Chapter 4:

Character Overhaul

Real Life Starfight

June 5th 2018 - The following Tuesday, Ryuuji reluctantly returns and at the school gate and hears a familiar voice shout his name. It’s Sun, who runs over to him and places her hands on his arms, pushing him slightly due to the force of her running. This causes light pain to surge through Ryuuji's body and he shouts,Bookmark here

“That hurts! That hurts!!”Bookmark here

Sun steps back and apologizes, not intending to cause any harm. A few students passing by giggle at the seemingly silly encounter. Ryuuji places his hand on the left side of his chest as the pain calms. It definitely feels a lot better compared to the first day, but still hurts enough to make him avoid moving his upper body much. With a solemn expression, thinking about his current condition, Ryuuji can't help laughing to himself.Bookmark here

“I know, it’s pathetic isn’t it.”Bookmark here

“I don’t care about that.” Sun says as she looks up at him with simple worry. “Why didn’t you contact me at all? I stayed at school later than usual on Friday, but I didn’t hear about the incident until yesterday.”Bookmark here

Looking straight at Sun, noticing he caused her to worry more compared to anytime before, Ryuuji tries to come up with the best way to apologize until they are interrupted by the school principal. They both turn to him as he welcomes Ryuuji back to school. He asks that Ryuuji stop at his office before class to properly discuss what happened, as they were unable to on Thursday due to his injuries. Ryuuji apologizes to Sun, telling her that he will explain later, and follows the principal into the school. Sun simply watches as they walk away, not feeling any better after their short conversation.Bookmark here

In his office, the principal explains that the fight didn’t continue for long as the teachers were able to intervene before it really got out of hand, leaving Ryuuji as the most heavily injured. Not caring about any of that, Ryuuji asks what they plan to do to prevent it from happening again. Bookmark here

“That group of students have been a long standing issue that we were unable to deal with before this incident, as they never caused any actual harm before.” The principal says, leaning back in his chair. “Those 8 students are suspended for 10 days and have been threatened with expulsion if they act up again.”Bookmark here

Ryuuji lets out a sigh of relief, thinking he can now attend school with ease as they have been the cause of all his worry up to this point. He then repeats what he just heard, ‘8 students? Then what about that brat who saved me?’ He thinks, finally remembering the crying he heard in the nurse's office when he first woke up. He looks back to the principal to ask,Bookmark here

“What about that other kid? He wasn’t with the bullies.”Bookmark here

The principal thinks back to who else was involved and then remembers, “You mean Kiyama Seiji? He was also suspended, but only for this week. We were always worried about him, screaming in the halls and such.”Bookmark here

Not satisfied, Ryuuji argues, “Why? He tried to help me!”Bookmark here

“While that may be true, the fight didn’t start until after he arrived, correct?” The principal inquires. Noticing Ryuuji doesn’t have a response, he continues. “The teachers who were alerted to the issue would have appeared to help you all the same, meaning his interference was unnecessary. As such, he needed to be punished as well.”Bookmark here

The principal then stands to lead Ryuuji out. “That's enough for now, any more questions can wait until after school. Now please head to class, you are already late.”Bookmark here

Stunned by his words, agreeing that the principal has a point, Ryuuji silently leaves the office. As he closes the door behind him, he notices Sun waiting at the end of the hall. He walks up to her, hanging his head slightly, upset after everything he just heard.Bookmark here

“I really messed up didn’t I? Involving that innocent kid and even worrying you as much as I did.” he says.Bookmark here

Remaining calm, Sun simply says, “Yes, you did.”Bookmark here

“I’m really sorry...I’m not used to stuff like this. I just needed to be alone the past few days.” Ryuuji says, still upset. Sun then pokes his forehead, adjusting his view to her slight smile.Bookmark here

“Don’t be like that.” she says, trying to lighten the mood. “I’ll help you make things up with your new friends.”Bookmark here

Hearing her usual comforting words, Ryuuji tries to shift focus on fixing what happened. He then realizes that Sun would definitely include herself in these ‘new friends’ that she just mentioned and has to consider her as well. ‘At least she should be easier.’ he thinks to himself. Despite school having already started for the day, they take their time walking back to class.Bookmark here

Today is yet another day where Ryuuji is unable to focus in class, thinking instead about what the principal just told him instead. ‘Suspended for the week just for saving me?? What a screwed up system! I can’t wait that long to talk to that brat.’ He spends the hours leading up to lunch considering a way to meet him quicker and only reaches one conclusion. When lunch begins he walks up to Sun and leans on her desk with both hands, leaning in to inquire;Bookmark here

“Sun, do you have any idea where I can find that brat's girlfriend?”Bookmark here

Expecting this to be difficult, he’s surprised to hear Sun give a simple answer, “Yeah I actually saw her this morning when I was waiting for you. She said she spends time in the library when Kiyama isn’t here.”Bookmark here

“Will you come with me so I don’t screw up again?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

‘What am I your supervisor?’ Is what Sun wants to say, but she did say earlier that she would help. Not to mention this is the first time he’s relying on her through his own decision so she really can’t refuse. After agreeing to go with him, it only takes them a few minutes to reach the library. It’s not that big, with the front desk just to their right and the shelves of books, which take up a majority of space, are lined up like aisles in a store. Behind them, in the back against the windows, are tables for students to study or read. Bookmark here

After spotting her sitting at one of the tables, seemingly copying notes from one book to another, Ryuuji asks Sun what her name is before walking over. He disliked their first encounter so much he didn’t bother remembering. Sun says her name, ‘Hinami Hanabi’ and, deciding to watch from a distance for now, then pushes on his back, causing him to stumble forward. Trying his best not to yell at her in this quiet area, Ryuuji quickly regains his balance and glares at her instead, but she just laughs to herself and waves her hand telling him to get on with it.Bookmark here

Shifting gears, Ryuuji composes himself once more and walks up to where Hanabi is working, deciding to get her attention before sitting down.Bookmark here

“Hey….you’re Hinami, right?” he asks.Bookmark here

She looks up and smiles as if excited to see him. “Ryuuji-senpai! I’m so glad to see you’re alright!”Bookmark here

Surprised to get that reaction from someone other than Sun, Ryuuji isn’t sure how to react and simply takes a seat across from her. He decides to get right to his apology. “I just wanted to apologize for getting you involved in my problem.”Bookmark here

“You don’t have to apologize. If anything, what happened to Seiji was my fault.” Hanabi’s smile shrinks and she looks down at her books scattered on the table. They’re both filled with various class notes, all in her handwriting. She then tells him; “I’m the one who asked Seiji to help you while I went to get a teacher and if not for that then he wouldn’t have gotten suspended. At least that’s what the principal told us.”Bookmark here

‘So that’s why she was crying that day. She must feel just as bad as I do, if not worse.’ Ryuuji thinks back to the incident itself, despite wanting to avoid it, remembering how the students were still kicking him until the brat arrived, knowing for sure he did save him.Bookmark here

“The principal told me the same thing, but as the one who was attacked, let me tell you this;” Gaining her attention once more, Hanabi looks at Ryuuji as he gives his opinion. “If not for that- Kiyama’s interference, I definitely would have been more heavily injured. So don’t blame yourself.”Bookmark here

Reassured that she made the right decision, Hanabi’s expression relaxes, same as when he first approached her. Sun, still watching by the aisle of books, thinks to herself, ‘See, you didn’t need my help after all.’Bookmark here

Feeling accomplished after apologizing to one of the two already, Ryuuji is unable to hide the joy from his face. However the one that’s left is the more difficult brat he’d rather never deal with again. Sun then walks over and takes a seat next to Ryuuji.Bookmark here

“Hello again, Hanabi.” Sun says in a cheerful tone.Bookmark here

Hanabi greets Sun in the same manner, seeing each other for the second time today.Bookmark here

“Thanks for finally joining us.” Ryuuji says towards Sun.Bookmark here

Wanting to jab him for that comment, but holding back due to him still being injured, she instead ignores him completely and asks Hanabi about the notes in front of her. Hanabi explains that she knows Seiji is upset about having to miss school, so she’s been copying all her notes for him to study. It ends up taking all of her free time currently, but she knows it will make her happy so she’ll make sure to get it all done.Bookmark here

Bringing up that brat once more, Ryuuji then asks Hanabi the difficult question. “Hey, Hinami….I also need to apologize to him as well, but there’s no way I can wait a week for that. Is there any chance you can help me meet him any sooner? I’ll even help you with these notes.” Ryuuji offers.Bookmark here

Surprised by his proposition, Hanabi asks, “You would really do that?”Bookmark here

“Sure why not? It’s not fair to push it all on you anyway.” Ryuuji says. “I do work after school sometimes so I can’t help then, but maybe before school.”Bookmark here

Excited, Hanabi smiles brightly; “No, that would be great! Maybe if we can come in 2 hours before class this week we can get it all done then. Ah- are you available this Thursday to meet Seiji? He wouldn’t want me to take you to his home, so maybe we can meet near the school.”Bookmark here

“TWO HOURS before school?? Though I guess I don’t have anything else going on then. Thursday works for me.” With everything thrown at him at once, not knowing what to say first, Ryuuji blurted it all out, simply agreeing to make Hanabi even happier.Bookmark here

With that out of the way, Sun asks about the rumors about them in junior high, wanting to know how true they are. Hanabi blushes slightly and confirms that it’s all true. She explains that before class one day, Seiji snapped and shouted his feelings for her in front of everyone. He would always be teased for it and thought it would disappear when we reached High School, but it already spread quickly here within the first week. Finding it to be silly, Ryuuji says,Bookmark here

“I’m sure most people don’t confess their love when they snap.”Bookmark here

Hanabi giggles at his response and continues explaining, “The scar on Seiji’s forehead was caused by his mother when he was younger and he was always bullied because of it. When we became friends and the bullies started going after me, Seiji shunned me thinking it was for my best interest, but I guess he couldn't hide how he really felt.” Bookmark here

Feeling she said too much, Hanabi then adds, “Please don’t tell Seiji I told you this though!! It would only upset him.”Bookmark here

“You don’t have to worry about that.” Ryuuji says, reassuring her that he has no interest in talking about it. He plans to have nothing to do with them after apologizing anyway.Bookmark here

Hanabi checks the time and notices lunch is about over. She decides to grab her books and say goodbye, telling Ryuuji that she will see him in the morning and then walks away. Ryuuji simply waves and smiles and once she’s out of sight, he lays his head on the table, looking over at Sun as she tells him;Bookmark here

“I’d say you did pretty good. Now you’re one step closer to forgiveness.”Bookmark here

“From you or that brat?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“From Kiyama of course.” Sun responds. Bookmark here

“I should have known.” Ryuuji says as he turns his head, his face flat on the table, wanting to run away after the suggestion he just made to Hanabi. ‘Coming in 2 hours earlier…why did I even say that.’Bookmark here

Starting the next morning, as promised, I met Hinami at school 2 hours earlier to help copy her notes. I could barely stay awake, but she was all smiles. There was no way I could complain to her, and I opted to nap in class instead. Sun can just tell me what I missed. Then the day arrived when it was finally time to apologize to that brat, not that I had any idea what I wanted to say. Still, I told Sun to leave it to me, not wanting to bother her with this as well. She laughed and said ‘good luck’ in return. Was it that hard to believe I can handle this? Hinami led me to a small garden close to the train station where she said he would be waiting.Bookmark here

June 7th 2018 - Against the wall of the station is a small garden consisting of flowering bushes of various colors to form a rainbow pattern. It’s beauty has made it a popular meet up spot, especially for train goers. Seiji is leaning against the small fence surrounding the bushes in his regular clothing. Since he can’t attend school, there’s no reason to wear the uniform anyway. He glances to his left and notices Hanabi, smiling at the sight of her, but that quickly fades when he notices Ryuuji following her. Bookmark here

Once they get close enough, Seiji immediately whines, “Haannnaaaa~~ How could you trick me like this?”Bookmark here

Hanabi smiles and shrugs, “I’m sorry, but I could tell he really felt bad.”Bookmark here

Ryuuji walks past Hanabi and stands in front of Seiji, both looking at each other. Despite being a grade apart, they are nearly the same height.Bookmark here

“Yo, brat.” Ryuuji says, initiating the conversation.Bookmark here

“Yo, loser poor boy.” Seiji says in return.Bookmark here

Wanting to yell at Seiji for that comment, Ryuuji remembers why he’s here and grumbles instead. “Look, I’m sorry for getting you caught in my mess and....” having more difficulty with this part, Ryuuji pauses before continuing, “And...thank you for helping me. It doesn’t matter what the principal says, if you didn’t appear things would have been a lot worse.”Bookmark here

After hearing everything Ryuuji has to say, Seiji shrugs and looks away. “Well I suppose that’s a good enough apology.”Bookmark here

To get such a light response after how hard it was for him to apologize, Ryuuji gets upset once more, thinking this was a mistake. ‘He really is just a brat who doesn’t care for anything.’ he thinks. Bookmark here

“I know you’ve been helping Hana with my notes too. I do appreciate that even if I’d rather not read your shitty handwriting.”Bookmark here

“Sorry for not being a girl.” Ryuuji says with a glare.Bookmark here

Seiji scoffs at his response, then takes the conversation where Ryuuji never expected. “Whatever. Have you heard the rumors about me?”Bookmark here

Ryuuji simply says ‘Just through rumors.’ not wanting to let him know that Hinami actually told him all the details.Bookmark here

With a forlorn expression, Seiji continues to explain. “ Well they’re pretty much all true. My mom caused this scar and I’ve been without a family ever since. That and Hana are why I’ve always worked so hard in school, studied to get the best grades, having perfect attendance--- the fact that the school overlooks my record and only focus on the’s ridiculous.”Bookmark here

Surprised by the sudden dump of information, Ryuuji can only ask why he’s telling him all this. However Seiji asks himself the same thing and can’t come up with an answer. Worried, Hanabi asks if he’s alright, but rather than answering, he suggests they head to his place to read over the notes for today instead. They say bye to Ryuuji and walk away, leaving him to try and understand what just happened. ‘He looks worse now than when he first saw me today! I’ll wipe that gloomy look off your face somehow.’ Unsatisfied with how this ended, he shouts to Seiji, coming up with the best idea he can.Bookmark here

“Hey brat, do you play Starfight?”Bookmark here

Turning back to Ryuuji, frustrated by how he just called him, he shouts in return, “Yeah what of it?”Bookmark here

“Meet me at the Voiceless Meadow, tonight at 9pm. We’ll finish this there.” Ryuuji declares.Bookmark here

Seiji reluctantly agrees and they go their separate ways. Once home, Ryuuji made sure to send Sun a message to inform her of their meeting and also sent a map showing her where to arrive, but instead telling her it was at 8:45pm hoping she wouldn’t be late. Luckily Sun was on her computer at the time and was still alerted to the message. She asked him why it was such a weird time and he said he just felt like picking it. Bookmark here

Following Ryuuji’s time, Sun is the third to arrive. Seiji has the username Hargrave, a tall warrior wearing black armor and a large sword behind him, at the max level of 135. Hanabi has the username Flora Mae, a mage at level 118 wearing light blue and purple clothing and a green staff with a few blue buds at the tip. They notice the hunter Sunshine and, assuming it’s Sun, request communication. They greet each other, and then Seiji immediately asks where Ryuuji is, instead referring to him as the idiot. Sun assures him that he will be here soon and sure enough, a player named AkaNinja appears before them. To Sun’s surprise, instead of requesting communication, he sent a ‘friendly fire’ request to Hargrave.Bookmark here

“Not this guy again.” Seiji shouts. “I won’t let you get away this time.”Bookmark here

Sun knows it’s Ryuuji, but is surprised that they are familiar with him as well.Bookmark here

Hanabi sighs as she explains. “This guy attacked Seiji before, not that he could do anything. I told you to just automatically deny these requests.”Bookmark here

“Why do that when I can take out this guy again.” Seiji says, enjoying the encounter as he clicks to accept the challenge.Bookmark here

After seeing the request is accepted, Ryuuji takes another look at Seiji’s username and starts panicking, knowing they can’t hear him anyway he shouts into the headset. “This brat is one of the 4 legendary players?? There’s no way I can beat him! Especially if he uses the same skill as last time!”Bookmark here

In the game, Hargrave picks up the sword on his back with his left arm and holds it in front of him as he activates a level 15 skill to strengthen the weapon, shouting “Blood seal release!” as he does so.Bookmark here

“There it is!!” Ryuuji shouts, recognizing it’s the same attack as before. He still lunges his character forward rather than run away, hoping to dodge the attack at the last minute.Bookmark here

“No matter what tricks you use you won’t be able to escape my attack. Now disappear!” Seiji shouts, starting to swing the sword towards the enemy target.Bookmark here

Sun still doesn’t understand skills and all that, but can tell that Ryuuji is outmatched and suddenly shouts, “Wait a minute, that’s Ryuuji!!”Bookmark here

Startled by her shouting, Seiji accidentally pressed the wrong key and instead directed the attack upward, not hitting anyone. Afterwards, Akaninja sends them a request for communication, instead cancelling the friendly fire, and once accepted suddenly shouts,Bookmark here

“What the heck were you thinking?! I could have been killed with that one hit!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, with that spell he probably would have.” Hanabi says.Bookmark here

“You would have kicked me out of the game before I could even accomplish anything! That’s no fun!!” Ryuuji continues. Bookmark here

Towards the end of Ryuuji’s rant, everyone hears Seiji break into laughter. He tries to calm down to explain why, but you can still hear the joy in his voice. “I can’t believe you’re that stupid ninja! Not only did I almost kill you twice, but a ninja? In a medieval fantasy setting? How could the son of the game's creator use something so lame?” He says, then laughing some more.Bookmark here

“Hargrave is calling me lame? You brat, don’t dis ninjas!” Ryuuji says, bothered by his comment.Bookmark here

Ryuuji then received a message from the username Flora Mae that simply reads ‘Thank you.’ Realizing it’s from Hanabi and remembering the point of this meetup, Ryuuji listens to Seiji’s laughter and sighs. ‘I guess this result is fine. I’ll only let you laugh at me this once though, brat’Bookmark here

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

After meeting Kiyama and Hinami in Starfight and repaying my debt, I thought I’d have nothing more to do with them, but I was completely wrong. I ended up running into them almost twice a day and he would greet me every time. I was so sure that brat hated me so I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. Then by chance I ran into Hinami on the way to school.Bookmark here

While walking to school, Ryuuji is still trying to wake up after staying up late playing Starfight, when he suddenly hears ‘Good morning senpai!’ from a familiar voice. Startled at first, Ryuuji looks to his right to see Hanabi greeting him with her usual bright smile. Instead of greeting her in return, Ryuji asks her the question that has been nagging him.Bookmark here

“Hey I’ve been wondering, why do you guys keep greeting me like we’re friends? Especially that brat. I thought he didn’t like me.”Bookmark here

“That’s not true at all!” Hanabi shouts, surprised he would even think that.Bookmark here

Ryuuji requests that she help him understand since he can’t. Hanabi explains that he’s the first classmate to show any concern for Seiji, so she thinks he’s just excited to have a reliable senpai. Ryuuji is blunt in admitting that he isn’t reliable, in which Hanabi tells him that Seiji said that as well.Bookmark here

“Now I’m even more confused.” Ryuuji says, hanging his head.Bookmark here

Hanabi laughs at his reaction and then tries to explain it exactly as Seiji did; “He seems to have a lot of problems and may be unreliable, but he’s the first person besides you who actually listens, so maybe it will be fun to hang out with him after all.”Bookmark here

When Hanabi finishes, Ryuuji thinks back to their exchange near the train station. He wonders if Seiji is referring to when he mentioned his past and then Ryuuji cheered him up in Starfight. That’s the only decent encounter they had so far anyway. Hanabi then cuts into his thoughts with another bright smile. Bookmark here

“So please take care of us, senpai.”Bookmark here

Feeling he has no choice in the matter, Ryuuji says, “Don’t blame me if things don’t work out.”Bookmark here

As they reach the school, still walking side by side, Hanabi notices Seiji waiting for her at the school gate and runs up to him, with Ryuuji following behind. Hanabi greets him with a bright ‘Good morning.’ Smiling and happy to see her, Seiji notices Ryuuji as he walks up,Bookmark here

“Morning, Hana. I see you dragged Ryuuji to school with you.”Bookmark here

“That’s not a bad way to put it.” Ryuuji says, going along with his comment.Bookmark here

Defensively, Hanabi pouts, “I would never do something like that.”Bookmark here

Seiji laughs and then looks at Ryuuji, thanking him for walking Hanabi to school. Ryuuji simply says, ‘Sure.’ and then watches as they head inside. Ryuuji waits a bit more, still watching them, before heading in himself, thinking ‘I guess we’ll see how this turns out.’Bookmark here

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Starfight Tips;;Bookmark here

-Friendly Fire can be requested by anyone and sent to anyone. There is no way to initiate it without a request and it’s one of two ways to fight other players, with the other being the Colosseum. Players have the option to automatically deny such requests. If you are in the same party with members who initiate and accept Friendly Fire, then you have the option to take part as well, unless you deny those requests.Bookmark here

-The Four Legendary Players. They are the only players who consistently reach the max level the week a new expansion is released, despite it becoming increasingly difficult the higher level you reach, and are admired by many players for different reasons. No one knows anything about them besides their gender and the country they reside in. They each play different classes which is purely by coincidence. Bookmark here

------Hargrave is a swordsman played by a male who resides in Japan. He is known as a hero after easily beating many of the highest level monsters with ease that players often have difficulty with. He will sometimes join other parties to help in new quests, but mainly played by himself until the player Flora Mae joined. She hasn’t reached ‘Legendary Player’ status, but may believe she will in the future.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.