Chapter 10:

The World's True Beauty

The WTP Club

"Glenn, look! Glenn, look!"

As soon as he reached the roof, Glenn glanced into a beautiful pair of emerald, glittering eyes that couldn’t seem any happier.

"Look at the stars! Look how beautiful they are!"

Glenn smiled.

Va let go of him and danced in a circle with her arms outstretched.

Glenn himself now dared to take a look at the sky too. They had indeed picked the perfect night for their tour. The entire sky sparkled in the brightest colors. The stars resembled a blanket, which gently covered the entire group. Glenn turned his gaze away from the sky and looked again at Va, who was still spinning in circles with a broad grin on her face.

"Glenn, come join us!” Sousui said. He, Sikh and Wark had been lying down on the stones that covered the flat roof.

Glenn walked up to the three.

Sikh apparently had some knowledge of astronomy. While Va was mentally in a different, fantastic world and Emily was busy capturing the atmosphere with her phone camera, Sikh showed the group various constellations and told some background information about them.

All of a sudden, Glenn saw a flash in front of his eyes before Emily's phone revealed itself behind it.

"Click", she commented and sat down with the group to show them the picture she had snapped.

"I wish I could just stay here for all eternity!" Va said happily, now joining them as well "Being alive can really be such an amazing experience."

Wark seemed to get a little sentimental. "I'm really so glad to have met you guys, do you know that?" he said with a spellbound look at the sky.

"Aww!" Va exclaimed, throwing herself on top of him to give him a hug "I'm glad you're with us too!"

"It's just too bad Beat doesn’t get to see this”, Wark continued after a while.

"He'll come around", Va replied optimistically "And then we'll just climb up here again!"

The group lingered on the roof for nearly half an hour. When the first ones started to get cold, however, they decided to descend again.

"Va", Glenn said just before they reached the ladder "Will you go to the park together with me to work out sometime?" 

"Huh? Where are you coming from?" Va wondered but quickly realized what Glenn was refering to. "I understand, so you've seen me", she continued in a tone that sounded like she'd been caught doing something bad "I guess I'm an easier target than I thought... Okay, fine, let's go train together sometime!" She threw a smile at Glenn, before climbing down the ladder.

Back in the headquarter, the group packed their things and blew out the candles in the lanterns. Outside the factory building, Va concluded "That was so nice. I think I'll come here every night." Then she thought for a moment before continuing "Right now, unfortunately, there's not much we can do as a club except wait for Bane to act or Sikh to get accepted into the clan. So don't feel obligated to come as well. I would still appreciate you all stopping by.”

Va suddenly seemed a bit humble. Somehow that didn't fit her usually strict, haughty behavior at all.

"But don't think you can allow yourself to slack off!" she promptly continued in a military tone "You still need to be ready to fight Keiichi at any time... It’s just… you've done really impressive work here in the past week. And as a good leader I want to reward that of course."

Everyone grinned. Now that sounded more like the Va they knew.

The group walked together to the wooden bridge that connected the remote nature with the residential areas. Then they all said goodbye to each other and started to head home by themselves. Glenn offered to walk Va home, but Va insisted on walking alone.


 When Va entered the club room the next evening, she was immediately greeted by five familiar faces. Even relieved from their club duties, everyone had decided to appear. Va was visibly happy about seeing all her friends. Secretly hoping that everyone would show up, she had bought two more beanbags for Emily and herself, which she now spread out on the carpet. Then she sat down with a satisfied expression on her face.

"What are you talking about?" she asked curiously.

"Inspired by Lenin's controversial opinions, we thought of a game", Sousui reported.

Glenn continued "The game is about naming a topic and stating an opinion on it. The moment another player disagrees with that opinion, a debate begins. This debate continues until one of the players runs out of arguments and admits defeat. If both players refuse to admit defeat, the rest of the group decides who has given the better arguments. With this game we train our quick-wittedness and expand our knowledge. So it's optimal for improving ourselves and our skills." Glenn struck a heroic pose.

"And who has won so far?" Va continued to ask.

"Sousui, every single time", Wark replied admiringly "He is really intelligent." 

Glenn, who had hoped that this question would not come up, suddenly felt silly in his heroic pose and quickly took the floor to distract from his debacle "Va, why don't you try it too? Just name a topic and your opinion on it."

"Okay", Va replied tensely "Then I'll take bananas as topic. My opinion is that they are not actually yellow, but blue. There is a great conspiracy of the rich and powerful who want us to believe that bananas are yellow." 

"What are you talking about again?", Glenn replied irritatedly.

"So you don't agree?" Va concluded "Why? Face the debate!"

"Because bananas clearly look yellow", Glenn replied annoyed, asking himself if Va was deliberately not playing the game seriously.

"How do you know your concept of yellow isn't wrong already. What if yellow is actually blue? Haven't you ever considered that option?" Va remained undeterred.

"Uhh…", Glenn stuttered. He had never had such a stupid conversation in his entire life.

"You're obviously running out of arguments. I guess that's a debate win for me then." Euphorically, Va started tapping some keys on Lenin while Glenn protested loudly. Then she commanded "Lenin, debatewins!"

Lenin enumerated:
"1st Sousui, +40
2nd Va, +1
3rd Bane, 0
4th Beat, 0
5th Lenin, 0
6th Sikh, -10
7th Wark, -10
8th Emily, -10
9th Glenn, -11"

"40!?" Glenn exclaimed even more indignant than before "How long do you think we've been here!?"

Emily stroked him on the back to appease him, but then couldn't resist provoking him a little further. "40 actually sounds accurate", she said with an innocent expression.

Glenn let out an annoyed squeal and then resignedly said "Let's stick to the subject of conspiracies. My opinion: Everyone is conspiring against me."

"I have no other opinion on that." Emily laughed.

Va, in turn, insisted that everything had been going on with fairness, but then quickly fled from another debate with the excuse of wanting to support Sikh in the game.

In the evenings that followed, the group spent their time debating (Va also had to accept a few defeats over time), playing cards, exercising, doing their homework together, and taking a trip or two to the factory roof. Sousui also started an attempt to introduce the group to chess and was surprised to find that, despite her affinity for board game accessories, Va was pretty bad at it.

Va also attended every single one of Bane's WTP meetings to make Smoke feel like he was keeping an eye on her. Her confidence that she was not observed in everyday life grew with each day that passed peacefully in the new WTP Club room. The group’s cohesion increased consistently, and their friendship became stronger.

Only the fact that Beat was still missing out made Wark a little sad. Beat seemed to be going through a real crisis. He was on sick leave from school. He didn't use the WTP group chat at all anymore, and even Wark and Emily were ignored when attempting to talk to him.

In the end of the day, the group didn’t have any other option but to hope that Beat would get out of this emotional low by himself at some point.  


One week after the first nightly meeting, a breakthrough occurred. Sikh's ambitions finally seemed to bear fruit. He managed to get into the top 500 of the Hoen Ryomen world rankings and received a special in-game award. Aside from an ominous player named Trousers Shitter no other player in the world rankings had seen such a sharp increase in battle points over the past few weeks. The group then decided that now was the time for Sikh to join Landini's clan. Sikh, who already looked a bit battered from weeks of hard training, was happy to finally be assigned another task.

Wark searched for the advertisement, which fortunately could still be found, and opened the application form. Now all they had to do was write a suitable message.

"Dear Landini, I have read your advertisement ‘Players Wanted for Hoen Ryomen Clan’ in the Gamer's Forum, and I would like to apply for the position. My name is...", Sousui began to dictate Lenin.

"Completely wrong!" Wark interrupted "That's way too formal. We need to sound more natural!"

Lenin repeated "Dear Landini, I read your advertisement 'Players Wanted for Hoen Ryomen Clan' in the Gamer's Forum and I would like to apply for the position. My name is completely wrong. That's way too formal. We need to sound more natural!" 

"Lenin, delete input!" Sousui ordered and then said to Wark "Maybe you should write the application on your own. After all, you're part of this whole gamer community. You probably know best how to do it."

Va confirmed "Yeah, make use of your nerd powers. We put our trust in you!"

Wark felt pleased to be needed by the group. So he sat down with Lenin and drafted an application on his own.

"How long will it take until we get a response?" Va asked, after Wark told Lenin to submit the application.

"1-2 days", Wark said with a shrug "That varies."

Va rubbed her hands together excitedly. "Then I guess we're slowly moving on to the hot phase."

"New mail received! New mail received!"

The group listened up.

"That was fast", Wark commented with a surprised look on his face.

Tense, they all gathered around Lenin.

The following message appeared on the screen: "Hi Sikh, impressive ladder rating. We'd like to invite you to our tryout. Are you free tomorrow at 7pm? I hope this is not too spontaneous for you. ~Landini" 

"Oh, that means, you are accepted, right?" Emily cheered, patting Sikh appreciatively on the shoulder.

"Not quite", Wark corrected "That means Sikh still has to convince them of his skill in a test match. If he does, he'll be invited to join the clan."

"That's still great news!", Va said, looking highly energetic "Sikh, I'm convinced you will impress them!"

The group began to ponder whether there was anything to prepare for the next day. They thought about assigning Sikh to make an audio recording of the tryout. Sikh's lack of lingual skills worried them a little. The group had just been presented with an opportunity to get inside information from Keiichi's inner circle. They couldn’t risk Sikh mistakenly passing misinformation on to them.

At the same time, however, Va feared that the applicants might be frisked.

The others had to convince her that the applicants would most likely not be entrusted with Keiichi’s innermost secrets on the first day and that, consequently, Landini would probably refrain from checking pockets or something like that. After all, Landini had to have an interest in not scaring off the applicants with exaggerated security precautions.

In the end, the group agreed that Sikh should simply use his phone’s voice recording to capture the conversations.

"A phone would also not be considered anything unusual and Sikh could stop the recording any time if needed", Sousui argued.

Last but not least, Sikh was reminded not to mention the WTP Club. The group was unsure if Sikh really understood that he would be on a secret mission.

Sikh, however, confirmed several times "Yes, I am not say a word about the WTP Club!"

Wark finally sent a confirmation in Sikh's name and was immediately returned an address, which – as Va directly noted - was suspiciously close to Keiichi's house. 

As the group was about to head home, Sousui pulled Glenn aside and said "There is something I want to do before we enter the hot phase.”

He asked Glenn to meet up with him the following afternoon in town. He did not give further details, but his voice sounded very serious.

Glenn was a bit puzzled by the secrecy but agreed without further inquiry. Sousui had become a true friend to him, whom he wanted to support regardless of what he was planning to do.