After Dawn’s big reveal, the celebrity was escorted from the building, although it looked more like she was escaping her rabid and furious fans who felt betrayed by their star. Our team was quickly reinstated and the match was allowed to carry on as usual, although much quieter and more somber going out. In the end, we didn’t get 1st place, but we did manage a respectable third. As a team, our award was a ribbon and a hundred-dollar gift card. That turned out to be just enough that we could go out to eat for a celebrity meal.
Avery went to call a ride-share while the other girls were busy calling friends or family who decided not to come today. Samantha wasn’t with me today because today didn’t fall on Samantha’s day of the week. It was Abigail’s day, but she told me she wasn’t interested in that gaming stuff and sulkily didn’t come. Well, given how jealous she could get, she’d probably be angry seeing me hanging out with these other girls.
I ended up alone and sitting on the steps outside of the center. Although I had won first and third, making our team second overall in the three competitions, I still had complicated feelings regarding it. That first match probably wasn’t earned by me at all. Just because the celebrity got caught and I proved I didn’t cheat in the final game, that didn’t mean there wasn’t something suspicious in the first game. Rather than investigate the entire tournament and risk something embarrassing getting out, it was clear the judges and tournament coordinators were eager to brush it all under the rug. I had even tried to say something, but they quickly shushed me up.
“That wasn’t completely bad.” A once irritated voice spoke from behind.
I turned and looked up to see that boy from the Pocket Rockets standing next to me.
“Oh, it’s you,” I responded as I squinted up.
“Don’t sound so depressed.” He crossed his arms, pursing his lips slightly in a very unmanly way. “We’re both men, after all. We can get along a little. You don’t have to adhere to every stereotype.”
“You’re one to talk!” I began, but then stopped myself with a breath. “Earlier, you stood up for me. You didn’t have to say anything, but you tried to defend me.”
“It’s not because you’re a little cute if that’s what you were thinking.” He responded, his cheeks turning red.
“That’s not what I was thinking!” I declared, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, because his lips fell to a frown.
“Look, you’re a fellow gamer boy. I’m a defender of all men. I’m not going to sit back while girls just roll over one of us, okay? It’s nothing special. I believe inequality, and I will always stand for a man in distress.”
I lowered my head. “I see… thank you. I appreciate it.”
“Agg… geese, don’t put on such a cute expression like that. Don’t you know it makes women go crazy? If you don’t want to get snatched up off the street, at least have some awareness of what your face does to girls.”
“You’re not a girl.” I snorted.
“That’s why you know I’m being honest.” He chuckled. “I know you’re not interested in boys… yet. Well, there is always college. It’s a good time for experimentation.”
I smiled. “Not on your life.”
“Hmph… suit yourself.”
“Um… I do have a question.” My smile dropped as another thought came to me and I reluctantly asked. “In the first game, did you find things a bit too easy? I think the game might have been rigged to help the boys win.”
He stared at me for a second, and I was afraid I had messed up and said too much. He had also gotten top three, so I was saying that he didn’t deserve his place either.
“It’s Noah, right?” He asked seriously.
“I’m a better gamer than you.”
“I watched your game with that young girl teammate, and I saw your level of skill. I’m a really good gamer. Not every guy on my team is a true gamer. Some of them just do it to meet boys or to be looked at, but what I saw in you was a boy who liked gaming as much as me. However, you haven’t been doing competitive like I have. In a one-on-one match, I’d win.”
“Wh-what are you saying?” I asked.
“Tournaments aren’t just purely about skill, but there is also luck involved. It’s the luck of the draw. Who do you face and win? I had a really difficult lineup. In most of my matches, I made almost no errors and took every short cut yet I barely managed to scrape by in third. I should have been in first. That was my best game. You can feel confident when I say that my game wasn’t fixed at all. I got third place.”
“I saw you crash…” I admitted I was looking at his screen.
“Yeah, that was a really bad one. Do you know who else ended up in that crash? All the other top contestants who I was racing against! We had been fighting for the first place stop and it turned into a massive pileup. This was why you ended up in first.”
I opened my mouth, and then I closed it again. Such an event occurred in one of the matches? All of the top leaders ended up getting upended by the weaker players. Even if that only happened in one match, since it didn’t happen in any of my matches, then I was bound for 1st.
“So, they didn’t help me cheat to win. I just got lucky.” I responded bitterly, dropping my head.
It almost felt worse realizing the truth. If someone had cheated to help me win, it was something out of my control. However, if I just won because of dumb luck, then It didn’t matter.
“Oi…” He reached out a kicked me gently with his foot. “You won first place fair and square. You got first place. Sometimes, people get lucky. That’s all there is to it. You need to own up to your victories and have more confidence in your abilities. You’re a man. Start acting like one.”
With that, he walked past me and headed toward a vehicle that had come to pick him up. I saw a girl in the driver’s seat who leaned over and kissed him when he got in. I was stunned. Given his all-female team and his male equality crap, I never would have thought he’d have a girlfriend. She was even pretty cute. He noticed me staring at him and then winked as the car drove off. He wasn’t what I had expected at all.
“Act like a man,” I repeated.
It was easier said than done. What even was a man in this world? I was striving to become my own man, but it wasn’t like I had any role models. I had grown up in a household of women, so where should I look?
There was a flash, and I looked up to see Dawn standing there with the camera in her hand. “Hey, Brother. When you give such a cute expression, I can’t help but capture it.”
“What are you going to do with pictures of me?” I asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” She raised an eyebrow. “I’ll sell them to our sisters!”
“That can’t be true.”
“What are you saying? I’ve already become rich selling images of you to them. I might even be able to afford a new camera soon. Here I was making pennies on up short pictures, and the real money was in exploiting my little brother’s cuteness.”
“Since you’re so rich on my behalf, why don’t you give me a percentage of the profits?” I asked.
“Oh, look, Mom arrived! Gotta go!” She spun around, but I lunged out and grabbed her shirt.
She stopped, shooting me back a grin, the glare on her glasses obscuring her eyes just a bit. “Aren’t you staying behind to party with Beth and her friends? You wouldn’t want to disappoint them.”
“You’re not coming?” I asked.
“It’s Bethany’s team. You guys should celebrate on your own.” Dawn declared. “Besides, I have to go through all of those photos I took and properly sort them before sending them to the judge. The life of an artist is difficult.”
“Shut up, you’re just a pervert with a camera,” I responded.
She grinned. “Only when little brother is involved.”
I let go of her shirt, and she walked off. Mom had been pulling up after all, and she gave a little wave as she drove off with Dawn. I had already informed her that I and Beth would be celebrating. I received a text a few moments later. I checked to see a text from my mom.
Be safe, and don’t do anything with any girls.
“Mom, I won’t.” At that moment, there was another text.
I mean it, no sex!
“Ah… mom.” I felt a little embarrassed., looking around awkwardly when my phone buzzed again.
You have this waiting for you at home.
A picture loaded that was dark and a bit blurry. I squinted slightly, and then I realized what it was. It was my mom’s pussy! I nearly dropped my phone. Did she take that while driving? How was Dawn reacting to mom driving down the highway with her phone up her skirt! She could be crazy sometimes so I didn’t put it past her.
I was going to respond reassuring her, but after that last image, I didn’t want to anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long, as the other girls appeared one after another. Soon, the rideshare arrived and we left the convention center and headed toward a little Japanese place Dina knew about. It was one of those places where the grill was in the middle of the table and they would cook it in front of you. It was expensive, but we had a hundred dollars between the five of us, and that should just be enough to cover the cost.
Soon, the girls had cheered up and we talked playfully as the grill in front of us sizzled. The Japanese woman behind the counter smiled a lot, and she seemed to cook most of her stuff in front of me. She put on quite the show and no sooner did I finish something than she cooked more for me. Was this all for me?
We eventually had our fill, and the cook gave me a wink before walking off. It was only then that I felt someone pinch my leg.
“Oh, Bethany, what?”
“No flirting! We agreed.”
“Huh? How was I flirting?” I blinked.
“That cook liked you. I think we got twice as much meat as we ordered.” Dina adjusted her glasses.
“Even if that was so, she shouldn’t have been eyeing my brother like that.”
“What do you care?” Avery snorted. “He’s just your brother. You into your brother or something?”
“Ah! N-no…” Bethany looked away.
Thankfully, Avery was too busy eating what was left of the vegetables and rice to notice much, while Dina’s glasses had fogged up when a puff of steam flew into Katie’s face after she lifted a certain lid. At one point, the waiter brought out a mysterious bottle.
“Um, we didn’t order this.” Avery frowned as she looked at the check.
“Compliments of the cook.” The waiter responded, his eyes flickering to me before he walked away.
We all looked at it suspiciously, but it was Avery who finally poured a bit into a small cup and sniffed it. It didn’t have much of a scent, but it was obvious it was alcohol.
“Its sake.” Dina corrected, they serve it warmed as an after the meal.
“That cook must have liked you a lot.” Katie laughed.
We weren’t old enough for alcohol, but since it had already been handed out, we each took a shot. Dina warned the younger girls that they shouldn’t drink it as they couldn’t take the alcohol, which caused them only to take extra shots. By the time the bottle was out, my sister and Katie were unconscious, and Dina looked to be halfway there. Avery appeared to be the only one who held her liquor. She was red-faced, but not completely drunk.
I was the soberest of the group. If I drank too much, I could end up in a dangerous situation. I had a shot, but that was it. Knowing my luck, the cook would have grabbed me and taken advantage of me or something. It was better being sober. That also unfortunately left me with the responsibility of getting everyone home. I used my phone and got a rideshare, and then we dropped off at each of the places.
By the time we reached Avery’s place, she was having trouble walking. I helped her to her porch while an unconscious Bethany was in the car. If this had been my old world, I never would have left my drunk sister in a car with a strange driver, but since they were female and this was a different world, I wasn’t worried.
“Thanks for having me on your team.” I declared.
Avery looked up at me and then shook her head. “You’re still cute.”
I put a hand on her arm to stabilize her. “You know, I didn’t like what you were doing with my sister and so I acted a bit cruel with you, but after spending my time with you, I don’t think you’re a bad person.”
“You… you know I changed because of you, right?” Avery looked at me.
I felt a bit surprised by that, but I quickly shook my head. “If you want to fuck me, Avery, you don’t need to flirt. I’m a bit easier than that. You just have to ask.”
Avery reached out a grabbed me, and for a second, I thought she’d kiss me. “I want you, but I’m not going to.”
“Why?” I cocked my head.
“Because I respect your sisters… and I respect myself. I need to be a woman who is proud of myself before I can chase after you. You understand?”
I smiled slightly. “Yeah, I think I do.”
Just like me, Avery was trying to figure herself out. We both wanted to be better people. I leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, and then turned and walked away.
Maybe, one day, we’d both get there.