After my date with Phèdre, organizing thousands of people into a raid to slaughter two demons seemed almost relaxing. Ai and Mai played from their wing of the mansion, apparently mad at me, but Emma joined the rest of us in the ballroom. The regular drilling performed by my guildmates truly was helping. They were able to pull off complex maneuvers quickly and efficiently, especially those under Eseld’s command. That girl seemed capable of micromanaging everything under her command while utilizing her character in the front lines of the confrontation. I wish I knew how she pulled the feat off but didn’t think a written explanation by her would really get her techniques across. I wanted to see her play and try following what she did to multitask with such great efficiency. After we successfully took out both demons, I sat around chatting with Eseld for a couple hours and ended up telling her about how horrible my date was. She laughed and told me I had horrible luck, but I found myself wishing I could hear her voice. “lol” didn’t convey a person’s laughter nearly well enough. Having dating on my mind, I might well have been reading into things too much, but I thought Eseld might like me.
She still seemed down and wasn’t opening up about why, but I wouldn’t imagine she’d talk with me at length if she didn’t at least enjoy my company. Of course, she could simply be lonely. I read numerous times about how video games could be social outlets for reclusive sorts. If she ever mentioned her age, I couldn’t remember it, so Eseld very well might be old enough to be my grandmother, not that her chatting implied any such thing. On the other hand, she might be younger than Aaliyah, though I had trouble believing there could be a second girl near Aaliyah’s age with such incredible skills. Really getting to know someone was difficult, especially over the internet where things could readily be concealed. A person’s imagination could also get in the way, creating countless ideas about who a person was. I needed to keep my own hopes for who Eseld was separate from the facts I knew about her, as difficult as that was. After wishing her a good night, I went to my room, determined to find a non-crazy date for the near future.
After some time perusing through my messages, I came across one who seemed particularly interesting. Her pictures caught my eye with brightly colored, voluminous hair that Emma would likely appreciate, though her stylist didn’t pull off anything as amazing as the flames Aaliyah did for Emma. The majority of the girl’s hair was blonde, but there were black, blue, and purple streaks throughout it. Her profile read like what the job posting for an adventurer might be. She wasn’t seeking anyone to rescue her but to adventure with her, finding all the treasures hidden throughout the world. Her wording was so colorful that my mind was easily comparing her descriptions of places to see with things out of games I played. Before I was finished reading through everything, I saw her profile’s chat option light up, telling me she was online. I didn’t hesitate at all to ask if she was available to meet sometime, going so far as to tell her I actually had tomorrow evening free. There was such a great pause before she replied that I wondered if she would respond at all, but she agreed to meet with me at a theme park in a northeastern suburb.
Due to Phèdre commenting on my arrival the day before as much as my anticipation to meet Raine Vance, I reached the theme park a full twenty minutes in advance. To help kill the time while waiting, I bought a soda and then fiddled with my phone, losing to Mila at various games while keeping an eye out for my date. If not for her unique hoodie, I would have missed her entirely, since her hair was mostly covered. I was marveling at the black hoodie with cat ears, eyes, and a tail when I caught a glimpse of the hair under the hood. I was amazed the girl could stand the August heat while wearing long sleeves. When I stood and called her name, the girl froze, and I wondered for a moment if she was about to bolt. “Raine, right? I’m James. I contacted you last night about meeting here.” I told her, hoping I had the right girl. Being a petite girl, she needed to gaze up quite a ways to meet my eyes but fell short before she did. Unfortunately, this only made me wonder at how Alma, who was even shorter, must crane her neck to look at me. Though I knew Alma was short, she never really seemed short when I was looking at her.
“Niii-iii-iiice to meet yo-ou.” came a timid voice from under the hood. Perhaps my height was a bit imposing for her. “Where would you like to start? We could do refreshments if you need some, or we could go straight onto the rides. If you’d prefer, we could even just walk around for a bit. Whatever you like.” I told her. She nodded affirmatively without saying anything, so I repeated options until she nodded again at the last one. Since she didn’t start moving anywhere, I picked a direction and made sure she was coming along. The girl really did look cute with the pink of the hood’s inner ear matching the pink background of her polka dotted skirt as well as her pink skater shoes. She wore black tights under the skirt, another testament to her keeping cool easily. The conversation was lacking though, with her hardly saying a thing. I had assumed that her profile was referring to video games, but I couldn’t engage her in a conversation about any, not even Ancient Tribes of Earth. I was surprised, and somewhat relieved, when she pulled on my sleeve and pointed over at the large ferris wheel we were passing.
Not long after stepping inside our pod I noticed the girl was shaking. “What’s wrong?” I asked, hardly believing that the girl could be cold. She shook her head negatively but didn’t say anything. Then I inquired “Have you ever ridden one of these?” to which she shook her head again. I reached over and took her hand as I told her she was safe only to wonder if I screwed up. Her face went a bright shade of scarlet, but she held onto my hand when I tried letting go. When the wheel started to turn, she squeezed my hand tighter, and I only caught her peeking out from under her hood once during the ride. Perhaps I was a bit biased due to the girls with whom I lived, but I never knew a less adventurous adventurer before. When we stepped off, Raine’s grip loosened, but she still didn’t let go, not that I minded. We wandered around the park for a while more before stopping for some food, which I ordered and purchased for her after getting a nod to confirm what she wanted. After I finished eating, she was still picking away at her food. “Thaa-ank you, Jaa-aames.” she whispered, surprising me. I did manage to get her to try a couple games, and she actually won a plastic tiara.
She took off her hood and handed me the tiara to place in her hair. Then I kept rambling away on different topics as we walked around a little more. We gradually meandered back to the entrance, and I told her farewell after thanking her for the evening. I was guessing that today was one of the bigger adventures the girl had. I felt sorry for her, since she would miss out on so much if she didn’t manage to find a little more courage, but I couldn’t see myself taking the time to try bringing her out into the world. My life was far too active for such a girl to feel comfortable in it. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I realized this was probably my best date yet. At very least, Raine actually did want me there, and we did spend a significant amount of time together, even with me doing all the talking. If my dates continued to improve, even by such a small margin, I would eventually find someone with whom I could be in a relationship. One way or another, things were bound to work out if I kept on trying.