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Tactical Tea Time - HTT Plays Gun Gale Online

Chapter Text

 

Afternoon, somewhere inside a large gun shop...

"Azu-nyan! What about this one? It looks like it suits you."

The members of Houkago Tea Time were shopping. The gear they started with was incredibly bland and did not exactly suit their personalities. Thus, they split into two groups and wandered the stores within the starter town with the intent to get new equipment that better matched their respective preferences. At the moment, Yui and Azusa were browsing a gun shop, the weapon in the display case catching Yui's eye.

Azusa walked over to the display and read the dialogue box that appeared. "P90 with suppressor and ACOG sight..." The girl in twin-tails sweatdropped at the gun. "I don't even know what that means but it's expensive so it's probably good."

Yui gave her an expectant look. "Don't you think it suits you?" she asked again.

Azusa smiled wryly. She could guess why her senpai thought it suited her. The weapon was a bluish-black, small, and easy to hold in one's arms. While it was still dangerous - it was a gun for crying out loud - it looked more like a toy than a weapon meant for seriously injuring people, if not outright killing them. While she was more than happy to just agree with Yui, agreement would give rise to the insistence that she buy it and it was way out of her price range.

"I think I can find something else," Azusa said, moving away from the display. A glance told her that Yui was disappointed but not overly upset. "What about you, senpai? Find anything you like?"

Yui immediately livened up. "It's really hard to choose. Some many of them look cool."

"Just make sure whatever you pick is within our price range. Mugi isn't extravagantly rich in this game so she can't just buy it for you."

Right as Azusa said that, Yui immediately ran for a nearby shelf. She pointed at one of the guns near the top. "Azusa! Look at that one!"

When Azusa reached the shelf she took a look at the weapon. Just like with the P90 display, the weapon's description appeared in front of her face. She didn't need a ladder to see what she was looking at - a little convenience provided by the virtual world that she much appreciated.

"MP5A3 with red-dot sight... Hmm. We can afford it, at least..."

The gun was similar to the P90 - small and bluish-black. Azusa could not identify the differences other than the look, but the MP5 was more triangular in overall shape and had a magazine that loaded bullets from below rather than above. It didn't look as menacing as most of the other guns in the store but she was sure it was just as effective.

"I think I'm gonna buy it," Azusa muttered, hand hovering over the [BUY] button on the information display. She hesitated. "Should I...?"

A robotic non-player character walked towards them and asked in a polite alto, "Is there something I can help you with?"

Yui looked at the robot with wide-eyed excitement. "The robot's a girl!"

Azusa rolled her eyes. It's just the voice, she wanted to say. The robot isn't really female. Of course, she kept those words to herself. No need to ruin Yui's fun.

"Is there something I can help you with?" the robot repeated. "If you have doubts about purchasing that weapon, you're welcome to test it out. There is a fully functional firing range at the back of this store."

Azusa blinked. "Really?" The robot nodded. "Alright. I wanna test it out." She then stopped and looked at Yui. She turned back to the robot. "Can it wait until my friend figures out what she wants?" The robot replied with another nod before walking away.

"She was nice," Yui commented. "Really professional and stuff."

Azusa managed a small laugh. She began walking, gesturing for Yui to follow. "Come on, senpai. Let's find you a weapon."

Meanwhile, in a completely different store...

Having already bought their guns, Mio, Mugi, and Ritsu were at a clothing store, browsing the wares.

"You think Yui and Azusa are still in the weapons shop?" Mio asked, flicking through the various colors and patterns available for the particular outfit on display.

Ritsu shrugged. "Probably? I'll send them a message." She swiped downward with her index and middle fingers, calling her menu. She then paused for a while. Mio stopped examining the display and turned expectantly to Ritsu. Ritsu laughed awkwardly and looked in mild distress to Tsumugi. "Hey, uh, Mugi...? How do we send PMs in this game?"

Mugi giggled. "There's a button on your menu that says [Messages]. Tap it and you'll open a sub menu. From there, look for [Compose Message]"

Ritsu frowned at her menu. "All the text is in English," she complained.

Mio giggled as well and returned her attention to the outfit.

It wasn't really her style, or so she told herself. The armor set was called [Shadow Cat] which was comprised of a hooded vest that had cat-face decals and cat ears on the hood, a long sleeved shirt that clung to her curves, scandalously short shorts - scandalous for Mio, at least - with a length of ribbon tied in a bow at the back of a belt tied around it, and stockings reached just above the knee worn over combat boots. All in all, every fiber of her being was screaming at her to stay as far away from the armor set as possible.

At the same time, she also felt weirdly attracted to it.

Perhaps it was the fact that she was in a video game? While her current avatar was uncannily similar to her real-life self - which she had spent a literal hour in the character creation screen for - it still technically wasn't her real body. None of her perceived imperfections were there. She had no reason to be embarrassed about what she looked like in-game. She could wear what she wanted to wear.

The question remained, however: did she want to wear it? The question repeated on and on in her head as she circled the display. Her indecision was slowly but surely driving her mad. Should she? Shouldn't she? Should she? Shouldn't she? Her hand hovered over the [Buy] button and nothing was keeping her from pressing it other than her own hesitation. Just tap it! It's right there! You obviously want it! Touch your hand on the button! Do it! Do it! Do it, you scaredy-cat! Do-

"Alright. I sent it," Ritsu said, snapping Mio out of her daze. She pulled her hand away from the [Buy] button.

"Oi, you've been eyeing that for a while. Gonna buy it or what?" Ritsu then took a good look at the outfit. Her lips stretched into a sly smile. "Oh ho! Mio, I didn't know you were into such risque fashion."

"I'm not!" Mio yelled. "I just thought it looked nice, okay...?"

The embarrassment she felt at that moment rivaled the most embarrassing moments in her life yet she could not feel the blood rushing to her face like it normally does. Was she even blushing at all? She felt like she was but she couldn't tell. She ignored the strangeness. It must just be a design quirk of the game.

In the end, Mio bought the armor set anyway - opting for a light blue and white color scheme instead of the default black and purple. And with a few swipes on her menu, she quickly changed into it, her old clothes flashing into her new ones. The outfit felt light and airy, yet gave her a sense of protection despite how little it covered. Mio reasoned that it must have had high resistance bonuses.

Mugi looked at her from top to bottom. She smiled. "I'll admit that it isn't your usual style, but it really does suit you."

"Yeah. I like it too," Ritsu also gave her the once-over, eyes lingering somewhat on Mio's accentuated curves and the exposed skin of her slender legs. "I'm sure I won't be the only one," she added in a mutter.

"Ritsu," Mio growled. She then turned three quarters in front of a mirror. She nodded at her reflection, feeling satisfied. "It feels nice to wear. This was a good purchase."

They continued browsing the store. The other two still hadn't bought their new outfits yet.

Later, back at the gun store...

The shooting range behind the store was loud and lively. Several people were having fun shooting at targets from varying distances. Azusa herself was about to do just that.

She walked over to one of the weapon dispensers and inputted the code that the robot NPC from the store gave her. With a few taps, the MP5 from the store materialized in the air and fell into her arms. She then situated herself at the nearest booth and looked down range. She stared at the target roughly 100 meters away - which was apparently half of the MP5's effective range. She was not confident that she'd hit anything...

There was a weird sense of familiarity as she loaded the magazine and cocked the weapon. It was her first time holding a gun and yet she immediately felt at home with it pressed against her shoulder. It must have been the game influencing her movements.

With the weapon in her hands, pointing it in any direction seemed to create some sort targeting circle in her vision. The more readied her stance, the smaller the circle became. With an intense look of concentration, Azusa aimed at the target. The targeting circle became much smaller but was never quite small enough to ensure a bull's-eye. Resigning herself to the inherent inaccuracy caused by her inexperience, she exhaled and fired.

She hit the third ring from the center. Azusa nodded, feeling mildly satisfied.

"Oh, that was great, Azu-nyan!"

Azusa turned and saw Yui walking towards her. In her hands was an M249 SAW. It was a downright terrifying belt-fed light machine gun colored a bright pink with strawberry decals on it. It looked really heavy - and from the way Yui walked, it probably was really heavy. It seemed like the least practical weapon for a high school girl to use. Azusa could only stare blankly at the sight of Yui wrapping her arms around it like she would her guitar.

"You're dead-set on buying that, aren't you?

Yui nodded, and eager smile on her face. She pointed down range and began firing wildly. Most of her shots didn't even hit the target, which, at 300 meters, was significantly farther away than the one Azusa had to shoot.

Azusa sweatdropped at Yui's non-existent attempts at aiming. It seemed like a waste of bullets. "Senpai, you might want to press the stock into your shoulder and aim down the sights."

Yui stopped shooting and turned to Azusa, blinking once. "Eh?"

Azusa shook her head and began correcting Yui's stance. "Okay, try it now. You can keep your accuracy if you fire in bursts or one bullet at a time."

Yui nodded and shot one bullet. Immediately, she hit the bull's-eye.

"Whoa," Azusa breathed in surprise. "That was an amazing shot, senpai."

Yui laughed and went back to firing wildly from the hip. After a few seconds, the gunfire stopped and was replaced with repeated clicking noises. This earned a scowl from Azusa who did not appreciate her senpai's blatant disregard of her advice.

Yui knelt down and began the tedious process of reloading her M249. "This gun isn't really for killing, Azu-nyan."

Azusa raised an eyebrow, not believing that statement in the slightest. "Your gun is not made to kill things?"

"You make it sound stupid when you put it that way." Yui shook her head. "I read in the weapon's description that its main role is suppressive fire. You shoot a constant stream of bullets at a target to keep them from shooting your teammates. See? It's not really supposed to hit anything. Enemies would always be ducking behind cover"

Azusa nodded slowly as the logic of those words reached her. Makes sense, she thought. With shrug, Azusa resigned herself to the fact that Yui would be the heavy gunner of their group.

"Alright, let's get back to the store and buy these. Mio-senpai and the others have probably bought their new clothes already. We shouldn't keep them waiting."

Meanwhile, at the armor shop...

Tsumugi did a little twirl to show off her new outfit. At the moment, she wore a white tailcoat with black slacks and leather gloves, topped with a black feathered bowler hat. "How do I look? It's apparently a variant of the [Mafia] set."

Mio nodded. "It looks amazing, Mugi. It's just like the clothes all the mobsters wear in those old movies."

The thousand-watt smile Mugi shot her left Mio feeling incredibly happy - much the same way Mugi must have felt upon hearing the compliment. The two shared a light hearted laugh.

"Whoa, Mugi. I like the threads. You'd look like you're right at home with the Yakuza or something." Those were Ritsu's first words upon exiting the changing room. Mugi hummed with delight.

Mio on the other hand merely stared confusedly. "Ritsu, what are you wearing?"

"What? I think it looks kinda cool."

The drummer wore a black jacket with yellow trim and a wide closed collar that rose to just above chin level. She had a yellow belt wrapped around her left thigh and two more around her right shin, worn over her thin black pants. She even removed her usual head band and let her bangs down in an uncombed mess.

"It's called the [Dark Flame] set. It's got really good fire resistance and can block low caliber rounds shot from a certain distance away." Ritsu then frowned. "Does it look bad on me?" she asked, looking somewhat worried.

Mio wanted to say she looked like a character from an edgy teenager's fantasy. Quite frankly, the bassist wouldn't have been surprised if the outfit was based on some preexisting character that was from an edgy teenager's fantasy. But she couldn't really say that. That'd hurt Ritsu's feelings. Sure, the drummer would probably get over it eventually, but Mio didn't want to hurt her at all.

Mio sighed. "It doesn't look bad, just... Couldn't you have found one that's a little less... less..." she vaguely gestured to all of Ritsu, "...less edgy...?"

To that, Ritsu merely raised an eyebrow. "Hey, you're wearing a sexy cat girl cosplay. I'm not making you feel bad about your outfit, am I?"

Mio averted her gaze. "Right," she muttered guiltily. "Sorry..."

Ritsu moved to Mio's side and slung and arm over her shoulder. "It's all good. Don't worry about it so much. That frown ruins your pretty face."

Mio pouted, refusing to make eye contact. "Stop it. You're acting like a boy."

"Oh come on. It's my boyish attitude that makes people like me, right?"

Mio lifted Ritsu's arm off her shoulder and turned to face her, bringing hands to her cheeks and squeezing. "Shut up," Mio said slowly and flatly, more as a subtly threatening suggestion rather than an explicit order.

"I'm sorry. Please let go of my face..."

Mio smiled and complied with the drummer's request.

Mugi giggled at the exchange she just witnessed. She then addressed Ritsu. "Rit-chan. Have Yui and Azusa replied yet? There should be a blinking icon in the corner of your vision."

After a brief moment of swiping through her menu, Ritsu finally replied. "Just finished buying weapons. MP5A3 for me. M249 SAW for Yui. Buying new clothes now," she read aloud. She then turned to Mugi. "What guns are those?"

Mugi gestured for them to wait and she thought for a bit.

Mio was vaguely aware of what the MP5 looked like. Ritsu had pointed at it in the gun store saying it suited her. While she wouldn't disagree, it was still a little too light for her liking. She much preferred the M4A1 currently slung over her shoulder. While it wasn't quite the same weight as her bass guitar, it was just heavy enough to give her a sense of comfort. Plus, it was the rifle people saw in their heads when they thought of assault rifles - it was either that or an AK which Mio felt was too intimidating even when recolored bright blue to look like it was a toy.

Once Mugi finished explaining what an MP5 and M249 were, Ritsu whistled, apparently impressed. "So we have a sniper rifle, a shotgun, an assault rifle, an LMG, and an SMG." She crossed her arms, holding her chin as she smirked. "We have a pretty diverse crew here if I do say so myself. With a little practice, we could probably win tournaments and stuff."

Mio shot Ritsu a raised skeptical look. "You say that and yet even with our music we almost never practice. Priorities, Ritsu."

Ritsu waved her off dismissively. "Just a suggestion. No need to get all dramatic."

"Guys." Mugi's cut their conversation short as she gestured to the two approaching girls. "Isn't that Azusa and Yui?"

The shorter of the two girls had her in hair twin tails and wore only a black long coat, a bra, short shorts, and knee-high boots. The taller had shoulder length hair and wore a frilly black dress with red trim and a flowing red cloak draped over her shoulders. Upon closer inspection, they were, in fact, Azusa and Yui.

"Azusa, what are you wearing?" Mio blurted out. She immediately felt guilty and muttered an apology to the approaching girl.

The twin tailed kouhai blushed, lowering her head. "Most of the outfits in this game are either extremely revealing or extremely stuffy with almost no in-between. I didn't have a lot good armor sets to choose from. Besides," she then glanced at Yui, "Yui-senpai said it suited me."

"It does!" Yui insisted. "You look just like her!"

Azusa raised her arms awkwardly, letting the cloak sway from the motion. "The [Black Rock] set. It's apparently based on an anime character that looks like me."

Ritsu snapped her fingers as a look of recognition appeared on her face. "Ah right. I think I saw that anime once. Never got the name." She looked closely at Azusa and nodded. "Yeah, I can see the resemblance." She turned to Yui. "Good pick, private."

Yui beamed and saluted.

"What about you, Yui?" Mugi said. "What armor set is that?"

Yui put a hand over her mouth. "Oh, no. I forgot." She quickly swiped down for her menu. "Wait, I think I can find the names of the clothes. Uhh... uhh..." After a few moments of fumbling with her menus, Yui then turned back to her friends looking teary eyed. "All the words are in English..."

The rest of HTT collectively released the breath they only just realized they were holding. Azusa sighed and decided to answer for her. "She's wearing a variant of the [Gothic Lolita] set. She added the cloak since she thought it looked cool."

Yui swung her cloak to the side and brandished her weapon. "I'm red riding hood!" she exclaimed, leaning back as she pretend-fired her machine gun from her hip. "Ratatatata! Face the power of Yui and Tatara!"

The other's raised their eyebrows. "Tatara?"

Azusa looked away awkwardly. "It's what she named her machine gun."

As the rest of the band nodded in understanding, Yui beamed at them. "Let's think up names for all of your weapons too!"

Later, in the Tutorial Zone...

Mugi and Ritsu lay prone just behind the crest of a hill. Mugi was waiting patiently for their target, watching the road through the scope of her Barret 50 caliber sniper rifle. Ritsu, on the other hand, was... not...

She rolled over on her back and looked at the sky. It was roiling canopy of orange as smoke from the starting city mixed with the clouds to block out the sun. Only faintest of rays filtered through, leaving the area in shadowy twilight. Ritsu frowned, causally aiming her SPAS shotgun at a bunch of birds flying over. "Is it always this dreary and depressing in this game?"

"It might be just this planet. I hear some of the other planets looked quite picturesque." As she said that, Mugi's eyes remained focused on the far away view of her sniper scope. "I think this kind of weather has its own kind of beauty to it, though. I certainly have never seen clouds quite like that." She gasped in surprise. "I think I found our target. It's a large rabbit creature with really long fluffy ears that make you want to hug it."

Ritsu raised an eyebrow. She rolled back over to her stomach and peaked over the hill. With the rather realistic depth-of-field blur the game had, she saw nothing of value from so far away. She turned to Mugi. "Is it as big as a man?"

Mugi's look gained intensity as she concentrated on the target. "Possibly. I can't tell from this distance without some sort of reference." She gasped again. "Oh wait, there's Mio and the others. I can use them for reference."

"What? Are they fighting it?"

"I can confirm it's as big as a man - bigger, actually, going by how Azusa's barely reaches its thighs." Mugi paused as something happened from far away. "They've engaged the creature. Oh, what fun!"

"Aren't you supposed to be giving cover fire?" Ritsu prompted.

"Am I? Oh right!" Mugi let out a breath of surprise and once again gained a look of concentration. She exhaled and fired, causing a reverberating boom as her sniper rifle fired. "Ah, there we are. I shot its leg and now it can't move." She then turned to Ritsu expectantly.

Ritsu grinned. "Yeah. Like that. Great work, Mugi! Keep doing that."

Mugi smiled and nodded before looking back into her scope. She then frowned. "I know we're supposed to kill it but it looks so in pain now. I feel a little bit bad for..."

There was a slight pause. Ritsu waited for Mugi to finish her sentence but she never did. "For...?" Ritsu prompted.

"It just grabbed Yui and slammed her into the ground," Mugi replied flatly. "Hmm... I don't feel all that bad for it anymore..." She aimed and fired once more. "Ritsu, I see hostiles on the mini-map."

Ritsu blinked, eyeing the map on the upper-right of her vision. Sure enough, red dots were slowly converging on the two green arrow heads in the middle over her mini-map. She pumped her shotgun. "Alright, show time!"

Several rabbit-like creatures erupted from the ground around them, dark red cursors floating over their heads. Under those cursors was a horizontal green bar representing their health and a dialogue box showing their name. [Dust Bunny lvl 5] the dialogue box said. The creatures themselves were about the size of a grown dog, had large glowing red eyes, and were covered in dusty brown fur. They cautiously approached.

Ritsu pointed her shotgun at one of them. In her vision, the targeting circle appeared. Unlike with other weapons, she saw two targeting circles - one that grew or shrunk depending on how steady she held her weapon and another at maintained a wide radius. She assumed it was due to the shotgun firing multiple pellets in one salvo, giving it an inherent inaccuracy.

The Dust Bunny she was aiming at suddenly pounced at her. With the simple pull of the trigger, Ritsu reduced it to a glowing red wire-frame that burst into particles and polygons. She could one-shot them at point blank, apparently.

Upon the dispatching of the one Dust Bunny, the rest hissed threateningly - surprisingly intimidating for rabbits, all things considered. They all attacked at once. Ritsu pumped her shotgun once more and took another shot. She repeated that action until she blasted all of them to bits.

Meanwhile, with Mio's group...

At the time they found out that their target was a large mutated bunny, Mio felt mildly upset. She was completely fine with shooting target dummies, and she had convinced herself that it would be alright to shoot the robot space dinosaurs that were supposed to be the game's primary antagonists, but shooting a fluffy bunny rabbit did not sit well with the bassist. But then, when she and the rest of the band set out for the designated patch of desert outside the city, they encountered the mutated rabbit they were supposed to dispatch. She was a little bit less upset at the idea of shooting it by that point.

The dialogue floating above it said it was [Carrot, the Agitated Dust Bunny lvl 10.] Mio didn't argue with the name. The large, vaguely rabbit-like creature with matted dirt-brown fur and droopy ears certainly looked agitated. It was probably the glowing red eyes and absurdly sharp teeth and front claws.

"Mio, that's the thing we're supposed to kill, right?"

Mio stared at Yui, put off balance at how breezily the guitarist had said those words. How could Yui talk about killing so casually? She set aside her shock for the moment - there'd be time comment on it later.

"Yeah, looks like it. Mugi said not to start attacking until Yui has aggro, whatever that means."

Right as Mio said that, Azusa spoke, the in-game help dialogue visible in front of her. "Aggro - also called hate or aggression. The term describes the act of gaining and/or maintaining the attention of a hostile mob, usually by damaging it. It is often done by tanks whose primary role is to prevent other more fragile players from taking damage," she said as a student would when asked to read a textbook aloud in class.

Yui nodded, understanding what her role was. "Okay. I'll get its attention. You guys wait a few seconds before you start shooting just to make sure it doesn't suddenly go after you guys instead."

Mio nodded back. "Right," she said, turning off the safety of her rifle. "We should split up. Azusa, go left. I'm going right."

When they had all taken positions at a notable distance from each other, Yui began firing at the Carrot's general direction. Mio involuntarily hissed as a bullet impacted the creature. And then another. And then another. It was never wracking. It almost seemed as if the Dust Bunny was just gonna sit there and let them shoot-

Carrot roared in a way that a real life bunny could never replicate and charged at Yui who continued firing away. In that moment, Mio felt something primal take hold inside her - the dormant instincts of a hunter reawakening. She took aim and opened fire.

Yui was doing a surprisingly good job at keeping Carrot's attention. She deftly dive rolled out of the way of the bunny's pounce, immediately getting up and continuing her assault. On and on, she fired away, relenting only to sidestep, duck, or perform any other dodging maneuver in response to the Dust Bunny's telegraphed attacks. If she kept it up, she might even be able to take it out all on her own - if she had enough bullets.

Mio kept her sights trained on Carrot, shooting burst after burst, following it as Yui led it around in circles. The hit markers and damage numbers that appeared in her vision as she fired did not give her confidence in her damage dealing powers. All she saw were eights to twelves, not making any noticeable dents in the enemy's health bar. On the other side of the hill, Azusa seemed think similarly as they shared a look of mutual disappointment.

Mio then heard a gunshot in the distance - different from the sound of her M4, Azusa's MP5, and Yui's M249. Mugi's sniper rifle? In the split second after they heard the gunshot, one of the Carrot's forelegs exploded into a glowing red stump, a large bold number 80 floating over the wound. The attack depleted a chunk of the mob's health bar.

Mio noted an icon next to the Carrot's name - a swirly line she somehow inherently knew to be the icon for the [Stunned] state. She disregarded the confusion she felt at her unexpected knowledge and emptied her magazine at the creature. She felt a twinge of satisfaction upon doing so.

Her moment of celebration was cut short when the Agitated Dust Bunny hopped forward and grabbed Yui by the waist with both hands and tossed her to the side of a nearby hill. The heavy gunner rolled a number of paces before skidding to a stop.

"YUI!"

For a moment, Mio was taken by panic at the sight of her friend's fall. And then Yui sat up, pouting fiercely at Carrot. Shrugging off the hit, the guitarist got back up and continued firing away. Mio's feelings of alarm quickly dissipated and was then replaced with confusion.

"Look at her health bar, Mio-senpai!" Azusa called from across the battlefield.

Mio blinked. Health bar? Only upon seeing the green bar floating above Yui's head did the bassist remember that she was, in fact, still playing a video game. The attack the mob dealt to Yui may have looked fatal, but the damage it inflicted was not. Less than a fifth of the health bar had been depleted - Yui could take at least five more hits.

Mio frowned. Sure, Yui die - or get seriously injured - but what just happened was still not something Mio enjoyed seeing. Even so, she refrained from voicing her words of worry and continued shooting.

Later, back in the starting city...

Even in a video game, the members of Houkago Tea Time somehow found themselves at a pastry shop having tea and cake at a corner booth. It was a surreal experience as the cake, while delicious, had a texture that did not realistically simulate real world cake. Similarly, the tea was also quite good, but the game did not perfectly emulate the blend of sensations one had when taking a sip. Said differences were not lost on Azusa as she sat quietly next to Yui, not really paying attention to the older girl who was animatedly describing what it was like to be thrown into a hill by a large mutated rabbit.

"I swear, the more I play this game, the less I like it," Mio said across the table from Azusa. The bassist's expression was stern as she closed her eyes and took a sip of her tea.

"I think it's fun!" Yui proclaimed, taking a forkful of cake into her mouth. "Though if you really hate it, we can always stop," she added thoughtfully.

Mio frowned. "W-what?"

Next to Mio, Ritsu leaned forward and put her elbows on the table, turning to Mio with a small smile. "Hey, the only reason we're even playing is because Mugi thought it'd be fun to party together." The drummer turned to the other girl next to her. "Ain't that right, Mugi?"

Instead of giving a spoken reply, Mugi gave a sidelong glance at Ritsu before closing her eyes and taking a sip. Azusa could make out the beginnings of a smile tug at the pianist's lips as she did so.

Mio fidgeted in her seat. "It was little fun..." she admitted reluctantly, turning away from the rest of the band.

"What do you think, Azu-nyan? Today was fun, wasn't it?"

To that, Azusa blinked before nodding thoughtfully. She then took a sip of tea.

She pondered what she was to say. It was simple to admit that she did, in fact, have fun. But of course, whatever she answered to that question would influence what the band would do over the next couple of weekends. Agreeing to the general consensus that the game was fun would mean they'd keep playing - something she wasn't sure she wanted.

Her decision on the game couldn't be boiled down to whether or not she had fun. Some part of her seemed to want something deeper - and it was still up in the air if the game would be able to deliver. They had only just gotten a taste of what it had to offer and what it gave her was certainly intriguing. Would that intrigue be enough? Did she want to see what else was in store?

Perhaps...

"Today was certainly interesting," she said, taking a forkful of food. "I guess it couldn't hurt to keep playing."

"Yay!"

"Awesome."

"Hmm..."

All the band members, with the exception of Mio, were quite happy with Azusa's answer. Mugi seemed particularly pleased with her. "I was a little worried that you guys wouldn't like playing. I really had no idea what your reactions would be when I bought your subscriptions."

The rest of the band collectively winced. "Which you didn't need to do," Ritsu said, smiling awkwardly. "We could have covered the cost ourselves. I mean, you already bought all the VR equipment."

Mugi seemed amused by their reactions. "Oh, it's fine. Don't worry about it. A little indulgence never hurt anyone."

"So, shall we meet tomorrow morning? No one's got plans for Sunday, right?" Ritsu asked. She grinned and raised her fist in the air. "We should make the most of our month-long subscription!"

In response to that, Yui cheered enthusiastically, Mio nodded reluctantly, and Mugi hummed in agreement. Azusa merely smiled and nodded.

For the next month, the members of Houkago Tea Time were also gamers.

End of chapter...