Do You Still Love Her?
By Eli Young (Elyscape)

"So, tell me Piro..." she said. "Do you still love me?"

"Do I still..." he whispered.

---------

Endgames. Designed for many purposes, but one goal was to get people to live a life online without lies. Online it was easy, and common, for people to claim to be that which they weren't.
Endgames was designed to undo that.
Through Endgames, one would live a second life. Whatever they decided to be, that was what they became. There were no lies.
For this reason, users of Endgames had no user profiles, no personal information. If they wanted to talk to someone from the game, they did it in the game, as the person their friend knew.

There were unforeseen problems to this arrangement. The biggest problem was that some people gave away RL contact information through the game, treating it as a game with a chat system rather than an immersive Role Play environment. This wasn't the only problem, though. Not by a long shot.
While it didn't show up often, the problem that did the most damage was, since some people RPed their characters to perfection, the characters became indistinguishable from real people.
Some people fell in love with others' avatars, and the people behind them.

---------

"How are you?" Pirogoeth asked Niho.

"Better. Resting helped a lot," he responded.

"Glad to hear it. Ready to go?"

"Very."

---------

Largo was at the bar.

"C'mon, Largo," Pirogoeth said. "We're gonna go exploring."

"Again? Is that all you ever do?" Largo complained.

"There'll be zombies..."

"When are we leaving?"

"As soon as Niho comes back."

"Him," said Largo. "Why do you always bring him along?"

"Because he's my friend, Largo."

"Maybe, but something doesn't feel right," he said. "I don't like it. I'd recommend staying away from him."

---------

As far as Role Playing went, the most skilled people within the game were probably Pirogoeth and Largo.
Pirogoeth was very nearly a person in her own right, independent of her 'owner', as the RL counterparts came to be known.
Largo, on the other hand, was no different from his 'owner'. If you knew Largo, you knew the other Largo. There was no boundary between them.
For this reason, Pirogoeth and Largo were the most convincing avatars on the Endgames server.
Well, almost.

---------

"I wonder... how does victory... taste?" he said.

Pirogoeth pulled out her dagger and slashed upwards, catching the man unaware. She cried out in pain as he drew back, a pain gripping her cheek.

"I know you're cheating," Pirogoeth spat through the pain. "And I know how to beat it."

"Ah, my dear Pirogoeth," Niho replied. "You would accuse me of cheating?"

"Such I would accuse, and such is true," she replied, in a blood rage. "I will not tolerate this offense."

Niho shrugged.

"Suit yourself," he said.

---------

"You remember the agreement," Pirogoeth said. "We both agreed no Iron Maiden spells."

"Ah," said Niho. "But did we not also agree that all blades should be blunted?"

Pirogoeth grimaced. She had forgotten that part.

"Besides, it was a selective Iron Maiden anyway," he continued. "Designed only to activate if my flesh was pierced. Surely you have no problems with that?"

She merely grunted in response.

---------

Piro walked into his dorm room. He had the next day off, and was looking forward to playing Endgames for a while. He loaded up the game, and started to slip into character, when a window popped up in his Messenger program.

darkribbons: hello

He stared at it for a minute, then responded.

pironae: do I know you?
darkribbons: how quickly you forget, Pironae...
darkribbons: or should I say, Pirogoeth?

He blinked.

pironae: who is this?
darkribbons: still haven't figured it out?
darkribbons: Niho?
pironae: ...
pironae: how did you find this username? I never told you.
darkribbons: a little digging and I can find anything I want...
pironae: ...

---------

"In a sorta sad way, I'm reminded of Wolverine and Mystique from X2," someone once said regarding something else.

Funny how it applied here as well...

---------

Piro signed on. Instantly, a window popped up.

darkribbons: hi
darkribbons: how are you?
pironae: pretty good
pironae: you?
darkribbons: oh, I'm fine.
pironae: good to hear

They talked for a while, discussing what they had done during the day.

pironae: question
darkribbons: yes?
pironae: this has been nagging me for a while...
pironae: you male or female?
darkribbons: .....
pironae: I mean, if you don't want to answer, you don't have to...
darkribbons: no, it's okay
darkribbons: I'm male
darkribbons: like my avatar
pironae: right
darkribbons: and you?
pironae: same as you
pironae: like, I'm also with the avatar
pironae: so, female
darkribbons: right.

---------

A couple weeks passed, and Piro and 'darkribbons' were greater friends. Their avatars loved each other, but that was nothing new.
Largo still didn't approve, but that was Largo.
A window popped up.

darkribbons: hello, piro-chan
pironae: hi, dark-kun
pironae: how are you?

"Why do I keep lying to him?" Piro asked himself. "I'm not a girl..."

darkribbons: depressed, right now
pironae: awww, what's wrong?
darkribbons: jerks messing with me

"How am I better than them?" he thought. "I'm messing with him right now."

pironae: well, don't worry about them
pironae: they'll get what they deserve later
darkribbons: thanks
darkribbons: I feel better now
pironae: ^_^
darkribbons: so, how are you?
pironae: well, no homework...
darkribbons: nice
pironae: wanna level?
darkribbons: sure. meet you in the fields?
pironae: right. see you there.

---------

Pirogoeth woke up. She got up, got dressed, and left the inn. About five minutes later, she was slaughtering the many beasts the roamed the fields. She took a quick break and, while she was resting, someone tapped her shoulder.
She turned around, dagger ready, and found Niho standing there. She rushed up and embraced him.

"Whoa," he said. "Careful with that thing. You don't want to hurt yourself again..."

Pirogoeth touched the scar on her face, then let him go.

"Ready?" she asked.

"Absolutely. Got anything already for me to raise?"

She pointed at the pile of dead beasts.

"Ah, perfect. Gimme a minute..."

He walked towards to pile, and cast Dominating Resurrection on several of the stronger ones.

"Let's go," he said after a couple moments.

"Alright."

---------

Another week passed.

darkribbons: hello
pironae: how are you?
darkribbons: not good
pironae: explain?
pironae: when you're not feeling good I get sad
darkribbons: ........
darkribbons: why?

"That's an interesting question," thought Piro. "Why is it?"

darkribbons: I don't get it, though
darkribbons: why should anything I feel affect you?
pironae: because you're my friend
darkribbons: oh
pironae: anyways, why you down?
darkribbons: oh, it's just something dumb
pironae: so? maybe I can help.
darkribbons: I... doubt that.
darkribbons: but whatever. if you really want to know...
darkribbons: I think I'm falling in love with you.

Piro stared at the screen for probably a minute.

darkribbons: hello?
pironae: um.

He continued staring.

darkribbons: you still there?
pironae: .....yeah
darkribbons: you okay?
pironae: yeah.
darkribbons: at first, it was just your avatar
darkribbons: she was beautiful, strong, and nice, and everything
darkribbons: but she wasn't real
darkribbons: and it hurt
darkribbons: so I convinced myself to find something else
darkribbons: and so I looked for you
darkribbons: the one behind the girl
darkribbons: and here we are

Piro knew he had to tell his friend the truth now.

pironae: I, um, have to tell you something.
darkribbons: yes?

"I can't do it," he realized.

pironae: I think...
pironae: I think I'm falling in love with you as well.
pironae: I don't really understand it
pironae: I mean, I don't like guys
pironae: and yet...
darkribbons: I'm the same
darkribbons: I don't like gals
pironae: hm...

---------

Another week passed.

pironae: hi!
darkribbons: hello
pironae: how are you?
darkribbons: pretty good...
darkribbons: do you have anything to say to me?
pironae: um....... oH!
pironae: Happy Birthday!
darkribbons: thanks
pironae: how old are you?
darkribbons: 15, now

Piro looked at the words on his screen.

pironae: am I reading that correctly?
darkribbons: yes. 15.

He stared.

---------

"Hey, Niho?" Pirogoeth asked. "You okay?"

He continued to groan and clutch at his stomach.

"Niho?"

"Niho?"

"Niho?"

"NIHO!"

His body fell to the ground.





Eventually she abandoned it.

---------

A massive group of faceless avatars was marching through the towns.
They all followed him.
It couldn't be, she saw him die. But there he was.
Pirogoeth watched as he walked up to someone and 'died' again. She watched as the avatar pulled him upright, and he came back to life.
Pirogoeth gasped. The person who pulled him upright, while before had been perfectly normal, now was...
Faceless.
What was going on? What was he doing now?
Had he tried this on her? He must have. That was how he had lived.
The bastard. He had tricked her.
Either way, she wasn't going to take him on alone. Largo would have found a way to retain himself. That was what he did best.

---------

They worked it out. Piro didn't feel comfortable with a minor. They would meet back up in three years to see if their feelings remained.
Still, it was hard. darkribbons hadn't taken it well, that was for sure...

---------

"Ready?" Pirogoeth asked.

"Ready. Let's roll," Largo said. "I always told you I had a bad feeling about that guy."

"That was my mistake, don't rub it in."

They went out, in search of the only remaining person in this world.
Finally, they found him.

"Damn you, Niho!" Pirogoeth cried and began a cast as Largo charged.

Largo's sword collided with the first faceless enemy, and the world stopped.

---------

"There has been," read Piro. "An exploit of the game code. We regret to inform you that the Endgames project has been postponed, as it is incomplete. We will save your characters and allow you to use them again should we restart the project. Sincerely, The Endgames Staff."

"Well, that sucks."

---------

"So, tell me Piro..." she said. "Do you still love me?"

"Do I still..." he whispered.

"You forgot me. Remember how we decided to meet each other?"

Piro was silent.

"You never came," she said. "I waited for you, but you weren't there, you never found me. You betrayed me."

More silence.

"Your betrayal hurt, you know. You have no idea. I stopped trusting people, became a social outcast, all because you betrayed me."

No words came from his side of the line.

"You told me you loved me, and then you vanished. We lied to each other but only because we found solace within those lies, Piro."

Nothing.

"You never found me before, and you broke me..."

Dead air echoed through the phone.

"But, answer me now... do you still love me?"

A sob, and then a click...

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