Real Life Starfight
May 7th 2018 - Monday arrives and while walking through the hall before class begins, Ryuuji is approached by two male students. They both stand in front of him with a smile. Feeling a sudden chill, Ryuuji can only look back at them, waiting to hear what they want to say.
“Good morning, Takomi Ryuuji.” says the one student. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“What kind of question is that? I don’t even know who you are.” Ryuuji says. He looks at the other student as he talks next.
“Well I guess you could call us your new friends.” he says as he tilts his head. “You must be lonely now that no one wants to talk to you.”
Ryuuji takes one last look at each of them and starts to walk around them, successfully, and tries to leave them with one comment. “Whatever you’re offering, I want none of it.”
As Ryuuji walks away, one of the male students shouts in return. “It’s more like what you’ll be offering us. We'll keep in touch.”
After that encounter, Ryuuji overhears many students talking about that confrontation. ‘Those were the senior students right?’ ‘They’re relentless bullies, he’s done for.’ ‘Isn’t that the kid who lied about his family? Serves him right.’
Trying to drown out the noise, Ryuuji clutches his school bag and shouts to himself; ‘Don’t you have anything better to talk about?!!’ Once he reaches his classroom he quickly sits down and leans back, letting out a heavy sigh.
Starting that week, random bullies would come up to me before school, on the way to lunch, and sometimes as I left school. They kept it light, saying vague comments I half listened to, and then I’d be able to walk away without anything else happening. I figured they would stop after a while and tried not to let it bother me. I also decided not to tell Sun about it, expecting her to find out as students just loved gossiping about everything that happened to me for whatever reason. Of course Sun did find out, but reacted in a way I didn’t expect, that Tuesday on the train after school…-
“Why didn’t you tell me about the bullies you idiot!” Sun shouts directly towards Ryuuji. “I told you that you could talk to me about this stuff.”
Looking towards the window to avoid eye contact, Ryuuji attempts to defend himself the best he can, “Look it just started yesterday and I didn’t feel like talking about it! Besides you only said I could talk to you in school if I felt like it.”
He then glances at Sun just to get her usual glare. ‘Why am I the one getting yelled at?’ Ryuuji thinks to himself, trying to understand how he arrived at this situation.
“Talk to a teacher tomorrow, maybe they can do something.” Sun suggests.
“And tell them what? The bullies are saying stupid crap to me?! They haven’t actually done anything to me and I’m sure the teachers hear the same rumors students do. They know and just won’t do anything.”
However Ryuuji’s comment only leaves Sun disappointed. She knows what he says is true, but didn’t want to hear it. ‘Is there really nothing that can be done?’ she can’t help thinking.
Ryuuji notices her reaction and tries to comfort her instead. “I really didn’t intend to mix you up in my mess like this. Sorry to worry you.”
“Well, continuing our friendship was my choice. I should have known it wouldn’t be easy, but I couldn’t leave you to burn.” Sun says, trying to smile.
“I wish you could have worded that better, but I appreciate it.” Ryuuji says in return.
Ryuuji then changes the subject to their usual topic: Starfight. He says he was looking into different spells she could learn and wanted to get her opinion before he plans what quests they can do. The conversation lasted for the rest of their train ride, then leading to their goodbye for the day. Ryuuji leaves off by saying he will try to talk to her more in class to avoid letting things build up again, just as she suggested. Sun simply smiles and says ‘Sounds good.’ before heading home.
Ryuuji is able to uphold his side, even just by greeting her each day and talking a bit during lunch. Of course the bullies still approached him each day, but much to his surprise, those small encounters with Sun made it easier to deal with. Some of their classmates noticed the two suddenly interacting more, but paid it no mind. Later that week, Ryuuji approached Sun’s desk during lunch to inquire if she wanted anything, as he neglected to bring lunch himself. Sun simply holds up her own homemade lunch, made by her mother, and smiles.
“I wish you would make me lunch too.”
“In your dreams.” Sun says.
“Yeah yeah that’s where all the good stuff is.” Ryuuji says, waving his hand as he walks into the hall.
Once Ryuuji leaves, Sun’s surrounding classmates, who she normally spoke to, turn towards her and ask about the sudden change.
“Hey Sun, why are you two now acting like best friends? Is it really safe to talk to him?” Ami asks.
“Are you telling me I should ignore him just because he acted like an idiot when he first came here?” Sun responds, bothered by their comments.
“We’re just worried about you as your friends. Especially with the bullies-” Chika attempts to say, but is cut off.
“Friends? We only started talking to each other since our desks are so close. If you really feel that uncomfortable with my situation then maybe you should ignore me too.” Sun says. Whether or not she saw them as friends, she doesn't like that they're turning a blind eye like everyone else and doesn't hide how she feels.
The two girls look at each other and turn back around to continue eating their lunch together. Sun, upset, starts eating her lunch with a fury after that ridiculous conversation.
Meanwhile, Ryuuji only took a few steps out of the classroom before he was confronted by 2 male students, with them both standing in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. Trying to make the best of the situation, Ryuuji smiles and asks, “Hey, were you waiting long?”
The one student laughs at his comment and then places his arm around Ryuuji’s shoulder. “No, not at all. Let’s have a little chat shall we?” He says as they lead Ryuuji down the hall.
With the fake smile quickly fading, Ryuuji complains “Don’t you have better things to do?”
“What do you mean, I thought we were friends? As such we were hoping you could help us with some debt.” says the other student who follows close behind.
Ryuuji takes a good look at both of them, and then hangs his head with fear setting in, thinking to himself, ‘Ever since they started bothering me I’ve been trying to remember their faces, but only a few look similar. How big is their group?’
As they lead Ryuuji down the hall, the other students can only watch, either fearful what may happen to them if they do help, or they know who Ryuuji is and feel he deserves whatever they do to them. Not that he expects anyone to help him.
However, there is one girl who thinks differently. She was walking back after purchasing food from the cafeteria, until she noticed the odd group. Reading Ryuuji’s face, she can easily tell they’re forcing him to walk with them. Rather than head back to her classroom, she gathers the courage to follow them.
The two students lead Ryuuji behind a stairwell and shove him into the wall, shoulder hitting first, resulting in him falling to the ground. He sits up and leans against the wall, rubbing his right shoulder. Frustrated, he shouts, “That hurt!” and looks up at them.
“Sorry about that, I tripped and lost my balance. Not that this is much different from the attitude you displayed when you first came here.” the student responds.
“Quite different, actually.” He says, glaring as his frustration continues to build.
The two students laugh at his reaction. With a smirk, the one student continues. “Just show us that wallet of yours. Even if your dad lost his own company, you still have money right?”
‘Yeah, but he doesn’t give me anything.’ Ryuuji thinks to himself before saying, “Why should I give it to you?”
“To avoid our fists flying.” The student says, leaning in closer.
Knowing that wasn’t an empty threat, and with no chance of escaping safely, Ryuuji decides cooperating is his best option. He begins reaching into his pocket until they’re interrupted by a soft voice.
“W-what do you think you’re doing?!” She shouts.
The two bullies and Ryuuji look back to see a female student with long black hair, partially tied up in the back, and brown eyes. She tries to hide her nervousness, but they can easily see through it. The one student who pushed Ryuuji approaches her, trying to intimidate her, but determined to help this student she doesn't know, she stands her ground and stares back in return.
“‘What are we doing?’” he says, repeating her words. “I’d like to ask you the same thing, getting in our way. Who the hell are you?”
The other male student, who thought she looked familiar, then says, “Isn’t that Kiyama’s girl?”
“You mean Kiyama Seiji? That nuisance.” he says, looking back at his fellow classmate.
“Yes!” the young girl shouts the best she can. “My name is….Hinami Hanabi!” she declares, attempting to keep their attention.
Shocked that this girl is standing up to these bullies, Ryuuji knows he can’t let her get hurt because of him. After all, judging by what they just told him, they aren’t afraid to fight back. He sets his fear aside and attempts to get up to avoid the worst case scenario.
Meanwhile, back in their classroom, Sun checks the time and notices it’s been over 10 minutes since Ryuuji left. Worried that something may have happened, she gets up and walks into the hall, towards the cafeteria, when she suddenly hears a loud voice.
Before Ryuuji is able to make a move, a young boy shouts, seemingly at the top of his lungs and loud enough that it echoes through the halls. Appearing behind the girl who declared her name, is a boy with short black hair, blue eyes, and a small scar to the right of his forehead. She turns around and smiles, relieved to see him.
“Seiji!!” she shouts.
Less than excited at his arrival, the students glare and state his name in disdain, “Kiyama Seiji.”
“Yeah that’s me.” he says, frustrated that they were approaching Hanabi. “Mind telling me what you’re doing to my girl during precious lunch time?!”
The one student clicks his tongue. “You can’t help getting in our way can you.”
“It’s not my choice. Maybe you should find better hobbies.” Seiji says, scoffing at their comment.
Rather than continue the confrontation, the male students decide to leave and save this for some other time. Seiji stands firm as they walk past him and then down the hall. Once they’re gone, Seiji walks over to Hanabi and hugs her, worried that she was in serious trouble.
“At this rate they’ll just go after you, Hana!”
“But I couldn’t just leave him.” Hanabi pleads.
With his arm still around Hanabi’s shoulder, they both look at Ryuuji as he stands up.
“So? What’s your name? You already heard mine just now.” Seiji says, wanting to know who Hanabi risked herself for.
Although Ryuuji would rather not say anything, he decides to at least give his first name to try and hide his identity. Even mumbling it hoping he won't be heard, not that it helps. Seiji tells Hanabi that she should head back to class, reassuring her that he will follow shortly after. Hanabi agrees, but before doing so, she reaches into her bag and hands one sandwich to Seiji and then another to Ryuuji, saying to him;
“There isn’t much time until lunch ends. Eat while you can.”
Ryuuji takes the sandwich and watches as Hanabi walks away. Once she’s out of sight, Seiji removes the plastic wrapper from his sandwich and starts eating as he talks to Ryuuji.
“Taking one of my sandwiches and time with my girl, who do you think you are?”
Annoyed that he’s getting attacked once more, Ryuuji shouts, “You’re blaming me?? I didn’t ask for any of this!”
“I’m sure. No one asks for any of the torture they’re put through each day. Trust me, I know.” he says as he continues eating. Sun then arrives at the end of the stairway to overhear them.
“I know who you are even if you try to hide it and frankly, I don’t care. If you put my girl in danger again I won’t be there to save you like I did here.” he says, looking back at the frustrated Ryuuji.
“How is that fair if she just appears out of nowhere?” Ryuuji shouts, stomping forward in the process.
Unfazed by his reaction, Seiji continues, “That girl, Hanabi, she’s been through her share of what you’re going through. She can’t stop herself from helping others which is why I’m by her side to protect her.”
“Yeah, a lot of good that did today.” Ryuuji storms past Seiji. Surprised at first to see Sun, he continues walking with Sun following behind.
While walking back, he takes one look at the sandwich he was given and decides it best to just eat it even if he'd rather not accept their charity. Well, more like ‘her’ charity, but he can’t help associating the two as one. Sun asks if that was Seiji and Hanabi and, surprised she knows who they are, Ryuuji asks if she knows anything about them.
“Just from rumors.” Sun explains. “In junior high they were apparently the biggest couple. Something like, she saved his life and he declared his love for her in class. They’re first years and I still heard about it so it must be true.”
“Disgusting.” Ryuuji says.
“What, not a fan of romance?” Sun asks.
“It’s not that. The brat is a grade under us and he has the nerve to talk to me like that?!” Ryuuji complains.
Sun can only laugh and agree, even if it doesn’t bother her. “I’m glad you’re alright though.” She says, not feeling the need to ask what happened since it was clear from his conversation with the first year.
Ryuuji pauses for a moment before responding, “...good to know someone is.”
May 11th 2018 - A few hours after school, Sun, Ryuuji, and Steve are playing Starfight as promised. Before actually playing, Ryuuji rants about them meeting Seiji and Hanabi a few days before and doesn’t hide his frustration. He keeps the bullying part out of it, not wanting to discuss his personal issues, and just describes it as a random encounter hoping Steve won’t ask more about it. True to his character, Steve simply laughs and says the one thing he shouldn’t;
“That kid sounds a lot like you, Ryuuji!”
“I can’t believe you just said that.” Sun says, despite agreeing with him.
“How are we alike?! That kid needs to learn some manners.” Ryuuji shouts.
“Well I guess that's true. Anyway, let's move on.” Steve says, clapping his hands. “So? What kind of quest should we do? Any items you want?”
“No, but it looks like there’s something you want.” Sun says.
“How could you tell?”
Then Ryuuji points out the obvious, “You’re the one who sent a link in the chat.”
Double checking to see that he did indeed send the message, Steve responds “Oh did I send that already? Guess I got too excited, tehe.”
Ignoring his childish giggle, Ryuuji clicks the link to see that it’s a quest by the Towering Sea to defeat Serpentine Max. The suggested level is 75 and there is a chance to get a rare sword once completed. Since he and his father would often talk about upcoming updates to Starfight, he knows the basics about a lot of quests and various other things in the game, including a couple that have yet to be implemented.
Ryuuji agrees that this would be a good quest for them to do, adding that Sun will be able to help as well. Hearing that, Sun is excited to join, trusting Ryuuji’s judgement. Ryuuji assumes Steve wants to do this quest until the sword drops which, depending on their luck, may take a while. However, unlike before, they have plenty of time since they started playing earlier.
It ends up taking 5 attempts, which is good because Sun was starting to get bored. She still managed to go up 2 levels with Ryuuji going up 1 as well. Steve meanwhile is more than satisfied with his new sword. Although they still have some time, they end up talking through the night and doing some farming in the area until bed.
After my encounter with Kiyama Seiji, for the weeks following, I spotted the bullies in the halls, but they never even approached me. I considered the idea that the brat scared them off and figured I didn’t have to worry anymore. That in itself was my biggest mistake.
May 31st 2018 - When school ended that Thursday, Ryuuji had work so he left right away as he normally would. Sun was asked by a teacher to stay behind to go over some of her homework so this wouldn be a rare day that Ryuuji rides the train by himself. At the shoe lockers, once he changes into his regular pair, Ryuuji looks towards the exit door to see 3 of his usual bullies. Feeling nervous, Ryuuji stands up straight and simply looks at them. Knowing they have his attention, the student in the middle speaks up.
“Hey Takomi, do you have a minute?” he asks with a smile.
Certain he has no choice, Ryuuji agrees, making sure they know he doesn’t have much time. The bullies reassure that it won’t take long, and so Ryuuji walks towards them and they lead him to an area at the side of the school building.
Not too far away is the girl Ryuuji met 2 weeks ago, Hinami Hanabi, who is waiting near the school gate for her boyfriend. Watching the entrance, she notices Ryuuji being led by three other students and, just like before, can’t just sit back and decides to stand by the corner of the building to see what they are up to.
As they continue walking, Ryuuji questions what they are planning, only getting a simple answer; “It’s right up ahead.”
Not satisfied, Ryuuji raises his voice, “That’s not really an answer!”
They then stop in front of an alleyway at the side of the school. It’s small, roughly 10 feet wide and deep. Dark with no light besides some from the sun peeking through the trees, Ryuuji is still able to see that there are at least 5 more students waiting. Fear suddenly overtakes his entire body leaving him frozen in place.
That moment is still clear as day in my mind, the most fearful I ever felt. I knew that whatever they had planned, there would be no escaping without extreme pain, and even then I couldn’t move or scream for help.
One of the students who led him to the alley hovers over Ryuuji’s left shoulder and whispers, “We all had a discussion and decided you are more of a nuisance than an asset. So, we’re going to give you a nice trip to the hospital.”
“But…-” Ryuuji says, turning to the students behind him as he tries to defend himself, “I haven’t even done anything!”
“Exactly.” Says another bully who pushes Ryuuji onto the ground in the dark alley. They then follow right after.
Still at the corner of the school building, Hanabi is watching them and is shocked when they push Ryuuji into the alley. Almost immediately after, Seiji appears behind her and asks what she’s doing. Hanabi jumps at the unexpected surprise and turns to Seiji with a strange expression, waving her arms and wanting to shout, but trying to keep quiet. Seiji can’t help laughing until Hanabi then calms herself to explain what she just witnessed.
“Seiji!!” she quietly shouts. “You have to hurry and help him!”
“Not again- who is it this time?” Seiji asks.
“That student, Ryuuji. The bullies just pushed him into an alley at the side of the school, this can’t be good.” Hanabi explains, panicking.
“I have no reason to help him.” Seiji says, annoyed that he has to deal with him again. “Now let's go.”
Seiji starts to walk away until he feels Hanabi tug on his shirt. He turns back to her only to hear her plead for his help once more. She tells him she only saw three bullies and asks that he just keep them busy until she can get a teacher to help. He can feel Hanabi’s hand shaking as she tightens the grip on his shirt and, although he would rather avoid this with every fiber of his being, he knows he won’t be able to change her mind. Seiji sighs and places his hand on Hanabi’s head, telling her;
“You really are hopeless, you know that?”
Hanabi releases Seiji’s shirt as he walks around her. “It’s alright, I’ll go buy some time, but please hurry. You know I try to avoid physical fights.”
Hearing his words, Hanabi, now looking determined, nods and runs into the school to get a teacher as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Seiji looks down at his right fist which is also shaking.
‘To be honest I’m terrified.’ He thinks to himself. ‘In middle school the closest I got in a fight was them pushing me aside here and there, but here in high school, it’s a completely different level! Even if I try to ‘buy some time’...sorry, Hana, this will probably end up being more than that.’
Back in the alleyway, Ryuuji attempts to stand after being pushed to the ground. He is able to get up, leaning on his four limbs,, as he mutters out loud, “I don’t understand...”
“Of course you don’t--” Says one of the bullies that were waiting, then kicking Ryuuji in the stomach and into the wall, literally kicking the air out of him. Laying on his side, coughing and gasping for air, struggling to breathe, Ryuuji can’t keep up with what is happening to him. Another bully then attempts to clarify their actions.
“It’s like you said: you haven’t done anything. You don’t give us money, you don’t help with homework, you don’t even want to hang out with us!” he says, hovering over Ryuuji. “You just transfer here, force us to listen to your annoying, rich boy attitude, when it turns out you lost everything. So it’s time to say goodbye.”
Ryuuji gathers the strength to talk or even move, but is unable. ‘This is bad...one hit and I already can’t move. It's taking all my energy just to stabilize my breathing. Aahh it hurts so much, but I guess this is what I deserve.’
The bullies notice his lack of movement and weakness and break out into laughter, adding that the original three students would have been enough to handle this. They kick Ryuuji a couple more times until they get interrupted by a stern voice---
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Ryuuji? Is that really all you’ve got?”
They bullies all turn to see Kiyama Seiji standing outside the alley. The barely conscious Ryuuji can only shift his eyes to see him and questions what he sees.
“You’re even getting in our way here? This is a dangerous game you’re playing.” says one of the bullies as they step towards him.
“No kidding.” Seiji says, assessing the situation. ‘There are way more than 3 students here, dammit Hana. It looks like Ryuuji is out already too. She better make it quick.’
Although nervous, Seiji doesn’t show it, standing up straight with his arms to his side. One of the bullies walks up to Seiji and punches him in the face, on his left cheek. In return, Seiji kicks him in the stomach and, as he’s crouching over in pain, pushes him to the ground behind him. Then turning to the rest of the bullies, Seiji says,
“Let’s get this over with.”
The rest of the bullies rush towards Seiji. Since it's seven against one, the fight escalates quickly. With punching and kicking on both sides, they eventually push Seij into the alley and pin him against the wall. The fight lasts for close to a minute until a couple of teachers, called upon by Hanabi, intervene. The teachers push back the older students and pull Seiji from the alley. As a teacher tries to check on Ryuuji, he loses consciousness.
A few hours later, Ryuuji opens his eyes and slowly looks around. He's laying on a small bed with a white sheet, surrounded by a lightly colored curtain. Despite just waking up, he's able to determine that he's in the nurse's office at school. His eyes shift to his left as he hears what sounds like crying. There through the curtain, he sees someone's shadow, indicating he’s not alone in here, and overhears a conversation.
“Don’t cry, Hana. Things turned out alright in the end and besides, you surely saved his life just as you did for me so many years ago.”
“But Seiji, you’re--”
Recognizing the names and voices, but unable to pinpoint them at the moment, Ryuuji moves slightly in an attempt to sit up, but the shock from the extreme pain surges through his body, causing him to fall unconscious once more.
More hours pass and Ryuuji opens his eyes again. With the curtains now open, noticing everyone has left, he looks towards the window filled with the same darkness as earlier, indicating that the sun has set. Ryuuji then looks down towards his feet to see his father sitting at the edge of the bed. Still the same mess as he’s been at home, with his unkempt hair and the stubble beard, just now in clean clothes and possibly colon to hide the stench of alcohol. His father then looks at him.
“Yo, Ryuuji. I heard you got into quite the mess.”
Still waking up, Ryuuji simply asks, “Where is everyone?”
“It’s about 7pm, they all went home.” He explains. “They told me I could wait a bit for you to wake up, I’m glad you were able to on your own.”
Ryuuji then looks at the empty bed to his left, then asks “What about the kid?”
Not knowing who Ryuuji is talking about, since he was only told the basics of what happened, he assumes he means the others involved in the fight. “I’m not sure, but they told me you got the worst of it out of everyone involved. Since you were the victim, no punishment, just rest at home until you’re well enough to return.”
However Ryuuji says nothing. He just continues looking at the empty bed, trying to remember what he overheard earlier. Noticing his son is distracted, he then gives the best advice he can,
“Just focus on yourself for now. The nurse said you’re fine, but I’ll take you to see a doctor tomorrow just in case. Can you move?” His father asks as he stands up and moves closer to help.
Ryuuji, not saying a word, sits up slowly. Wanting to stop and scream from the pain, he knows he needs to move and just deal with it. His father bends down and helps Ryuuji stand, while being careful not to cause him more pain. Once up, Ryuuji lets out a sigh knowing the worst part is over for now. He then takes one whiff of the air as his father is right by his side and thinks to himself-- ‘You reek of alcohol.’
That conversation in the nurse's office was the longest I’ve had with my dad since he lost the company. However during the cab ride home and in the elevator, we didn’t exchange another word. Once we arrived home, my dad helped me to bed and I fell asleep instantly. I must have slept for an entire day since the sun was setting once more when I woke. To my surprise there was even a glass of water on my desk. I guess he did something besides drink alcohol within that time.
Soon after, my dad took me to a clinic for a check up, staying in the waiting room while I met the doctor. Besides a few nasty bruises on my chest and stomach, the doctor said there was nothing wrong with my health, but still recommended I stay home until Tuesday, giving me 4 days to rest. ‘Sounds good to me.’ I thought. The pain was one thing, but I didn’t feel like dealing with the aftermath at school either. I thanked the doctor and left with my dad, heading home without exchanging a word once more.
During my final days of rest, I called my work and apologized for missing 2 shifts, explaining I was injured in gym class and couldn’t return until late next week. Thankfully they were understanding and told me it's fine. Afterwards, I kept to myself in my room, browsing the internet and playing some old Komi Ind. games. Not even logging into Starfight to contact Sun. I decided to just wait until I returned, even if I knew there wouldn’t be a favorable response because of it.