Chapter 2:

Swift Change

Real Life Starfight

May 3rd 2018 - Normally, Ryuuji comes to school early to talk with other students, but today he ended up sleeping in a bit more and got to school a few minutes before the bell would ring. Thinking it will be a regular day, that thought quickly changes as he notices a shift in the atmosphere immediately upon entering the classroom. An awkward silence fills the room and some students are laughing to themselves and others looking away to avoid conflict. Worried at first, Ryuuji decided to just take his seat at his desk. Shortly after, a male student walks up to him.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Takomi, have you read the newspaper this morning?” the student says in a sarcastic manner, slamming the paper on his desk, then taking a step back to gauge his reaction. The headline reads ‘Family Fortune Lost! Komi Ind. Bought Out by American Company’.Bookmark here

Although he knew it was coming, Ryuuji is still surprised the news was released so suddenly. He tries to hide it and smiles slightly as he looks at the student.Bookmark here

“So the news finally got out, huh? Yeah, that’s right, my dad lost his rights to the company and that’s why I’m really here.” He then looks around to the other students as he continues.Bookmark here

“I can’t give you any more special codes, future updates, nor a tour of the facility. Now that you found out, so what?” he says with a laugh.Bookmark here

“So what?” the student says in return. Feeling unsatisfied by his reaction, he glares as he leans in and threatens; “If you think you’ll get off easy flaunting your wealth this past week then you’re wrong. Just you wait.” Leaving Ryuuji with those words, he walks back to his own desk.Bookmark here

After that encounter the chatter picks up once more, all focusing on Ryuuji, except now no one wants anything to do with him. Frustrated, Ryuuji clicks his tongue and crumples up the newspaper that was left on his desk. That’s when Sun walks into the classroom. She notices no one is around Ryuuji’s desk and sees him leaning on his arm and looking away from the rest of the students, as if he would rather not be there. Instead of talking with him directly, she heads to her desk intending to ask her friends, but she doesn't even need to as they waste no time explaining what happened.Bookmark here

“News broke out this morning that Takomi’s family no longer owns the company he’s been bragging about all this time.” Chika says. “It’s been a lie all this time, what a jerk.”Bookmark here

While most of the students feel betrayed, Sun, now understanding the reason Ryuuji was working and why said strange things at times, only thinks ‘So that’s what happened.’Bookmark here

The school bell rings and the homeroom teacher has the students settle down soon after entering. The day goes by as usual without incident, except now Ryuuji has become the sole loner in the classroom. With no one to talk to during lunch, Ryuuji decides to eat elsewhere, to escape the atmosphere in class. However as he walks through the halls, he notices some male students are glaring at him or laughing quietly as he passes. Feeling uneasy, he stayed in the cafeteria for the entire break and followed the crowd back for some cover. Once he reached his desk he let out a heavy sigh.Bookmark here

Within a matter of only a few hours, I already felt completely uncomfortable at this school that I’ve been attending for about a week. ‘I only lied about my dad’s company, why is it such a big deal?’ I thought as I tried to calm down. I had no idea what to do when I had no one to talk to here at school and my dad--- there’s no way he’d be any help. With those thoughts constantly in my mind, that one day felt like it would never end.Bookmark here

When school is finished, Ryuuji grabs his bag and leaves as soon as possible. He actually didn’t take any books out and if you asked him what was taught, he wouldn't be able to answer as he was barely able to pay attention. Sun notices him leaving and quickly packs her items and rushes after him, not even saying bye to her friends, thinking to herself ‘I have to do something.’ She is able to push through the crowd and catch up to Ryuuji, stopping in front of him. He simply looks down at her, expression unchanged.Bookmark here

“What are you doing?” Ryuuji asks, still upset from this morning.Bookmark here

“I just wanted to make sure you’re alright.” Sun says.Bookmark here

“Ooh so now you’re talking to me at school?” Ryuuji says, almost taunting her. “Are you pitying me?”Bookmark here

Struck by his remark, she struggles to say anything besides; “No that's not it….I just-.”Bookmark here

“Well just keep it to yourself.” Ryuuji says as he walks around her to avoid the conversation further.Bookmark here

Sun turns around and watches him leave. Despite being surrounded by students, his lonely back stands out more than anyone's. A few seconds is all it takes for her to gather her determination to go after him once more. Even if she did give up and just go home, she knows she will run into him on the train and at the grocery store, she knows his stupid username in Starfight and will easily be able to track him down, and she knows they are stuck together in the same classroom for the remainder of the year and she refuses to just sit by and watch this situation get worse.Bookmark here

Slowly following him this time, at a steady speed so he won’t notice quickly, it works until they leave the school building. Initially Ryuuji didn’t think much of it, since Sun would normally leave quickly so as to make sure she doesn’t miss the train, but then at the school gate, rather than turning left towards the station, she turned right to continue following him. After they walk a bit more, he turns around to confront her, locking eyes, trying to hold back his frustration he simply asks;Bookmark here

“Mind if I ask what you’re doing?”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you could figure it out if you tried.” Sun returns in a sassy manner.Bookmark here

However, that frustrates Ryuuji even more, causing him to yell; “If I knew I wouldn’t be asking!!”Bookmark here

Yelling in an area where many students are walking home, most look towards them, wondering what’s going on. In the mix Ryuuji overhears a conversation between two passing female students.Bookmark here

“Why is he yelling at her? What a jerk.” the one says with a scowl.Bookmark here

“Haven’t you heard? That’s the new kid who’s family lost their company.” says the other.Bookmark here

“No way!” says the first girl as they walk and continue the gossip.Bookmark here

Ryuuji takes one look at them and then to the ground in embarrassment. ‘Those girls aren’t even in my class! How could the news spread so quickly?’Bookmark here

Sun also caught that conversation and simply watched Ryuuji’s reaction as he looked down, hunched over, practically trying to hide his entire existence from the world. A pathetic look she would rather not witness. She considers that normal people would immediately start to comfort someone in this situation, but fearful that he may run away again, she decides to get right to the point. After having more time to consider a proper answer to his statement in the hall ‘are you pitying me?’ she places her hands on her hips, attempting to stand tall, to command his attention.Bookmark here

“Look, you’ve been dropping hints all over whenever we see each other and now that the news is out, what makes you think I wouldn’t talk to you? Clearly there’s more to this than just your family losing your company.”Bookmark here

Surprised that Sun is still willing to help, he looks back at her. They only spoke three times within two days recently, what would make her want to help in this situation? It’s not like she gets anything out of it. Sun then relaxes her pose, knowing she has his attention.Bookmark here

“It’s obvious you need to let it out, so let's talk.” She says, then adding something he expected even less. “Besides...maybe I want you to help make me stronger in Starfight.”Bookmark here

Hearing her make such a simple request, Ryuuji’s frustration and surprise turn into a laugh. Bookmark here

“You really are too much.” he says, finally breaking a smile.Bookmark here

Sun has seen Ryuuji smile and laugh plenty of times in class, but this one is clearly different. She considers that he just feels more relaxed already.Bookmark here

Ryuuji agrees to talk and suggests they go to a small park close by, only knowing about it because he passes it on the way home. There are a few kids playing, with their parents watching from a short distance, but they’re not too noisy so it won’t be distracting. Leaning on a fence, side by side, Ryuuji explains everything that happened the best he can.Bookmark here

“To be honest I’m not even sure where to start.” Ryuuji says as he considers what to say. “You know about the company being bought...that probably did go through shortly before the news was released, but my dad was fired over a month ago.”Bookmark here

Starting with the obvious, Sun asks “How could they fire the owner of the company?”Bookmark here

“I don’t understand business that well, and my dad refuses to tell me anything, but I assume they found a loophole somewhere. The company was created by my dad and grandfather, which apparently means nothing. Either way since then my dad...” Ryuuji clenches his fists before continuing, with frustration appearing on his face, “My dad doesn’t even do anything! He just sits around and drinks all day like the loser he is.”Bookmark here

Sun decides to keep to herself until he’s finished, watching while Ryuuji takes a deep breath before continuing.Bookmark here

“After we moved, my dad had the gall to say this to me: ‘I have a lot in my savings, but I can’t give you much allowance. I have to keep it in case I can’t get a job.’ But that was just an excuse to sit around and spend it on alcohol! That’s why I got a job in order to buy myself food and anything I needed. I didn’t know how long I’d be able to hide this, which is why I found a job far away from school, not that it mattered apparently.”Bookmark here

After letting it all out, Ryuuji’s shoulders loosen, finally feeling relaxed. The stress that’s been buzzing in his mind and building up this past month quickly disappears. Bookmark here

“Well there you have it, the story of my life.” Ryuuji says, leaning his head back against the fence, indicating the end. "I probably don't need to say this, but I haven't been able to talk to my dad about any of this."Bookmark here

“What about your mom?” Sun can’t help asking.Bookmark here

“My mom passed away when I was young, I don’t remember her.” Ryuuji says, shrugging his shoulders. “Then there’s my grandfather who disappeared before I was born, and we haven’t contacted my other grandparents in years. For the most part, it’s just been me and my dad.”Bookmark here

‘So he’s been doing everything by himself, no wonder he lashes out.’ Sun thinks to herself. She then considers all his interactions in class and brings up the question; “Is this why you acted so strange in school? Only talking about your dad’s company and all that.”Bookmark here

“No, I've always done that.” Ryuuji says, giving the answer she didn’t expect.Bookmark here

Disgusted, Sun clearly shows it on her face as she looks towards Ryuuji “You believe flaunting your wealth is the best way to make friends?”Bookmark here

Feeling the burn from her stare, Ryuuji tries to fix his statement. “I know it’s ridiculous alright! But, ever since I was a kid that’s how it always went.” Now watching the kids playing, Ryuuji thinks back to how it all began. “I would talk about my dad’s company, people at my school would get excited, and it continued each year. I never saw a reason to change that until recently.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” Sun asks.Bookmark here

“Well, my conversations with you have been, how should I put it?” Ryuuji pauses for a moment to consider the best description. “They’ve been the most real conversations I’ve had with anyone, with there being more than just excitement about Komi Industries.”Bookmark here

"When you say it like that, I guess I'm your first friend." Sun says with a smile.Bookmark here

"You make me sound like a fool after describing it in a simple manner." Ryuuji says, looking back at her.Bookmark here

“I certainly can’t deny that.” She says.Bookmark here

Questioning how this conversation turned, Ryuuji says, “And here I thought you were trying to make me feel better.”Bookmark here

“You’re right. And?” Sun, still smiling, leans in closer, “Do you feel better?”Bookmark here

“I can’t deny that I do.” Ryuuji says, smiling in return.Bookmark here

Both in a better mood, and feeling satisfied with their talk, they leave the park and are about to go their separate ways until Sun makes a suggestion. Assuming he doesn’t play with many people on Starfight, she asks if he’d be interested in meeting her boyfriend, adding that he is good at playing the game.Bookmark here

“I think you mean to say that he actually tries.” Ryuuji says, immediately reminded of their gameplay last night. Skeptical that he will be much better judging by what she said about him so far, he simply says "I guess I don't mind meeting him though."Bookmark here

Overlooking his less than enthusiastic response, Sun inquires when he’s available on Saturday night, in which he responds, “I work, but should be home by 11:30pm.”Bookmark here

“That’s perfect!” Sun’s face then glows as she begins describing her boyfriend. “He’s an American named Steve. If we meet around that time then it will be Sunday morning where he lives.”Bookmark here

“An American??” Ryuuji shouts, surprised by the sudden development. “This boyfriend gets crazier the more you tell me about him. Is he our age at least? Does he even speak Japanese?"Bookmark here

“Of course he is, what are you trying to say about me?” Sun asks with a glare. "And I'll have you know he speaks perfect Japanese."Bookmark here

“I just had to be sure.” Ryuuji says, choosing his words carefully. “How about we meet at the western edge of the Heavenly Forest?” he suggests.Bookmark here

“You’ll have to show me where it is, but that sounds good.” Sun says.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe you.” Ryuuji says with a sigh.Bookmark here

Sun laughs as she starts to walk away. She quickly turns to Ryuuji, saying one last thing before leaving. “I have to go before I miss another train. Don’t hesitate to talk to me in school if you want to.”Bookmark here

Knowing that will be easier said than done, and not wanting to think about going back, Ryuuji waves in return, “I’ll try….see ya.”Bookmark here

-----------------------------Bookmark here

May 5th 2018 - The promised day arrives, and Ryuuji is currently waiting in Starfight by the edge of the Heavenly Forest for Sun and her boyfriend Steve. Similar to before, Ryuuji forgot to ask what his username is, only being told he pays a rogue, and of course, Sun is late once again. Just then, a swordsman with an oddly shaped sword and silver armor, with the username HeroHiro requests communication with AkaNinja. Put off by the odd username, Ryuuji reluctantly accepts.Bookmark here

“Can I help you? I’m about to meet some people here.” Ryuuji says, cutting to the chase.Bookmark here

“Wow, so harsh! You must be Ryuuji.” he says with a laugh. “My name is Steve, nice to meet you.” Bookmark here

“You are?” Ryuuji asks, moving his face closer to the computer screen to look over the character once more, reconfirming it’s a swordsman. “But Sun told me you play a rogue.”Bookmark here

“If you really are Sun’s friend you should know she isn’t well versed in the game.” Steve explains, still with a happy tone.Bookmark here

“You’re right, how could I forget. She even called dragons lizards.” Ryuuji says.Bookmark here

“Right?!” Steve shouts, excited. “Sun is a smart girl and I think it’s so cute that she gets them wrong so I’ve never been able to correct her.”Bookmark here

‘I just think it’s annoying though.’ Ryuuji thinks, deciding to keep that thought to himself. Bookmark here

"I was surprised that she correctly told me you're a ninja, but I guess it helps that it's the only one in the game." Steve says.Bookmark here

"Not that she even heard of it before we played the other night." Ryuuji complains.Bookmark here

"I suppose it is true we rarely speak about the game itself so I never brought it up." Steve admits. "We just try to catch up whenever we can."Bookmark here

The conversation then quiets and 8 minutes pass with Sun nowhere in sight. Having only been told that he’s an American who is their age, Ryuuji starts to feel anxious as he isn't sure what to say. He does admit that Steve speaks Japanese really well, but if he says that then he's sure to hear that he did it all for Sun or something like that. Either way, he was hoping Sun would be here to properly introduce them, being the one who suggested this afterall.Bookmark here

“While we wait, do you mind if I ask how you met?” Steve asks, breaking the silence. “I heard you were in the same class.”Bookmark here

Putting aside the whole matter with his dad’s company, Ryuuji keeps the explanation simple. “It’s true that we’re in the same class, but we met at the grocery store I work at. She lives in that same area so we end up taking the train after school some days.”Bookmark here

Hearing that, Steve suddenly thanks Ryuuji, but unsure of the reason he can't help asking why he feels that way.Bookmark here

“Sun always told me she hated taking the train, with the ride being so long and not having anyone to talk to." Steve explains. "When living in America we just had a short bus ride to school, it was really hard for her to get used to at first. So to have someone she knows on the same train, I’m sure that makes her really happy.”Bookmark here

Taking in everything he just said, Ryuuji focuses on just one thing, blurting out “You mean Sun lived in America too?”Bookmark here

“She never told you that?” Steve asks, knowing it’s a simple matter.Bookmark here

“No...but I’ve been so focused on my own stuff that I actually haven’t asked anything about her.” Ryuuji reluctantly admits. “I was wondering how she got a boyfriend in a different country, I guess that’s it.”Bookmark here

“Is that what she said I am?!” Steve shouts, excited once more. “Yahoo!! I must have been upgraded!”Bookmark here

Not understanding a single word he just said, Ryuuji can only ask “What?”Bookmark here

“To clarify I’m not actually her boyfriend, though I’d be more than happy to be called that! I’m just a friend from childhood who stubbornly stuck around.” he says, then adding “Sun must have been on the defensive around you.”Bookmark here

Rather than responding, Ryuuji thinks back to their conversations, wondering if he acted strange enough to warrant her having to make that up.Bookmark here

Steve then continues to explain Sun’s story. “Both of Sun’s parents are Japanese, but she was born in America. We met in school and quickly became friends, then her parents moved back to Japan when we were 8. I can’t remember why they did that, but I’ll never forget how upset she was about it.” As Steve continues, the images from back then flash in his mind, remembering Sun’s exact words.Bookmark here

“No I don’t like this at all! I don’t want to leave you!!” Sun shouts, crying uncontrollably, attempting to wipe away the tears with her hands.Bookmark here

Wanting to fix the situation, but not sure of what to do, the young Steve, a blonde boy with green eyes, grabs Sun’s hands and pulls her closer. Surprised, and eyes on Steven, the tears still flow as she listens to him shout;Bookmark here

“Listen to me, Sun! I promise I’ll still be there for you, I won’t let that stupid ocean get in our way!” Steven shouts.Bookmark here

With her eyes still on Steve, Sun simply asks, “You’ll beat the ocean for me?”Bookmark here

“Of course.” Steve says with a smile. “Just believe in that promise and everything will be alright.”Bookmark here

Happy to hear those words,, Sun smiles and nods, with the tears finally over.Bookmark here

“The time difference made things difficult, but in the end we have yet to leave each other’s lives.” Steve’s voice calms as he ends with one last statement. “I’ll always be there for her no matter what. That will never change.”Bookmark here

Taking in everything Steve said, Ryuuji realizes that Sun calling him her ‘boyfriend’ may not be a defensive comment after all, but how she truly feels as well, though maybe not wanting to admit it. Just then, the hunter ‘Sunshine’ appears and requests communication. They both accept and she quickly apologizes. Bookmark here

“I’m so sorry! I lost track of time.”Bookmark here

“You’re 15 minutes late, I think that’s a new record.” Steve says in his usual upbeat tone.Bookmark here

“Sun, you should know you can’t use that excuse every time, right Steve?” Ryuuji says, expecting he’ll be on his side.Bookmark here

“But Sun is so cute, I just can't stay mad at her.” Steve says, clearly happy she’s here.Bookmark here

Put off by his reaction, Ryuuji asks the obvious “How is her making you wait adorable?”Bookmark here

“It just is.” Steve says, firm in his belief.Bookmark here

Ryuuji sighs at his reaction telling him he is making no sense, but Steve can't understand what he means by that. Genuinely surprised that they’re able to talk so smoothly despite just meeting, Sun couldn’t help interrupting. Bookmark here

“You two are getting along really well already. I guess you don’t need me here.”Bookmark here

“That’s not true. If you didn’t arrive then I’m sure Steve would just tell more embarrassing stories about you.” Ryuuji says.Bookmark here

“What did you say?” Sun asks, her tone dropping quickly.Bookmark here

“Woah hold on a minute-” Steve says, trying to defend himself, but Sun yells at him instead, simply shouting his name ‘Steve!!’Bookmark here

“She’s not so cute anymore is she?” Ryuuji ask with a cunning smile. Bookmark here

Although they are only talking through their headsets, not seeing each other in person or through a webcam, Steve can still sense Ryuuji’s smile and Sun’s anger. With two against one, feeling it futile, Steve gives up and says, “That is so not fair.”Bookmark here

Once Steve apologizes a few times and Sun calms down, Steve and Ryuuji discuss their spells, skills, and weapons before deciding what to do. Ryuuji remembers that he wanted to get a new weapon for Sun and suggests they farm for materials rather than going on a quest. As such they form a party and head to the Crystalized Cavern to fight goblins for gems. In the cave, Sun primarily stays on a ledge for support while Steve and Ryuuji fight in close combat. Sun isn’t able to hit many, but did enough to help when needed. They walk through the cave, gathering gems for close to two hours, talking the entire time about various topics, which of course includes Starfight. The game was released almost 6 years ago in 2012 and Steve brags that he and Sun have been playing since shortly after the release, while Ryuuji waited until 2 years after. Despite that, their levels aren’t too far off; Ryuuji is level 73, Steve is level 82, with Sun at 42. Since you gain experience depending on how much you contribute to the battle, it’s no surprise that Sun is nearly half Steve’s level if she just ‘cheers him on’ as she said. An idea that Ryuuji still can’t understand.Bookmark here

Once they have roughly 80 gems each, except Sun who has 20, Ryuuji suggests they go to a welder, though he doesn’t say why. He knows they didn’t need that many, but they were all having too much fun and he didn’t want it to end. In the main town of Aioria, they speak with the welder Jameson and, using 98 gems and the meel Ryuuji and Sun obtained a couple of nights ago, Ryuuji forges a Myne Blade and gifts it to Sun. The handle is black, having a simple design, but the blade itself has a rainbow shimmer to it.Bookmark here

“There, now you have a close range weapon. Every hunter should have at least one.” Ryuuji says.Bookmark here

Distracted by its beauty, Sun practically whispers; “It’s so beautiful.”Bookmark here

“Isn’t it? The design is part of why I picked it for you.” Ryuuji says, proud.Bookmark here

With a slightly grumpy tone, Steve is less than happy with this result, “The bow I gave you is pretty too.”Bookmark here

Sensing his jealousy, Ryuuji keeps to himself, but Sun is more blunt in asking;Bookmark here

“Are you jealous Ryuuji gave me something nice?”Bookmark here

After a short pause, Steve simply says “No.”Bookmark here

However, knowing that isn’t true, Ryuuji goes off on him instead, like he originally planned if he ever met him, “What are you talking about that’s a horrible reaction! If anything you should have done something like this long ago!”Bookmark here

“The bow is good enough. Besides, I will always be there to protect Sun.” Steve says, not budging at all.Bookmark here

“You’re even using that mentality in the game?” Ryuuji says with a sigh. “Well too bad I want actual support and just using a bow doesn’t work for all quests!”Bookmark here

Sun breaks up the argument with laughter, finding it silly that they’re even fighting about something so simple. She tells Steve that she asked Ryuuji to help make her character stronger, wanting to do better in the game herself, reassuring Steve that she still enjoys their talks in Starfight more than anything. With that Steve backs off, stating he won't argue further if that’s what she wants, and adding that he wasn’t jealous. Not that anyone buys that.Bookmark here

After checking the time, seeing that it is close to 2am in Japan, Sun lets out a yawn and says she should be getting off for the night anyway. “I’m glad you two get along, playing this late was worth it even if it was just to get a new weapon.”Bookmark here

“It was a lot of fun.” Ryuuji says. “We should play again some time soon, Steve.”Bookmark here

“Except next time we’ll do a quest!” Steve says, happy once more.Bookmark here

“You know it.” Ryuuji agrees.Bookmark here

They each log off, one after the other, promising to play again when they can, giving Ryuuji something new to look forward to.Bookmark here

-------------------------------------Bookmark here

Starfight Tips;;Bookmark here

-All dungeons and quests have suggested levels for players to attempt, with the highest being the max level which at the time is 135. There is a possibility of the suggested level changing after the game is updated. The creators do so to keep players interested, rather than have various things remain unchanged.Bookmark here

-Once a party is formed, players no longer have to request communication when they meet. It will automatically connect when the players are in the same field unless they decide to remain silent or are already part of a different party.Bookmark here

-Weapons can only be forced in different areas by 3 welders; Jameson, Maze, Muramasa.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.