Blurb of The Transience of Her
Soren is still in mourning over Lianna, his dear friend, who passed away suddenly. He notices her avatar suddenly activating while playing his favorite MMORPG sometime after she dies. He believes she possessed her avatar and delves into the mystery before it’s too late…
The Transience of Her Chapter 1
It’s pitch dark.
She is walking home from a friendly gathering, awaiting the coming of a brand new day.
She is all smiles, despite her obviously tired disposition.
She is gaily carrying her bag full of gifts and other physical memories of that occasion.
Something in her stopped beating.
She loses consciousness.
She falls to the ground.
A loud thud can be heard.
Within seconds, her glasses also fall to the ground, shattered into minute shards.
Within seconds, the sidewalk is painted dark-red.
Within seconds… she’s gone.
Literally no one else bore witness to her sudden passing, until…
A roving policeman eventually finds what was left of her.
He inspects the scene.
He rules out murder or suicide, but he has to confirm that to the coroner.
Soon after, onlookers see the poor girl’s remains.
Some of them even cry, cursing the heavens why someone so young and beautiful like her had to be taken away.
I hastily wake up from my bed, heavily heaving.
Checking the clock, it’s 3:55 AM.
I try to reorient myself from the chaos that stirred me seconds ago.
“Haaah… haaah… kh… Why this now…”
This nightmare has been plaguing me for five days now.
The nightmare of my best friend, Lianna Riversdale, dying of an apparent heart attack.
As I stare at the many posters of my favorite alternative rock bands that decorate my room, I guess…
…nothing right now can console me anymore. Not even the bands’ awesome tunes.
I can’t even go back to sleep, either.
So what else can I do?
This swimming into the stream of thoughts makes me recall another significant event not long after this chaotic blur in my life.
All decked in black, I give a simple eulogy for her.
Her ashes are stored in a simple marble urn, decorated with flowers and a laminated picture of her. The urn is then guarded by an ornate glass and gold-plated aluminum cabinet.
“I, Soren Orr, am taken aback to what happened to our good friend Lianna, like all of you gathered here in this wake. To think that one day, she’s the liveliest woman I’ve ever met; and in the next, she’s nothing but lifeless ash. But as they say… no one has the ability to turn back time and reverse her death.
“We are kindred spirits, as we both share the same interests. We love alternative rock, we are both interested in headphones, and we’re also avid gamers. In fact, a few days ago, we were both playing Skypaths Online, and she gave me a valuable gift that would later prove useful in one of the most difficult quests I’ve ever embarked. And that thing was… a Restoration Poultice.”
In Skypaths Online, the Restoration Poultice is an item that can only be obtained by gathering the rarest raw materials and paying the town alchemist 50,000 yesos (the in-game currency). Even then, the chances of the Poultice actually materializing is at best 25%, as alchemy in this game is a game of chance in itself. But then, its benefits outweigh the labor- and luck-intensive lengths one must take to get the Poultice, as it’s the best healing item one can get. It fully restores not just the user’s HP and MP, but it also removes all negative status effects and gives temporary attack and defense buffs too. It’s an invaluable tool for the toughest of boss raids.
“I simply asked her, ‘How’d you get this?’ She answered, ‘Oh, from a player who was retiring from the game for good. He simply gave away his high-tier goods and equipment for free, since he knew the money he would get would be useless once he’s out for real. What a good Samaritan he is.’ I pardon those who are not gamers, but that item was valuable to me in more ways than one. Besides being the best and rarest healing item in the game, that one Poultice she gave me carried sentimental value. And I cherished it.
“One day, I embarked on a quest whose details are scant due to changes made to it to prevent exploits that can lead to cheating. I knew the quest would involve taking down a formidable foe. And man, that foe was indeed formidable. He truly tested my skills despite me being a high-leveled Dark Knight back then. I was cornered, and the quest’s high difficulty level meant that dying would take off so much experience points I’ve worked hard for. And so, I had to make a necessary sacrifice: use the Restoration Poultice seconds before my apparent KO. With that, I became the comeback kid, and whooped the boss eventually.
“Imagine the glory and the gratitude I felt when I finally defeated that boss, using the item I should’ve kept as a remembrance of her, but necessities always outweigh mere sentimental nothings. I could’ve just taken a screenshot of the item, anyway; and I actually did, right before the boss battle.
“And when I’ve heard the tragic news, I was understandably devastated. One of her close friends broke the sordid news to me on social media, and she explained everything about it, in gruesome detail. I was in a depressive funk for a while, and thus I didn’t log onto the game.
“Now, we’re here. We’re here to celebrate her life, and I’ve done my part. And in a few days, she will be buried underneath the cemetery’s lone cherry blossom tree. What a noble gesture. Every time the tree will bloom, a single petal is equal to a shed tear of happiness from her. I know you’re crying, and I am, too; but please remember: No tear goes to waste, even as it falls to the ground. Same thing with petals. Thank you, everyone.”
I still remember the eulogy I gave, because the details in it are still fresh in my memory. Oh, that reminds me…
Since I can’t sleep, and I want to shake off those harrowing thoughts, might as well play Skypaths Online once more.
The MMORPG has some pretty high system requirements. Fortunately, my PC is fully equipped to run it at 1080p, high settings, and 60+ fps: A 16-core, 32-thread processor, 64GB of 3000 MHz DDR4 RAM, a high-end graphics card with 8GB of GDDR6 SDRAM plus ray-tracing, a high-end gaming motherboard, custom water-loop CPU and GPU cooling, a 480GB NVMe M.2 SSD, two 1TB hard drives, a 1000W power supply, and RGB case fans – all inside a lovely full-tower ATX case.
As I turn on the PC and the lights immediately dance and the fans whir, I am still having reservations about logging onto the game, because I know she’s gone. No one controls her avatar now. But it’s too late to turn back and turn it off, right? Even though this PC boots up and shuts down almost instantaneously due to the presence of the SSD?
Once I log in, I wonder what sort of adventure awaits me. Some say undergoing the same old quests and grinding for levels are boring and repetitive, but I digress. Sometimes, in the midst of something routinary, I find something new.
And here I am. Back in the hub town of Tulyasi.
Like all other towns in Skypaths Online, this town sits above a piece of floating land, with brick-and-mortar houses and opulent mansions standing side-by-side. It is known for its fair treatment of anyone who wants to settle in or rest, as long as the settlers and travelers abide by law never to harm anyone. For that reason alone, all kinds of adventurers treat Tulyasi as the central hangout spot. The plaza right in the center is especially packed at peak play hours.
In this realm, I am known by the name of Melchor Kam’arin, a level 67 Infernal Gunner. This job is the combination of Dark Knight, which was my first job, and a Gunner, which is a supplementary job. The reason I opted for that is its innate immunity to the Confusion status effect.
As an RPG fan, words can’t express my eternal hatred for that dreaded status effect. In turn-based RPGs, Confusion means attacking oneself or other allies and wasting their HP, casting random spells and wasting MP, and randomly using items and wasting the stock. As someone who values efficiency, such status effect annoys me the most, and it’s not easily cured by mere antidotes and panaceas.
And it gets even worse here in this game. Once I’m hit with it, not only do I waste previous HP, MP, and items, but I run around in random directions, which means I can be spotted by aggressive monsters and be easy pickings for an ambush.
After sifting through the crowd of chatting adventurers, I step into the adventurers’ post. This is where adventurers like me sign up for various quests.
The pretty receptionist welcomes me.
“Good evening, Sir Kam’arin! You can check through our exhaustive list of available quests just for you.”
I peer through the huge tome of quests, each with their own brief descriptions, rewards, and difficulty levels.
OK, I have to embark on a broken-record “twenty bear butts” item gathering quest, only without actual bear butts involved. Because I need something boring to cure my boredom, kinda like fighting fire with fire.
“Alright, miss. I’ll go for the Animal Bowl quest.”
The Animal Bowl quest is of medium difficulty, with the reward being the Animal Bowl itself, which is a colorful painted bowl made of sturdy darginwood. To complete this quest, I must first obtain ten Fresh Noodles, which are dropped by Noodlekin monsters; before delivering them to an NPC named Bayushi Katchiko located in the nearby town of Foubar. Simple enough, right? Actually, yes.
“OK, then. Please step into the portal to begin your quest. Good luck!”
I follow the instructions like I always do, and off I go!
Once the teleportation finishes, I’m here in this familiar place.
Familiar to high-level players, that is.
This is the Muelle del Blanco Pastures, a peaceful-looking patch of land that hides something sinister.
And by “sinister”, I mean “littered with high-leveled monsters that can wipe the floor with inexperienced players”.
I draw my weapon, the Musket of Precious Grace, assume my battle-ready pose, and begin the hunt for the Noodlekin.
And before one makes fun of the weapon’s name (more so because the name doesn’t match my appearance and job), this gun can be equipped by anyone affiliated with the Gunner job, has a respectable attack power, and can sometimes cast a random high-tier magic spell with every shot.
There it is! My first Noodlekin!
I fire the first shot, and the shot makes a dent on the monster [725 damage]. Of course, as any MMORPG veteran should know, a monster that has been attacked will track down its assailant.
Before the Noodlekin can do real damage with its trademark noodle whips, I fire more shots.
[827 damage], [804 damage], [784 damage], [812 damage].
And it’s down for the count.
Cool. Now I have the first required Fresh Noodle drop.
[Acquired Fresh Noodle.]
As I pick my loot, I sense a faint presence of a player character.
Judging by the long, flowing hair, the character should be female.
For some reason, she evades the monsters without any hassle.
Just what is she? Some enigmatic assassin with her trademark switchblade?
Nope, wrong game.
I wanted to go to the next Noodlekin to whoop, but the distraction brought about by the mysterious woman is derailing my quest so bad.
OK, if I want to go back to a distraction-free quest, I should follow her.
Deftly dodging the monsters in my path (which is another perk of the Gunner), I follow her swift trails.
And those trails lead me to an abandoned wooden shack that is surprisingly in good shape despite being in a monster-infested area.
As I prepare to enter the shack, I can feel a light tap on my shoulder.
And a mischievous whisper, too.
“Knock knock! Who’s there?”
I turn my back to see…
…a girl wielding a Standard Bearer’s Polearm, dressed in a Prismatic Casque, Spidersilk Gambeson, Valkyrie Skirt, and Valkyrie Longboots, with a Sulteos Charm worn around her neck like a pendant.
It’s just like I last remembered her when she logged on not too long ago!
Also known by her in-game name, Linnia Beferia. A level 65 Holy Dragoon.
The Transience of Her Chapter 2
“Yup, Soren! It’s the real me!”
B-but how could she…
She’s supposed to…
I try to contain my words of bewilderment, and replace them with words of composure.
And I sure as heck won’t tell her that she’s dead, Jim.
And before one asks, she’s certainly not controlled by a bot, considering the harsh penalties the GM imposes on such an offense.
“Long time no see, Lianna!”
I briefly embrace her like a close friend should.
Luckily, the few spikes in my armor don’t hinder her much while we hug.
By the way, the armor set I wear consists of an Autumn Drizzle Headgear, Veteran’s Pull-off Suit, Midnight Watcher’s Pants, Pristina Meiryo Boots, and a Ring of the Flowing Sickle.
All but the accessories such as rings and bracelets can be customizable as part of the game’s features, to make each player character unique.
“You want to talk with me? I sure can see the enthusiasm on your face.”
“Of course, Soren. I wonder if your ability to read faces online translates to real life…”
“Real-life faces are different, silly.”
“Come on, we might get ambushed here. Let’s continue our talk inside this shack.”
We go inside the shack and lock the door to prevent the monsters from spoiling our quality time together.
The interior is simple: two wooden chairs and some scattered hay.
We each take a seat as we continue discussing.
“Lianna, since you are eager for a conversation, do you have any particular topic in mind?”
“Me? I don’t have one in mind right now.”
“Please don’t make me waste my time.”
“Of course I won’t, silly. I just thought of one right now: Food.”
“Yup, I’m feeling hungry right now.”
Funny for someone who’s certified 100% dead to talk about something only the living can do.
“I indulge in the simplest of joys. No fluff, no expensive ingredients. Just something filling and satisfying. And speaking of simple joys, I just tasted chocolate milk ice pops my little bro made for me.”
“Ah yeah, I remember. He’s still in grade school, and he’s as precocious as ever. Glad you and him don’t get into silly arguments over who’s smarter.”
“Because we both know we still have a lot to learn.”
Makes sense. If my hunch is right, that her spirit is currently possessing the avatar I’m talking to right now, she still has ample time to learn more about this world, virtual as it can be, before she departs for the great beyond. And speaking of the time of that departure… that I don’t know.
“Well, back to food. Anything chocolate-related is a-OK with me. Just not with incompatible ingredients. Like, what madman came up with chocolate bacon? Or even chocolate potato chips?!”
“*sigh*… Those are weird enough, alright.”
“By the way, have you tried takoyaki?”
“Oh, octopus balls, right? They’re really good. A friend of mine treated me to a Japanese restaurant. She said it goes well with sweet and sour fish karaage and red iced tea.”
“Wow. You sure are lucky. I haven’t tried them yet, but I wanted to. Do you still remember where the Japanese restaurant is?”
“‘Course, like the back of my hand. It’s right at the corner of Poole and Goiti Streets.”
“Good to know. Anything else you’re craving for?”
“Oh, I like it, too. Any flavor’s fair game, just as long as it’s not soggy. Have any toppings you’re fancying right now?”
“Let’s see… a lot. New York-style cheese, Angus steak, bacon cheeseburger, fish taco, and the so-called executive’s choice.”
“What the heck is an executive’s choice pizza?”
“As far as I know… it’s loaded with beef, chicken breast, bacon, bell peppers, onions, olives, capers, and Italian sausage.”
“Dang, that’s a whole lot!”
Even in death, she’s quite the consummate foodie! I guess the fabled “last meal” for people about to be executed under the death penalty is becoming obsolete.
“Soren, experiencing new flavors is one way to indulge in simple joys. Because when it comes to food, no cuisine or food type should be discriminated against just for absurd reasons such as being too bland, being too greasy, or being outright disgusting.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Reality TV producers, take note. Having your contestants taste so-called “nauseating” foods is one form of culinary discrimination!
“Oh, before I forget.”
“Go on, Soren. I know you still have lots of things to say from the huge database in your head.”
“Heh. Remember the day when we coincidentally met each other when we were claiming our high school yearbooks?”
“Yeah. It wasn’t any ordinary Tuesday, I remember.”
“Oh. Because you were also excited that a package from a guy called Levin awaited you when you would get home.”
“M-hm. But before we get to that, let’s get to the moment when our hands accidentally touched each other on that pile of freshly-printed yearbooks.”
“Hah. That was freaking awkward, right? I mean, there was squealing and squeeing in the background. Them love-struck girls who get ecstatic at even the slightest hints of hand-holding.”
“And jealous guys who were jeering, too. ‘What you did was lewd’ or something like that. I mean, argh. Since when did some internet influencer decree that hand-holding is equivalent to you-know-what?”
“Yeah, those people were easily getting carried away. And gender has nothing to do with that.”
I remember that day two summers ago when we both blushed at that accidental hand-holding and the cheers and jeers that soon followed. We quickly brushed that off as we grabbed our yearbooks and put them in our own bags.
“After that little incident, we immediately went to lunch at the nearby bar and grill.”
“And we dined on roasted pulled pork sliders and sizzling salmon steak like nothing happened.”
“Yup. To forget something awkward, gorge on something. That habit of yours really rubbed off on me.”
Some people use food as a coping mechanism for their sadness, or even worse, their depression. That’s what I’ve learned from randomly browsing social media and stumbling upon an article a close relative shared to his timeline.
And before one asks, that article’s no fake news.
But Lianna… she’s different.
She eats not to deal with with some negativity in her psyche, but because she eats to help erase that awkwardness from her head.
“After we ate, I invited you to my house to check the package Levin sent to me.”
“Well, I didn’t say no to your offer. I think of it as an offline version of unboxing videos I watch every now and then whenever I’m bored.”
Levin is her cousin, who lives in a nearby state famous for its abundance of video game shops.
Every month, he would send her a shoe box’s worth of games old and new with the money he earns from being a web programmer.
“With every package he sends me, he always encloses a note within it. And that month’s note became memorable… because he convinced me to play Skypaths Online.”
He was working on the MMO’s official site, by the way.
“And I was surprised that you’ve immediately signed up right after you’ve read the note! Back then, I was just learning the ropes as a level 10 Swordsman.”
“Yeah, and I was also surprised that you’re also into this game.”
After we’ve unpacked the games she received, I bade her farewell as I was itching to go home and play.
“That night, you were ecstatic to learn from someone who’s just getting started.”
“But to be honest, this game doesn’t have a steep learning curve.”
And look how that one simple combined online and offline meeting that day was the beginning of our adventures together, in the world of Eleftheria – which comes from the Greek word for freedom, by the way.
We continue our lengthy discussion of food and everything else under the sun, and then…
She stands up from her seat and stretches her body a bit while yawning.
“Well, Soren, it has been a nice long talk. I didn’t even keep track of time.”
Logically, she’s correct. Because of my assumption that she’s possessing her own avatar, there’s no way she can keep track of time, and there are no timekeeping accessories in this game.
“If you excuse me, I have to hop somewhere else. I need some peace and quiet.”
Yup, another instance of logical correctness; as a possessed avatar has no time to log off (and de-possession means she may lose access to her character data once it’s been altered by someone other than herself) and therefore must go from place to place for some needed private R&R.
“I guess it’s ‘see you again soon’, Lianna. Later.”
She quietly unlocks the door and leaves the shack, off to parts only known to her.
Quietly building the strength to go back to my stalled quest, I then stay in this shack a bit longer.
Minutes later, I leave the shack and resume my quest to hunt down the Noodlekin and acquire the needed 10 Fresh Noodles to be delivered to the NPC in Foubar.
Once again, I whip out my Musket of Precious Grace, strategically aim at the Noodlekin, fire shots accordingly, and watch the fireworks – as the effect of the Musket manifests and the enemies are hit by repeated counts of Pyrocast III, Cryoclast III, Astraclast III, Aquaclast III, Ventoclast III, Terraclast III, Sacroclast III, and Umbraclast III – all high-tier spells of fire, ice, thunder, water, wind, earth, holy, and darkness elements, respectively.
Bang! Like fancy pyrotechnics, yeah?
I got lucky this time, as the aftermath of the elemental fireworks leaves eleven Fresh Noodles in the place of the unfortunate Noodlekin. More than I need, in fact.
I pick up the items as I whistle my own victory fanfare.
Immediately afterward, I dig out my Teleportation Crystal, hoist it towards the skies, and shout…
No sooner do I arrive in the town of Foubar.
It is known as a town of airships, as explorers and merchants from various places gather here to trade their wares.
And I’ve got my own little trading business to do.
I trudge the busy streets towards the Katchiko Trading Post, where the NPC required to talk to in order for the quest to finish resides.
The address is not that hard to find, to be honest.
I greet the person of interest, Bayushi Katchiko.
“Monsieur Kam’arin, am I right?”
“I see you’ve got 12 Fresh Noodles in your inventory. I only need 10 of them. You can keep the rest.”
“Here you go.”
[Surrendered 10 Fresh Noodles.]
“And here’s your quest reward: The Animal Bowl. Use it well.”
[Acquired Animal Bowl.]
“Hope your room will look great with this decoration!”
“‘Course it will.”
“Well now, adieu. I hope to see you again, monsieur.”
I leave the trading post, triumphant.
The quest is as easy as pie, as expected.
And as I’m ready to leave Foubar after finishing the quest…
I spot a cloaked figure from a considerable distance. The figure’s name is Andth’oy Cuathra. Job unknown due to the cloak hiding most of his features.
He soon notices my presence and instinctively fires a paper envelope towards me before disappearing into the crowd.
[Acquired Mysterious Message.]
As soon as I deftly catch it with my fingers, I inspect the envelope. It simply says “To Melchor”.
How the heck does he know me?
Never mind. I’ll open it and read whatever is inside.
Sever your ties with the woman named Linnia Beferia, lest you will suffer in the end.
That spoilsport. I’ve just re-connected with her, in this virtual world; and I sure as heck won’t break that connection off that easily!
Despite the unexpected turn of events in this gaming session, I breathe a sigh of relief.
See? I’m right. In the midst of something routinary, I indeed find something new.
Alright, time to log out, shut down my PC, and rest my body a bit more before the sun goes up.
I originally had plans to go to her burial in two days, but now I decide not to due to seeing her still alive in some way. I didn’t miss the flight, so to speak.
Author of The Transience of Her
Benedict Villariaza is a Filipino indie game developer and writer who wrote The Transience of Her. He enjoys role-playing games and visual novels. He is also a collector of various items. He is determined to combine his hobbies and gaming. His favorite thing is game-mixed literature.