Chapter 13:

I Finally Realized

Real Life Starfight

September 3rd 2018 - With the summer season over, a new semester has begun. Ryuuji is walking to school and as he gets closer, he can only laugh at what he sees. Sun is happily speaking with a young man who had blonde hair, green eyes, and glasses. However, in addition to talking, she is clinging to his right arm. Ryuuji can only assume that the other person is Steve and so he walks up to them to say good morning. Sun lets go of Steve’s arm and smiles.Bookmark here

“We were waiting for you, Ryuuji.”Bookmark here

“So this is Takomi Ryuuji. Just as I imagined!”Bookmark here

“What’s that supposed to mean?”Bookmark here

“Oh it’s nothing~” Steve says with a high pitched tone.Bookmark here

Ryuuji glares at Steve until Sun cuts in, apologizing for not being able to help him level up towards the end of summer.Bookmark here

“It’s alright, I had a feeling you were with Steve anyway.”Bookmark here

“You got that right!” Steve says, looking exhausted. “Until you arrived, she's been clinging to me non-stop since I arrived in the country.”Bookmark here

“Shut up!” Sun shouts, blushing slightly. “You always tease me more when Ryuuji is around.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, he just makes it too easy sometimes.” Steve pulls Sun in closer for a hug as he apologizes.Bookmark here

“How does that become my fault?” Ryuuji can’t help wondering.Bookmark here

“Are you causing trouble already, Ryuuji?” Seiji asks as he and Hanabi walk up to them.Bookmark here

“Somehow.”Bookmark here

Eyes glowing, Steve shouts, “Wow! Is this Hargrave and Flora? I’m so honored to meet you in person!”Bookmark here

“No, this is Seiji and Hanabi.” Seiji says, correcting him.Bookmark here

“Good morning Seiji, Hana.” Sun says. She’s been looking forward to seeing them again since summer vacation.Bookmark here

“Good morning!” Hanabi shouts with a smile.Bookmark here

Ryuuji asks Steve if he’s in the same grade as them, since they were not sure before. Steve explains he is, but not in the same class. He took a few summer classes the week before school actually started so he could get used to the different curriculum. He tells them his class number and Sun jumps from excitement, knowing it’s the class next to theirs, meaning they can walk together each day.Bookmark here

“At least we can all meet for lunch each day. You two will join us right?” Steve asks, looking at Seiji and Hanabi.Bookmark here

“Sure why not?” Seiji shrugs.Bookmark here

“Sounds fun!” Hanabi says.Bookmark here

After agreeing to meet for lunch, they all start walking to class before the bell rings. The day goes by slowly as they all adjust to attending school again, it never gets easy no matter how many years pass. When lunch finally arrives, Ryuuji and Sun guide Steve through the halls as he still doesn’t know the school that well. Alongside the bright sunlight, pass the chatting students, down the stairwell to the cafeteria.Bookmark here

In the cafeteria, many students have already taken a seat, leaving the three to look around for Seiji and Hanabi, not even knowing if they are here yet. Since no one really has preferred seating here, it’s first come first serve with the tables close to the entry that fill up the quickest, leaving the tables towards the back for the late arrivals. After a few seconds of looking, Ryuuji spots Hanabi waving to them from a table in the back beside the windows. Hanabi made lunch for Seiji and herself, and Sun brought in her own as well, leaving Ryuuji and Steve to have to purchase theirs before joining them. Since he’s not used to the method of having to purchase a meal ticket, Ryuuji helps Steve and they both end up with a simple rice and pork dish, taking a seat shortly after.Bookmark here

“Still needing to buy lunch, you two need a girlfriend.” Seiji teases.Bookmark here

“I already have one, but she refuses to make me anything.” Steve says, pouting. He actually did ask Sun to make him lunch, but she told him she doesn’t even make her own, still relying on her mother instead. Bookmark here

Ryuuji pats Steve’s shoulder in understanding. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, she refused to make it for me too.”Bookmark here

“Really? I think that’s a bit different though.”Bookmark here

“Keep that up and I’ll never make you food.” Sun says with a glare.Bookmark here

“Please forgive me!” Steve shouts. “I’ll ignore Ryuuji’s comments if that’s what it takes.”Bookmark here

“Please do.”Bookmark here

“So it’s my fault again?”Bookmark here

“It looks like you’re a bad influence.” Hanabi says, enjoying their interactions.Bookmark here

Letting out a laugh, Steve asks if this is the first time they all ate together. Ryuuji explains it’s usually just him and Sun or Seiji and Hanabi. Sun adds that she and Hanabi meet a few times when they don’t feel like being around the boys. Steve is surprised to hear that, automatically assuming they always met with how much they play Starfight together.Bookmark here

“It’s just easier to meet in the game.” Seiji says. “It’s all we talk about anyway. That or Ryuuji’s problems.”Bookmark here

“I can’t disagree with you there.” Ryuuji says.Bookmark here

“Well maybe we can meet outside of school more often now!” Steve suggests. “You can show me around the area too. I haven’t had much of a chance yet with the move.”Bookmark here

“There are a lot of nice shops and restaurants. Do you live close by?” Hanabi asks.Bookmark here

“Yep! I live near the comp- I mean about a 20 minute drive from here.” Steve explains.Bookmark here

“After this week I’ll only be working on Fridays and Saturdays. So any time other than that will work for me.”Bookmark here

“Do you work all this week?” Sun asks.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I accidentally forgot to tell the manager when I started school so right now I’m still on my summer schedule of working almost every day. This week is going to suck.” Ryuuji says, tired just thinking about it.Bookmark here

“Then I guess we will decide what to do next week.” Steve says to try and give Ryuuji a break. Bookmark here

Unlike the entirety of the school day, lunch goes by in a flash. At the stairwell the two groups go their separate ways. However they’re not all done talking. Before reaching their classrooms, Ryuuji stops Steve, and he tells him he doesn’t need to be overly considerate and avoid talking about the company as a whole. Sun stops as well to see where this conversation will lead. Despite hearing it from Ryuuji himself, Steve doesn't fully feel comfortable with that idea.Bookmark here

“Do I really have to repeat your line from last month?” Ryuuji asks.Bookmark here

“What line?”Bookmark here

Trying to imitate his voice, Ryuuji reminds him of what he said at the end of the coliseum battle, “Let’s have fun and look forward to the future. Isn’t that right?”Bookmark here

Steve smiles and lets out a sigh, knowing he’s been caught going back on his word. “You got me. I won’t do it again.”Bookmark here

“Good. And don’t make me say something so cheesy ever again.” Ryuuji says as he continues walking.Bookmark here

“Was it really that cheesy?”Bookmark here

“Yeah it kind of is.” Sun says, laughing in agreement.Bookmark here

Later after school, Steve had to stop by the teacher’s office to discuss a few things before he could go home. He told the others that it wouldn’t take long and they could wait outside. Once finished, Steve is walking by himself in the mostly vacant halls when he is approached by two male students.Bookmark here

“Hey there! You're the American exchange student right?” Bookmark here

“Wow, news travels fast! This is only my first day here.” Steve says, surprised to be approached already.Bookmark here

Laughing at his easy reaction, they offer to show him around school, saying it must be hard to make friends in a different country.Bookmark here

“I thought it would be tough, but I was able to make some good friends ahead of time.” Steve says.Bookmark here

“Are you all finished, Steve?”Bookmark here

“Yeah we have to get going.”Bookmark here

The two male students turn around with disdain, seeing Ryuuji and Seiji both glaring in return and standing tall. Now realizing these two are the friends he was talking about, the male students change their mind, not finding this encounter worthwhile any longer, and walk away, right past those trying to intimidate them. As they leave, Ryuuji lets out a deep sight as he was actually holding his breath in fear, remembering what they put him through before.Bookmark here

“That was scary.”Bookmark here

“You held your ground well. Though your legs are shaking.” Seiji points out.Bookmark here

“How could you tell??”Bookmark here

“What was that all about?” Steve asks, not understanding what happened.Bookmark here

“They’re notorious bullies in the school. You have to be careful.”Bookmark here

“They really messed with me before.”Bookmark here

Initially not thinking it was a big deal, Steve then realizes “Does this mean Hargrave just saved me in real life? That’s so cool!!”Bookmark here

“You seriously need to stop calling me that in real life.” Seiji says, walking away from the conversation entirely. Bookmark here

Ryuuji and Steve follow behind him to the outside where Hanabi and Sun are still waiting. Worried, Sun immediately asks if something happened.Bookmark here

“There were some nice gentlemen that turned out to be bullies, but then Hargrave saved me!” Steve explains as if telling a story.Bookmark here

“So it was just like you said. Thank you for helping him, Seiji.”Bookmark here

“It’s fine, but if he calls me Hargrave at school one more time then I’ll just walk home instead.”Bookmark here

Not wanting to upset him more, Steve shouts and bows, attempting to apologize. “I’m sorry Ha- Seiji!!”Bookmark here

“You might want to practice saying his name in your head before you shout.” Ryuuji says, also tired of his fanboying.Bookmark here

“That’s sound advice. Anyway, let's go home, Hana. Dealing with him is exhausting.”Bookmark here

“Alright!”Bookmark here

As they watch Hanabi and Seiji leave, Ryuuji says he needs to get going as well so he doesn’t miss work. With a smile, Steve says he will see them both tomorrow, not needing to take the train like he and Sun do.Bookmark here

For the first time since coming to this school, I felt like I could look forward to coming in each day. Before it was just about not fearing something would happen, no joy associated with the idea at all, but now, after everything I’ve been through with these guys, I finally feel like I don’t have to worry about anything. Even with my dad, Steve reassures me that something will be done soon. I could only hope at the time that it was true.Bookmark here

Now the new semester begins, but this isn’t the end of this story. There’s still the battle of legendary players; Hargrave vs QueenofSnow, our sorry attempt at a study session, the grueling search and battle against the wandering shadow, and of course, what actually happens with my dad. However, that will all have to be saved for another time.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.