Chapter 8:

Unwanted Surprise

Real Life Starfight

July 15 2018 - It had been a while since Sun, Steve, and Ryuuji had been able to play Starfight together, though Sun and Steve would still talk a couple times a week. Wanting to catch up, Ryuuji tells him everything that happened up to this point; the rest of their confrontation with Seiji and his new unwanted friendship, fighting in that new dungeon, and all the great rewards. Steve can’t help feeling jealous of the fun adventures, explaining he’s been too busy helping his dad with work related things ever since school ended for him last month.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to play as much Sun.” Steve says, missing the time they spend together in-game.Bookmark here

“It’s okay! I’ve been having a lot of fun with everyone else.”Bookmark here

“Ouch, it sounds like you weren’t missed.” Ryuuji says, teasing Steve.Bookmark here

“It is surprising to hear her say that, but I’m glad! Just another reason to thank you, Ryuuji. Any time I would take a leave of absence from Starfight, even just for a week, I would get yelled at! Now that she has more friends I won’t get in trouble.” Steve explains, ending with a laugh.Bookmark here

However, telling another embarrassing side to Sun that she would rather not have Ryuuji know, she yells at Steve, telling him to watch what he says. Steve quickly apologizes per usual, saying it slipped out. Ryuuji can only laugh despite hearing it plenty of times in their short encounters.Bookmark here

“Anyway, your new friend, what’s his username?”Bookmark here

“Did I not mention that yet?” Ryuuji ponders before saying, “It’s Hargrave.”Bookmark here

Steve then shouts, piercing their ears, “NO WAAYY!! He’s the great hero Hargrave? You? Friends with him??”Bookmark here

“Is there a problem with that?” Ryuuji says, confused by his reaction.Bookmark here

“I’m insanely jealous. All the legendary players are so cool, but I’ve never met any of them.” Steve says, pouting. “How could you forget to mention he’s one of them?”Bookmark here

“I guess I’m just used to it? Besides I’d rather not think of that brat when I don’t have to.”Bookmark here

“You guys have to introduce me some time.” Steve asks, practically begging.Bookmark here

Sun explains that Seiji and Hana are on a trip with her family, otherwise he may have been able to meet them today, but adds that she will try to set something up soon. Steve, wanting to meet as soon as possible, is instantly reminded that he has to help his dad again tomorrow so he will just have to keep waiting. Ryuuji tries to tell him that he’s not missing out, but Steve fails to find the humor in his comment, causing Ryuuji to laugh in response.Bookmark here

“Well, let's just put that disappointment aside. I have great news!” Steve says, changing back to his usual tone. Thanks to my dad’s business deal, I should be moving to Japan by next month!Bookmark here

“You mean we can finally be together again?!” Sun says, overjoyed.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah baby!” Steve shouts in English, then switching back to Japanese. “I have a chance to attend your school as well, even though our schools are set up differently.”Bookmark here

“What are you saying, Sun, am I not enough?” Ryuuji asks jokingly.Bookmark here

“As if!” Sun shouts.Bookmark here

“Figures.” Ryuuji says, expecting that response. “So what, is your dad the head of a business or something?”Bookmark here

“My dad owns a company that helps produce and distribute gaming software.” Steve explains. “I wasn’t allowed to mention anything even though the news was already released, but my dad bought Komi Industries! You know, the creators of this game!”Bookmark here

“What?” Is all Ryuuji can say as he tries to comprehend what he just heard. Not noticing his comment, Steve continues.Bookmark here

“My dad told me the rest of the paperwork was finalized this week for us to move over! I was told that many other companies tried to purchase Komi before, but never succeeded. I guess my dad’s deal was too good to pass up! He said I may even be able to help run it after I graduate. That’s why I’ve been so busy recently, I want to be involved as much as possible from the start--”Bookmark here

As Steve continued to talk, excited to share the news, Ryuuji stopped listening after he said ‘my dad bought Komi Industries’. That one sentence just keeps repeating in his head. The rage that Ryuuji has been suppressing after losing his home, money, life, and to him, even his father, is slowly building up again. About to explode, Ryuuji shouts as loud as he can.Bookmark here

“YOU RUINED MY LIFE!!”Bookmark here

Confused by the sudden shouting, Steve questions what he’s talking about. Meanwhile Sun, knowing his situation, fears what Ryuuji will do next. She then realizes that Ryuuji hasn’t even hinted at what happened to his family since they started talking. It’s all coming out right at this moment.Bookmark here

“That was my father’s company!! You….your father...he stole it!” Ryuuji continues to shout, not making himself much clearer, unable to say much beyond a few words.Bookmark here

“We stole it? But I was told--” Steve tries to have a conversation to better understand what he means, but is cut off.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe I thought we were friends, you’re not different from the rest! Sun! I can’t believe you hid this from me!”Bookmark here

“No, I had no idea!” Sun says, shaking her head in real life despite no one able to see.Bookmark here

In the game, Ryuuji requests friendly fire against Steve’s character HeroHiro. Although Steve would rather not, he feels denying the request would upset Ryuuji more, so he hits accept and hopes to converse during it. However, Ryuuji attacks immediately, enraged by the situation. Surprised at first, Steve is still able to defend himself against the attacks that follow. Sun can only watch as Ryuuji continues to attack with Steve defending.Bookmark here

“Just defending over and over, why don’t you actually fight??” Bookmark here

“Why should I?!” Steve shouts, getting upset. “I don’t even understand any of this, explain it to me!!”Bookmark here

HeroHiro then successfully pushes Akaninja back, but this just gives him the chance to jump towards Hero with his ‘ninja speed’, injuring him in the process.Bookmark here

“Damn he’s too fast!” Steve complains. He then turns his character to face Akaninja once more, but continues to only defend.Bookmark here

Meanwhile Sun, feeling she has to do something, opens her spell list. Although Ryuuji didn’t directly send her a request for friendly fire, she is a party member and is sure she has that option activated so she can still take part. Sun considers using the barrier she just learned, but knows it won’t make Ryuuji talk. She then looks at her spell, ‘Single Cell’, which she was finally able to use thanks to Hana’s advice. Hesitant at first, she clicks to use it and then starts charging, aiming at Akaninja. However since he keeps moving, she has to wait for the perfect opportunity. Luckily it doesn’t take long as Ryuuji takes a break from attacking, annoyed that he's making no progress.Bookmark here

“This is going nowhere!”Bookmark here

“I agree.” Sun says, drawing attention to her.Bookmark here

They both look towards Sunshine to see her aiming a glowing arrow at Akaninja. Ryuuji, caught off guard, realizes what spell she is using and immediately knows he’s in danger. Sun whispers ‘I’m sorry’ before releasing the arrow, hitting Akaninja in the chest, and completely draining his health. He disappears right after, not giving Ryuuji the chance to say another word. Now that things have settled down, Steve tries speaking with Sun, treading carefully since he knows she’s upset as well.Bookmark here

“Sun, everything Ryuuji just said….is it true?”Bookmark here

“Yes.” Sun says, then trying to explain his situation. “A little before Ryuuji transferred to my school, his father’s company was sold and he somehow lost all rights to the company. Since his father was left jobless, Ryuuji was forced to move, change schools, and even get a job himself. For him, everything completely changed."Bookmark here

Pausing for a moment to take it all in, Steve can’t help asking why none of this was mentioned to him before. However Sun isn’t really sure herself, she just assumes Ryuuji was tired of talking about it. Starting to feel upset once more, Sun apologizes and says she needs to log off for today. Steve doesn’t try to stop her, but reassures her that he will talk to his father to try and do something about this.Bookmark here

“Ryuuji is my friend too. You know I never meant for this to happen.” Steve adds.Bookmark here

Although he can’t see it, Sun smiles before saying “Thank you.”Bookmark here

Sun then logs off, with Steve doing the same shortly after. He lets out a heavy sigh, exhausted from that encounter. Steve assumed it would be a regular gaming session with a dungeon or two, but instead he was hit with a flood of new information. He immediately gets ready to meet his father, planning to inquire about what he just heard. Bookmark here

Meanwhile, Ryuuji is left staring at the original log in screen, stating; You are dead. Revive now? Yes/No. Not feeling any better, Ryuuji slams his fists on his desk.Bookmark here

“Of all people, why does he have to be involved? And Sun...”Bookmark here

Ryuuji thinks back to when Sun apologized before attacking. Although she whispered, he clearly heard it. With rage continuing to build, Ryuuji shoves his keyboard off his desk, resulting in his keys scattering across the floor.Bookmark here

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July 16th 2018 - At school, Sun enters the classroom to see Ryuuji already at his desk, leaning on his arm, clearly still upset. Nervous after how suddenly everything ended last night, she walks up to his desk, attempting to talk with him.Bookmark here

“Ryuuji, I’m sor-” Sun says before getting cut off.Bookmark here

“I already heard your apology last night. Nice job killing me by the way.” Ryuuji says in a sharp tone, looking her straight in the eyes.Bookmark here

Upset by his tone, Sun still tries to explain herself. “I was just trying to help you calm down. I didn’t think it would work.”Bookmark here

“And I didn’t think I’d be killed by my best friend!” Ryuuji shouts, getting more frustrated. “Now is there something you want?! Because I think you did enough already!”Bookmark here

Struck by his remark, Sun takes a step back, lip quivering. She tries to hold herself together, then shouting back at Ryuuji, “Fine have it your way! I’m only trying to help, but...I can see you're still the same selfish idiot who transferred here months ago!”Bookmark here

Sun then goes to her desk and quickly takes a seat, holding back tears, taking a deep breath to calm herself and get ready for class. Meanwhile, after watching her walk away, Ryuuji turns to the front of the classroom, not feeling the need to say anything.Bookmark here

When the day is over, Ryuuji wastes no time heading to the train station for work, trying to avoid another confrontation with Sun and the brat, knowing they will only add to his frustration just like this morning. Similar to Ryuuji, Sun also wants to avoid another confrontation and simply sits at her desk, deciding to wait for another train instead. After about 10 minutes, she gets up to leave. Bookmark here

Outside, near the school gate, Sun notices Seiji and Hanabi. She smiles and runs over to them, immediately asking about their trip. They both say it was a lot of fun, with Hanabi telling her that they got her and Ryuuji souvenirs, adding that Seiji insisted they bring something back for them. Seiji ignores that remark and instead asks where Ryuuji is. Bringing up the one thing she doesn’t want to talk about, Sun tries to say that he has work so he left in a hurry. However, they both know Ryuuji works in the area where Sun lives, so they would normally take the same train. Sun tries to continue talking with a smile, but it steadily turns into a pained expression.Bookmark here

Seeing that something is clearly wrong, Seiji bluntly asks, “What happened while we were gone?”Bookmark here

Surprised by the question and no longer able to hold it back, Sun looks away and starts tearing up. Hanabi rushes to her side to try and comfort her.Bookmark here

“Seiji! Don’t make her cry!”Bookmark here

“What? It must have been Ryuuji, not me.”Bookmark here

“He is being a jerk, but he’s not being completely unreasonable either.” Sun explains, still crying.Bookmark here

Seiji lets out a sigh, “Let’s just go somewhere in private so we can talk. You look like you need it.”Bookmark here

Sun agrees to go with them, trying to calm down on the way. They go to a shopping area close by and Sun and Hanabi take a seat on a bench while Seiji gets them some drinks at a stand across the way. He hands a drink to each of them, deciding not to get one himself, and takes a seat, leaning back with his arms up on the bench, waiting until Sun is ready. After a few minutes, she proceeds to explain what happened. Starting with her, Steve, Ryuuji talking in Starfight last night, the sudden news about Komi Industries, Ryuuji lashing out and attacking Steve, and Sun taking out his character. She can’t help crying as she explains, then saying she tried to talk to Ryuuji this morning, but he was clearly just as upset as last night. After letting it all out, she settles down, wiping away the tears that are left. Seiji is the first to speak up.Bookmark here

“We’re gone for one weekend and it gets this bad?”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry we couldn’t be there to help.” Hanabi says with her hand on Sun’s shoulder, trying to comfort her.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it.” Sun says, looking towards them with a slight smile. “You really have nothing to do with this anyway. Ryuuji simply blames Steve and even thinks I was hiding this from him.”Bookmark here

“Sounds like this is becoming more complicated than he expected. Want me to try talking to him?” Seiji asks, leaning around Hanabi to get a better look at Sun.Bookmark here

“No, I don’t think your words will be enough. You know how stubborn he is.” Sun says, thankful he's willing to help.Bookmark here

“Alright but-” Seiji tries to respond, but Hanabi pops up in front of him, getting closer to Sun with a determined look;Bookmark here

“But we will still be here to support you whenever you need it!”Bookmark here

Seiji then complains, “C’mon Hana, don’t steal my line like that.”Bookmark here

Hanabi pats Seiji on the back and apologizes, but their interaction just makes Sun laugh. She thanks them for listening, and she apologizes that they had to see such a weak side to her. Bookmark here

“You don’t need to apologize for that. We all have a weak side, some just don’t show it as much.” Seiji says.Bookmark here

“See you still got to say something cool.” Hanabi says, poking fun at his comment just now.Bookmark here

“Shut up!” Bookmark here

Seiji looks away, slightly embarrassed. Hanabi gives the bag of souvenirs to Sun, telling her it’s just a few sweets from the area they visited, suggesting she share it with Ryuuji when they can talk again. Seiji tells her that they’ll give them some space in the game as well, just asking that she keeps them updated. Sun agrees to tell them if anything else happens, thanking them once more for everything they've done. With the discussion complete, Sun walks to the train station to wait for the next train while Seiji walks Hanabi home.Bookmark here

Over the next few days, their conflict remains unresolved. Despite Ryuuji working every night, Sun still doesn’t hesitate to take the same train. Even with summer vacation only a week away, she would rather it not take longer to get home each day. Sun just makes sure to avoid running into Ryuuji for now. As the week goes by, Ryuuji doesn’t talk to any of his friends nor does he log into Starfight. However, the day before school ends for summer vacation, Seiji spots Ryuuji in the hallways and decides to talk to him.Bookmark here

“Hey Ryuuji!”Bookmark here

As Seiji walks up to him, Ryuuji turns around and grins.Bookmark here

“Oh hey you’re still talking to me? I thought for sure you’d be on Sun’s side.”Bookmark here

“What the hell are you talking about ‘sides’ for? There's no need for that, we’re all friends aren’t we?” Seiji says, upset by his remark.Bookmark here

Ryuuji then sighs as his smile fades.Bookmark here

“You’re right, that was too far for a joke. Sorry.”Bookmark here

“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to. Tomorrow if the last day of school until break ends, are you really okay with things ending this way?” Seiji asks.Bookmark here

“I know I know! Geez can’t believe I’m being lectured by a kid.” Ryuuji says, rolling his eyes after hearing his comment. “I have a plan to fix this. I just needed some extra time to….cool off. This whole situation with my dad’s company won’t stop blowing up in my face.”Bookmark here

Ryuuji leans against the wall beside them. “I’m sending a message out tonight in Starfight, to you and Hinami as well. I was working extra days this past week because they needed help. Since I have off I should be able to fix my keyboard.”Bookmark here

“What did you throw it?” Seiji asks, even though it’s obvious to him that’s what happened.Bookmark here

“Yeah, basically. When I wasn’t at my best.” Ryuuji admits.Bookmark here

“Well that side of you seems to come out more than it should, but anyway, why did you just say so? I have a spare at home.”Bookmark here

“That would help a lot. Mind if I stop by after school?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“Stop….over?” Seiji moves his lips in an attempt to speak, but he is suddenly stricken with fear and unable to. The very idea of having someone come over to where he lives causes a panic attack, leaving him frozen. Bookmark here

This lasts for a few seconds until he hears Ryuuji’s voice, “Seiji can you hear me?!” he shouts after trying to get his attention with no response. Bookmark here

Seiji looks up to see a concerned Ryuuji. Trying to pass by what just happened and to show he’s alright, Seiji smiles and pushes himself to speak up, “Sorry, come to think of it, I can’t remember where I put it.”Bookmark here

As he was speaking, Seiji avoided looking at Ryuuji, instead looking to his left towards the windows in the hall. Ryuuji could immediately tell something was wrong, but decided to save it for another day, not knowing how to handle it since this is the first time he’s seen him act this way.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, I should be able to fix mine tonight. I don’t want a brat hounding me to return it anyway.”Bookmark here

“As if I would do something like that.”Bookmark here

After observing Seiji once more, Ryuuji says his goodbye and walks away. Now left alone, Seiji takes a deep breath and lets it all out, then punches the wall, annoyed by how he acted. Bookmark here

“That was pathetic! I consider Ryuuji a friend yet still panicked when it came to him coming to my place. What is there to be worried about?”Bookmark here

Later at home, Ryuuji is checking his keys after putting them all back in place. One by one, making sure they still work and are in the correct spot. Once complete, he opens Starfight and logs in, thinking this is a new record for number of days not logging in. Once in, he checks his party list to see that none of his friends are online, not that this affects his plans. Bookmark here

Ryuuji opens a new private message and types; July 30th 11am (my time) Duel of a lifetime. The amazing Akaninja vs the clever HeroHiro! You don’t want to miss it! He sends that to everyone and then also a coliseum challenge to Steve for the same date and time. Bookmark here

Ryuuji normally avoids the coliseum ever since the hacker incident from over a year ago. Players would get hacked and after the battle, it was erased from the game. At least 3 players were affected. Komi Industries was unable to recover any lost data or track down the hacker, so they discontinued coliseum challenges until they could create a more secure system. It took 6 months to do so and there hasn’t been an incident since then, reassuring Ryuuji that everything would work out.Bookmark here

When Ryuuji sent the message, it was past 1am in California where Steve resides. Having gone to bed shortly before, and being a light sleeper, the first alert from the message only makes his eyes twitch. The second from the challenge, causes him to open his eyes, frustrated as he only wants to sleep.Bookmark here

“I told them I was going to bed….what the hell do they want?” Bookmark here

Steve complains as he gets out of his bed, thinking it’s his friends from school who he was playing with today. He sits in front of his computer and puts on his glasses in the process. Only half awake, Steve’s eyes are barely open. He sees the notification is for Starfight and as he logs in, he thinks to himself ‘I haven’t seen Sun play since the night of the fight. I hope she's alright.’Bookmark here

Steve yawns as he checks his inbox, then his eyes widen when he notices a message and challenge from Ryuuji. He wastes no time reading them, ‘duel of a lifetime?’ coliseum challenge?’ Steve sits back in his chair and smiles.Bookmark here

“So that’s how he wants to settle this. Fine by me.” Steve says before accepting the challenge and responding to the group message. Afterwards, he turns off his monitor, the sound, and literally falls into bed, not even removing his glasses, smiling as he falls asleep.Bookmark here

Back in Japan, Ryuuji hears a notification and sees that Steve responded already. He laughs, knowing it’s probably really late where he is, wondering what he is doing up at this hour. He reads the message aloud, “Don’t expect an easy win, ninja boy.”Bookmark here

Meanwhile Seiji, Hanabi, and Sun also read the messages, giving them a better feeling after what has happened.Bookmark here

“So this is the plan he had in mind, why am I not surprised?” Seiji.Bookmark here

“It looks like he won’t be holding a grudge after all.” Hanabi.Bookmark here

“That’s right...he really has changed.” Sun.Bookmark here

Ryuuji notices that everyone has now logged in and assumes they read the message as well. With the pieces all set, that leaves just a few days to wait.Bookmark here

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Far away in another country, a young Asian woman is sitting at her desk, tapping her finger, visibly upset, then shouts, “Dammit all! I can’t believe Hei has to get another surgery in a few weeks. Having 3 surgeries in the span of 7 months...he’s still only 10 years old! I wish there was a way I could cheer him up.”Bookmark here

She then looks at her computer’s desktop and logs into Starfight, except instead of the usual method, she hacks into the system. She attempts to hack into the colosseum, just as she did over a year ago before they improved their system, but this time switching the code around to try something different. To her surprise, she is able to get in. She immediately celebrates, letting out a big laugh and clapping her hands in joy.Bookmark here

“Amazing! They were able to lock me out before, but I guess they got lazy. Let’s~ see~ what~ we~ have~ here~!”Bookmark here

Humming to herself, she opens the list of upcoming battles, able to see the character name, class, country, date, and time. Seemingly uninterested in most of the scheduled matches as she scrolls through them, she stops when she sees “Akaninja, Ninja, Japan vs HeroHiro, warrior, US”Bookmark here

“A ninja? If I remember right there’s only one in the game. And the’s in a few days! I know Hei will love this. See you there ninja~”Bookmark here

She sets up a reminder on her digital calendar and laughs once more, excited to take part, planning to hack Akaninja as she’s never been able to use that class before.Bookmark here

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Starfight Tips;;Bookmark here

-Even when not logged in, players have the option to receive notifications for messages and challenges through their computer.Bookmark here

-In order for a coliseum challenge to be scheduled, it must first be accepted by the challenger. They can hold a date and time for 24 hours, after that the challenge is null. Players have the option to accept any challenges or not accept any. There only isn’t an option to automatically deny them when it’s from those who you form a party with.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.