After finishing the first chapter, the system automatically booted us back to the region map. Sora ended our session, giving no explanation of why.

Waking back into the real world, I groggily removed myself from my Cloister.Without any personal drama, it was fairly easy to do though it took me a while and I felt like an android.

Stepping out of the machine, I noticed that Sora was not yet out. Lazily lumbering over to his Cloister, I noticed that his door had opened but he was still inside. I called out to him.


No answer.

I didn’t know what was happening, so I just tried to call out again.

“Hey, Sora, buddy… you all right? Why did you end the session? We still have a whole lot to do before class; we should get back in there and do at least a few more chapters, don’t you think?”

Still, no answer. Slowing down to hear, I noticed noises. Sobbing like noises. I decided to investigate.

I climbed into Sora’s Cloister. There wasn’t much room, of course, but the manufacturer had designed these things with just enough room for an emergency worker to help detach people from the wiring in case of an emergency. Stepping into the cold shadow’s dim of the Cloister, Reno noticed that Sora hadn’t unhooked any of his wires. As he began to do so for him, he noticed that Sora was, in fact, crying.

“Whoa, what’s wrong bud?” Reno tried to say in a consoling a manner as possible.

“I… I don’t think I can go back in there; it’s just… too real, too visceral. Nothing like in other classes.” Sora continued to sob.

Reno didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t used to being in situations where he was needed to comfort his male friends. So, he tried to wing it with what he thought was the best responses.

“Lisen, buddy,” Reno soothed while wiping some of his tears away with the cuff of his shirt. “As I said in the game, none of this is real. Just zeros and ones. You’re not actually killing anyone. You must’ve played violent video games before; this is like that, but just a bit more personal.”

“It’s not ‘just a bit’, it’s fucking lifelike!” Sora almost yelled but as he strained his voice to do so he just ended up gagging as he redoubled his sobs.

Reno had finished unhooking all of Sora’s wires. Helping him out of the machine, he assisted him in walking to the nearest seat. Once they sat down, Reno took Sora in his arms and did his best to provide support, occasionally rocking him back and forth; he didn’t know where the line was when it came to physical support, lest he be mistaken for a Gay man, so he tried to straddle a line. A line that was intangible and likely counterproductive.

Reno tightened his grip. Sora continued to cry into Reno’s shoulder making that whole area sodden with tears. Rubbing Sora’s back, Reno whispered to Sora, “I don’t want you to withdraw from the course. It won’t be the same without you.”

Surprisingly, this seemed to calm some of the cryings. Several more minutes passed. Sora ceased wetting Reno’s shirt, but he still didn’t raise his head from Reno’s shoulders, although he was still clearly disturbed as he was visibly shaking. Reno continued with his best efforts at soothing his friend, from minor physical gestures to other whisperings of support mixed with his own anxieties about the class. After a while, but discounting a few last but violent shakes, Sora stopped shaking and crying.

Lifting his head from its resting place on top of Sora’s own noggin, Sora finally revealed his face; it was a mess of tears, spittle, and even a bit of snot. Reno got out a piece of paper towel he always kept on his person and broke off some for Sora to clean his face.

Feeling bold, Reno gave Sora a nice big bear hug. “Listen, we can try to avoid bloodshed if you want, but I’ve read ahead and there is a lot of violence in this book. I want to help you to get through this but you need to let me help you. Like you did to me a while back.”

Sora sniffled. “Yeah, I know. I read ahead as well.” Sora said, blowing his nose. “I just need a moment, ok? Just a bit to help me process everything.”

“Okay,” Reno replied. “Well, let’s get out of here, then.”

The two went back to Sora’s room. Becoming comfy on Sora’s bed and its many blankets, they watched non-threatening videos online. Usually of a comedic nature. Such things calmed Sora who Reno was suspecting had a very timid personality despite his intellectual and usually calm persona indicated. Though Sora was now calmed down and on the verge of sleep, Reno couldn’t help but wonder what the consequences would be for class the next day, not having completed even half of what they were supposed to complete.

Inwardly sighing, Reno pushed such thoughts to the back of his mind. The fact of the matter was that he didn’t have any control over such things— the facts were like so: Sora was freaking out, he may not even continue the class, and there simply isn’t enough time in the world to complete what they were assigned before it is due. So, they will just have to man up and face the consequences. Simple as that. No need to worry.

Eventually, Reno too fell asleep. Later in the night, the two would awkwardly shift positions— unaware of each other— until they had ended up in a weird, misshapen human pile. An onlooker would have described it as cute. Another onlooker might have drawn magic marker genitalia on them. To them, though, it felt natural and like the only thing they had wanted in this world.

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