Chapter 19:

LEVEL 19: Adam's Long Story Part 2

CREO: Game of Creation

After that press conference, there was a big reorganization of the CREO tournament. We got to go home to Japan—but all the while, Kai was still off. Mrs. Ayakura noticed it too.

“What’s wrong with Kai? He’s been different ever since you got back.” She asked me one night while Kai was in the bath.

“I don’t know. What he said at the press conference was so unlike him. I’m worried it’s my fault.”

“How so?”

“They might’ve threatened him using me or something. I know I’m just another creation to him, but he told me he wouldn’t let them steal me, and I believed him.”

“Try this—” She smiled and shared a devious plot with me.

The tournament reconvened a few weeks later—the re-do of the round of 16 was on a cruise ship circling an island in the Adriatic Sea.

“How’re you boys holding up? This time you had the long flight instead of me.” Lucy said. Kai shrugged and smiled.

“I don’t feel a thing. Right, Adam?”

“R-right.” Kai, the laziest guy I knew, the guy who gets tired going to the convenience store down the street, was fine after a 12 hour flight? Poor Teo was in a similar state to when he arrived in LianHua.

“I hope we go somewhere in the Western Hemisphere next.” He said with a yawn. “Or Southern.”

“Players, please report to the arena deck to begin play! Huh huh!” Kuu’s voice blared over the ship intercom. As we headed over there, I tugged Kai’s arm.

“Hey, got a minute?”

“Sure, but make it quick.”

“Switch with me.”


“I’ve been working on a CREO world of my own, let me take your place in the match.” Kai’s mom had suggested that if everything was alright and there was nothing to worry about, Kai would resist, and if anything suggest I switch with one of the others. Kai wanted to prove he was the best, and he couldn’t do that if he couldn’t play.

“Okay, sounds cool. Give it your best shot.”

“Y-you’re okay with it? Just like that?”

“Yeah, I trust you. And better yet, people will see that you’re not only a functioning artificial human, but you can even create and compete as a CREO player too! It’s perfect!” Something was very wrong.

“Who are you?”

“Adam?” I backed away from Kai, suddenly unsure who I was really talking to. I remembered the story Seth told us about artificial humans. If I could pass for human…

“What’s my favorite animal?”

“What are you talking about? Dinosaurs.”

“What kind of dinosaur?”


“Kai would never know that about me, he never listens.”

“Adam, you’re not giving me much credit.”

“Why’d you never leave the house for all that time before I came?” Kai froze, looking puzzled.

“Because they all made fun of me. Everyone I thought was a friend turned out to be an enemy, and because of that, I shut myself away. CREO was my escape, and I used the excuse of one of the pandemics to stop going out.” He said it all so casually, matter-of-factly, as if he were reading from a textbook.

“You never told me any of that before.”

“Adam, be a good boy, remember? Or would you rather lose the game?” This was not Kai, those were Kuu’s words.

“Right, got it, ‘Kai’.”

I hadn’t lied about creating a world. My opponent, Kitsune, who had a fox avatar, was put into my 16-bit world of sprites. It was a good old-fashioned 2D platformer. I even composed a BGM for it, though I admit it got repetitive pretty quickly. The goal of the world was to collect 100 coins within the 3 minute time limit. If the player gets hit by an enemy or obstacle, he loses his coins, and if he’s hit with no coins or falls into my water traps, he loses a life. 3 lives, 3 minutes, 100 coins. Kitsune was the first CREO player I’ve ever seen actually enjoy himself while playing. His avatar had a big smile as he dodged my enemies, bonking them on the head to defeat them, he did the 3D special stage flawlessly, and by the time he reached the end of the level, he was bouncing around like a little kid. I’d set it up so that the last coin was only available after fighting the boss—me floating around in a robot shooting electric spikes at him. He managed to beat it (it only takes 5 hits, had to make it doable), but the time wasn’t bad for me. Kitsune put me into a bamboo forest under a night sky and a massive full moon. From the moon, a beam shot down and from it emerged a six-armed monster in ornate robes similar to those I was born wearing. It was a survival boss fight in the forest. I spent most of it bouncing about between bamboo stalks—the Kaguya monster chasing me with intense speed, leaving a trail of splintered stalks in its wake.

Why am I doing this? I thought. What difference does it make if I win or not? This is Kai’s tournament, not mine, and the Kai I know isn’t here. After weighing it in my mind, I decided to put up a fight for Kitsune’s sake—it wouldn’t be fair for me to throw the match. After I was defeated, fair and square (I didn’t use any unfair powers, after all), we shook hands.

“Not bad for a robot!” He said.

“I’m not a robot.”

“Well, what are you, then?” I thought for a second.

“I’m just me, I guess. Not exactly human, but not not human.” That’s how I liked to think about it, anyway. Sometimes I feared that second part wasn’t true. Kai came up to me after the match with a hug.

“Nice going, you tried really hard and showed the world a great CREO—” I pushed him away.

“Stop. What are you? Where’s Kai?” He slumped his shoulders.

“I’m not Kai, but I’m not not Kai.” Had he been reading my mind? ‘Kai’ started laughing, slow and bitter. “Isn’t it better like this? I can be the big brother figure you want, the ideal Kai. I’m better than before—we can change the world together.”

“Why does the world have to change?”

“It can be improved, made to be a utopia like the virtual world. We can do that together!” I shook my head.

“Kuu told me to do as Kai says, but you said yourself that you’re not Kai. Hear that, guys?” Teo and Lucy emerged from their hiding place behind a wall I’d made earlier.

“If CREO replaced him here, I’d bet our Kai is in the virtual world.” Lucy said.

“He may be a stubborn, self-centered jerk sometimes, but he’s also a good guy, and I’d rather play with him than a lifeless mouthpiece.” Teo added. Kai’s face turned dark, twisted.

“How can I make you understand? Fine. Go find your other Kai. It won’t do you any good. He’s trapped on that side and once you realize that, you’ll accept me, whether you want to or not.”

After searching Update Alpha for weeks, and winning in the quarterfinals on the side, we finally found you. Our Kai, the only one we need.