Life's Not A Dating Sim You Can Just Win
rating: +11+x

Miss Hyde had made herself comfortable in her colourful patchy beanbag. Her eyes were covered by virtual reality glasses, as per usual. One from the generation after the next. It was actually a prototype still being tested on in the lab — she just happened to own one.

Her avatar floated in a cyberroom that was thematically designed as an aquatic world. Minus the fish. Just a navy blue room with a sand-colored floor.
Her virtual left hand was raised. She typed in her password on the transparent keyboard illuminated by the twilight.

<Access authenticated.>

<Welcome home.>

The apartment-sized spherical room that was Miss Hyde's secret haven had been processed by the server. Her avatar swam towards it, hardly moving and passive, a kind of drifting. She pulled herself into the door frame as the gravitational engine reacted. She landed on her feet, standing upright.

In front of her was a meadow of flowers and a bright sky blue firmament where sporadically generated clouds lay. It was embarrassingly cheesy for Hyde's taste, but for her it worked surprisingly well as a place of might. Just sitting in the grass looking at the sky, it was so easy. It was then that she was with herself. Not thinking about the everyday life. Not thinking about her everyday life…

„Hey, Hyde! Wake up.“

She rubbed her eyes to find herself back in the 'real world'. Her voice was stagnant and quiet.

„What… is it… Bao?“

The face of the half-chinese Bao radiated a friendly impatience.

„Our meeting's coming up. And I want to show you something else.“

Like every second monday, the six employees of the studio Pocket Panzer had gathered to discuss the status of their video game projects. Understandably, they couldn't work on more than three games at a time — they got support from another four part-time programmers — but the group had only recently been formed. Now and then Bookworm, I&I, and R&R Studios assisted with premade textures and code, although 'assisted' is sort of sugarcoated.

The six core members sat around the octagonal table. Such sessions were usually very relaxed. This one was as well. In the middle stood a plain chocolate cake with icing sugar and a thin layer of whipped cream with brown meringue pieces, surrounded by colourful plates. What caught Hyde's attention more, however, was a toy vehicle that circled the pastries. A young man with blonde hair of just under 25 looked up from a wrapper.

„Salut, Hyde.“

„Salut, Schakal.“

Schakal used his usernames from the world of video games — like pretty much everyone else in the studio. A running gag where nobody really knew why they started it in the first place. Honouring his namesake, he was thin, almost lean, in contrast to the slightly chubby Bao and the average Hyde.

„Look what Bao found.“

„Look at what cool things it can do.“

Bao clapped her hands three times. The mini tank chugged around, stopped in front of the piece closest to Hyde and spat out a red chocolate lens from the barrel. With a quiet 'splash' it landed on the icing of the cake. Hyde could've sworn a beeping voice yelled "hit". The vehicle tried, inspired by its success, to shoot at the other pieces, but Schakal grabbed it. In spite of the desperate wobble of the barrel, Schakal picked it up and provided it in the packaging with the inscription "My Little Panzer". Desiringly, as desiringly as a toy without a clear face can get, the tank looked from the packaging window to the cake.

„That was just the beginning. Try the cake now.“

Hyde didn't like this kind of sweetened pastry so much, but the others looked at them anticipating. Hyde skewered some of the cake on her fork. She almost choked on it.

„That's… yeah… where'd you get this from?" she coughed out.

„Yeah, we thought so, too. Bao got it from a pastry shop that just opened a block away. Witch's Kitchen, something like that. That's where we got this toy tank from.“

Hyde ate the rest enthusiastically.

„Hey, aren't you waiting for me? I also want cake, and some tea as well!“

Conan, whose nickname came from his english descent, poured the mentioned tea into his giant cup with the inscription "Fairies DO exist!"

When their boss, Holly, joined them as the last member, everyone sat down. The ethiopian twins, Queen Sphinx and Pharaoh Leo, were happy to finally try their slices, even though they had secretly already eaten.

Bao kissed Schakal on the cheek. Hyde's heart clenched. She liked Schakal, but she still couldn't cope with Bao being with him. Conan noticed that Hyde stiffened for a moment, but said nothing and took a sip. He had his own problems.

Holly wiped the crumbs off of her face.

"So let's get started. We can't call our thriller visual novel 'Distrust ', Sphinx and Leo. The name has already been used by another, bigger company."

Sphinx and Leo moaned as tortured as they could.

„Hyde, how's 'God Complex' coming along?“

Hyde got shocked. She concentrated on formulating an answer.

„Well… actually, very well… I'm decorating the interior now.“

"Great, say when help is needed." Before an answer could form itself, the conversation was already over.

Hyde loved to work alone in her artificially generated world. Though of course, she wasn't a person who didn't enjoy social interaction.

Even as a child, she had been a daydreamer, when she was still building sandcastles with Bao and playing video games.

Wiping, pinching and spreading her fingers, she felt the still empty and virtual space with digital objects and textures. It had something meditative, repetitive, and Hyde was quickly lost in thought.

The shopping street of the game had been a lot of fun to design with all the small details, which she had all set by hand, step by step. She compared it to the work of a painter. Layer by layer, like paint, she shaped the world of the future RPG.

The tailor's shop and the entrance to the temple were already finished; the weapons shop was still a headache for her, so she distracted herself with the potion brewery. She used the sheading tool to find out whether purple or blue was better for the flowers at the entrance. Hyde flicked in the air, and the computer loaded the standard NPC figure for testing purposes at the door. It walked in automatically, as its protocol dictated. Hyde bit her lower lip and scored on it. No, she couldn't do it like that. The grey figure without facial features would not help here.

„Use player avatar.“

<Input confirmed>

Bao's petite elven barbarian BarbaRosa took the place of the NPC and performed the player avatar animation. Exaggeratedly broad-legged and elbow-extending, she waved to Hyde before returning to a neutral posture. The avatar's behavior was normal to indicate that a player had spored. The developers of Pocket Panzer had fun giving their own greetings to all their characters.

Hyde had to grin. She should reconfigure the computer so that it no longer preferred Bao's avatars. She snapped again and the computer executed the animation, which was later intended for entering. When the characters stopped in front of the developer, Hyde looked at the face that, understandably, resembled its creator. Everything was tightening again inside her. The urge to touch the charitable image overwhelmed her. She stroked tenderly with her fake left hand over her artifical cheeks. The sensors did not recognize the movement, therefore the sense of touch was not stimulated accordingly. Hyde didn't care.

Miss Hyde was lying on her beanbag again. She had adjusted her virtual reality glasses. A small trickle of tears swept under the rim.

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