As more and more people flooded into the enormous room to prepare their spots for the day, the vocal exercises in my area subsided. I wasn’t surprised to see that Aaliyah had gone well over-the-top compared with most of the groups, but the elaborate decorations some of the others had surprised me greatly. Some of the comic vendors had huge displays depicting their characters. Other video game companies took up large sections with their own systems, games, and similar products. There were movie advertisements which stretched nearly to the ceiling. Needless to say, my excitement only intensified as I watched the gigantic room get filled with all manner of entertainment. Neither Aaliyah nor Alma seemed the least bit interested in what was going on around us, but the others seemed to share my enthusiasm. The twins made comments directed at Jarod about areas they wanted to visit. Emma and Brenna were excitedly talking about how cute some of the outfits being displayed at shops were. Brandon boisterously told Portentia how he was going to visit everything twice. I wasn’t entirely certain how much of what Brandon said was getting through to Portentia. She seemed rather distracted by the costume Aaliyah had made for her. Well, she was also still learning to play Ancient Tribes of Earth, though she seemed to pick it up pretty quickly. The game was just far too huge for anyone to master quickly. Glancing at Alma, I mentally edited that to “most anyone”.
With the opening nearing, many groups were scrambling to finish last minute touches on their exhibits. Others, myself included after I gave up trying to focus on the game, were roaming around and looking at what was finished. I was surprised at the number of exhibitors who stopped to shake my hand and tell me how much they enjoyed Ancient Tribes of Earth, even the ones having mishaps from unfortunate malfunctions with their props. The game was really popular, so I probably should have expected it. My own stroke of misfortune caught me at the entrance when opening started. If there was a memo about the countless number of people who would want to stop me for photographs, I somehow missed it. Even other people in costume crowded around me to take pictures. When Aaliyah, Portentia, and Alma came to find me, they only exacerbated the situation, causing Aaliyah to hide behind me whenever people got too close for her comfort. Portentia and I handed out pamphlets from a box she had carried over containing information on our exhibit, or so I was told. Aaliyah explained that the bags in which most people stuffed the pamphlets were free giveaways from the convention. Global Princess Entertainment had stickers and postcards exclusive to this convention as giveaways in the bag. At least, I was pretty sure that’s what she said. The noise of the crowd made communication surprisingly difficult.
Portentia seemed to be having a great time posing for the crowd and giving away the pamphlets, but Alma was completely unreadable to me. She posed with us for countless pictures, but never said a word, save for when someone recognized her character. Then she’d thank them for their compliments and tolerate shaking their hands. I explained numerous times that the other generals were at the Global Princess Entertainment exhibit to everyone who recognized that I was dressed as Ashenwake, but the obvious shock some of them displayed at finding out I was the actual guild leader surprised me. Yes, my guild was huge, but there were other sizable guilds in the game as well. Even those who were guild members ― perhaps especially my guild members ― seemed incredibly enthusiastic about meeting me in person. I felt odd and incredibly hot in the costume. Well, I was hot until Alma mercifully cooled the inside of my costume with a spell. I didn’t need the chiding at not having done it myself, but I was grateful all the same. The heat didn’t seem to bother Portentia at all, but she didn’t seem to understand why it should, when I attempted to ask. I wished I could read lips like her. That would be so useful when communicating in the noisy environment. We ran out of pamphlets well before the line into the exhibit hall was even slightly diminished.
Aaliyah then tugged at my hand until I lifted her up and carried her back to our exhibit with the others in tow. She sent Brandon, Brenna, and Jarod out with another two boxes. Ai and Mai followed them, telling Alma that the three had forgotten their drinks. Emma was busily greeting people, selling merchandise, posing for pictures, and talking about the game, so Aaliyah, Portentia, and I assisted her, though Aaliyah ducked behind me whenever someone got too excitable. I didn’t know whether to believe she was truly shy or not. I remembered her acting shy when meeting me the first time, but there were occasions she wasn’t either, mostly around people she knew I supposed. I still had difficulty thinking of her as dangerous at times like this. Who would believe that such an adorable, tiny girl was the terrifyingly deadly assassin? Perhaps that was her point. Whatever the case, she busily helped the calmer customers and hid from the boisterous ones. When people asked for autographs, Aaliyah pointed out a schedule in the pamphlet for signings, which included times for each of us when I looked. I was amazed at how well Portentia was handling everything. Seeing how easily she helped people made me grateful to have her as a Best Friend For Hire in my employ. I really had an amazing team.
Global Princess Entertainment sold countless figures of characters, video games, posters, and other products while I was there. People could order customized figures and posters through a computer on the counter, even importing their own character from the game for a design. One of the machines behind the counter would then print out the poster or dispense the figure already in a package within minutes of the order. I was impressed. Shortly after the others returned from handing out pamphlets, all sales were put on hold, divider sliding down to block off the sales booth. Then we all freshened up before going on stage for additional pictures before our performance. I felt a bit tense when the time came for our first song and dance routine. The crowd around us was incredibly packed, but when the music started, my body knew what to do. Seeing ourselves in the large screens that were suspended around the exhibit area was surreal for me. I could hardly believe that was us, so great was the effect of our costumes. The tumultuous applause when we finished was equally amazing for me. We all joined hands and bowed. Then Aaliyah had me announce that the sales booth would open again in ten minutes.
Brandon, Brenna, Jarod, and Portentia took up the sales booth next as Alma, Aaliyah, and I made our way to an area of the exhibit hall set aside for autographs. Staff from the convention center was there to manage the lines, and I was amazed that people were actually paying to have autographs from us and pictures with us. I wasn’t anyone famous like Alma or Aaliyah. I was just some guy who got lucky with a business. At various times, girls wanted pictures with me specifically, and I worried over how Alma never watched. Was she mad at me? The strength of her grip when she’d spontaneously squeeze my hand at times made me wonder if she was going to break it. Aaliyah, on the other hand, was as cheery as she was bashful. She gladly signed pictures and copies of her game, but she refused to do photographs without me in the picture, always standing on the opposite side of me as the person who requested the picture. After over an hour passed, we were finally finished. I wanted to make my way back to the others, but Aaliyah informed me that we had to present at a panel first and invited Alma to tag along, which she did, purchasing churros and funnel cake to share on the way.
Members of the convention center’s staff guarded the doors as we went inside. Aaliyah, pulled a laptop out of her backpack along with tiny projectors even though there was already one in the room. She somehow fixed them to the walls after I lifted her onto my shoulder, and then sat down without even testing them. Soon after, people flooded into the room, filling up the seats and the back wall. The staff had apparently handed out glasses for the presentation, which was like watching a professional, 3D movie talking about Ancient Tribes of Earth along with other games by Global Princess Entertainment. Then there was Q&A for the last fifteen minutes. Whenever someone asked a question she particularly liked, she pulled out a prize from her backpack for me to hand to the person, even if I was also answering the question. I was surprised how many of my guildies were attending the convention and excited to meet me. Alma spoke up and reminded people to stick with questions about related to Global Princess Entertainment when a girl asked me out on a date. I was thankful for the intervention, knowing I was probably beet red. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get through all of the people in the question line before we were informed that our time was up, but Aaliyah pointed out her company’s next slot on the convention guide for everyone. Participating in a convention was as fun as it was exhausting. I was ready for a break.