Chapter 11:

Moving On

Real Life Starfight

When Ryuuji reaches his apartment, he takes the elevator and once he exits at the 4th floor, he places his hand in his pocket attempting to get his key, but it’s not there. Surprised, he checks all pockets with both hands to no avail. He then thinks back and realizes he may have left it on his desk. Bookmark here

“How could I remember my wallet, but not my keys?”Bookmark here

Ryuuji looks at the door with a doubtful expression. That was the first he left the apartment all day and, knowing he can open the door from the inside even when locked, he’s sure it’s still locked from last night. After all he ran out of the apartment without considering that or to see if his dad was awake. ‘Will dad even answer if I knock?’ Ryuuji wonders. Rather than bother trying, Ryuuji reaches to turn the door knob and it opens.Bookmark here

He enters the apartment and closes the door behind him, hearing a ‘welcome home’ from his father who he sees is sitting up on the couch watching TV as usual. As Ryuuji takes off his shoes, he says ‘thanks’ in return, then walks down the hall into his room without another word. Bookmark here

Ryuuji immediately looks at his computer screen to see the game screen is completely black. No revival inquiry nor a link to return to the homescreen. Despite knowing it would happen, Ryuuji can’t help feeling disappointed. He lets out a heavy sigh and lays back on his bed, looking at the ceiling,Bookmark here

‘That was the last thing I still had that dad gave me.’Bookmark here

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When I was still in elementary school, 4th grade I think it was, my dad was still developing Starfight. The company had released 3 games before with much success and they hyped up the fact that this would combine a lot of elements from those same games, yet allow you to play with users worldwide. A lot of people were excited, myself included of course.Bookmark here

The young Ryuuji is walking out of his school and towards the front gate when he sees his father, wearing a suit and tie, talking on his cell by his vehicle. He says goodbye to his friends and runs up to his father, happy to see him, and winds up bumping into him as he hugs his waist.Bookmark here

“Ah- Ryuuji!” he says, looking down at his son, then back to his phone to apologize. “I’m sorry, my son is here, I’ll talk to you later.”Bookmark here

His father hangs up his phone and looks down at his son with a smile. “How was school?”Bookmark here

“It was boring!”Bookmark here

Ryuuji’s father opens the car door for Ryuuji to get in the back seat, telling him he shouldn't look at it that way and instead work hard so he can get a cool job like he has. However, being a company that makes video games, Ryuuji assumes the work is easy and can’t understand what he means.Bookmark here

“There’s way more to it than that.” His father says with a sigh.Bookmark here

Once Ryuuji fastens his seatbelt, his father closes the door and walks around the car to get in himself, then driving them home. Knowing he is currently deciding on character types for the upcoming online game, Ryuuji excitedly asks if the ninja was chosen. Having played all of the company's games so far, his favorite was ‘Red Ninja’ which took place in ancient Japan. You play as a ninja, battling your way through the story. Since it will ‘combine elements from previous games’ he was sure that meant the previous character types would be included too.Bookmark here

Expecting a favorable response, his happiness fades as his father tells him the ninja, pirate, and mythical creatures are not to be in the online game, explaining that they didn’t suit the story. He added that the rogue can be considered the closest and, depending on the skills and weapons you choose, it can still be made into a ninja. However, that doesn’t change how Ryuuji feels.Bookmark here

“But you own the company right? How come you can’t just put it in the game?”Bookmark here

“Because it’s a team effort.” His father explains. “We all had a lengthy discussion and a few people brought up good points regarding how it didn’t fit. I can’t just say ‘you’re wrong’ and pick what I want.”Bookmark here

Ryuuji doesn’t continue arguing and simply looks outside with a glum expression.Bookmark here

The game was released the next year on August 6th 2012. Despite all the hype surrounding the game and knowing my favorite character was scrapped, I still had no interest in playing. However a few days later on my birthday, my dad said he had a big surprise for me.Bookmark here

Ryuuji, having just turned 10, is sitting in front of his new computer with his father right beside him. It’s one of the latest gaming computers and they spent almost all morning setting it up. They are just waiting for Starfight Online to finish being installed even though they both know Ryuuji doesn’t care to play. Bookmark here

“So if the surprise isn’t the new computer then what is it?”Bookmark here

“I keep telling you the computer is from your grandparents.” His father says.Bookmark here

‘Yeah because my grandparents who have no connection to the company besides mom’s marriage would know what computer to buy.’ Ryuuji thinks, knowing it’s a complete lie.Bookmark here

His father takes a step back, telling Ryuuji to set up his character so he can show him the actual surprise. Remembering what his dad said last year, Ryuuji chose the rogue which can be considered the closest to a ninja. Going with blonde hair, brown eyes and all red and black clothing, the character is complete and he clicks to go to the next screen so he can enter the name.Bookmark here

“Right there!” His father says, pointing to the bottom right of the screen. “This area is where you can enter a code. Type ‘dragon fire’.”Bookmark here

“Isn't that for downloadable content?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“Trust me, you’ll love it.”Bookmark here

Following his father’s words, he types ‘dragon fire’ and hits submit. After doing so, his character glows and reveals a completely different style of outfit and notices the class has changed from rogue to ninja. Speechless by what he sees, Ryuuji just listens as his father explains.Bookmark here

“I remember how upset you were that there would be no ninja character so I programmed this just for you. The only way I could make this work was through a code, it will be erased after today. Oh and it still isn’t much different from a rogue, but you have enhanced speed and 2 unique skills.”Bookmark here

“This is the coolest surprise ever!” Ryuuji shouts, eyes glowing. “Thanks dad!!”Bookmark here

After watching his reaction, Ryuuji’s father smiles and says, “Happy birthday, Ryuuji.”Bookmark here

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Remembering when he first made Akaninja, who is now gone, Ryuuji thinks to himself, ‘In that moment, I truly thought I had the coolest dad in the world. And now just thinking about him is infuriating.’Bookmark here

Ryuuji yawns and then turns to his side in bed, “Not that I grew up much anyway.”Bookmark here

Despite it only being noon, Ryuuji falls asleep, having spent all his energy earlier. However his slumber doesn’t last long. A little over an hour later, he hears his phone ring.Bookmark here

“What is it now?”Bookmark here

Ryuuji complains and reaches into his back pocket to take out his phone so he can see who is calling. It’s Sun, which reminds him that they all wanted to know what happened. Unwillingly, Ryuuji sits up and answers the phone.Bookmark here

“Hello?”Bookmark here

“Hello? Ryuuji? You didn't say anything so I thought I should call.” Sun says.Bookmark here

“Sorry about that. My screen is completely blank. Akaninja is gone.”Bookmark here

“...are you alright?” Sun asks after a pause. “You sound a little off.”Bookmark here

Wondering what she could mean, Ryuuji assumes it’s because she just woke him up so he tells Sun that he was tired from running to Seiji’s house in this heat and he fell asleep almost right after coming home. Not believing him, Sun says,Bookmark here

“If that’s really all there is to it then that’s fine.”Bookmark here

“Yeah you worry too much!” Ryuuji says, trying to sound more cheerful. “And can you tell the others what happened for me? I have to get ready for work.”Bookmark here

“Sure. Let me know when you make a new character, maybe I can teach you a few things now that I'm a higher level.”Bookmark here

“That’s not really how it works.” Ryuuji says, not fully sure if she’s joking or not.Bookmark here

After hearing everything she needed to and since Ryuuji has work, Sun says she’ll talk to him later. Still feeling groggy, Ryuuji simply says ‘yeah’ and they both hang up. After considering the conversation, with how little he spoke and how odd it was that she didn’t push for more answers, Ryuuji knows that won’t be the end of it. Sun has always wanted to help with every problem up to this point and she won’t stop now. Ryuuji scratches his head and smiles.Bookmark here

“She is so going to yell at me later.”Bookmark here

As days went by, I still couldn't bring myself to make a new character. Besides still having no interest in any other class, just thinking about the hours and hours I put into a character that was lost in a matter of was a lot to take in. Instead I opted to play one of the company’s older games in my free time, the one where the ninja originated from, my favorite Red Ninja. At least the most I could lose there were my saves.Bookmark here

I didn’t talk to my friends at all in that time either, until 4 days later when I received a weird phone call.Bookmark here

August 4th 2018 - Ryuuji is standing outside of work on break when he hears his phone ring. He takes it out and is disappointed to see who is calling.Bookmark here

“Out of everyone it has to be that...kid.” Ryuuji says, still promising not to call Seiji a brat anymore.Bookmark here

He lets it ring a few more times before finally answering, but he doesn’t hear the voice he expects.Bookmark here

“What could you possibly want-”Bookmark here

“Hello Ryuuji~”Bookmark here

Caught off guard from hearing the voice of two girls greet him simultaneously, Ryuuji questions if he read his phone right and checks again, but it does indeed say Seiji. He then places the phone against his head to hear them again, now recognizing who they are.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry your eyes are just fine.” Sun says to reassure him.Bookmark here

“Sun and I decided to come over to Seiji's to give you a group call since we haven’t heard from you at all.” Hanabi says.Bookmark here

“So you’re okay with having two girls over, but you almost refused me in an emergency?!” Ryuuji complains into his phone.Bookmark here

“I didn’t have a choice! Hana and Sun just appeared out of nowhere!” Seiji shouts.Bookmark here

“It’s okay he’ll get over it.” Hanabi says.Bookmark here

They ask Ryuuji why he hasn’t made a new character yet, telling him that they were looking forward to helping him level up. Before Ryuuji can answer, he hears Seiji complain that he doesn’t need someone to slow him down, though he is quickly shushed afterwards.Bookmark here

Trying to keep up with the flow of the conversation, Ryuuji now understands that they must have Seiji’s home phone on speaker as they talk, since they each sound just as clear as the other. However it just feels like two girls ganging up on him and he has trouble coming up with the best response. Hearing nothing, Sun asks if he’s still there. Bookmark here

Ryuuji, not wanting to say how he really feels so as to drag this conversation, he blurts out what first comes to mind.Bookmark here

“I just haven’t had time to play because of work! That’s all.”Bookmark here

However, just like their conversation days ago, Sun knows that’s not all of it, ‘There you go again, hiding from the truth. I won’t lecture you like this though.’ She then suggests, “Can you meet us in the game on August 8th at least? Steve will be there too.”Bookmark here

“We have something cool to show you!” Hanabi adds.Bookmark here

Ryuuji thinks back to his work schedule and knows he has off that day so he tells them that it won’t be a problem. Happy by that response, Sun suggests they meet in the town where new players appear. Even though she sees it every time she plays, since she doesn’t know how to choose different areas to spawn, she struggles to come up with the name. With a heavy sigh, Ryuuji, Seiji, and Hanabi all say the name ‘Rayna’ to help her out.Bookmark here

“Yes that’s it!”Bookmark here

“Just make sure you’re not late!” Hanabi says in a high pitched tone.Bookmark here

“Hana you’ve been a bit more cynical recently, bursting in here even. Is Ryuuji rubbing off on you?” Seiji can’t help asking.Bookmark here

Hanabi turns around to look at Seiji, noticing he’s standing with his arms crossed, tapping his finger on his elbow and foot on the floor. Rather than respond, Hanabi walks up to him and gives him a hug, causing Seiji to loosen his arms.Bookmark here

“Hana?”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for suddenly coming over like this with Sun. I know how uncomfortable it makes you, but after the incident with Ryuuji, and knowing you see them as friends, I just wanted to try and help you some more.” Hanabi says, trying to comfort him.Bookmark here

Seiji takes a deep breath and lets it out, then hugs Hanabi in return.Bookmark here

“Sorry for what I said. I’m not mad, but next time just let me know ahead of time alright?”Bookmark here

“I will.”Bookmark here

Knowing things are set with Ryuuji, Sun smiles and decides to silently hang up the phone before Seiji realizes that he was listening to that conversation too. On Ryuuji’s end, once the phone call is over, he places his phone back in his pocket and looks up at the clear sky. Bookmark here

“I guess I can’t escape.”Bookmark here

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August 8th 2018 - , Ryuuji finally opens Starfight Online to make his new character. They originally never set a time, but sent a text later telling him to be on by 12pm. At the screen where you choose your class, Ryuuji picks a rogue again to try to replicate his ninja, but instead he has black hair, golden eyes, and red and black clothing. He goes with the username ‘RedShinobi’ and once complete a pop up window appears; ‘Are you prepared to protect the world of Aisha with all your power? Yes/No’. He clicks yes and then an introductory video begins playing, describing the story, villain, and current state of the world. Basically the synopsis in more detail. Bored after having watched it many times before, Ryuji complains.Bookmark here

“Where is the skip button? I’m sending the company a complaint.”Bookmark here

Once the video is over, Ryuuji is placed in Rayna, the town of beginnings. He looks around to see many players surrounded by decorations and balloons and fireworks floating in the background. He then realizes.Bookmark here

“That’s right, this is the week of the game's anniversary.”Bookmark here

All of a sudden, Ryuuji is flooded with communication requests from his usual friends. He accepts their requests and puts on his headset, prepared to hear them all at once.Bookmark here

“Hey you made it!” Steve shouts.Bookmark here

“We were worried you still might not make it.” Sun says, relieved.Bookmark here

“What’s with that username? It’s hardly different from before.” Seiji says.Bookmark here

“Ninjas are cool, got a problem with that?” Ryuuji says in defense.Bookmark here

“Pretty sure that has nothing to do with your username itself.”Bookmark here

“So you couldn’t make another ninja?” Steve asks.Bookmark here

“No it’s like I said before, my dad made it special for me. A one-time code.” Ryuuji explains.Bookmark here

“Well now that everyone is here, let's go to a different area for a surprise!” Hanabi says.Bookmark here

“Surprise? I thought you just wanted to show me something.”Bookmark here

“That is the surprise you idiot.” Seiji says.Bookmark here

Annoyed by his response, Ryuuji reminds them that he can only go to certain fields at level 1. Steve tells him that they took that into consideration, and also mentions that he shouldn’t have anything to worry about with Hargrave here anyway.Bookmark here

“That statement became moot after the last dungeon we did.” Ryuuji says in disdain.Bookmark here

They all go to the Voiceless Meadow after forming a party. There, everyone counts down from 3 and shouts, ‘Happy birthday Ryuuji!’ setting off some fireworks that can only be purchased during the anniversary. Taken by complete surprise, it takes Ryuuji a few seconds to respond.Bookmark here

“...that’s right it is my birthday! I’m sure I never told any of you though.”Bookmark here

“Hana and Steve noticed it listed on your account.” Sun explains.Bookmark here

“That’s right, friends can see that can’t they.” Ryuuji now remembers.Bookmark here

“Yup! Not that I know where to look.” Sun says.Bookmark here

“And not that I care to look.” Seiji admits.Bookmark here

Ryuuji realizes this is why they wanted him to log in, simply to wish him a happy birthday in a place where everyone can be together. Ryuuji can’t help smiling and says.Bookmark here

“Thank you guys. Really.”Bookmark here

“But how could you forget your birthday? Don’t you have to enter it to make an account?” Steve asks.Bookmark here

“Well...this all bothered me more than I’d like to admit. Akaninja was a gift that I can never get back, not to mention all those years of hard work gone so sucks.” Ryuuji says, letting out a sigh.Bookmark here

‘If he forgot about his birthday until now, that must mean his dad didn’t say anything either. ’ Sun assumes, being the only one who knows Ryuuji’s full situation. Then Ryuuji speaks to her directly.Bookmark here

“Sun, I actually expected you to yell at me for not admitting this until now.”Bookmark here

“No, I don’t think that’s right for this situation. I can cheer people up too!” She shouts.Bookmark here

“You always know how to.” Ryuuji says after how much she has helped so far.Bookmark here

Seiji tells Ryuuji that they can all help him level up a bit and to let them know when he’s ready for another dungeon. Hanabi adds that it will be a lot of fun with the limited quests for the anniversary. Although Ryuuji would rather not rely on Hargrave, he knows he could use it. That’s when Steve interrupts.Bookmark here

“Tsk tsk tsk. You guys are talking like we are done for today, but I have one more piece of good news.” Without waiting for a response, and excited to share, Steve quickly says “I’ll be moving to Japan within the coming weeks!”Bookmark here

“I can’t wait to see you in person again!” Sun says with a squeal.Bookmark here

“That’s awesome, when will we be able to meet?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“Probably not until the first day of school since we still have a lot that needs to get done. Of course I will be attending the same school as you guys too.”Bookmark here

“Same grade as Sun and I?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“Maybe. I finished 11th grade here in America, but the curriculum is different.” Steve explains.Bookmark here

“We’ll have another person to join us for lunch!” Hanabi says, excited to have more friends.Bookmark here

“You mean another person to look out for.” Seiji says.Bookmark here

“Yeah I can see what you mean. He will be an easy target for bullies.” Ryuuji agrees.Bookmark here

“Just imagining the great Hargrave saving me in real life...that’s amazing!” Steve shouts.Bookmark here

“Please don’t say embarrassing stuff like that at school.” Ryuuji says, disgusted by his fanboying.Bookmark here

“You guys are so strange.” Sun says with a laugh.Bookmark here

Afterwards, we did a few lower level quests to level me up, for the first time as a full group with Steve included. It was a blast and revitalized my interest in playing again. After 2 hours Steve had to log off, but I at least reached level 10 which would be enough to do some quests on my own.Bookmark here

“Next time we speak, it will be in person.” Steve says.Bookmark here

“You know it!” Ryuuji says in return, making it a simple goodbye for now.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.