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Over Oceans

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Kairi sighed and moved the dinner around on her plate as she sat in front of her computer. It was getting close to 6 PM. That meant wherever Sora was, it was almost midnight. Her heart leapt a little at his name. She usually logged in for clan activities about this time so she knew she needed to quickly scarf down the rest of her meal and get settled in for a Thursday night of Heart of Worlds.

Yuna yawned and stretched at Kairi's feet before casually pouncing onto Kairi's bed. She kneaded her tattered blanket into a makeshift nest like the little cat granny that she was. Kairi smiled and quickly snapped a photo with her phone to send to her cousin Namine. She missed her so much... Maybe she could make time for a quick call.

After a couple of rings, Namine's sing-song voice could be heard. "Kairi!"

"Hey, Nami. I was just thinking about you." Kairi said as she twirled an auburn lock around her finger. Kairi and Namine had always been close. They were often mistaken for siblings or twins when they were together despite being apart in age by a couple of years. Once Kairi got her job working at a gaming blog full time, the move to the city separated them a bit. Kairi did her best to keep in touch, even if it sometimes meant just sending Namine cat photos and funny memes.

"Aww, miss me?" Namine asked sincerely.

"Always." A sudden idea popped into Kairi's head as she looked at the login screen waiting for her. "Wanna come over this weekend? I get off a little early tomorrow. I can meet you at the station if you want to take the train here."

"Yes!" Namine answered instantly. "Anything special going on?"

Kairi smiled with excitement, almost letting out a squeal. "Bring your laptop; we're playing Heart of Worlds all weekend!"

"Yessssss!" Namine cheered into the phone. Namine wasn't as big of a gamer as Kairi, but she knew her way around a mouse and keyboard and still played from time to time, especially if Kairi was playing with her.

Kairi glanced at the clock on the corner of the computer screen and bit her bottom lip. "Speaking of, I have to get back to the guys. We have plans tonight. But text me later and we'll figure out the plan for tomorrow."

"Sounds good; talk soon, Kai! Love you!" Namine sounded just as excited as Kairi felt. She's such a sweetheart, Kairi thought.

"Love you too!" Kairi grinned as she disconnected the call and put her phone on its charger. This weekend would be interesting with adding Namine to the clan. Excitement thrummed through her chest as she turned to her computer and logged in.

Welcome to Heart of Worlds!

Username: Ariae

Password: ********

Loading...

New Message to: Kingdom Hearts clan

Hey guys! Please add Lumi to your friend lists. This is my cousin who will be joining us this weekend for questing and skilling! Thanks.

Ariae

After that was handled, Kairi took her character to her favorite fishing spot to wait for Fainn and Geir to log in. She had done a quest just to get into the special place, and there was even a range nearby to cook whatever she caught. She set to the monotonous work while listening to her favorite playlist on Spotify and chit-chatting with those around her. Thank goodness for other players, Kairi thought, or she would be bored to tears while skilling some nights. As if on cue, a private message dinged in her headset.

New Message from: Mika

Have you seen Fainn?

[You to Mika]: Not yet, but he should be on soon.

[Mika to You]: Oh...

Kairi knew she would regret this later, but she was genuinely curious what it was that Mika needed to talk to Fainn - oops - Sora so badly about. She thought it could be a crush confession which made her eye twitch a bit with jealousy, but she pushed it to the side. Sora wasn't hers; she had no right to him. She swallowed her feelings and typed a message to Mika.

[You to Mika]: Is something wrong?

[Mika to You]: I just really need to talk to him. Bye.

Well, okay then, Kairi thought to herself. That was pretty abrupt. She had always thought Mika was a little ditzy when it came to HoW but she's never acted this weird. Feeling a bit off, Kairi decided to focus on fishing and cooking with her character for awhile when she received another surprise message.

Faeron would like to add you.

Kairi quickly accepted the friend request and waited for the message she knew would come from the player. Adding people in Heart of Worlds wasn't as weird as one might think. If you wanted to privately message a player, you had to send a friend request first. Usually someone had a question, but every now and then, it would be a troll looking to start shit. Luckily, Kairi hadn't run into the latter much.

[Faeron to You]: Hey. :)

Kairi laughed out loud. Wow, what a message. She kind of expected them to get straight to the point of why they added her, but wanting to be polite, she decided to respond in kind.

[You to Faeron]: Hello.

[Faeron to You]: I couldn't help but notice your character. *wolf whistles*

Kairi blushed slightly even though the comment was aimed at her character, which looked nothing like herself. She was a little on the short side with auburn hair and blue eyes, but the boy behind the character of Faeron had no idea about that... It didn't help that she really wasn't used to being complimented, but she did spend a lot of time on creating her character, so she'd accept it.

[You to Faeron]: Thanks. They're just pixels though.

[Faeron to You]: Didn't mean to rub you the wrong way miss.

[You to Faeron]: It's fine.

[Faeron to You]: Gah, I'm so bad at flirting. I apologize if I made you uncomfortable.

[You to Faeron]: Apology accepted. So how did you get my player name? Just wondering.

[Faeron to You]: I'm fishing with you.

Kairi looked around and let her mouse hover over a few different characters until she found him. Sure enough, there he was. He was a few levels higher than herself and had a few expensive items equipped. Nice, she thought. Sometimes people were lonely while skilling and would PM each other rather than join in the world chat. Kairi shrugged and decided his armor would be a good conversation continuation while she waited on the boys.

[You to Faeron]: Nice armor. How much? 4 mil?

[Faeron to You]: Actually, I bought it a long time ago, back when it was 2 mil. Prices have gone up since then. Ugh.

And so Kairi spent the rest of her time fishing with Faeron while they chatted and she waited on her clan mates. He made her laugh and even blush a few times with his well timed compliments that were geared towards her more than her character this time. Kairi began to wonder just who this mysterious player was. He seemed to know all the right things to say, what jokes would make her laugh. How strange... But it seemed that just as suddenly as he had come, he had to go.

[Faeron to You]: I need to get to bed now, Ari. It was nice chatting with you. Maybe we can do this again sometime.

Faeron has kissed your hand.

[Faeron to You]: Goodnight, Ari. :)

[You to Faeron]: Goodnight, Fae. :)

Kairi shivered, her heart pounding and her cheeks warm. What in the hell had just happened? Faeron was doing something to her... well maybe he was doing something to Ariae. Seems like Kairi and her character had gotten themselves stuck in a love triangle. But is it even a love triangle if she doesn't know how Faeron or Sora feels? And what the hell was Mika up to? Was that another love triangle all in itself? Just before she could spiral into that train of thought, the clan chat pinged in her headset to let her know Fainn and Geir were finally online.

Kairi finished up her last catch then teleported her character to their clan headquarters which was very similar to player-owned homes in HoW. Fainn (and probably Geir) spent a lot of time and money on creating a castle-like home with a large meeting room at the front, some storage rooms towards the back, with a kitchen meeting in the middle. There was also an upstairs that had various bedrooms but they were never used much. Once Kairi was inside the headquarters, she joined the clan chat.

Joining Kingdom Hearts clan chat...

Ariae joined the clan chat.

Fainn and Geir are talking in the clan chat.

[Fainn]: Hey Ari!

Another blush made it's way up to Kairi's cheeks at seeing Sora call her character's name. She put her cool hands against her warm face to try to calm down a little bit. Two guys in one night had the power to make her blush. Still feeling flushed after the encounter with Faeron, Kairi cleared her throat, adjusted her headset, and replied back to Sora in the clan chat.

[Ariae]: Hi Fainn!

[Geir]: Hey guys.

[Fainn]: I didn't really have any solid plans for the clan tonight. Does meeting at the headquarters for some skilling sound good? It can just be a chill night.

[Ariae]: Yeah, I'm down.

[Geir]: I have a few things I need to do tonight, but y'all have fun. ;)

[Fainn]: Sounds good. Join us later if ya want.

Kairi watched as Geir's character teleported out of the clan headquarters, leaving her alone with Sora. Things had never been awkward between them but would it be awkward now? They literally only exchanged names, but it was the first time Kairi had revealed something personal about herself. Maybe she could continue with that while they were alone? She could get to know him better (and also further assess if she wanted to continue with having a crush on him). Before Kairi could think of a question, Sora had already sent another message to the clan chat.

[Fainn]: So Ari, I have supplies for making some potions and teleport tablets. I have been meaning to get those done for the shared clan chest but never had time. Wanna help me with these?

[Ariae]: Sure!

[Fainn]: Which would you rather craft? Pots or tabs?

[Ariae]: I could use some herblore exp so pots if you're good with that.

[Fainn]: Yep, I'm good with that. All the herbs and bottles are in the chest. Heads up, they'll need to be cleaned before you can start making the potions.

[Ariae]: No worries, I should have a high enough level to get that done.

Kairi clicked on the large shared chest and gathered the items she needed. She filled her character's inventory with fresh-from-the-dirt herbs and closed the chest. Without wasting any time, she began cleaning the herbs. These herbs, once clean, would be used for health potions. Sora's character was already charming runes to create teleportation tablets which would be needed for clan quests that could take place anywhere in HoW. As the clan leader, Sora always seemed to take care that the clan would be provided with anything any player would need for their shared group activities.

[Fainn]: Thanks for the help. :) I know this isn't very exciting.

[Ariae]: Of course. It's NP, Fainn.

[Fainn]: Since it's just us, call me Sora. :)

[Ariae]: Alright, Sora. :)

[Fainn]: Mind if I call you Kairi?

[Ariae]: Nope, don't mind at all.

[Fainn]: How was your day, Kairi?

Kairi sucked in a breath. Looks like he might be beating her to make things between them a little more personal. She knew she could give him a vague answer or keep things to just HoW, but he had already opened that door when he asked her name last night. It seemed only fair that she could meet him halfway and share some personal details of her own. It was just the two of them alone here in the clan headquarters anyway, so what's the harm?

[Ariae]: Not too bad. Work has been an absolute slog lately. The article I'm working on is more difficult than I thought it would be.

[Fainn]: Oh, what kind of articles do you write?

[Ariae]: I work for a gaming blog so usually I write about games. Sometimes I get to do interviews with developers. That kind of thing. :)

[Fainn]: That is so cool. What a dream job!

[Ariae]: Haha. Some days it's a dream. Other days it can be a total nightmare.

[Fainn]: Have you ever written about a game called 'Heartless?'

[Ariae]: Hmmm... isn't that the new title from that indie game studio? Oh gosh, I forget the name of the devs.

[Fainn]: Paopu Fruit Studios!

[Ariae]: Yeah, that's the one! I haven't written anything on 'Heartless' yet but the devs are on my radar. I don't really get to choose what articles I write about but I can make suggestions.

[Fainn]: What if I said I had a direct line to the devs at PFS? :)

[Ariae]: What?! How do you know the devs?

[Fainn]: Let's just say, I have kinda known them my whole life lol.

[Ariae]: That is so freaking cool! Do you think they would be willing to do an interview with me?

[Fainn]: I would love to do an interview with you. ;)

Kairi's fingers paused over her keyboard. Wait a damn minute... Did she read that right? Was Sora saying what she thought he was saying? And he said she had a dream job! Kairi loved games but never considered making a career out of making them. Kairi didn't want to wait any longer for an answer so she quickly typed back to Sora.

[Ariae]: Are you a dev for PFS???

[Fainn]: Ahaha yeah, I am. Don't tell anyone though. It's kind of a secret.

[Ariae]: I won't! Promise. Wow, never would have expected you to be a dev for PFS... That's amazing!

[Fainn]: Yeah! PFS is my biggest achievement. Oh, and Geir is the other half of FPS just to be clear. We started making games right after college. So crazy to think about it now.

[Ariae]: So cool. What made you decide to start PFS?

[Fainn]: I've loved games since I was a kid. Geir and I used to get together and write story ideas for games. He started learning how to code and then I started learning how to draw and create 3D models. Even went to an art school for a bit before we finally created Paopu Fruit Studios.

[Ariae]: Wow, you're both basically self taught?

[Fainn]: Well, mostly. We definitely did a lot of learning on our own with online tutorials, but Geir has a degree in programming and I have a degree in game art.

[Ariae]: Oh, gosh. Sorry, this already sounds like an interview.

[Fainn]: Haha I don't mind. I'm serious though. I'd be down for an interview. It'd be mutually beneficial. I can talk about 'Heartless' and you'll get a rare interview with PFS. ;)

[Ariae]: I'll email my editor right now! You have no idea how thankful I am that you're willing to do this for me. :)

Kairi's heart was racing as she quickly pulled up her email and sent a quick message to the gaming blog's lead editor. Sora wasn't kidding when he said "rare interview." Hardly anyone knew anything about the developers behind Paopu Fruit Studios. They had three indie titles that went viral in the last four years, garnering them big attention from the media, especially as big named YouTubers picked up their games for Let's Plays. Plenty of articles had outstanding ratings for their games and reviews, but no one had been able to get a personal interview from the team, well, until now.

Finding any personal information on the developers had been near impossible even with PFS's active social media accounts. The secrecy of the studio was enough for some conspiracies to crop up in indie game forums. It was kind of funny to know that Sora and Geir were the people behind the mysterious dev team at PFS. They were just regular people with a passion for gaming and story-telling.

[Fainn]: It's no problem at all. It's probably about time I did an interview anyway. Some of those conspiracy theories are getting out of control lol.

[Ariae]: YOU'VE READ THOSE???

[Fainn]: Lmao, yep! Riku and I get a kick out of 'em.

[Ariae]: Riku AKA Geir?

[Fainn]: Ah yeah. I probably should have asked him before telling you his name but oh well. You'd have found out sooner or later lol.

[Ariae]: I can't believe you said I have a dream job and you're over here acting like you're not the creator of three viral indie titles.

[Fainn]: I stand by my comment. ;)

[Fainn]: Now that you know my big secret, mind if I ask you something?

[Ariae]: Sure. :)

Before Kairi could overthink what Sora could ask, an email notification sounded off in Kairi's headset. She quickly pulled her email back up to see a response from her editor.

Kairi,

Fantastic work! Looks like you have some time in your schedule next week to make this interview happen. Check your schedule in the AM and let me know when you can get this on the books. The sooner, the better! Again, great work.

Aqua

Kairi wiggled in her desk chair in celebration. Getting this interview was going to look amazing on her year-end review. Hell, maybe it could help her take a step up the career ladder if she could play her cards right... She'd check her schedule for next week and then see when Sora would be available. Speaking of Sora... his question was sitting in the clan chat waiting on her to finish her victory dance.

[Fainn]: This probably sounds self-indulgent but... have you played any of our games?

Kairi wasn't quite expecting that question. It probably was self-indulgent of Sora to ask that considering the popularity his studio has garnered with three successful games, but you know what, he was doing her a huge favor by offering up the interview so for a second time tonight, Kairi was saying "screw it." After a bit of thought, Kairi typed out an honest answer.

[Ariae]: 'Nobodies' has been my favorite of all your games so far. I'm curious to see what 'Heartless' has in store but 'Nobodies' really affected me after I finished it. In a good way!

[Fainn]: Wow, I didn't expect that to be your answer. 'Nobodies' was hard to make. It was a pretty personal story, but I'm glad you enjoyed playing it. I feel like there's a piece of myself in all of our games, but 'Nobodies' is special to me.

[Ariae]: Mmm... Yeah, that game is both incredibly beautiful and heavy. Maybe one day you can tell me the story behind it.

[Fainn]: I would love to do that. Thanks for indulging my ego haha.

[Ariae]: It's the least I could do! You and Riku are really talented. I mean, I'm sure that's apparent from your fan base, but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents too lol.

[Fainn]: That means a lot coming from you, Kairi. Thank you. :)

[Ariae]: You're welcome, Sora. :)

[Fainn]: So... any questions for me? I feel like I have pried quite enough from you tonight lol.

[Ariae]: Hmmm... Let me think.

[Fainn]: I shall wait with baited breath. ;)

What did she want to ask him? He did just drop a giant truth bomb so maybe she could ask something lighter... Kairi tapped her chin in thought, but was interrupted by Yuna jumping up on her desk beside her keyboard. "What is it, my grumpy granny? Need some head scratches?" Kairi smiled at the fluffy cat and scratched behind her ears. Yuna purred and made herself at home on the empty corner of Kairi's desk. "Aha!" Kairi exclaimed as the question popped into her head.

[Ariae]: Any pets?

[Fainn]: Ah, I wish! We're working on getting a new place soon, and then we'll be looking into adopting. My brother wants a cat, and Riku wants a dog. We'll see who wins out or if we end up with both.

[Ariae]: Do you have a preference?

[Fainn]: Nah. I love all animals TBH.

[Ariae]: I could totally see that. Sora: animal lover. Lol!

[Fainn]: Aww, don't poke fun at me haha.

[Ariae]: It's a good thing silly!

[Fainn]: I'll take your word for it then. :)

Kairi smiled sleepily as the friendly banter continued with Sora for a little while more. Her character had cleaned all the herbs that were in the shared chest and was about halfway through creating the health potions at this point. The clock was slowly getting closer to 10 PM, and Kairi knew she really needed to get to bed at a decent time for work in the morning. At least it was Friday tomorrow! And Namine would be coming! Kairi mentally willed herself to calm down to avoid too much excitement before going to bed.

As much as she didn't want to say goodnight to Sora, she finally did, promising herself that Friday would be all about Namine and HoW. It was going to be a fantastic weekend with her favorite person and her favorite game. And also Sora... The interaction with Sora had made her completely forget about the mysterious and flirty Faeron. She got to know him even more tonight in ways she didn't expect. She still couldn't believe that he created PFS with his friend. She'd have never guessed that. Life could be so wild...

Kairi finally turned off her monitor and crawled into bed with Yuna who had already snuggled down into her blanket-nest. She gave Yuna a couple of gentle pats on the head then pulled the covers up over her chin, praying to fall asleep quickly so Friday could come sooner.

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