Real Life Starfight
The world of Aisha. Covered with vast land, rich forests, unlimited water, large-scale mountains, it’s many inhabitants made full use of it’s resources, needing to use very little of their magic prowess, and lived peacefully for hundreds of years. However in the year 1054 a powerful mage named Calibash changed their lives forever. Said to be a prodigy in every field and looking for a challenge to suppress his boredom, he effortlessly summoned many mythical beasts; ogres, fairies, goblins, dragons, sacrificing the many stars in the night sky, causing chaos across the world. In order to protect themselves and attempt to return to their lives to normal, the people were forced to take up weapons and train their magical abilities. Even 300 years later, the fight against Calibash continues.
At least that’s the synopsis for the hit MMO called “Starfight Online”. Originating in Japan and created by the company Komi Industries 5 years ago, it became a worldwide phenomenon within its first year and one of the top rated in it’s category. And that’s also where my story takes place, in a small town in Japan. Here at the Sakurai high school, students just returned to start a new year a couple of weeks ago, and today is the start of my life-changing story.
April 24th 2018 - As the cool spring breeze fills the halls of the bustling school, the many students chat as they walk to homeroom. With this being their third week, many already have a routine and chose their usual group of friends. Standing a few feet to the right of the door to class 2-B for the second years, is a young man with short wavy hair. Unlike most other students, he’s simply waiting and watching as everyone walks to their destination.
Boredom setting in quickly, he lets out a yawn and thinks to himself; ‘I don’t see why I had to come in so early if I just have to wait here.’
With frustration building, he takes his cell phone out of his pocket to check the time, 8:18 am, still about 10 minutes until class begins. About to complain again, he then hears something that catches his attention;
“Good morning Sun!” a female student shouts from the classroom door. Surprised, he looks up and watches as a girl with short black hair and a glistening smile runs past him to the other students,
“Chika, Ami, good morning!” she shouts in return.
His eyes follow her as they greet each other and enter class. Although he overheard many conversations as he waited, that one name stuck in his mind and was enough of a distraction to make him forget how long he’s been waiting. He leans back against the wall behind him and looks to the ceiling, “Sun...what a unique name.”
And with that, time passes and the halls empty. The teacher for 2-B, a tall woman, walks up to the young man in the hall. He turns towards her as she speaks.
“Thank you for waiting, Takomi. I’m your teacher, Ms. Takahara. Follow me and you can introduce yourself to your new classmates. Please try to behave.”
Bothered by her last comment, taking it as her implying from one look that he will be troublesome and disrespectful, he glares and silently follows her into the classroom, deciding it best to keep to himself.
Before entering, the students were already discussing the boy standing in the hallway. Some worried and others excited by what this possible transfer student will bring to the class that, being in their second year, many have already established their place and who they prefer to hang out with.
Hearing the chatter as she walks to the podium, the teacher immediately shouts, “Class has begun, please quiet down!” that catches everyone's attention as silence fills the classroom. They turn towards the teacher and young man from the hallway.
“We have a new student. Now please introduce yourself.” She says as she turns to the young man.
Looking towards the class with a moderate expression he simply says, “My name is Takomi Ryuuji. Thank you.”
However, after hearing that name some students begin whispering to each other as it sounds familiar. Was it another student with a similar name? A teacher? Someone famous? They’re confused as they can’t figure out what it is.
Although I told myself I wouldn’t say anything besides my name and would keep to myself...after hearing their whispers, I couldn’t help but snicker and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear. After all, there’s no way they will be able to figure it out for themselves.
Losing control already, the teacher starts to get nervous and is about to speak up, but Ryuuji beats her to it. Smiling from ear to ear he gathers everyone’s attention once more;
“Yes my name may sound familiar because I am the son of the founder of Komi Industries. The creator of the hit MMO ‘Starfight’.”
Surprised and excited, the students shout in return, “That’s amazing you have to give me some cheats!” “Are you one of the legendary 4 players too??” “He is a rich boy, that’s so exciting.” “He must know all the best farming areas!”
However not everyone feels that way. Some students scorn at Ryuuji’s attitude, or sigh at the reaction, including the 3 girls from earlier. Sitting in the same corner at the far left of the classroom, they look at each other.
“I’ve never played the game, have you?” Ami asks, not understanding the commotion.
“Nope, never.” Chika says as she shakes her head.
Ami then turns to Sun, “What about you, Sun?”
Hesitant at first, she simply shrugs her shoulders and says, “Me neither.”
“I wonder what the big deal is.” Ami says, turning her attention back to the rest of the class.
Sun also looks back at the new student, disgusted by his grin as he takes in all the praise, ‘I have actually played before, but I’d rather not associate with someone like that. This is going to be a long year.’
The uproar lasted a few minutes until Ms. Takahara was able to calm them down. She tells Ryuuji to take the empty seat in the back row to the right by the second entry door, much to his dismay, however he has no choice against his teacher’s stern attitude and quietly walks to the back of the classroom. Once Ryuuji takes his seat, he leans back and smiles once more.
‘This is the best!’ I thought, excited that this will be no different from how I was treated at my previous school. Anytime during break, for the rest of the day and following week, people would hover around my desk. I told them about “top secret” future updates for the game, some cheat codes, my recommended hunting spots, and major achievements the game made. A few students asked for company tours and I tried to pass it off as something that’s never done before, although that was a clear lie. I think some people started getting suspicious there. Then the question I was dreading finally came up;
One morning before class, 5 students are surrounding Ryuuji’s desk, talking about ‘Starfight’. Then one girl completely changes the subject and asks;
“Hey Takomi, I was thinking, why did you transfer? From what it sounds like, with your family money, you should have no reason to.”
Put off by the question, Ryuuji’s smile fades. “We decided to move and I wanted a school closer to home. Something within walking distance, you know?” Ryuuji explained. He then smiles once more and quickly switches back to talking about the game.
However, I could tell by their expressions that they weren’t satisfied with my answer and suspicion grew even more, with less people hanging around me afterwards. Fear started setting in, but I tried to keep that thought out of mind. Then, exactly 1 week after transferring, I had an unexpected encounter that changed everything.
May 1st 2018 - That evening at the supermarket Takeda Grocery, Sun from Sakurai high school is buying some items for dinner. Her mother didn’t realize they were low on vegetables and stock and asked her to stop by after school. Although she would rather go straight home, Sun had no reason to turn her down and agreed to go shopping. Once she has everything she came for, Sun walks up to a register in a good mood, feeling lucky there’s no line. She places the few groceries on the counter as the cashier speaks.
Being a new employee, he holds the script up, covering part of his face. “Welcome to Takeda Grocery, where we are always happy to serve. Do you have a rewards membership-”
Immediately recognizing the voice, and surprised by what she sees, Sun cuts in; “Rich boy Takomi Ryuuji?”
The cashier then drops the piece of paper and slowly lowers his hands, equally surprised to see a familiar face. Although they never spoke to each other, he knows this is the classmate he saw on his first day, who also sits in the back row a few seats away from him. Unsure of what to say, he simply watches as his classmate also tries to comprehend the situation. Sun lowers her eyes to see the uniform that says the name of this store, indeed making him an employee. She then looks at his surprised expression once more.
“Rich? And working here? Maybe not...” is all she can manage to say.
Trying to avoid eye contact at all costs, Ryuuji starts ringing up her groceries. He then attempts to reassure her by saying; “You must have mistaken me for someone else.”
However it has no effect.
“As if I could forget the face of someone who constantly begs for attention every day.” Sun responds in a sharp tone.
Ryuuji then sighs. Although they are both surprised and clearly unhappy with this encounter, he knows he can’t just send her off without some kind of explanation. Disgruntled, he turns to face her and asks if she has a few moments to talk since it's almost time for his break anyway.
“I assume if I don’t comply you’ll just chase me down later anyway so, sure. I’ll wait outside.” Sun responds in a high pitched, almost sarcastic tone.
Sun pays for her groceries and takes her bag, heading outside to wait without exchanging another word. As he watches her walk away, Ryuuji thinks to himself ‘As if I would do something like that.’ And continues to help customers who gathered in line after her. Roughly 5 minutes pass until Ryuuji is able to take his break. He walks outside and notices her sitting on a bench. He takes a moment to prepare himself, taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, before walking over.
Encountering a classmate at a job shouldn’t be a big deal to anyone, even the school allows students to work when they’re informed, but it’s the one thing Ryuuji wanted to avoid. Rather than sitting, he stands on one side of the bench and suddenly speaks up, still avoiding eye contact.
“Your name is Sun, right? So what are you doing out here? I tried to find a job far from the school and figured an hour train ride was enough.” He explains.
“You got my name right.” Sun says, genuinely surprised as she turns towards her classmate. “As one of the few girls who never spoke a word to you I’m honored you remembered.”
‘Now who has the bad attitude.’ Ryuuji thinks to himself. Trying not to focus on that as he knows he hasn’t been much better at school, he gives an honest response. “It’s kind of hard to forget a name like that.”
“So you can have a normal conversation.” Sun says after observing him in these few exchanges. She then answers his initial question;
“I simply live around here, there’s really nothing more to it than that. And since you seem unaware, you can go to a high school that’s a distance away as long as you apply and are accepted.”
“Seriously?” Ryuuji complains as he hangs his head to the side.
Sun notices Ryuuji’s reaction and ponders before reassuring him that she never noticed anyone from their class shop here at least. Ryuuji assumes Sun is willing to keep this a secret, asking her to be sure.
“You mean about you working?” Sun asks. “I have no idea why you are, but I have no reason to tell anyone.”
“I appreciate it, thanks.” Ryuuji says as he finally takes a seat on the bench.
Sun can’t help laughing in return. Bothered by her response, Ryuuji quickly turns to her and asks what she thinks is so funny.
“Sorry I couldn’t help it. That’s probably the first time I heard you say anything nice since you arrived at school.” she says, still smiling.
However those simple words don’t trigger a retort like she expected. Instead Ryuuji looks towards the ground, almost staring off into space, and says, “I guess I may come off as rude. I just….wanted to remain in the good spotlight for as long as I could. Pretend like life is still how it was before.”
Not understanding his vague words, Sun wants to ask what he means, but instead Ryuuji looks at the time on his cell and quickly stands up.
“I have to get going, see ya.” He says, returning to work without waiting for a response. Sun watches him walk away and then shrugs her shoulders and heads home herself, deciding it is not worth trying to analyze his words right now.
Later that night, finishing work at 10pm with the train arriving in his hometown shortly after 11pm, Ryuuji walks down the stairs at the train station, alongside a few others, and reaches up to stretch after the long ride.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.” Ryuuji says as he starts to walk home, knowing it will take roughly 20 minutes to get there as his home is even further than school which is a 5 minute walk. As he walks, he looks up to the night sky. Although it’s too bright to see much, he can still spot a few dimly lit stars.
“Starfight, huh.” He says, contemplating whether he has the energy to play tonight. Recently on the days when Ryuuji works after school, he has been going right to bed, and it looks like it will be another one of those nights. Walking straight home without any distractions, the time is now almost 11:30pm. Ryuuji walks up to a large apartment complex and enters an elevator to reach floor 3. At apartment 316, he uses his key to open the door and enters. None of the lights are on, but the TV is and still lights up the area. He places his school bag on the ground and proceeds to remove his shoes as he leans on the wall. As he finishes he hears his father from the living area.
“You’ve been coming home so late recently, any reason?” he asks.
Although he’d rather not, Ryuuji walks into the room, disgusted by what he sees. Various empty alcohol bottles and cans are scattered on the table and floor, with bundles of garbage from food mixed in. Then there’s his father who is sitting up on the couch looking straight at his son with empty eyes, in addition to messy hair, a stubble beard, and stained clothing. This isn’t anything new, they moved in 3 weeks ago and his father hasn’t taken care of himself since then, but it’s tough to get used to. Not that anyone should have to.
“I guess I didn’t tell you.” Ryuuji says, “I got a job at a grocery store, they sometimes schedule me after school.”
“Normal kids discuss this with their parents beforehand.” his father says.
However, that comment infuriates Ryuuji and he can’t help shouting. “And normal parents don’t sit around and drink all day!!”
With Ryuuji upset and his father’s expression unchanging, the two simply stare at each other until Ryuuji scoffs at the conversation entirely. “Whatever!” he shouts as he walks down the hallway and into his room, slamming the door behind him. He lets out a heavy breath, trying to release the anger as well.
That’s right. The man out there is my so-called father. Somehow he was fired from his own family company and it was sold off to another company shortly after. He just came home one day and said we had to move and I had to change schools, then after moving here he sat on the couch to drink his days away. He refused to talk about what happened and is hardly ever awake when I’m home. I tried not to let it bother me, but it’s hard when you're forced to look at it each day. A constant reminder.
‘The news of Komi Ind. being sold should be released to the public any day now.’ Ryuuji thinks to himself, smiling, despite feeling nervous at the thought.
With many thoughts now racing, and knowing he won’t be able to sleep easily, Ryuuji decides to log into Starfight to help clear his head.
May 2nd 2018 - The next day, before the school bell rings, Ryuuji is surrounded by his usual ‘fans’ as people would call them. When Sun enters the classroom with her two friends, Ryuuji pays her no mind, and Sun does the same with him. There was no reason to change how they interact at school after that one exchange and so things continue as normal.
Time goes by quickly and before they know it, school is over for the day. Ryuuji has work so he says bye to his fans and rushes so he doesn’t miss the train, simply telling them he has to be somewhere and can’t hang out. Once he reaches the station, he notices Sun standing and waiting for the same train he is. He walks around, hoping she won’t notice him, and thinks to himself;
‘Don’t tell me I’m going to start seeing this girl everywhere.’
When the train arrives, Ryuuji enters from a different door compared to Sun, trying to avoid being in the same area, but the flow of the crowd results in them standing right next to each other. Ryuuji tries to hide his face, but Sun notices immediately.
“What, are you following me now?” she asks.
“You already know exactly why I’m here.” Ryuuji’s disgruntled response is followed by an awkward silence that only lasts a few minutes until he speaks up once more.
“So the game, Starfight, do you play it?”
Although still feeling reluctant to associate with Ryuuji, same as the first day he arrived at school, Sun doesn’t feel the need to lie again when it’s just the two of them talking.
“Yes I do have a character.” she says “But I only really play with my boyfriend.”
Ryuuji quickly turns to Sun after hearing that one word, “Boyfriend?!” he shouts, then narrowing his eyes as if to reexamine her persona “You’re a sly one aren’t you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sun asks, upset by that remark.
Ryuuji, regretting thinking aloud in that moment, tries to set it aside, “No forget I said that. Do you want to play sometime?”
“So you won’t talk to me at school, but you will in a game?” Sun asks, trying to better understand his reasoning. She overheard many conversations in class and although they basically only ever talk about ‘Starfight’, he never once asked to play with any of them and vice versa. What makes this any different?
“Well first of all, not talking at school is your choice. And if we are going to run into each other on this annoyingly long train ride then we might as well have something to talk about.” Ryuuji explains.
Snide comment aside, his reasoning is actually very simple, though Sun can’t help focusing on how spoiled he clearly is; complaining about how long the train ride is when he’s the one who chose to work so far away. ‘Is this what I’m going to have to deal with? Well, I guess it’s fine.’
“Sure, I don’t mind playing the game with you. We could meet at….ah what’s it called again?” Sun says, trying to remember the name. “The Fountain of Truth?”
“That works. I can be on around 11:30 tonight.” he says.
“Then I’ll see you there.” Sun says with a smile, completing their agreement to play.
Later that night, once Ryuuji arrives home, he takes off his shoes at the front door, and goes right to his room, trying to avoid looking at his father who is asleep on the couch. The time is 11:30, the exact time they decided to meet up. He turns on his computer and places his headphones on, quickly opening the game once it fully starts.
“I hope I’m not making her wait.”
He says as the game begins to load. In the game screen, there are many stars that steadily disappear until it turns into a clear night sky and the login or create account options appear as well as the title; ‘Starfight’.
Ryuuji logs in and chooses to appear at the ‘Fountain of Truth’ where they promised. It's a large white fountain in the middle of a town, with old stone buildings and a cobblestone road. However, after waiting a bit,, he then realizes he doesn’t even know her username. Luckily there aren’t too many players, but none appear to have a name he thinks she would use. ‘Isn’t it usually the girl who is on time?’ Then there’s what he didn’t consider before ‘Or did she never actually consider playing with me in the first place?’ She doesn’t seem like that type of person, but he also never thought his father would become an alcoholic either.
Ryuuji decides to wait, but as 10 minutes pass, he’s close to giving up. That’s when a character with the username ‘Sunshine’ logs in. It's a Hunter wearing an outfit with a blend of yellow and orange and a white and gold bow at her side.
“That has to be her.” Ryuuji says, laughing at the fact that she used her real name. He requests to communicate with her through the game and she accepts almost right away.
“Sorry I’m a bit late!” Sun shouts. “I lost track of time.”
“I almost thought you stood me up.” Ryuuji says in a sarcastic manner despite actually feeling that way.
“No way I would never do something like that!” Sun says. “Instead I just wouldn’t have agreed to play in the first place.”
Although they can’t see each other, and can only listen through their headsets, Ryuuji can still feel the sharpness of her tone. Now that they’re both here, it’s time to decide where to play.
“Well anyway, it looks like you’re a Hunter at level 42. You made it sound like you hardly play, but that’s not bad. I’m level 73.” Ryuuji sasy as he starts thinking of an easy quest.
“A Hunter, is that what this is? I always forget since I just let my boyfriend pick my class anyway.” She explains in a happy tone.
As the conversation continues, Ryuuji starts to regret asking Sun to play as she sounds like a total beginner despite the decent level. She then says something that pushes him over the edge;
“And it looks like you’re a swordsman?” Sun asks. But she couldn’t be more wrong.
“Not even close!!” Ryuuji shouts. “I’m a super cool Ninja class.”
Sun looks over the character design, seeing a black and red jumpsuit with a white headband and no visible weapons with the username AkaNinja. Indeed it does look like a ninja, but she’s still confused.
“I’ll admit I’m stupid with this game sometimes, but as far as I know there is no Ninja class.”
“That’s why it’s cool.” Ryuuji says, not giving a clear answer. Sun can only sigh in response, but Ryuuji shrugs at that and explains in more detail.
“There actually was going to be a special ninja class, but the idea was scrapped. My dad knew I was really disappointed so he programmed this special character just for me. You must have heard rumors of the mysterious ninja.” Ryuuji says with confidence.
“No, not really.”
Disappointed by her lackluster response, Ryuuji’s initial excitement deflates, ‘Right, she only plays with her boyfriend so I shouldn’t be surprised.’
“That’s cool of your dad to do that, even though you seem spoiled enough.” Sun adds.
“Yeah, back when I still respected him.” Ryuuji says.
Hearing that comment, Sun can’t help thinking; ‘There he goes again.’ This is only the third time they spoke with each other, and she still doesn’t understand his situation, but he’s dropping hint after hint that something isn’t right. ‘Is it really….okay to ask?’
“Let’s go to the Cavern of Discord.” Ryuuji says, interrupting Sun’s thoughts.
With focus back on the game, she talks in her usual tone. “Sure! I don’t think I’ll be much help though.”
The Cavern of Discord is a dark cave with many twists and turns that could easily make any player feel lost. It has various quests of all levels, the lower the level the easier it is to find. Ryuuji chose one with the suggested level of 30, to defeat a mud golem, but quickly regretted that as Sun’s lack of experience with the game was worse than he imagined. She called the water sprites that help light up the cave ‘lightening bugs’ and barely knew any spells, let alone carried a weapon besides the bow on her back. It quickly turned into a difficult battle and while they were able to complete the quest, they were left with very little health and no extra items dropped. The reward was 2800 meel, but since Ryuuji did most of the work he received 2000 while Sun only got 800.
“Wow I can’t believe we made it without any deaths. That job was tough.” Sun says, feeling that she put a good amount of effort into beating the monster.
Ryuuji tries to hold back his frustration, but ends up shouting instead, “Not only was that a low level mission, but the monster was ridiculously easy and you call that tough?!”
However Sun remains unfazed by his reaction, “I told you I wouldn’t be much help.”
“Haven’t you ever tried learning any spells? Skills? Or doesn’t your boyfriend teach you anything??” Ryuuji continues to complain.
“No we usually just talk or I cheer him on as he fights.” Sun explains. “I don’t even fully understand the difference between spells and skills.”
“Your boyfriend should have at least taught you that. Skills enhance your speed, attack, defense and can be placed on weapons depending on the class. Spells are used to attack and heal and stuff like that.” Ryuuji explains, but is quickly worn out. “This is too much for one night...although you didn't do much I'll still give you half the reward next time we play.”
“You can just keep it. I don’t need money.” Sun says, but that pushes Ryuuji once more.
“It’s not MONEY, it’s MEEL and yes you do!! I don’t know what your boyfriend was thinking, but I’m going to make you a player worth teaming up with!!” Ryuuji declares.
“Fine, you can tutor me next time.” Sun shrugs. “Will I see you on the train tomorrow?”
“No, I have off until Saturday.” Ryuuji says in a calmer tone.
“Then I guess I'll see you around.” Sun says. She waits for Ryuuji’s response, a simple “See ya” and then logs off.
Considering how little she knows about the game, Ryuuji figures she didn’t even read how much the reward is and will just give her all of it. That way she can use it to forge a simple blade at least. He then removes his headset and sits back in his chair to stretch.
“Seriously though! I don’t think I ever returned from a low level quest with such little health before. Besides a close-range weapon and upgraded bow, I guess I should think of some spells too. She has the basic skills, not that she uses them much.”
After pondering for a few minutes, Ryuuji decides to get ready for bed, unaware that things are about to drastically change.
-Players can choose 2-4 words for their username, at least 2 letters each, and the combination is accepted as long as it hasn’t been used before. Players also have the option to keep the spaces or combine the words into one.
-There are 4 classes to choose from: Hunter, Swordsman, Caster, Fighter. Each has their own set of skills, spells, and weapons that can be used, although some are used for more than one.
-The ‘Fountain of Truth’ is the most well known spot in the game, being the area where players arrive once the character is created, and is one of 8 locations you can spawn when first logging in.
-Skills are used to enhance a player's speed, defense, or attack and can sometimes be used on weapons depending on the class. They can reach up to level 15. Each class has their own set, but some overlap.
-Spells are considered physical attacks, but can also heal or be a barrier. They can reach anywhere from level 20 to 50. Similar to skills, each class has their own set, but some overlap.