Level 587
rating: +26+x
229forest.jpg

It's still easy to remember the old trail.

"How… How much further up?"

"Not long now! C’mon, we've hardly walked far!"


"'Hardly' walked far? It’s been over an hour! I’ve never even been into to this part of the Barrier Forest before."

"Well… I got lost. But! We're definitely nearly there now. Look! I recognise that path over there."


"So you mean you finally put us back on the trail you started on."

"Yeah! Who knew taking a B-line was a bad option?"


"Heh, I can think of one person?"

"Tsh… Nah, really? I'd never have guessed."


Honestly, the worst part was that it still took an extra half an hour to reach it; I was always so incredibly bad at directions… Regardless, though, we made it to what I wanted to show, and I'll never forget her reaction. The marvel, the craftsmanship, the colour, the way it stood out in the dense foliage of the clearing, like a gleaming gem in the crown of a queen. It was a beauty.

And I'll definitely never forget the utter fibs I told about it.


229treehouse.jpg

The treehouse itself. Found the picture in my dad's old stuff.

"Here it is~! Pretty cool, right?"


"Woah… that thing looks HUGE! Can we go in?"

"Absolutely! I mean… I did build it after all!"


. . .

"No way, that can't be true… How'd you do it??"

"Oh, that's a secret! I can't be revealing my secret ultra craftsmanship powers, now, can I?"


"No, you gotta tell! It's… really incredible that you did this all yourself. You must really take after your dad… this looks just like the stuff he builds. Y’know… for the traders?"


"Oh, uh… okay, yes, maybe he helped a little bit?"


. . . ?

"Perhaps more than a little bit… He helped a lot?"


. . .

"Ah, you got me. He built it."


"Heh, I knew it. You really don't have to lie about it, you know?”

"Well, yeah, but… I wanted to impress you. Heh."



"I'm still impressed! Is it… for us?"

"You bet it is! And that part's not a lie. My dad surprised me with it yesterday, and I uhh… I wanted to share it. With you. I was thinking it could be… our place. If… if you'd like? For… just the two of us."


. . .

"Uh… so, what do you say?"


I say… Let’s get up there! Wait… how do we get up there?

It felt like history was made that day. A single, dramatic event that forever swayed the course of history. From that day on, the treehouse became our place to go, our place to hide, and our place to play and have fun. After school, after dinner, in our free time during holidays, and frankly whenever we fancied, it was ours! All ours! Magical is the biggest understatement to describe that place.

We'd act like completely naive kids in that thing. Heck, I still remember playing childish games even when we were just becoming teenagers. We did tag, a few bouts of truth or dare, and even headed out around the forest to pick up various "treasures", which usually were pinecones, odd rocks and big sticks. She was the sole person coming up with the games and activities to play, which wasn't to say I didn't get involved, but I could tell she loved the outdoorsy activities she set us on. I never understood at the time why I didn't like them as much, but I remember liking her ideas much more than my own.

Above anything, though, I'll never forget the first time we dared to stay overnight. We sat on the balcony, looking up at the stars…


229night.jpg

I miss stargazing with you.

"Gosh, it's cold…"

"Eh, I’m sure you'll be fine… but do you need a blanket just in case?"


Oh, I'll be okay… thank you though.

. . .

"What… what are you doing?"



“Um, y’know… just… putting my head… on your shoulder…”

“Uhh… why…?”


"Well, you're warm."

. . .

"Um, lots of stars out tonight."

"Heh, yeah. What do you think stars even are?"


"They're… just stars, aren't they? I mean, they're cool, but-"

"But they're so much more! Remember what our teacher said in class the other day? I… I bet they're other worlds!"


"Other worlds…? What’re you on about?

"Well, apparently there's many of them beyond the ocean! One is a recreation of your bedroom!"


"Heh, you've definitely been listening to too many sea legends…"

"Oh, I'm telling you, it's real! One day, I… I think we should go find them. There's so much more out there to explore beyond this island, I just know it…"


"Both of us? Exploring beyond the sea? Doesn't that sound a little… dangerous?"

"So does staying in a treehouse overnight, and you took that idea without a second thought!"


"I suppose you're right… Do you think I'd be cut out for that stuff, then?"

"You're more than just 'cut out' for it… I think you'd be a spectacular explorer. I can see you going to faraway places Hyperia's never imagined before!"


"Oh, that's just… making me sound all special… you'd be there too, right?"

. . .

"Definitely."


Of course, as with most kids' fantasies, that little dream between the two of us stayed as nothing more than a tired, half-awake idea. It was brought up time after time, of course, but as we progressed through the latter half of our teen years it became ever more of a fantasy, disappearing away like the fables of old. It's almost bittersweet, looking back at it, seeing how that innocent dream from us both is so different to where we are today. At least in the past we stayed together, and stayed strong.

We still met at the treehouse, usually at the end of every school day, chatting gleefully and even studying there from time to time. Of course, the treehouse became less… fashionable… as time went on. I suppose it was childish for anyone over 16 to chat in treehouses, but we still did! Besides, who hung out with who and where became trivial in the wake of the news that shook the town next.

Outsiders en-masse flocked not only to Hyperia, but to the entire island itself. The M.E.G. appeared practically from nowhere but showed up with around 20 or so folks from what we'd later learn was Level 7. They were incredibly curious people, and for the longest time were stuck with us, the only known exit out of our world being through the impossible legends of the sea. With them, however, came new legends. The legends of other worlds, stories of heroes and gods.Stories that captivated the whole nation greatly. Stories that captivated… us.

It kept the spirit of the treehouse alive.


229pillowfort.jpg

With all the fun we got caught up in, I'm surprised I ever got a picture of this.

"OH! There's one I just remembered! It was… some level with giant mouths in the floor! It sounds horrifying, but… I sort of like it?"

"Hah, of course you do… you’re a strong lass. But… I you think you could handle the place?


"I certainly wouldn't go there on my first trips! Hell, I'm not sure where I'd go… All these wild places sound so cool! But… dangerous too."

"I… I guess it's a good thing we were born here, huh?


It's lucky, yeah! But… come on, don't these other worlds just sound fascinating? You were in love with that back in middle school! We’d look up at the stars and dream of what was out there. I'd… like to hold up that little agreement we made?

. . .

"Wow, that's a flashback! Things were simpler back then…"


"Back then… ‘other worlds’ were ancient myths. Tall tales from our grandparents. But now… now it's real! We've seen the pictures!"

. . .

"You… you do still want to hold up that agreement, right? I know it was silly kid stuff we made up on the spot, but now it's actually… Possible. We just have to wait for these people to find a reliable way out of Hyperia!"

"It is possible! And… I do hope they find an exit. From their stories, it sounds like Hyperia is nothing like the worlds—or levels, I guess—that they live in… But… I… don't know…"

“I… I don’t… really wanna go.”


“… Oh.”

. . .

"Hey… it's okay! I'm… I'm ready to listen. Whatever the matter is, whatever reason it is that you don't want to… travel worlds with me… Is it something I did? Tell me. Please."

. . .

. . .



"Look, I… these worlds, the stories I've heard about them… they're nothing like what I thought they'd be! When we were kids we dreamed about great cities, magical forests, and high seas. But out there… there’s so many frightening indoor places, and- and these creatures that you can't even kill! I-I-I… they frighten me. I don't want to get hurt. And I don't want you to get hurt!"


"I'd be fine! You don't know that I'd get hurt-"

"Yes! Yes, I do! Please… it's horrifying out there, and I don't want you to just up and leave with these people and throw your life away!

. . .

"I'm… So sorry, I shouldn't be crying, I'm being selfish-"


"No- it's… I understand… I'll stay…"

I… I know I screwed up with what I said. Even if I still sometimes worry about what I said now, limiting your aspirations off of my stupid insecurities wasn't the way to act. After that day, things weren't the same, I'm sure you remember well… We met less, and we spoke less in school. It wasn't a falling out, per-se, but it was a hurdle our friendship never cleared. Suddenly, the mystique and intrigue of going to new worlds was fogged over by my outburst, and your willingness to… to… limit your life for me.

Even once we graduated high school, when we got jobs, when you met Grace, and when I met Jackson, and when all of that further limited how little we already saw each other, what I said weighed on you. You hardly spoke of your aspirations, and you didn't even join The M.E.G. when they caught rumours of a proper exit. By then, we were barely speaking, and you still went out of your way to make sure I wouldn't be upset. You were such an idiot – and so was I. I can't imagine how unfulfilled your life could've been had you not called me… right as it was announced.


29house.jpg

You'd be shocked seeing just how much my father's old house has changed.

"Well, I'm… happy you could make it…"

"It's certainly been a while, hasn't it?"


. . .

"Look, you can call me whatever you'd like for not having rung before you did. , it's been a busy year…"


"It's verging on two now, actually…"

"I… I deserve that correction., I didn't mean to downplay how long I've been gone, but I've just… lost track of the last time we ever even met up. Why did you even want to meet up? It doesn't look to be to talk casually…"


"You're right, it's not. To tell you the truth… I'm…"

"You're not dying are you??"


"No, no! Lord no, I'm okay, really. I just… Have something to tell you, and I didn't want to just tell you in a letter. You… need to know in person."

"I'm all ears. Whatever it is, you can tell me. "


"I'm…"

. . .

"Two days ago, those M.E.G. people finally found an exit out of Hyperia. Took them three years, but they did it. I'm assuming you heard about all that?"

"Yeah, it broke the news… It was on the front page of the papers. You're… not going to-"


"Yes- I am. I'm… going with them. As are a lot of other Hyperians! Grace agreed to come with me. Working in Imogen's clothes shop isn't exactly as profitable as… well, joining a multi-level organisation."

"I- But you-"


"I swear, if you even remotely bring up the fact I could get hurt, I don't want to hear it!. I can take care of myself."

"Th-that's not-"


"No, really, just DON’T! I'm not 17 anymore! I can take care of myself. Besides, I’m not even becoming an explorer! Grace and I are just moving into one of their communities…"

"Look, that's great, but that's not what I was talking about! I'm… well aware you can survive out there on your own., You’re right… we're not 17 anymore. We’re adults now. We… live our own lives… and we take care of ourselves. It’s just that I… I don't want to lose you! I doubt staying in contact would be easy…"


"No, it wouldn't… Which is why I think you should come with us."

"…Really? We've… hardly been speaking. I figured this'd be where we part ways… Forever."


"It doesn't have to be. And I… I wouldn't want that. Look, come to the same place we are, and bring Jackson too! It's a beautiful beachside town… I know the Veroka Farmers would love you."


. . .

"You’d really do that for me?”



"Of course? We've… had bumps in our friendship, but I wouldn't throw you aside like that."

“I’m… touched. I thought I’d lost that right.”



"It’s okay, we were 17, we said stupid things. I'm more than happy to forgive."

“I know… but-”



"That doesn’t matter anymore! But what matters to me… is us. Our dreams. When we were just kids, our dreams were crazy and stupid… but even in those dreams, we’d always go together."

// “I… I wish I could go with you… but I’m… I can't. I'm not nervous! I… I know we’re not 17 anymore. I know I can fend for myself, just as well as you. But my dad's… not in good health, still. It's only getting worse."//



"Oh. I… I didn’t know.

. . .
I'm sorry… about your dad."

"No need to be sorry,. There’s… not much we can do now. But I have to stay here. I want to be there when he… goes. He needs me."


"Gosh, that's… of course.”

. . .
“That man sure has done a lot for us, huh?"

"For sure. He built our treehouse.?"


"He did! Is that thing still standing??"

"Uh, yeah, last I checked! It's a little worse for wear nowadays, mind you, but it's there!"


"Wow… he really had impeccable craftsmanship…"

"Absolutely, it's… yeah. Those were simpler times, huh?"

. . .
"Th-this is the last time we're gonna meet up, i-isn't it…"


"Oh, gosh, please don't cry! I'm… I'm sure we can still talk?"

"You… you said it yourself! It's… hard to talk, between levels…"


"B-but I don't want to lose touch. We’ve been best friends through thick and thin. I can't just ditch you here!"

"And you won't! Don't… don't let my own insecurities limit what you want a second time. Please… go with Grace, go live on that beach… on that seaside free of monsters, and… and when my dad's… found his rest… I'll come find you again, and we can catch up?"


"Heh, I'd… like that.”

. . .
"Promise me one thing?”

"Yeah?"


“Let's never lose contact again."






























. . .
































I so wish it could've been that easy.

For a guy who was terminally ill, my champion of a dad still lived for an extra year before finally passing on. It was… hard for me. Frankly, it was hard for the whole village. He fought tooth and nail to the bitter end, but it wasn't ever pleasant. I didn't even write to you, which I feel so, so guilty for. It was hard to compose a letter when I couldn't even compose myself half the time, which I hope you can understand… but I get it if you don't.

After he was cremated, and his house was sold, I was lost for a long time. Being without any kind of parental figures felt odd and alien, even worse than when he was dying. It took me a while to put myself back together.

But when I did, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I took the trip to Level 48, asked the residents of Veroka where you were, and… it yielded nothing. I'll admit, given what happened with my dad, I thought you were dead too. I'm not blaming you for not being there, I can imagine you moved given the newer, better job you ended up getting. But you not being there disheartened me, it felt like I’d lost you… forever. For the sake of nostalgia, I visited the treehouse again. Honestly, I don't think it helped my sorry state in the slightest, but it was nice to reminisce…

And then I heard the news.

You probably didn't even notice, but your name actually showed up in the papers back home! It was apparently on some M.E.G. special thanks slip for helping out with the discovery of an entity. Hyperia caught wind of the slip, and celebrated your hard work! It was a little silly, maybe, but it showed that you were still out there, still alive, and living your life to the fullest! It was the spark I needed to… to come find you again.


229aged.jpg

The paint's a little worn, but it's still the same place in spirit.

I actually joined the M.E.G. purely in hopes of finding you. Not knowing any better, I just joined their Compass Point exploration division and hoped I'd just randomly bump into you. Of course, I'd only learn later that you were in the tech division, and it took me even longer to realise which part of that division you were in!

It did feel like I wasted 7 months trying to find you in the wrong division, but my head's been too stuck on finding you to even care. I'm still not sure of the level you're in, or exactly what you do. I really doubt the higher-ups would just give that stuff out on a whim! But… it doesn't even matter. I've got a plan, and I've already enacted it.

I don't strictly know what your job is, but I know it's to do with maintaining the level database. I'm also not much of a tech-head, as it took me so long to figure out how to do this, but… I'm making this page to try to reach out to you. I know it'll get deleted within the day, our treehouse certainly isn't a level, and I'll no doubt get reprimanded for this. It's worth it, though, because if anyone would see this before it vanishes, it'll be you!


If… If you do see this, if I've even made the right call trying to find you, I hope my spouting of apologies is enough to sway you into coming to see me again. One of my assignments has me going back to Level 29, right near our hometown… If you ever see this, and forgive me for never writing to you after you left, and for being such an idiot with how I tried to find you, there's just one thing I'd like to do…








I'd like to catch up.






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