Chapter 5:

Game And Reality

The WTP Club

The same evening, Glenn had a date with Emily, a girl from class 4-B, at a drive-in cinema.

Normally, he prepared extensively for his dates, shaving half his body and carefully styling his hair. On this day, however, his mind was somewhere else. Somehow, he had actually started to get lost in thoughts surrounding the WTP Club. How had this happened? Bane's betrayal, Beat's confrontation with Landini, and Va's reaction to all of it had suddenly made the whole story seem so real. And even though he was fully aware that it was all just a silly role-playing game, he suddenly had an urge to dive into it and think about the challenges that had come up for the club. How should they proceed with Bane? How could they protect Va from Keiichi? And how would they infiltrate Sikh into Landini's clan?

When it was time to pick up Emily, he just rinsed his face with water and then left the house - unkempt by his standards. Emily was already waiting for him. Dressed up and nervous, she got into the car with him. Her face was delicate and carefully made up. Her clothes were elegant and emphasized her thin body. And her red hair, which Glenn had always found very attractive, seemed even more voluminous than usual. They greeted each other, then Glenn drove off in the direction of the drive-in cinema. 

Emily had a lot to tell: about a friend who was bitching about her behind her back, about her cousins' marital problems, about a cute cat she'd found in a tree a few days prior, and about another cute cat she'd just come across on the Internet earlier. And she had a lot of questions for Glenn: how his training was going, what he was planning to do after graduation, and whether he had been to that drive-in cinema before. Glenn initially hoped that Emily could get him out of his thoughts surrounding the club, but he soon realized that he wasn't paying attention at all and was regularly drifting away from their conversation.

On top of that, the phone in his pocket began to vibrate constantly once the movie had started. Ultimately, he couldn't resist and took it out to see what was being written. A heated conversation had broken out in the WTP chat group. He scrolled to the beginning and read through the messages.

Va: "There is an abandoned factory close to our school. We could hold the club meetings there from now on. Beat and I shouldn't attend for a while though. After all, we might be under surveillance now."

Sousui: "If you send us the exact location, we will take a look at it on Monday. We will miss Beat and you!"

Beat: "I don't want to live anymore."

Va: "?"

Beat: "I wrote Star that I love her and asked her to be my girlfriend. She turned me down."

Va: "Then you can focus on Hoen Ryomen again and help Sikh become good enough for Landini's clan."

Sikh: "I already have 8 tournament badges."

Beat: "Nothing in life matters anymore."

Va: "..."

Sousui: "Beat, these things happen, don't let this drag you down so much."

Beat: "I should write her again and ask her to give me a chance."

Wark: "I learned through Hoen Ryomen that you have to be persistent with women and show them how much you really care for them! Hoen Ryomen taught me a lot."

Va: "Wark, stop playing this game if you're just wasting your time with it!"

Beat: "I'm writing Star again now."

Sousui: "Please don't, you won’t achieve anything."

Beat: "Who knows..."

Sikh: "Is there not arranged marriage in your country?"

Va: "No, but who knows, maybe in the future, anime girls will be forced to marry perverts like Keiichi if we don't stop him."

"Glenn?", Emily suddenly interrupted him with a concerned tone "Don't you like the movie?"

"Uhm… no, no, that’s not it", Glenn deflected "It's just... uh... how should I put it, I have sort of students now, people I'm coaching. And they're asking a lot of questions right now, so it's been a little distracting, sorry."

He put his phone away again and tried to focus on the movie. He felt Emily reach for his hand and put it around her shoulder, at the same time his phone started vibrating again. Glenn sighed, wondering if he had lost his way. Why was he even interested in some childish role-playing game? He tried to suppress the urge to look at his phone and focus on giving Emily a good time. But eventually he weakened again.

Sousui: "What do you think Bane is actually planning?"

Va: "I think he's simply trying to damage WTP because he is mad at us."

Wark: "Can’t we try to make peace with him again? The WTP Club should stick together!"

Va: "I guess he cares more about his personal pride than actually stopping Keiichi. He's not worthy of being in the REAL WTP Club anymore."

Sikh: "What is real WTP Club, us or Bane?"


Sousui: "We have to be careful that Bane doesn't reveal any more names to Keiichi.”

Va: "Yes... but what can we do?"

Beat: "Star wrote that I should leave her alone or she would block me. Why is she suddenly so mean to me after being so nice before?"

Va: "Because you lose focus on the mission. Women are only into men who work hard on defeating Keiichi."

Beat: "There's no point to anything anymore. Keiichi can just go ahead and kill me."

Wark: "Cheer up, you'll get Star. I believe in it!"

Sikh: "I am bring curry for meeting on Monday."

Va: "Guys! We need to brainstorm. What are we going to do about Bane!!!"

Glenn: "I'll take care of it."

Glenn put the phone down. The credits of the movie were rolling.

"Oh, wasn't that romantic?", Emily sighed.

Glenn nodded, even though he hadn't followed the plot of the movie at all.

"How about we go to your place now?" Emily gave Glenn an erotic look, but it didn't quite have its effect on him. 

"Sorry", he said after a brief moment of silence "I'm afraid I have to take you home already. I have something else to do still."

Emily nodded disappointed.

Silence reigned on the drive back. Emily had become visibly uncomfortable with the situation and Glenn was mentally completely absent.

As soon as Emily got out of the car, he reached for his phone and without even checking what the others had written in the chat in the meantime, he gave Bane a call. Bane was happy to hear from Glenn and, despite the late hour, agreed to meet up with him right away.

They hung up and Glenn drove off without understanding what he was doing at all.

"So? Are you tired of these losers too? Are you seeking to join my WTP Club?” Bane greeted Glenn mischievously.

The two had met at a river near Bane's house.

"That's certainly not what this is about", Glenn replied and indicated that he wanted to walk with Bane a little "I want to know why you would reveal the club's goals to the public?"

Bane laughed. "You're taking your 'goals' very seriously all of a sudden, considering that just a few days ago you stated that Va's story was bullshit and that you were done with WTP. What changed your mind?"

"I asked you a question first!", Glenn said persistently.

Bane retorted in the same tone "But you wanted to have this conversation, so you are going to answer my question first!"

Glenn swallowed. He didn't know what to even tell Bane. After all, he'd been wondering himself why he'd gotten so wrapped up in everything.

"WTP entertains you, doesn't it?", Bane suddenly interrupted Glenn's thoughts "You enjoy this kind of action in your life."

Glenn started thinking. It didn't sound wrong. Did the club simply satisfy some strange need he had? But why would anyone have a need for a stupid role-playing game in the first place? 

As if he was reading his mind, Bane continued "There's nothing wrong with that. The problem lies in the nature of our existence. We all thirst for a meaning in our lives, yet we live in a world that seems to serve no bigger purpose. That is why people have clung to lies for millenia. War propaganda was believed not because it was so brilliantly crafted, but because people wanted to believe it, because it gave their miserable lives a purpose. And in the same manner, Va gave you a purpose: to fight Keiichi. And you enjoy having this task, although you don't actually believe that Keiichi is a bad guy."

Glenn let his head sink into his neck and looked up to the stars. That had become deeply philosophical very quickly. He had really not expected such a conversation. He wished he could disagree with Bane, but he couldn't think of a counterargument. Everything Bane said sounded logically, even if Glenn disliked admitting it to himself.

So instead of denying it, he asked "Is that why you're chasing Keiichi too?"

Bane nodded.

Glenn continued "Then why did you open a second club instead of just staying in Va's WTP Club?"

Bane shrugged. "It's much more exciting that way, isn't it? Chess gets monotonous over time. But now imagine some of the white pieces suddenly forming their own alliance, still chasing the black king, but no longer cooperating with the other white pieces. Wouldn't that spice things up?”

Glenn looked critically at Bane, then muttered "You're completely nuts." 

"I guess that's true. But otherwise it would be boring."

"Why did you even ask what changed my mind if you already knew the answer anyway?"

"I just wanted to demonstrate my superiority." Bane grinned.

"Then congratulations, I guess you succeeded", Glenn admitted slightly annoyed "Now will you answer my question too? Why did you post WTP's goals all across the school?"

"To intimidate Keiichi", Bane explained "I want him to know we're after him."

"And how is that helpful?"

"It isn't. But it spices things up too, you know." 

Glenn went silent. The afternoon's events had indeed made everything more exciting. If it hadn't been for Bane's flyers, the day would probably have been much more uneventful.

"But isn't it morally wrong that we're dragging Keiichi into all of this?", Glenn pondered "If he gets to see the flyers, I'm sure he will be bothered."

Bane laughed out loud. Eyes wide, he muttered "I couldn't care less."

Within a split second, he pulled out a knife, turned to Glenn and held it on to his neck.

Glenn flinched. Startled, he held his entire body still as he gazed irritatedly into Bane's black eyes.

"I wouldn't mind simply killing you right now either." Bane laughed. His entire facial expression now looked completely psychopathic.

Glenn felt his heart beat faster. He hadn't expected Bane to be so mentally ill.

Bane took a deep breath and put the knife away again. Then he looked Glenn deep into the eyes and said "But I won't do it. I guess that would also be boring."

Glenn felt aggression rising in him. He took advantage of Bane's dropped defense, threw himself at him and pushed him to the ground. "Don’t dare to ever threaten me again! Who do you think you are!?", Glenn roared in Bane's face.

Bane, now somewhat aghast, tried to fight back and shouted "What are you doing? Let me go, you disgusting primate!"

Glenn briefly considered punching Bane right in his stupid face. Bane had to be taught respect.

As Glenn lunged, however, he realized from the look on Bane's face that trying to teach him a lesson would probably be a waste of energy. Bane would not let others bring him down from his high horse; he would not learn from it. Bane really seemed to only live for the amusement.

Glenn let go of Bane and said "I'm not like you. It's possible that I find amusement in this game too. But unlike you, I don't view my whole life as a game, and I'm certainly not allowing an innocent person to be dragged into all of this."

Bane slowly straightened up again. His face again showed the provocative, arrogant smirk from before.

"What Va says about Keiichi may not be true. Still, Keiichi is definitely not an innocent person."

"What do you mean?", Glenn asked angrily. 

"Someone as mentally ill as I am senses it when another person is too. I can assure you that Keiichi is not innocent.”

"And I'm supposed to simply believe that now?" Glenn snorted contemptuously. "I'm going home, enjoy your evening inside your insane brain."

Then he turned and stomped away.

Bane noticed how Glenn kept his entire body tense, probably fearing Bane could come after him with the knife any second. Bane, however, was not in the mood for an actual fight. He just shrugged and headed home too.

Glenn was now completely agitated and upset. On the one hand, he regretted getting into the conversation with Bane and letting himself be humiliated like that. On the other hand, he at least now understood that he had to leave WTP behind. The club seemed to change him more than he changed the club. This was definitely not how PlatinumOne’s task was supposed to go. He would have to admit defeat and find new people to guide. He could not waste his time on such petty shenanigans any longer, especially as they even seemed to harm an innocent person.

To cool down a bit, Glenn decided to stop by the park where he always trained. Despite the late hour, he thought that a few pull-ups would help him clear his mind.

Arriving at the park, he was surprised to see that he was not the only one there. He glanced at his watch, 11:30 pm. "Who else would be working out at this hour?", he wondered, approaching the training equipment. Shocked, Glenn paused. "Va!?" He almost said it out loud. Carefully he crept back a few steps while covering his mouth. No doubt, with strained gasps, his club leader was kicking a punching bag again and again.

"Keep going, never give up, keep going, never give up!", she groaned to motivate herself.

Glenn sat down at a park bench and began watching the spectacle from the distance. He was really impressed by Va's fitness. Did she come here every day? But why so late in the evening?

Suddenly he noticed Va falling to the ground. Startled, he jumped up and wanted to run to her, but Va had immediately picked herself up again.

"Keep going, keep going!!!" 

Glenn lowered himself back onto the bench. Seeing Va train like this caused him to feel a very strange fascination for Va and Glenn began to wonder what Va had gone through in her life to become this strange, yet admirable person.

Va still hadn't noticed him; as if in a trance, she went through one exercise after the other. She seemed so strong and yet so fragile. Glenn recalled Va's reaction to the afternoon's events and began to question his just-gained clarity about leaving the WTP Club. Va was fighting so hard and even if it was for seemingly absurd goals, he still couldn't just walk away, no?

Slowly Glenn felt uncomfortable watching Va for so long. He decided to forgo his training and headed home, more confused in his mind than ever before.