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roule

take it all or leave it... I Feel You
so it's been, what? eight months since i've written something for here??? to be fair i've been having a pretty shitty time in terms of life lol. ive been suffering through a college i hate, with people who mostly hang with me bc im there, but that's neither here nor there. the good thing is bc of dejection ive been writing more, so here's a reboot of an old fic i wrote when i was a baby 16 year old.

NOTE: this has some esport elements in it. i tried to keep it as backstory without muddling up the story too much, but feel free to tell me if it comes out as confusing jargon.

thanks for putting up with my hiatus, i hope that i'll get back into my groove :)

1.

12/16/2016

"J'OUVERT"

It's seven in the evening on a slow peaceful Friday night, and Roi is sitting on the floor with her head between her knees, trying not to puke all over her Best Buy uniform.

She has been fighting off nerves all day. That morning she had to go to her college to inform them of her time off, in order to return to Korea to practice with her team before the APEX tournament restarted. Roi just knows that the dean is close to asking her to either choose between college and her team, she could read it in his green eyes as he looked down at her both times she asked, and the way he talked about her absence with her. Now, each and every time her coach bought her plane tickets to Seoul, she dreaded going up to the office on the third floor, covered in bright posters about student elections and clubs, in case today was that day.

In fact, Roi thinks to herself, she wonders if she's the butt of jokes in that dean's friend group. The slacker b*tch who f*cks off to South Korea to play video games for extra cash. How pathetic of her, video games aren't forever. Focus on your studies so you can do something beyond sitting on your ass and playing video games.

She wonders if his opinion would change if she shows him her earnings from last season.

Whatever it may be, her absence was accepted by the school, even though the dean's pale thin face seemed to twitch with held back anger as he informed her of that. Roi didn't feel happy or pleased about that, it was only one baby-step forwards on a long path to success. She had to get there first, go through APEX preseason stages to make it to the actual tournament, then win APEX itself.

Her team, REG Galestrom, had gone through preseason stages successfully the last time, and they'd made some easy work of other teams they'd gone up against in the actual season, even making it up to playoffs, winning against some of the stronger teams there.

Winning APEX playoffs, however…

Roi retches loudly in her sitting position, a wave of sickening sadness crashing over her. She didn't want to drudge up the pain that she had from that. She's already been feeling like sh*t, why does she want to remember this?

Focus, focus, her mind chimes. What else, what else happened today?

Well, she still went to classes, then went to the train station in Toronto. The train was late, so like a complete idiot she went to Inven, a Korean site for gaming, and looked her name up in some sick version of curiosity or just plain masochism.

She found an article discussing REG's return for APEX season 2, with pictures of the players and their coach. Scrolling down the page quickly, Roi saw the faces of Sami, Dios, SKRAA, ZeZe, Coach Hong, and XunSu. Before…

Before she saw a stocky young woman, her round face tightened in a rather intimidating stare, her round, angular eyes looked straight at the camera, and her full lips were pulled into a frown. Her dark hair twisted around her face and neck in waves, curving on her cheeks, neck, and chin. Her hair also pointed outwards, almost like horns. She wore a navy blue jersey, splashed with sponsorships in the white text all around its short sleeves, and a logo of a windstorm in the center of her chest.

Below her picture was text reading:

Roi "hooRANGI" Lee-Chao

She didn't look much different from the picture on the website, which is about a few months old now. The biggest difference would be her hair, which is now a dark red in color, and maybe the fact she's wearing her lighter blue Best Buy uniform now. Maybe she's gotten leaner, more muscular. Maybe they'll stop calling her a "fat f*ck" or a "cow" in the comments this season.

She doesn't have high hopes.

So, of course, she spent the entire time on the train reading the comments and running over the ever-growing mental list of "Why hooRANGI is the Worst Player in APEX", adding new reasons as she read on.

Surprisingly, not all of them are "is a woman playing professional video games", but that's all she'll say really. All of it makes her doubt herself, her skill, what got her to become a member in the first place. Like it all was a mistake, being one of the top-ranked players in Canada was some gigantic fluke.

When she finally got to Best Buy to start her shift, through massive pedestrian traffic that seemed to be clogging up every street with slow-moving people, the store itself was near completely empty, with only a few people looking around the store. So she was left alone with her thoughts, in an empty store with Born to Run just blasting on the speakers, seemingly without any fathomable end.

So now here she is, hunching over on the floor as her shift ends, her failures at APEX, every missed Dragonblade, every pathetic death to the tanks or DPS of EnVyUs replaying over and over in her mind as she tries not to become sick. She's shivering, her whole body going ice cold because of the stress. Her stomach feels like it's shifting, churning like waves in a storm. Part of her, some rational part of her brain still managing to function through a fit of sadness, reminds her that it's not just her on the team.

All of the team had been pulled aside by Coach Hong after their crushing loss, after Roi had stopped hysterically crying, and told what they needed to improve on next season. The organization was already pleased enough with their performance in the playoffs that the words "next season" was thrown around rather liberally by Coach Hong and Bumblebee, their general manager.

Coach had told Roi that she needed to work on her positioning and Tracer skills, but most importantly, to stop taking losses so hard. To stop blaming herself for every loss. She was the team captain, and she needed to stay positive to keep the mood up, instead of bringing it down by blaming herself constantly.

But most importantly, they needed to work on synergy. Before REG had scouted the team together from the ranked ladder, they had never been on a team, and fewer still had played on the same teams in ladder before REG. It was common knowledge that they were considered the "leftovers", players that weren't picked up already by stronger teams that were in that player's region, and were consolidated into a "Korean" team. It was a point of contention that seemed to be brought up every day they played, and the English shoutcasters specifically seemed to revel in that fact, bringing it up every loss, every missed play.

Tramps like us, baby we were born to run…

"Hey, Roi!"

Roi looks up at a dizzying speed and stands up weakly. Her legs wobble like a newborn deer, and she steadies herself on a display shelf full of iPhones. One of her colleagues, a man with dark skin and light, almost blue eyes, is standing over her, his face contorting in confusion and concern.

"Thank god you came," Roi grins, trying to hide the distinct look of "just-had-a-depressive-episode" on her by grinning wildly, "I was starting to lose my mind being alone in here."

Well, that's not far from the truth, is it?

"Slow day, then?" the employee - Roi feels like such a d*ckhead for not remembering his name - says, a slight smile on his face.

"Oh yeah, expect like… eeehhh…. four more people until closing? Maybe five? Basically no one, really."

"Well," he huffs, rolling his eyes, "at least I can get that organic chemistry homework f*ckin' over with."

Roi winces in sympathy, crossing her arms. Her colleague just nods softly.

"You got any homework done?"

"I usually get all my stuff done before work," Roi huffs, picking at the fuzz on her sleeve, "that's just 'cause management has been making me work the graveyard shift lately. No time for putting it off."

"Damn, really?" he groans, rubbing the bridge of his nose, as if imagining that was tiring in itself, "Jesus. Well, what's up for you next, now that you're leaving at a decently reasonable hour?"

"Mm, packing."

"Packing? You have break already? U of T doesn't get it until the 20th!"

"Nope," she grins, "It's for my pro-gaming career. Gotta be at the team house a month before the tourney, to practice."

Her coworker rolls his eyes and snorts, obviously thinking she's joking. It's better that way, hm? Don't make a big profile in Canada, only those die-hard into Professional Overwatch enough will know the truth.

"Whatever, have fun being a "pro-gamer"," he laughs, turning away to fiddle with the phone display, "be safe out there."

"I will," Roi says softly, almost to herself, the words sounding oddly hollow to her.

Safe from what?

Her mind hangs on it for an inordinate amount of time as she grabs her backpack from the break room. She tries to shake it from her mind, but it stays, surrounding itself now in a feeling of foreboding trouble. Almost itchy, like something rubbing back and forth underneath her skin.

So, what are you going to worry about now, her mind snarks, some catastrophe from an off-hand comment by your colleague at f*cking Best Buy?

Do you think that the plane to Seoul gonna crash now, she interrogates her anxiety, are they gonna get wrecked by other teams the instant they start matches up again? Is that what you think, idiot?

She shakes her head roughly, running her rough hands down her face. No need to go into dramatics, you just need to get to your dorm and start packing. Maybe, when she's back home and most of her packing is done, she can log on to Overwatch and grind competitive for a bit. Depending on how she's feeling, of course.

Roi throws on her dark green army parka, the pins on her breast making a metallic jingling noise every time she moves her arms, and puts her white earbuds in each ear. The light in the locker room is out again, making everything in the room have a dark gray tint. The lights are always going out, and management always takes their fine time fixing them. Sometimes, it's so bad she has to change out of her uniform by phone light.

She makes her way out of the store, into the bitter winter cold of December in Toronto, and down a few blocks. Skyscrapers loom over her, and whenever she tilts her head up, she feels sick trying to crane her neck to see the top. Around her, trendy restaurants that probably are way too expensive, even for a "star eSports player". Not a whole lot could justify splurging money on something like that, maybe even for food that's not that great at all. It just looks like another night of instant ramen.

After a few more paces through the city, dodging people, and pretending to listen to music, Roi manages to wander down the stairs of the train station. Somehow, even after taking her time down the stairs, the train is still there for her to hop on. Must be some form of dumb luck, she thinks to herself as she steps on the train, managing to get a seat by herself.

The train manages to get to the Oakville station on time for once, and the train ride itself is quiet and uneventful. Nothing too strange or disastrous that her mind can spin into being a curse against her. Just a pleasant Friday night, the sky beginning to dim as she walks home, down the sidewalk, towards her dorm building.

Maybe, she should walk back on her decision to just have ramen, she thinks to herself as she passes by a large urban forest by the street, full of both tall trees and bushes, and plastic wrappers and trash sitting carelessly on the ground. Wouldn't it be nice to have something filling and delicious? Maybe a burger, some pasta, or try that new Indian place down the street…

Roi giggles to herself, wiping a bit of drool from her mouth. Everything sounds good to eat after a long day of work… So what if she cheats a little and spends some extra cash?

Before she can break her own rules, she feels her phone buzz in her pocket. Roi stops to fumble with the phone for a few seconds, before she pulls it out of her jacket pocket. She stares at for a second, barks out a short laugh, and picks up the phone.

"You know, I still got that picture of you from Media Day as your contact pic," she laughs, "the one where you look scared out of your f*cking mind."

"F*ck you Roi," Sami jokes, no malicious intent in the insult, "seriously. I'm gonna find a sh*tty picture of you to use, now that I know that."

"You'll have plenty of those, my friend. How's it going?"

"Well, I'm done packing! Got all my clothes and **** together," Sami sighs, "Coach called me to tell you that everything's going to plan and that the new house will be ready for us. ZeZe is actually already there now, was only a short train ride from his parent's place."

"Keeping the beds warm for us, I presume."

Sami laughs dryly.

"Well now… I dunno if I wanna play for an hour or so, get my rank up or just crash and burn… Who knows?"

"Well, if you want, we can play together when I get home. Like the good ol' days."

"The 'good old days' of 2 months ago?" Sami snorts dismissively.

"Nah, the 'good old days' of being two friends on the beta, playing together to try to figure this all **** out."

"Well, what are you trying to figure out, 'hooRANGI'?"

"I am," Roi coughs in the middle of her sentence, and she notices in the corner of her eye, an all-black sports car following her, but ignores it, "Trying to channel my inner Tracer. Like Coach wanted us to."

"So you're gonna get a girlfriend?" he asks, and Roi can just picture the sh*t-eating grin across his face.

"I don't know… Are you going to get a boyfriend?" she snaps back and hears him splutter in response.

Looking behind her quickly, Roi can see the car continuing it's crawl behind her, like a cat on its haunches. In fact, it's only a few paces away, and the pro gamer feels a chill run up her spine. She starts to walk quicker, trying to put some space between the car and her, hoping Sami wouldn't notice if she strains herself.

"W-Whatever! Where are you now, Roi?" Sami asks, and Roi grunts softly.

"Walkin' to my dorm, bro," Roi says shortly, trying to hide a tremor in her voice, "long day of work and all that."

"Oh… Long day at work? You still wasting your time at Best Buy?"

"Yeah?"

"Why the f*ck are you still on that sinking ship?"

"Maman wants me to. She wants me to have some job experience in case REG f*cking dies or whatever."

"With Best Buy? A store that's gonna last another decade before keeling over? Just start streaming on your break for supplementary income, that'll make you more money than like… 8 bucks every hour."

She looks back again. The car is still there, sneaking up on her, and Roi feels tears prick at her eyes. Her entire body is cold, and for once it's not because of the setting sun.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah yadda yadda 'Best Buy is totally f*cked', listen to me Sami," she says quickly, stumbling over her words, "someone is ****ing following me right now."

"What? What do they look like?"

Roi turns her head quickly, peering into the car window, which is now closer than ever. The glass is a black tint, so she can only see an outline of someone, before she books it out of there. She manages to dash away with a speed that she can't believe that she has, the car slowly fading into the horizon. Still, she blubbers into the phone, tears and snot streaming.

"I-I don't know! It's a car-they're chasing me in a car! With tinted windows, man! I can't f*cking see who they are! Goddamnit, dude, I'm f-f*cking running and I've been working out and sh*t and I don't know if-"

There's a soft popping noise, a burst of pain in her shoulder, and she just knows that she's been shot with some sort of weapon with a silencer on. Almost if she's dreaming, Roi hears her voice howl out in agony and sees the grey sidewalk rise to meet her.

She manages to mitigate most of the fall to her arms, blocking her face with her elbows, but her arms ache in agony. The skin on her bare forearms is torn off from the impact, and her left palm throbs in a painful rhythm. Blood pools in her mouth, from her teeth digging into the pink flesh of her teeth. Distantly, she hears a drum start to play, and the car's wheels move closer and closer.

"Roi, w-what the f*ck happened?" Sami shouts into the phone, and a delirious part of her mind thinks about how he must look like that Media Day picture, "Talk to me! Are you okay?"

"Shot me," Roi slurs, and distantly she notes that her muscles are quickly relaxing, "Not a gun, something else. Think it's some sort of... anesthetic on a dart. That sh*t they get animals with. Or I'm dying."

"No. You aren't going to die on me! We still gotta go to APEX, for f*ck's sake! I'm gonna go call the police from the home phone, don't hang up yet!"

There's a stomping of feet on creaky floorboards from his line, as he runs to the phone somewhere in his parent's house. She attempts to move her phone to her face, so she can text her parents, Coach Hong, Dios, anyone, but her arm feels limp and unmoving.

"I don't think I can," she sighs, trying to flex her fingers.

"What?"

"Can't move anythin' right now bro. Guess 'm f*cked."

"No! You're not f*cked! Fight it!" Sami shouts, and she can tell he's crying.

All she does is laugh, a loud giggling noise.

Another voice, a male voice that's distinctly not Sami is singing to her, his voice hiding underneath layers of vocal filters. In her increasing delirium, she can't tell if it's from her phone, the car, or her stalker serenading her.

White cuffs, wood grain, money in the suitcase on my way to the bank

She sings it back, well, more like mumbling it back. Looking back at the car, Roi can see that it's stationary, no longer creeping towards her, and one of the car doors is open. Well, at least she's not going to be run down…

"What the f*ck are you talking about?" Sami begs, his voice extremely high.

"Sorry, Sami," Roi murmurs, "Can't hold on. Tell them I'm sorry."

She distantly hears Sami tell her to hold on, that he'll get help soon, but Roi can't concentrate. Her eyelids droop, and she's unable to muster up the strength to keep them up. Her head feels like it's concrete, heavy and pulling her whole body into a deep sleep. Sami doesn't want her to go, but there's no way she can fight anymore, and she's so ****ing gone that she can't feel anything about that.

Her last memory is a pair of dark dress shoes scratching against the pavement, a thin lithe hand in a baby blue glove, and one of the long fingers reaching down to click the red button to end the phone call.
 

roule

take it all or leave it... I Feel You
2.

?/?/?

"COME HOME, YOU'VE BEEN SEARCHING TOO LONG."


She was back at their old "gaming house" in Korea, sitting at the fancy computer designated as hers, a black, sleek thing with glowing red LED accents across the PC sitting near her bare knees. Roi doesn't bother wearing her jersey or anything fancy while streaming, especially when the heating in the house always seemed to be intent on baking the team alive, just a t-shirt showing off her arms and alarmingly short blue shorts. Not like the thousands of people tuning to watch her training drills in Overwatch could see her legs in the face-cam.

A sudden burst of loud music plays over her headphones, notifying her of a new subscriber, and Roi stops to read the name, before the mechanical voice reads the message sent with it.

"Roi, what are your opinions on the new hero?"

" Thanks for the three-month sub… uh… CUCKYOIN69… Uuuuh," Roi grumbles, rubbing at her face, "well, I don't know what to think about her honestly. I played her a little bit, strong but hard to learn. I don't think she'll be very significant in APEX or pro play… yet. Her stealth does not break the meta instantly, like people thought."

She ran her character, a cybernetic ninja, dressed in a black uniform showing off his bare right arm, back to a grey hangar. Quickly, she swapped heroes, changing into a younger British woman wearing a paint-stained navy hoodie, with two pistols. She runs a few rounds, zipping around the robots in the training arena, shooting them until they fall to pieces. She repeated the drills, cringing everytime she missed shots, a flicker of shame burning in her stomach.

She glanced at the twitch chat briefly. Most of it is either encouragement, flirting or violent slurs, the latter two are quickly deleted by her moderators, but she picks out a few questions to read.

genjiMainow: do you think REG will crush EnVyUs?

"Mmmmmmm…." she hums, taking a deep breath in, "well, if we practice a lot, grind a ton, we'll be able to beat them, right? If we work hard…"

She felt a hand clap onto her shoulder before she can finish her train of thought, and Roi glanced up to see muscular frame of their main tank, SKRAA, wearing a white tank and black sweats. His long black hair flowed straight down to his chest, and his square face is stubbly, slowly growing a beard. His face breaks in a wide grin, his dark eyes glimmered with a mischievous light.

"We'll beat their ass!" he crows in his thick Swedish accent.

Roi burst into laughter, and in the distance, she heard Sami cracking up as well. When Roi looked at the monitor again, she watched the chat go wild at the sight of the Swedish man's bare arms, and she felt herself roll her eyes.

"Thank you, SKRAA," she managed to say between giggles, "that's exactly what I was trying not to say."

"You're too way too restrained, hooRANGI!" he shouted, and walked away with a pep in his step.

"Jesus ****ing christ," she groaned, rubbing the bridge of her nose, "SKRAA, love the man, but sometimes he's gotta be tactful…"

She just shakes her head, and with a few clicks of her keyboard, leaves the training facility on her screen. After a few moments, she clicks on the purple option reading "COMPETITIVE" and starts her queue.

As she waits, she lazily clicks the "play" button on her keyboard, leaning back in her leather chair. In her headphones, castanets start to play, and Roi feels herself start to squirm along to the beat as the traditional hip-hop drums and a woman's operatic singing come in. The chat is full of question marks and confused emotes, as Roi begins to sing along in Korean:

"With my ears covered, closing the door of the world…"



suddenly everything is different. the gaming house is gone almost in an instant replaced by a large white room. the fluorescent lights are on at high power above her causing her to growl in agony and squint to avoid anymore pain. there's a figure in front of her a woman stark naked with white hair in a choppy bun to her chin staring at roi with bright orange-yellow eyes. her gaze is empty her face displaying no sort of emotion and it takes a minute but roi realizes that it's her -!roi!- leering over her menacingly. the roi on the ground can only force out grunts as the strange version of her standing opens her mouth to speak...

"Je m'appelle Roi, et ce sont les rêves que je ne peux pas oublier."

Roi startles awake, screaming loudly, her body lurching forwards. The first thing she notices is the sickly sweet smell of decomposing organic material, and darkness. It's unseasonably warm for December, and her shirt is wet, clinging against her chest when she shifts slightly..

Her eyes widen at the sensation, and the next thing she notices is the painful stiffness of her legs and the wetness across her upper lip. Subconsciously, Roi's tongue flicks across it, and she tastes that familiar taste of copper. She should freak out, but all she feels is numbness. The world around her is pitch black, and her eyes slowly adjust to the lack of light. After a few minutes, she can make out a pile of shiny trash bags underneath her, two brick walls to her front and back, and a dumpster a few meters away from her side. Probably an alleyway behind some sort of store...

Slowly, she stands up, and almost instantly her knees buckle from disuse. Thankfully, she grabs onto the brick wall in front of her for extra support, and manages to right herself. Her phone is still in her right hand, and Roi quickly turns it on, types in her passcode, and calls Sami again.

There's a few painful, anxious minutes of silence, as her call tries to connect, before she's met with heavy breathing on the other line.

"Hello?! Roi?!" Sami exclaims, and Roi takes a deep breath in, trying to respond to her situation calmly.

"Hey Sami. Just calling to tell you that I lived," she says in near deadpan, slowly walking down the alleyway, "don't know exactly what happened, but I'm in some alleyway in Toronto I guess. I'll be-"

"They got me too!" Sami shouts over her, and Roi stops in her tracks.

"What?" she exclaims, her eyes wide, and she feels her eyebrows contort in concern.

"I went out to get help, went to go get the police after you hung up on me…" he babbles nervously, his voice quivering, "I… I saw them behind me while I was running! In the black car and ****? They chased me down too, Roi! Shot-shot me and everything! Now… I'm somewhere dark and cold… Where the ****..?"

Roi stays frozen in place for several moments, her breaths quick and panicky. Her hands shake around her phone. If they got Sami and her… were they going to get the rest of REG too? An animalistic bolt of rage and fear runs down her spine, and her muscles tighten like steel. The urge to fight, to protect, washes over her.

"Roi?"

She takes a deep breath in.

"I'm sorry," she says, her voice shaky, "I think I'm coming to a bad conclusion right now."

"About what?" he asks, his voice sounding small.

"That we're not the last ones on REG they'll take."

"Don't- Don't think like that!" Sami exclaims, his voice distorting somewhat, "We can warn them about it! We have our phones on us!"

Roi makes a hollow noise of agreement, pulling up her hood. Suddenly, she smells something distinct and odd, yet somehow familiar. Instantly, her legs start to move in the direction of the scent, slow, methodical steps. She can hear Sami calling out to her, but she ignores it in favor of chasing whatever she's smelling, until she almost runs into a metal door at the end of an alley. Roi claws at the door on instinct, feeling heavy in her grasp, wrenching it open with a loud thump.

The hallway is almost completely pitch black, but after blinking a few times, Roi can make out the figure of a hunching, quivering man in the middle of the hallway. As the door slams behind her, the man turns to face her in a flash, and Roi recognizes the long shaggy black hair, and stubbly, tan triangular face anywhere.

"Sami," she says, raising her hands up to display her innocence, "it's just me. Roi."

"Roi?" he whimpers, squinting at her as he moves closer to her, "why-why are you here?"

As he walks forwards into the light, Roi notices that something under his black winter coat is making it bulge outwards in an almost comical fashion. She stares for a few moments, eyes narrowing, before just chalking it up mentally as a bag underneath. He's also hunching over as he walks, usually he towers over Roi, who's notoriously short.

She shrugs, before turning to her phone and hanging up. She places it in her jacket pocket, and adjusts her shirt, trying to prevent it from sticking to her chest.

"They probably put us in the same area, for convenience's sake or whatever."

"But," he says, his thick eyebrows turning upward in confusion, "I live in New York? How the **** are we in the same area?"

"Do I look like I ****in' know?" Roi exclaims, throwing her hands up in the air, "All I know, is that I'm ****ing baking out there. It's like ****ing mid-summer. We ain't in Toronto, that's for sure, bro."

Sami's face manages to display even more confusion, his mouth screwing up, and eyes rolling upwards. He walks past her, and into the alleway.

"You're right… Goddamnit it's hot out here," Sami groans, and shucks off his jacket, and Roi's blood turns to ice.

Folding against his back, a large flash of feathers cover the back of his shirt, standing out in the darkness. They're all white, except for the tips, which are a black color. Roi watches in shock as seemingly subconsciously, Sami stretches his wings - her best friend's got ****ing wings! - out to their full length, four times the size of his arm span. All she can think is "he really is Mercy now…"

"What are you looking at?" Sami asks as he turns around, before smirking, "you like what you see, Miss hooRA-"

"Dude," she says, her eyes wide in incredulity as she walks towards him, pointing to the massive wings on his back, "how the **** are you not seeing these!?"

Sami squints at her, before turning to look at her finger. His face goes pallid as he stares at his massive wings, flexing them slowly. The feathers towards the ends of them shift slowly, moving up and down, almost like fingers. His eyes are wide open, and his hands are tangling deep in his hair. and his breathing is shallow.

"W-What?" he says, his voice shakier than ever, "W-What the ****… What the ****…"

Roi tries to come up with a joke to comfort him, but nothing comes out. She's just staring at at him, her mouth agape.

"What did they do to us…" he mutters slowly, looking at his wings as they fold neatly against his back, his face pale and eyes wide, "what did they do to us…"

Roi chokes on her words, and just makes a low pitched groaning noise as she shakes her head quickly. She feels the temptation to take off her sticky jacket, but she refrains. Fear of what sort of horrible genetic modifications they've done to her runs through her veins, and her body is devoid of heat.

"We need to get out of here," she says lowly, "right now."

Sami nods, draping his jacket over his wings, which mostly hides them from view. The two of them wander the narrow alleyway in complete silence, Sami walking stiffly with his head hanging down. His arms hang awkwardly to his sides, fists clenching tight. Roi looks over at him, pity in her heart, and fidgets with her jacket.

"So…" she says, plucking little balls of fuzz from her sleeve, "besides the genetic modification stuff, hows the last two months been?"

"Fine, I guess," Sami replies, focusing intently on staring at the brick wall to his left, "mom's been nagging me about college, even though we made bank last season. No one in my family thinks it's gonna last."

"Still holding out strong, huh?"

"Yeah, don't wanna job if I can make money from REG and streaming," he murmurs, before smiling a little, "but I guess I'm gonna waste my earnings on ****in' birdseed."

"Well, birds eat more than that. And I think you'll be fine… you're - we're - still mostly human, aren't we?"

Sami nods, scratching at his beard. His eyes still have a troubling look in them, as if he's close to tears.

"What's up with your hair, Roi?"

"Wanted a change," she grins, and Sami swears he notices that her canines are a little more pointed, a little more sharp, "you like it?"

"You're gonna get memed on soooo hard this season," he laughs, shaking his head, "you look like that Wendy's *****…"

"No I don't! She has pigtails, asshole! I look cool!" Roi shouts, before fake-crying, holding her hand up to her chest, "My own teammate won't support me… Woe is me..."

Sami scoffs, a grin on his face, and is about to say something before the sudden flash of lights gets their attention. Roi looks up to see a massive street cutting across their path, cars rushing past at high speeds. It smells both of gasoline, piss, and the warm comforting smell of beef or some other meat roasting in some sort of kitchen, and Roi's mouth starts to drool. There's massive posters hanging off of the skyscrapers on the other side of the street, advertising new bands with young men, their hair scruffy and clothes weirdly out of style. Underneath that, there's a line of bright LED signs lit up in different colors, reading off different deals for goods inside in the store, but what gets her attention is that it's all in Korean, little to no English anywhere.

It takes her a few moments to realize where she is, as people pass them by in a flash, but when she does, her face scrunches up in confusion.

"How the **** are we in Gangnam?"

Sami turns to her with wide eyes, before turning towards the street.

"Don't you remember being here?" Roi asks, her eyes wide, "ZeZe took us on a tour here, when it was almost Halloween?"

"Yeah," he murmurs, his face creasing with stress, "but why are we here?"

"Dunno. Maybe it's some transport service that Coach hired for all of us… To kidnap us and force us to go to Seoul all at the same time…"

"Well then," Sami growls through grit teeth, "I'll have room to sue them. For ****ing up my genetics and fusing me with a bird."

Roi smiles sympathetically.

"Well, you'll have an air-tight case against them, we'll go to the cops as soon as we tell Coach Hong," she hums, before turning towards him, "we oughta go to the gaming house to meet everyone though. Did Coach give you the directions?"

"Yep," he says, turning on his phone, "I'll send them to you."

There's a pause between them, before her phone vibrates against her hand. She reads the message for a few moments, an address in Cheongdam, before turning back to look at Sami, who blinks at her with wide eyes.

"I think that's by here," Roi says, looking around for any street signs, "should be, at least. Let's-a go."

Sami laughs incredulously, but follows closely behind Roi as she meanders down the street. They pass through large crowds of young adults, who always seem to stare intently at them in disbelief. Roi glares back, wondering if they recognize her somehow. Wouldn't they just walk up to her and ask for their autographs?

She shakes her head dismissively, and rubs at her hair. Running her fingers through her bright red hair, Roi feels a lump of something furry and warm twitch against her hand, and retracts it quickly. A shiver runs up her spine, and she huddles deep into her sweaty jacket, trying not to think too hard about it. Just her mind playing tricks on her...

It turns out that the gaming house is only a few streets down from where they both woke up, a rather large slate grey residential building, air conditioner units sticking out from the pale windows. On its sides, there's a massive McDonalds with a glowing yellow sign very close to the windows, and on the other, a Ministop convenience store, which appears to be closing for the night.

"Wow," Sami hums, looking over at the bustling fast food restaurant, which appears to be full of mostly old people and drunks, "Coach Hong must want to really torture us… Having us on a diet, right next to Mickey D's?"

Roi laughs, and walks up to the front doors of the complex. She pulls it open with relative ease, and the two of them slip inside, walking to the lobby. It's not big, a rather small room, with robin's-egg blue walls and white floors, a mahogany desk with no security guard, only a old Dell computer on it. When Roi peeks over the desk to look at it, all she sees is a camera feed of the surrounding grounds. Other than that, there's a massive elevator door at the front, and Roi walks to it, pressing the "up" button.

"This is the least secure apartment complex I've ever seen," Sami snarks, and Roi sniffs in reply.

"Wonder how much REG paid for it," Roi says, picking at her sleeves again, "something tells me it wasn't much…"

"Three bucks and a McGriddle."

Roi laughs loudly, before the ding of the elevator interrupts her. The two of them climb into the car, reflective metal covering the walls. Roi hits the button for the fifth floor, and as they wait to arrive, Roi stares solemnly at her reflection on the wall, hands clutching her jacket.

It's better to just get it over with, rip the proverbial band aid off instead of just not knowing, right? Slowly, she lowers her hood, and runs a shaky hand down her clammy face as she stares at the wall.

Poking out of her mop of hair, are two large cat ears, round at the tips. They're mostly black in color, with a large white spot on the back of both of them. As she steps back, her hands shaking against her legs, she watches them move back pressing closer to her skull. Reaching into the back of her pants, she pulls out a long tail, with black stripes across the creamy white fur, which wraps around her left leg in a nervous tic.

"Dude?" Sami asks as she accidentally backs into him, turning around, "What's wro… oh my god."

Roi expects Sami to start laughing, making jokes about her new features suiting her or whatever. Instead, he stares in shock, shaking his head.

"D-Did it feel weird?" he asks, his eyes wide.

"...No?" she says, raising her eyebrow, "You didn't feel your massive wings, did you?"

Sami opens his mouth to speak, an indignant expression on his face, before there's a loud ding, and the elevator doors open up. The two of them step out into their new gaming house, and the two stand still, absorbing their new house.

The walls are a dark blue in color, the shade of blue present in all REG esports teams, with black accents on the tops and bottoms of the walls. Towards the back of the room, there's the familiar teal decal of their wave logo on the wall. Other than that, it looks like any other well-to-do apartment, large black leather sofa against one wall, TV hanging on the other wall, bookcases full of paperback books, their spines peeking out.

However, it looks too perfect, too picturesque. No remotes flung over the place, no empty cans of Monster thrown onto the floor. Nothing to suggest that a certain pro-gamer had even stayed here at all.

"ZeZe?" Roi shouts, looking around the room.

The gaming house is completely silent. No sounds of movement at all.

"Choi Jun-hyo."

No response again, and Roi growls under her breath, tail flicking in agitation.

"Jun-hyo, you better come here," Roi screams in Korean, slamming her fist against the wall, "me and Sami are having a shitty ****ing day, and I'm not in the mood for surprises!"

Instead of Jun-hyo's rough voice calling out to them or footsteps heading towards them, loud dubstep music starts to play over the speakers. Roi jumps out of her skin, and whips her head around to look at the television. On it, there's a series of gameplay highlights playing from APEX, with pictures of each member in their jerseys in the corner of the screen, with their real name, battletag, and position.

After all the clips play out, the screen goes black for a few moments, and the music cuts out. Suddenly, a woman's loud, dramatic voice comes over the speakers.

"REG Galestrom… One of the world's best Overwatch teams…"

"Eeeh, debatable," Roi says on instinct, waving her hands in a wishy-washy gesture.

"Your mechanical talent at this shooter game has made you well known and revered throughout the esports community…"

Roi glances over at Sami. His jacket is off, exposing his wings resting at his sides, and his face is visibly contorting in a cringe, his lips pulling back to expose his white teeth.

"Together you formed a dream team able to take down BK Stars and Reunited…"

"So?" Sami asks, almost if he expects the television to answer, "stop gassing us up, and get to the ****ing point. Why did you do this to us?"

"Now… your skills are needed for something greater than APEX. Much greater than the game of Overwatch itself…"

Roi feels like she's losing her mind, that this is somehow a dream she's having as her body slowly dies on the pavement of Oakville. Her tail flicks around in a burst of nervous energy, hitting her legs with each erratic movement, reminding her that this is reality.

The TV lights up, and Roi feels her blood go cold at the sight of multiple team logos on the screen. There's REG's wave logo, the lion logo of UB REGAL, the red-eyes logo of Excito, the shut-eyes logo of their sister team Somnio, and then the simple grey "N" logo of EnVyUs. She shakes her head softly, her eyes widening in horror, and what the announcer says next only confirms her fears.

"We have been able to acquire the rosters and coaching staffs of four other top level APEX teams, and have given them enhancements much like the two of you have now, culled from the strongest animals upon our planet, to make them into the strongest fighting force possible."

With a loud thump, Sami falls against the wall, his complexion pale, and his eyes practically popping out of his head. His body is visibly quivering, and Roi feels herself shaking violently as well.

"These five squadrons will be sent back in time to 2007, to fight an evil power at its source, before it can spread its tendrils across high level governments, taking them over."

There's a pause, and during it, Roi tries to regain her bearings. She runs a hand through her hair, dodging her new ears, and swallows her bile.

"You two, Sami and hooRANGI, are the first members of your squad — the first members of any squadron — to finally arrive to this location, to this time. We welcome you to this base, and hope you find it to your liking! The animals we fused you with, an Egyptian Vulture and a Siberian Tiger respectively, should not give you any trouble, but if they do, feel free to contact us!"

"Burn in hell!" Sami shouts, running towards the television, raising his hand upwards, as if to attack the screen, "**** you! What the **** is wrong with you, fusing me with a ****ing bird? Do you think I'd believe any of that ****?! Do you think all of us will believe your conspiracy-ass bullshit?!"

The voice continues, unhearing of Sami's insults.

"You two will begin your mission tomorrow, and more of your squad members will arrive in the coming weeks. More information about said mission will be given to you as it comes up."

Massaging the bridge of her nose, Roi sits down on the couch. The screen is black again, and the pro-gamer can see herself in the reflection, tail laying limp across the couch and ears flat against her skull. Her body aches like its made up of rubber bands about to snap. She flexes her free hand into a fist, before releasing it.

"Best of luck to the both of you!"

And with that, the voice stops. The television screen stays still for a few moments, before it flickers onto a CNN news story about the cost of the Iraq War, the date in the corner reading "Sunday, May 13th, 2007".

There's a silence between the two teammates, as they both try to wrap their heads around the events prior. Sami's eyes are dull as he watches the television, his arms crossing and his complexion pale. Finally, Roi stands up, brushes off her thighs, and turns to the support player.

"Hey," she says, cracking a sarcastic half-smile, "REG sold us out to whoever these ****ers are… How about we one up them, and go ****ing bananas at McDs?"

Sami looks down at her, and a large smile grows on his face.

"Hell yeah, bro."
 
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