some sort of excuse as to why he was up here. Because that’s all it was. Excuses. Davesprite ignored it all, instead just uttering two words barely above a whisper. “You know.”
Anti’s voice stopped mid-sentence, the words dying in his throat. Swallowing nervously, he tugged at his scarf. “Know what?”
Davesprite frowned. “I mean. We can beat around the bush all day and all but Cuz is only going to be busy for so long, you know? And then we all have to go home and do nothing for the rest of the day and then come back and have to pretend like we did what we were supposed to do. Or we’re supposed to at least. I guess I could always say that I did jack shit but even if I did it wouldn’t make a difference anyways. If anything going off-script would just cause things to reset prematurely or something. Shit’s pretty whack and all but what can you do. So instead you just shrug it off and try and trick them into thinking there’s a harem ending or some shit.”
“What are you…” Anti blinked at him a few times, trying to digest his words. When the implications finally sank in, he stiffened. He stood up suddenly, pulling his scarf up a little higher. “I need to go. I-I have a poetry club to get to.”
“I mean if you don’t want to talk about it that’s cool and all. But.” Davesprite paused. What good would it do to force it. If he was right, then Anti apparently didn’t want to talk to him about it. Which was frustrating, knowing that there might be someone that understood his plight right in front of him, refusing to admit it. But if he was wrong, he’d just make a huge fool of himself.
Then again, if he was wrong, it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run. Anti would just forget this whole conversation in a week, and his sad, miserable little existence trapped in a looping video game would just return to the usual.
He would speak up. “You’re not exactly the most popular student or anything. It’s not like you got anything else to do. Heh. Imagine if you were popular like Donko or Galaga. Always surrounded by other students. Beloved by all. Wouldn’t that be wild? Then again you’re not an inanimate object. Seeps like that’s what it takes to get popular around here. You think someone would date Cousin’s Katamari if they were given the chance? I think it could be pretty cute.” What was he saying?
“What are you trying to say?” Anti gave him a weird look, shaking his head. “Why are you even bothering me with all this. You’ve never paid me any mind before.”
Because he needed to know . He needed proof that he wasn’t alone in this mess. “All I’m saying is that you usually go to poetry club don’t you? You run off and go hide in the rafters and give this dramatic speech about meat prisons that nobody seems to like. I guess you’re going to go do that now so I’ll stop bothering you. Have fun and all.” He shrugged, rising from his spot, and prepared to lower himself to the ground.
Davesprite turned around. Anti was standing still, staring at him. He wring his hands together nervously, eyes darting to the side. “Are… you really being serious? You’re not messing with me, right?”
Sincerity wasn’t one of Davesprite’s strengths, so instead he replied with his usual flair. “I ain’t clowning with you. The only person I’m clowning on is myself. Well. Right now anyways. It’s not like there’s anyone else here right now. God damn. Do you really remember stuff? Wish you’d have said something sooner bro. It kind of fucking sucks talking to people and getting the same cookie cuter responses every time. Like a bunch of fucking puppets. Ugh.”
Anti tilted his head so that he was staring at the ground and rubbed his shoulder. “I don’t think I’m supposed to,” he admitted. “I don’t think I’m supposed to know.”
Seeing at how vulnerable, and, yeah, kind of pathetic, Anti looked at the moment, Davesprite almost felt bad. Almost. “What you think the fact that you know about all this is like. Some sort of glitch or something. I mean, hello, I’m Mr. Guide Knowitall and I didn’t know about this so you may be on to something. But. I mean. I also feel like I should have noticed a glitch or some shit like that. Then again I did see you acting weird today so I guess I did notice but…”
“I was just missing Cousin,” Anti said quietly without looking up. “Even if it’s all temporary and all part of a script, they make me feel good about myself.”
Davesprite sucked in a deep breath. Still keeping his gaze down, Anti walked back to the edge of the roof. Finally, he turned back to look at Davesprite. “I… I’d like to talk about this more. I think. But… Cousin will probably be finishing their event right about now.”
“There’s always tomorrow,” Davesprite suggested before pausing. “Well. Not tomorrow. The day after. We could meet up and. I dunno. Discuss why videogames suck and maybe why you have control over your actions?”
Hesitation crossed Anti’s face. But it was gone just as quickly. He nodded. “We should probably go somewhere away from the school, since Cousin should be here if they continue down their current path… I think. I don’t know, I don’t follow them around. The café, maybe?”
Davesprite raised a hand up, offering Anti a fist bump. “It’s a date.” He paused. “Well. Not a date. But. You know.”
Anti rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Eh, heh… no, I get it. I’m a swirling pit of darkness. A walking pile of — admittedly totally cool — edge. Not exactly Cousin material. I don’t think that’s what you meant anyways.”
Davesprite laughed, because of course he’s skittish like that. “See you then.”
The next day, as always, passed in a blur. From his seat, Davesprite watched, bored, as Cousin talked to Bluemax and a couple other students, but did little else. They just don’t speak to them all like they used to. Anti kept to his seat in the back of the room, idly scrawling away in a notebook.
Curious, Davesprite rose from his seat, mindful of his tail as he made his way across the room to take a look at what Anti was doing. He expected to see bars upon bars of poetry, but instead was met with surprisingly pristine doodles of robots. Little, less clean doodles of Anti charged at the robots, destroying them in some pictures. Some of the bots he recognized as the ones from Evil Namco High. The ones that they all fought at the end of every week. But others are totally unfamiliar.
Anti glanced up and caught Davesprite’s eye, but quickly looked away, placing his hand over the notebook. Davesprite couldn’t get a good read of his emotions at the moment, but the way the antennas on his helmet drooped suggested that he was embarrassed or otherwise flustered. He raised his brow at the reaction, but said nothing and instead just took one of the nearby empty seats.
The two of them sat in silence for a moment. Lingering doubts began to swirl in Davesprite’s mind. What if everything from yesterday hadn’t been real. Perhaps he had made it up, in some desperate desire for company.
He almost said anything. But then he swallowed nervously and said, “are we still on. For tomorrow. You know. Date at the café and all.”
There he went, calling it a date again. Not because it was. But it was kind of fun to get Anti a bit flustered. His behavior when he wasn’t putting on the edgy, tough guy emo kid persona was quite a bit different, and almost kind of cute in a way.
Anti nodded slowly. “I… thought you said it wasn’t a date. But yeah. I should have nothing better to do.”
Davesprite let out a relieved breath and smiled. Thank god he was right. At least he didn’t make a total fool of yourself.
“I’ll let you get back to your doodles then,” he said, waving a hand dismissively before leaning away and settling down to just chill out and watch the room, waiting for time to pass.
“T-they’re battle plans!” Anti sputtered, holding the notebook up to his chest. Davesprite just smiled.
They waited for Cousin and Blue Max to leave before sneaking out. Anti insisted on jumping out the window, which Davesprite decided to go along with. For the first time, he got to see that Anti wasn’t actually just some kid in a silly costume. Grabbing hold of the windowsill, Anti’s arms stretched , allowing him to carefully lower himself onto the ground. Without reacting outwardly, Davesprite lowered himself to the ground after him. Not a single student said a thing as they slipped away. Not that they ever did.
The café was only a short walk away. After all, everything in the game had to be close by. There was only what, like three locations outside of the school? Four? It certainly saved on resources.
Save for the staff, the café was empty. No need to waste resources on patrons if Cousin wasn’t coming. The two of them sat down at a table near the back, neither saying anything at first. Not until the waiter came, at least.
“Got anything with birdseed?” Davesprite asked, his eyes skimming through the menu idly.
“... We do not,” the waiter replied flatly.
What kind of establishment didn’t carry birdseed? But he shrugged it off, waving a hand dismissively. “Eh…. I’ll take a sugar cookie then. And a cup of ice water I guess.”
“I’ll take a hot chocolate. Extra whipped cream please.”
Davesprite waited for the waiter to jot their order down and walk off, tracing circles on the table with his finger. “Didn’t take you for the hot chocolate type of guy. With all your dark, angsty poetry I would have thought you’d order ‘coffee as black as my soul’ or something like that. Seems more on brand or whatever.”
“I mean yeah it is,” Anti said quickly, adjusting his scarf. “But, uh, that would be wasteful. Just because something is ‘on brand’ for how I act in-game doesn’t mean it’s who I am as a person.”
“Touché. So the poetry is all for the game, then?”
“Oh, no, it’s very me. I’m supposed to be the dark avenger, the tortured soul, shunned by society.” He paused, staring at the table. “But, I mean, that’s not all there is to me, you know?”
Davesprite opened his mouth to say something, but paused when their order was brought to their table. Peeling the wrapper from his straw, he sat it aside and took a sip before speaking again. “Well, while we’re here, might as well talk about how we ended up in this situation. I mean, the short story of your life and all. I could talk about mine all day but well. That would be one hell of a story. It’d take weeks to tell that shit yo. We’d be up to our necks in video game bullshit. Then again. Aren’t we anyways?”
Anti chuckled, the tone bitter. “Guess you’re right there. I’ll tell you more of my story if you tell me yours. The, um. Short version.”
“Fair enough. Long story short is that I’m basically the doomed version of a cool dude named Dave. Went back in time and fused with an asshole crow and became this mess.” He paused to gesture to himself. “You know. Standard video game fare. Did I mention he was playing a game too? Wild stuff. Doomsday game. Ended the world. All that mess. I watched my bro die. That was pretty shit. But that’s not important here. Anyways after like. Three years of things went to shit and I just. Fucked off. Pretty sure that timeline was doomed anyways. Whatever. Anyways, I just kind of ended up here in video game hell. Guess that’s my punishment for not being good enough. Being surrounded by a bunch of soulless caricatures that just act and react the same way every time, no matter what you do. Can’t change things. Well. Till I found out that you’re not. Wild. Maybe it’s not quite hell after all but like. Purgatory or some shit. I dunno I never really gave a shit about all that.”
He looked up, realizing just how long he’d been rambling now. Anti was staring at him, though between the visor and the scarf that covered his face, his expression was pretty hard to read.
“Anyways, how about you? I think I said enough here.”
Anti pulled his scarf down just enough to expose a frown. Huh, his skin was the same color as his suit. Davesprite wasn’t sure why he hadn’t expected that. Anti lifted the mug, taking a small sip before sitting it down again. A little bit of the whipped cream stuck to his face, a stark contrast to the dark tone. He wiped it away before staring at the mug for a moment, the corners of his mouth twisting into a wistful smile. “I guess my origin isn’t as different as you’d think. I’m… a science experiment, you could say. A byproduct of chance. An alien gave a man some superpowers that he called from space. But by total chance, some of it split off and hit a mad scientist’s experiment and made me. I guess I’m not a clone, per say, but I was given life by the same power that made him a hero and I share most traits with him. Bravoman, that’s his name. And that’s where the ‘Anti’ part of my name comes from. I guess you could say my whole identity revolves around him.”
He paused, laughing bitterly. His hands gripped the edge of the table, fingertips clenching tightly. “Which is why it’s kind of funny that it never comes up in my story here. Nothing from my home world does, except my penchant for the dark and dramatic. Heck, I wasn’t even a villain there. And I’d barely qualify as an antagonist, despite my best efforts. It took an evil, alternate universe version of myself to even be recognized as a rival. But… that’s getting into complex issues.
“All that to say… In my universe, half of my super powers revolve around meta. Recognizing that I was part of a webcomic and playing with that medium. I wonder if that’s why I was able to break out of the game’s mold. One day I just woke up in detention, with these words and memories of things I never did — like attending Evil Namco High — in my head. I didn’t question it the first time. The second time I thought I must be having a weird dream. But after a while, I knew something was up. I started trying to figure out how I got here. And tried to figure out if there was a way out.” Another bitter laugh. “Never have.”
Davesprite frowned, placing his elbows on the table so he could prop his chin on his hands. “Well. Shit. If that ain’t a story and a half. I guess it explains a lot. Um…” Jesus. Anti looked about ready to cry. And he wasn’t good at that whole consoling business. He lowered one hand, drumming his fingers on the table before reaching to break off a bite of the cookie. “Want some?”
Anti blinked, staring at him for a moment before opening his palm so Davesprite could drop the cookie piece into his hands. “…Thanks. I… I never really knew if everything you said was a part of the game, or if you were really in control of yourself. And I never got the courage to ask because, well, I was afraid that if I did, the game would take notice and I’d… lose control of myself, or something. Does that ever scare you?”
He sucked in a sharp breath before nodding slowly. “I mean I don’t think it would if everything I’ve done to stretch the limits of this game hasn’t done so already. But I can understand your concern.”
Nodding slowly in response, Anti took another sip of his chocolate. “I guess now that the cat’s out of the bag though… Maybe things won’t be as lonely around here?” There was a hopeful tone in his voice. And as much as Davesprite wanted to be defeatist and say that none of it would matter, he just nods in response.
“Guess we could just. I dunno. Blow the game off and do whatever on day three, huh? What do you usually do again?”
“Get peer pressured by total strangers I’m led to believe are former classmates into kidnapping Pac Man. You?”
“Same,” Davesprite joked, shaking his head. “No, I just usually fuck off and do whatever. God it feels so nice to be able to swear. Did you ever notice how we’re never allowed to swear despite the game having several little innuendos here and there? Funny how standards are different. Kind of like how they made sure everyone was at least eighteen in the game. You know why. You ever think about how Taira is thousands of years old and yet he’s a student here? Weirdest shit.”
Anti blinked. “Uh… I don’t actually know what you’re talking about.”
He didn’t? Davesprite snorted. Oh that was hilarious. “God you’re just as innocent as Cousin. That’s hilarious.”
“Anyways, I think we’re running out of time, but this has been fun. Kind of cathartic actually. We should definitely meet up again, don’t you think?”
Anti smiled before pulling his scarf up. “I would like that. So… in two days… somewhere?”
Davesprite began to get up from his seat. “Sounds as good as anything to me.”
They spent the next detention day passing notes to each other, and chatting once Cousin seemed to be done talking. Anti told Davesprite more about his world, while Davesprite told him more about his. Much of the same was done in the day that followed, albeit elsewhere in the school. It amazed Davesprite just how much more bearable passing the time became, just with Anti being there to help him pass it.
Cousin picked Lolo on the next reset. This time, they hadn’t even bothered to talk to anyone else. Davesprite waited for the crowd to disperse before approaching Anti, Keeping a nonchalant expression. “So I was kind of thinking,” he began, shrugging his shoulders. “Since I saw you drawing the other day and all. Seems like you’d enjoy the webcomic club or some shit. Room’s unoccupied if you wanna go there and pass the time.”
Anti blinked at him a couple times, like he hadn’t expected to be approached. Then his eyes squinted and the antennas on his helmet stuck up, and Davesprite got the idea that he was grinning. “Sounds fun! Lead the way.”
And that’s where he and Anti spent the next hour, doodling stupid little comics to pass the time. Davesprite did his usual shitty ironic comic shtick and got a kick out of Anti’s attempts to overanalyze them and find a deeper meaning. Anti, meanwhile, busied himself with drawing a more refined version of the doodles he’d seen in the notebook before. It was kind of adorable.
“I’ve kind of gotten used to drawing them by memory now,” Anti explained as Davesprite looked over the images. “Since, you know, everything always ends up getting erased in the end.”
“Tell me about it,” Davesprite said. “Kinda surprised you bother at all. Knowing that it all goes away in the end.”
Anti doesn’t say anything after that. And for a moment, Davesprite thought he might have genuinely upset him. But then Anti shook his head. “No, you have a point. But it’s like. I don’t want to forget anything, you know? At least there’s something a bit more permanent now. Something that’s going to stick.” He raised his hand to gesture to Davesprite. “Our friendship. This uh. This is a friendship, right?”
Davesprite snickered. “Wow you’re a real dork you know that. But yeah if you consider hanging around a feathery asshole a friendship then I’m all for it and all that. It’s better than being totally alone in Dating Sim Hellscape.”
That got a laugh out of Anti.
It became a habit, going forward, for the two of them to meet up and pass the time. The next reset, Cousin dated Taira, and the davesprite learned that Anti actually knew quite a bit about building robots.
The reset that followed saw Cousin joining up with Richard Miller. Davesprite cracked a joke about how Richard and Albatross would go great together, and Anti replied that it was too bad they couldn’t mess with the code that much, just to see what would happen.
Al was picked the reset after that, and Davesprite couldn’t help but wonder if whatever player force that controlled Cousin was thinking of the same idea. He and Anti spent most of their time at the café this time, only avoiding the area when Al and Cousin were there. In those times, they kept busy reading and making silly comics. Even if they lost the records each time the game reset, at least they had the memories of the pleasant times.
Davesprite was selected the next reset. The week passed with him doing his usual bullshit. And yet, he couldn’t help but think about Anti the whole time, and how real he felt in comparison to this. Several times, he’d glance in Anti’s direction during detention, only to catch Anti doing the same.
He didn’t expect Anti to hug him tightly when the next reset came around, rambling about how much he missed him.
And suddenly, Davesprite started to realize that maybe this was becoming something more than a friendship. Yet, the words remained unspoken between them, through reset after reset.
One reset, Cousin did something strange. Day one went on as normal, with Cousin electing to spend time with Mr. Driller. Yet, the second day, Cousin chose Donko.
As Anti watched the two of them sneak out through the window, he leaned over to Davesprite. “What are they doing?” he mumbled.
Davesprite stared with a blank expression on his face, his hands clenched into fists. “They’re experimenting,” he said quietly. “The player. They’re trying to see what happens if they play the game differently. Fucking with our lives just to see what would happen. To see if they can get a game over, perhaps.”
“What happens when they get a game over?” Anti asked.
Davesprite swallowed nervously. “You. Me. Everyone that goes to confront Evil Namco High. We…”
He didn’t say the word, and yet it hung in the air like a weight waiting to be dropped.
Anti sucked in a breath, wringing his hands together. “Oh…” A long silence passed between them. “I don’t want to…”
Another silence, Anti glanced down at the doodles on his page. Suddenly, he didn’t feel quite so heroic. “Davesprite… you’re the more knowledgeable of the two of us. What would happen if we just… didn’t go?”
Davesprite had to pause for a moment. What would happen. It wasn’t like they were the ones fighting alongside Cousin. They weren’t the ones that determined the outcome of the battle. “I mean. It wouldn’t change the outcome of the fight. Jury's out on whether or not we’d die though. Since like. Not fighting isn’t really an option in the game itself in all.”
Anti was silent again. He traced circles on the surface of the desk with his finger. “I guess… I guess there’s only one way to find out, huh?”
They waited until Cousin had made their selection — Donko, who they had only hung out with on the second day — before slipping away. No one noticed as they moved away from the gathering crowd of students. Or at least, no one said anything, but Davesprite hadn’t expected them to.
He led the way to Zweihander Ridge where the two of them laid out on the grass. They could hear explosions in the distance, but the two of them did their best to ignore it.
“This is some pretty depressing shit huh,” Davesprite said, letting his hands rest at his side. “Who would have thought dying was a possibility in video game hell huh? I mean I know Jane’s route has her and Cousin die but like. They come back before the end. In this ending you just. Don’t. It’s like a fresh reset. You do one thing wrong and dead Davesprites start piling up. Not fun. Not cool Cousin. Seeing a corpse of yourself is the worst, you know. Awkward as hell.”
He felt something brush against his hand. Looking over, he spotted Anti’s hand resting on top. He gave Davesprite the most serious look he thought he’d ever seen him give.
“Look, I… I don’t know. What that’s like. It sounds… awful. And I don’t know what’s going to happen with all this.” Another explosion sounded in the distance. “But like. Whatever happens, we’ll face it together, right?”
Davesprite stared for a moment. Then he smirked and moved his hand so that his fingers intertwined with Anti’s. “You’re goddamn right about that. Who would have thought mister doom and gloom would be so hopeful? It’s kind of cute.”
He sat up for just a moment, which made Anti sit up too, his head tilted in confusion.
“You know maybe we should just like. Make this official and all.” Leaning forward, Davesprite used his free hand to tug down Anti’s scarf. Anti’s mouth hung open ever-so-slightly.
“Davesprite, you… I…”
Davesprite gave Anti a quick peck on the cheek before leaning back, giving Anti an uncharacteristically serious expression. “When I ended up here, I thought everything about this world was fake. Everyone was little more than a caricature. Little more than a game construct, a bastardization of who they could be. Yet here we are. You’re not. God damnit Anti, don’t ever leave me.”
Anti’s mouth hung open in shock. For just a moment, Davesprite regretted being so candid.
But then Anti smiled, and Davesprite felt his heart flutter.
“Don’t worry Davesprite, I’m not going anywhere.”
Hesitantly, Davesprite let his ghostly tail wrap around Anti’s waist. There the two of them sat, watching as the town far below grew quiet. It was over. The game would reset soon. The world seemed to slowly grow brighter around them.
Davesprite smiled. “You have no idea how happy that makes me.”