052~An Outing With Mars (1)
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The sky was dark by the time Aya logged out of the game.

The girl pulled the Revista off and was met with the shrill ringing of her phone. She reached for it, grabbing the phone and swiftly shutting off the alarm.

The alarm had been going off but she hadn't heard a thing amidst the fighting and emotional scenes with the NPCs.

Darkness peaked out from her threadbare curtains. She looked beyond them, watching a dark sky illuminated only by the few street lamps within her sullen neighborhood.

Aya wiped the sweat off her brow and placed the Revista in the box she kept beside her. She hopped off the bed, putting the device in its safe place like she always did before going to use the bathroom and deciding to make herself a dinner of whatever she had in the fridge.

It turned out to be more sandwich ingredients.

"I definitely have to go shopping tomorrow," she said with a tired sigh.

As she heated a pan for grilled cheese, she considered converting the gold she had accumulated into funds she would need to move out of the apartment run by her insane aunt.

"I think I have enough, 177 gold is a lot of money, I'm so glad this currency is backed by a bank!" she said as she flipped the toasty bread to the other side for a nice cheese melt.

----------

After dinner, Aya jumped into the bed noticing it was already almost midnight, leaving her job meant she no longer needed to wake up early. The late bedtime no longer bothered her, she wasn't going to wake up to push a mail cart off an elevator.

"And that's just the way I like it," She muttered as she snuggled into her pillows. As she lay in bed, thoughts of the game began filling her mind.

Aya started out wanting to be a member of the production class for financial gain, but all she had done so far was fight and barely leveled up her cooking, crafting, and Alchemy.

Moon Valley was exciting and she just had so much to do. But Aya needed to narrow it down.

"You've got to focus and get your head in the game," Aya told herself. "There's got to be a balance somewhere,"

Thoughts of the NPCs she had met so far swirled within her mind. It occurred to her that some could be befriended while others did not. To Aya, it seemed like a curious design choice.

As though she was meant to meet them somehow.

Mars came to her mind next, the mysterious girl from Evangels. After listening to the other girl's past Aya felt a surge of anger rise within her at Mars' former teammates.

'Some friends,' Aya thought unhappily. The thought of sabotaging anyone made her heart race anxiously, and the thought of doing that to a friend made her feel even worse.

'Just awful,'

"I can't believe someone would do that," she said with a huff.

"I should stop thinking so hard it won't do me any favors right now," Aya closed her eyes, letting go and drifting off into a peaceful slumber. Tomorrow would be another day.

----------

To her surprise, Aya woke at the first rays of the sun, a time not even her previous alarm was set. She cursed in annoyance wondering why her body would wake her up so early.

"My internal clock must be broken," she said flopping back onto her bed, after a few minutes of trying unsuccessfully to get back to sleep she cursed in annoyance.

It seemed her body still expected work days after she had quit the job and even with how late she slept, it wouldn't keep her down for long.

"Well, I need to go to the store anyway, so let's get up,"

She showered, then put on some clothes then grabbed her phone to leave the apartment.

Aya unlocked the door and began peering into the hallway for any sign of her aunt. The coast was clear, with no sign of the hag's presence to be felt.

Aya tiptoed down the steps, keeping her eyes peeled for the woman she was trying to bypass. On reaching the door Aya ran out the apartment complex door, smack dab into Mars.

"Oh Aya, didn't see you there shorty," the girl teased.

"Mars?"

Mars lifted a hand to wave as she sipped on a sugary drink in a branded cup from one of the fast food places nearby.

Aya recognized the place but hadn't had a chance to go to a fast food joint in forever with the time she spent always working at Nue Corp and coming home late.

"Mars, oh it's just you!" a sigh of relief escaped her. "Sorry, I was trying not to let my aunt see me," Aya confessed.

"I'll bet," Mars said with a smirk. "Where are you off to? It's a bit early."

"You're one to talk, it's like 7:00 AM why are you out anyway?" Aya asked folding her arms. A cold air blew through the morning, ruffling Aya's hair. She pulled her jacket around herself to keep from freezing.

"Just up and about," Mars said.

"I'm heading to the grocery store I'm out of food, got nothing in my fridge," Aya said after a moment's pause. Mars placed a hand on her hip glaring down at Aya who could only grin sheepishly.

"It's not like I did it on purpose!" Aya whined.

"Seriously, you need to take better care of yourself, you're a pro gamer now and pro gamers are always in top shape Aya!" Mars said. Aya blushed, passing the redness of her cheeks off as a reaction to the cold autumn air.

"That's why I'm heading to the store now," she whined. Mars finished her drink and grabbed her by the hand.

"Well then let's go," Mars said dragging her friend by the hand, Aya was taken aback by the sudden pull and stumbled forward as she struggled to keep pace with Mars' quick steps. Mars wanted to go with her?

"You want to come along?"

"We'll you're hiding from your Aunt aren't you and besides I'm bored what harm could it do?" Mars asked with a smirk. Aya nodded nervously. allowing the taller girl to pull her along.

Always having to get her groceries alone, the suggestion surprised her but, she reasoned this was what friends did together, right? They took each other out and went grocery shopping and they had fun in each other's company.

"Sure," Aya shrugged trying to play it cool, "it's just around the corner even,"

"Oh I know the one," Mars said nodding, she disposed of her empty drink cup and continued to pull Aya along with her.

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"And that's when I slapped her," Aya said recounting the incident that led to the termination of her position at Nue Corp. Mars listened with rapt attention holding back her laughter at the thought of Aya smacking someone across that face.

"Good she got what she deserved, if you're going to treat people like shit expect it to come back to bite you," Mars said with a satisfied nod. The friends looked through the grocery isles as they spoke.

The convenience store was a small one near the apartment complex, much like the building itself, the shop was a bit run down, having only a few shelves and a row of fridges at the back to store some cold drinks.

It was almost always entirely deserted with people preferring to shop closer to the city for its wide variety of products.

Aya looked at some cereal, searching for her favorite off-brand products. She shook the cardboard packaging and with a satisfied nod, placed it into her basket.

"You haven't converted your gold yet have you?" Mars said suddenly, the girl froze wondering how Mars knew that.

"Relax," Mars said waving a hand dismissively. "I'm not saying to be nosy, it was just a guess," Mars said. Aya shrugged.

"I don't need it right now, I have enough to cover my groceries for this week," Aya said. "I'm saving it for something important,"

"A nest egg I see, don't worry I did the same thing. Trying not to spend my fortune all in one place," Mars smirked.

She walked over to the row of refrigerators, peering at the limited selection of sodas, alcohol, and energy drinks. Aya watched her select the most artificially sweetened energy drink in the fridge with a shake of her head.

Mars practically lived off sugar. No way that was healthy.

After picking up more eggs, milk, and different mixes for meals. They walked up to the cashier casually talking about the differences between Axen and Evangels.

The bored cashier watched Aya walk up with a basket full of things, a loud sigh left the woman's lips.

She scanned them lazily, chewing gum as she served them a soulless stare, boring right through them as she did her job. Aya, Mars, and the woman stood in an uncomfortable silence watching her scan.

Was this girl new or something? The usual cashier was a bit dead in the eyes but not like this.

The cashier was a young looking woman around her age, she had short brown hair in a pixie cut and empty brown eyes with a sharp angular face and a mole under her right eye. Her clear skin was a healthy brown under the fluorescent lights.

The cashier wore the grey T-shirt branded with the convenience store logo and some ratty jeans showing she wasn't too well off either. On her name tag was the woman's name, but Aya couldn't make it out under the dim light.

After a few minutes of passing her products under her painted nails, the cashier looked at her computer to prepare the receipt.

"Will that be all?" The cashier drawled, she blew a large bubble, popping it with a splat and sucking it back into her mouth.

"Uh...yeah," Aya said, cringing.

The cashier pushed a few buttons on the number pad, then showed Aya her total.

In the end, Aya's total was 46.8 Lue.

"Man things are getting pricey," Aya said as she scanned her phone into the receiver to pay.

Mars shook her head with a sigh. Knowing the fault stemmed from Evangels and their heavy tolls on transporting goods to Axen city. Price hikes were normal but under these circumstances they were insane.

"Nothing we can do about the economy kiddo," Mars said as Aya bagged her goods, she helped her friend carry some of it, at least to Mars this looked like a good haul of groceries, she was happy her friend wouldn't starve.

Looking at Aya, she could tell the girl didn't eat much, more so now that she was gaming a lot. Mars shook her head resolving to take care of her new friend, she just hoped the girl wouldn't betray her like her last group did.

'Aya wouldn't do that would she?' Mars questioned internally she glanced again at the girl standing beside her with a thoughtful expression on her face and smiled.

No, Aya wasn't like her other team. The girl had the makings of greatness but not the arrogance that came with it.

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"Maybe after you put your groceries away we can go out?" Mars suggested as they walked back to the apartment complex. Aya's head whipped toward Mars, staring at her in complete and total surprise at the offer.

"I would love to where do you want to go?"

"There's this bakery in town and an arcade I want to show you," Mars said tapping on her phone to check something. "So what do you say?

she asked.

Aya nodded vigorously, "I'm in,"

 

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