Pippin took a deep breath and hit the record button.

Pippin sits in his (green) bedroom in front of the computer. He is wearing a headset and gaming posters are visible on the wall behind him.

“Hello my pipsqueaks, I’ve got some exciting news to share.”  He picked up the letter sitting on the desk and angled it at the camera. Th. swirling logo was clearly visible on the feed according to the second monitor. He grinned. “You are seeing that right, my friends. Geek Con! They have invited me to participate in the REFUGE tournament.”

Another deep breath. He was talking too fast. He set down the letter and leaned back. “This is all thanks to all of you, especially my patreons, but every one of you watching now has helped me get to this point. Without you watching, I would have stopped ages ago.”

Pippin is talking animatedly.

True? Maybe. Then again maybe he just loved playing too much. Geek Con! His mind was still reeling. Sure, anyone could go and play games at the convention. It was the largest gaming convention he knew about. But the tournaments? Those were invite-only. Pros only. This felt like the start of the next phase. First, you build your fan base by producing the content they wanted to see. Then, if you were lucky, someone important noticed.

“Now, for the less pleasant news, I’m afraid.” Pippin continued his vlog post. “I’m still gonna be posting on Monday and Thursday, so we’ll be continuing our I.S. playthrough, but that’s it. I’ll be focusing on honing my skills for the next two months for the tournaments. Saturday live streams will be dedicated to REFUGE. As usual, patreons will be invited for co-op play in the afternoons.”

Pip is winding down his vlog.

He hated having to limit his schedule. He’d just gotten to posting four times a week and it was really fun to play the random new games that his fans were suggesting, but there was no way he could do all that and still be in top form for the tournament. He didn’t expect to win. He was good, but he was still amateur level and he knew that. But he would hate to come in last place.

“Oh, and if you’re planning to come out to San Myshuno for Geek Con, I’ve got some other good news. I’m still working out the details, but we’ll have our first proper fan meet up on Saturday afternoon. So stay tuned and –

His door opened and he hit pause.

“Paige,” he turned in his chair. It had to be his twin, she was the only one who regularly ignored his ‘recording in progress’ sign on his door.

Paige is standing in Pippin's door. He looks annoyed.

She was unrepentant as she stood in the doorway. “Mom says it’s time for dinner.”

“I’m almost done here,” he said, hoping she’d go away, he was just at the end of the post and he didn’t want to lose the thread. However, she didn’t take the hint and just remained in the doorway, waiting.

“She said come now.”

Pippin attempts to tell Paige he'll be up in a minute. Paige is not going anywhere.

Pippin hit save on the recording, glaring at the screen. Great, now he’d have to edit it. Not that it was that difficult to do, but he liked being able to just record and post the vlogs. They were short, sweat, and to the point. And not editing them gave them more authenticity. He hoped.  Plus it was one less thing he had to do. But there was no way he would recapture the authentic excitement from getting the letter. His mind still buzzed with it. But if he tried to record again it would look rehearsed.

He followed his sister up the stairs. She hadn’t left the door until he’d come, unwilling to believe he’d follow mom’s orders without her direct supervision. Gah. As he suspected they weren’t 100% ready for dinner anyway. They still had to set the table and get drinks and stuff. He could have finished his recording easily by the time they all were sitting down.

Karen, Sam, Pippin, and Paige are having dinner together. It's tilapia if you're curious.

Pippin let the conversation flow around him as he ate, planning instead. He needed to play every day he wasn’t recording I.S. to get plenty of practice. The co-op on Saturday would give him an opportunity to try out new strategies against actual people without risk. Hopefully, TinyDancer would join. She was the best REFUGE player in his fan base he knew of. She had regularly beat him when they’d played together before.

The fan meetup should be easy enough to plan. How many people would come? Should he rent a place or something? Aunt Izzy would probably help, speaking of his Aunt, he needed a place to stay during the Con.

Pippin is asking his dad if he can go to Geek Con this summer.

“Dad-?” he asked when the conversation lulled around him.

“Pippin,” his dad said at the same time.

“Jinx. You go first,” Pippin grinned.

“Your school called today,” His dad began. He wasn’t smiling and Pip felt a small thread of fear slice through him. This looked serious. With a capital S. “They said you were failing half of your classes.”

Pip frowned. He knew he wasn’t doing great in school, he never did. But failing? “I thought it was mostly Ds.”

Pippin is not smiling anymore.

His mom raised her eyebrows at his statement. Pippin shrugged. He wasn’t like Paige or mom, he’d never done well in school.

“If you fail your classes, they said you wouldn’t be able to graduate.”

“Ah -” Would that be so bad? It wasn’t like he was planning to go to college or something stupid like that. And he was doing well with gaming. Not making a ton yet, but several hundred a month via his patreons was not a small feat. Plus, if he did well at the tournament, he wouldn’t even need to make the top ten, really. If he made top twenty his fans would triple.

Karen speaks to Pippin. She is concerned. Sam looks sad.

“You’ve got to do well on your midterms,” his mom interjected.

Pippin could see Paige smirking in her her chair and squirmed. She always enjoyed it when he got in trouble. Both his parents were watching him with concerned looks on their faces. Dad’s face hadn’t changed from his ‘This is Serious,’ look. His parents would hound him until they thought he was taking this as seriously as they were.

“I will, I will!” he said quickly and hid his frown by looking down at his half-eaten plate of food.

Silence. It lasted a small eternity before his father nodded and expression lightened. “Good,” he paused, “You were going to say something?” he asked.

Pippin thought this was probably not the best time to mention Geek Con, but surely they’d see the honor he’d been given to have been invited? He had to start planning now.

“I got invited to play in the REFUGE tournament during Geek Con this year.”

Pip tentatively asked about Geekcon.

His father frowned. “That’s in May right?”

Pippin nodded.

“Isn’t that finals week?”

“Just before,” Pippin said quickly. “It’s the first week in May. I was thinking I could stay with Aunt Izzy that week.”

“Pippin, did you just hear what your father said?” his mother asked sounding irritated. Not good, not good! His mind backpedaled.

Pippin and his mom and arguing over the dinner table.

“About school?”

“You can’t go planning to miss a week of school near finals,” she continued.

“But-” Pippin started to protest.

“Do well on your midterms this month and we’ll discuss it again then,” his father said.

Pippin breathed a little easier. That…wasn’t a no, right? His father had to understand how important this was to him.

“I can help you study,” Paige said sweetly into the silence that had descended again onto the table.

“Shut up.” He took his empty plate and headed into the kitchen.

Pippin takes his plate to the dishwasher.

“Pippin, tone,” his mother warned.

“Sorry.” He wasn’t. Paige liked to rub in her perfect attendance and all A report cards whenever she could. It wasn’t his fault he’d missed so much school being sick. He struggled enough when he was there that whenever he missed a day he fell behind. He headed back downstairs and shut his door, leaning against it for a moment, feeling sick to his stomach.

His computer monitor glowed mockingly at him from across the room. What if they didn’t let him go? He slid into his chair and tried to recapture his earlier excitement, he had to finish the vlog. He hit the record button.

Pippin has his headset on and is about to hit record. He's not cheerful anymore.

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