Chapter 26:

LEVEL 26: Championship Part 1—Avant-Garde and Giant Robots

CREO: Game of Creation

I ended up bunking with Teo that night, because two boys dripping wet from the pool decided to have a sleepover and piss off Sieg’s parents. The way they yelled at him was… disturbing. It didn’t seem to faze him though, must be used to it.

“The match lineup will be as follows:” Kuu said in the conference room outside the arena where we’d all been gathered. Rin kept glancing at me, but I ignored her. Adam and Sieg were now best buddies and wouldn’t shut up about the dinosaur movies they’d binged the night before. Artemis… she glared at me the whole time, or her avatar did. She was the only one whose physical form I never saw.

“She wasn’t at the party.” Lucy whispered to me. “I tried to talk to her just now, and she ignored me, so weird.”

“Will you all listen to me!?” Kuu blew a puff of steam and made a sound like a tea kettle. We all shut up. “Thank you. As I was saying: Match 1—Pluton vs WhiteWitch. Match 2—Sieg vs KAI. Match 3—Artemis vs T3O. If there are any objections—” Kuu didn’t even finish speaking when the objections were sent via text. “There are 3 objections: KAI wishes to face Pluton, Artemis wishes to face KAI, Sieg wishes to face Adam. Any matchup switches must be agreed upon by all parties involved. You have 5 minutes to discuss amongst yourselves.” Artemis strode up to me and jammed her finger in my chest.

“You’re mine. I’m sick of you playing victim and acting like you’re some underdog hero. You’re nobody and I’m gonna remind you and the world of that. Accept my challenge.”

“No, thanks.” I turned to Rin. “I’d rather take the global title and regain my national crown in one go. What do you say, Rin? You beat me once, think you can again? That is what you seem to think friendship is about, humiliating each other on a world stage.”

“Kaito, I’d be happy to play with you, fair and square, but not out of revenge or anger.”

“What do you mean by fair and square? Was it not before?”

“Th-that’s not… it was the only way…”


“Kuu came to me the night before and gave me a peek at your world’s files. I was able to figure out the best strategy and got the jump on you. Kaito, please—”

“You don’t need to explain yourself to him, Rin.” Artemis said. “All you want is to help him and all he does is hurt you. Let me take him on.”

“No, I’m settling this, Rin!” I was dizzy with rage. “I’m getting my crown back! You know the mess my life became because of you? Damn you!”

“Well, what about me?” Rin was finally getting angry. “After that culture festival, I lost all my friends so I could protect you, and I’d do it again—yet how do you repay me? Ignoring me for two years, never leaving your room and letting yourself turn into some egotistical shut-in. All you care about is that crown? Fine, I relinquish my title.” As soon as she said that, a crown appeared atop my head, officially designating me first ranked in Japan. Rin turned away from me and switched to her Pluton form. “Still care to fight me?” She said in Pluton’s distorted voice. I was still trembling, filled with rage. Adam grabbed my arm.

“You’re not yourself, calm down.”

“Shut up, Adam.” He glared at me, his eyes glowing. We stared at each other for a while, then I threw my hands up. “Fine, I don’t care anymore.” Adam glanced at Sieg.

“Marcel, let’s play with each other some other time—I don’t wanna take one of my friends’ places.” Sieg’s shoulders sunk.

“Okay, but I wanna try Adam Fantasy as soon as the tournament ends.”

“Deal.” We all turned back to Kuu.

“Well then, if I’m not mistaken, the match-up will now be: Match 1—Pluton vs WhiteWitch. Match 2—Artemis vs KAI. Match 3—Sieg vs T30. No more objections?” Teo raised his hand.

“I have one. I want to go first. Everyone back home said they’d watch, and I don’t wanna make them stay up too late. Besides, it’s about time I got some spotlight.” I couldn’t remember another time Teo asked for something for himself. He winked at me. Whatever he had in store, he planned on putting on a show for the world.

A world of white, crisscrossed by thin black lines. Sieg walked on a line as it drew itself upon the blank canvas. It looked like he was on a tightrope, with nothing below or above. Lines weaved through the nothingness, forming shapes like spiderwebs. One grew near where Sieg was walking and he touched it, burning his hand. As soon as he did, the lines expanded faster, filling up the white and encroaching on Sieg. The path forward became narrower and narrower as Sieg ran along the tightrope line until he summoned a shield and spun it around himself, fighting off the lines. He paused when he noticed the colored lines left behind from his attack, floating and slowly dispersing. Sieg switched to dual rapiers and slashed at the black lines—changing them to harmless strings of color. Then his tight rope got shot from somewhere in the distance and gave way—causing Sieg to fall into the deadly network of lines.

Rather than getting eliminated, the sea of lines created another world that Sieg fell into—a world of black and white that resembled a charcoal drawing. While the lines were rigid and well-defined before, this next phase was filled with curved, natural brush strokes and shading. It resembled a jungle under a night sky. Sieg slashed a tree with a sword, leaving a scar of color. As he slashed the forest, coloring the world in, the ground beneath him softened and gurgled like it was turning to liquid. He began to sink—fighting off hands reaching out of the ground to pull him down faster.

Once he was under, in the dark, hand-drawn sea, he was chained down by the shadow hands as the seconds ticked by—ever closer to his avatar drowning. Sieg broke an arm free and waved a conductor wand—producing colorful streaks, like a dye spreading through the water. He spread color through the sea, turning it pink, purple, green, and blue. The color seemed to hurt the shadow hands, and they release Sieg, who swam up to the surface. This is where it gets really trippy.

Sieg fell out of the sea, which had apparently been upside down, into a world of moving shapes. His body parts drifted away from each other—first his limbs, then his head came off his body, floating away into the colors and shapes of the Picasso-esque world. There, Teo made his entrance—emerging from behind a rectangle and snatching Sieg’s arm. Then he bolted to an oval spinning around and grabbed Sieg’s leg. They wriggled in his grasp, but couldn’t get free. Sieg’s other body parts seemed still under his control, but he couldn’t manage them very well. After some struggling, he got his head back on his torso, just as Teo got hold of his other leg. When Teo sprang for the other arm, he faced a blast of fire.

“Figured it out?” Teo said, balancing himself on a circular platform.

“Think so.” Sieg said, before flinging his head at Teo at intense speed and knocking a leg out from his grasp.

“Put yourself back together and you’ve survived the challenge. If I can keep you apart…” Teo summoned two arms made of the black lines from the first section. “I’ll win.” The shadow hands reached out from behind, but Sieg got his arm and leg back on and swung around, decapitating the shadow hands, and parrying the lines. The linear and hand-drawn converged on him, trying to split him up, but Sieg got better at controlling his body parts and made a lunge for Teo, aiming not for his seized limbs, but swinging his sword at Teo’s head. Teo rolled his head off his neck just before Sieg’s blade could connect. He kept it up like a soccer ball as the arms of lines smashed Sieg’s body and Teo’s world dematerialized into the next half of the match.

The audience seemed impressed with Teo’s off the walls style. I could barely keep up with him while he was planning it, but when he got like that, those were usually his best works. The livestream feed cut to a group of Brazilian players’ avatars cheering wildly. Adam leaned over the balcony from where we were watching.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He pointed to a familiar couple who looked quite sour.

“Marcel’s parents—that was the first world he lost in all tournament. They’re about to get even more mad at him in a second, if he does what I think he’ll do.”


“You’ll see. Hopefully.”

Our attention returned to CREO—Teo stood in a dark void, while Sieg was perched on a platform in the stadium, a piano in front of him. He closed his eyes and played. As he hit the notes, they appeared on a music scale above Teo. Occasionally, a note would be missing, and Teo would have to hit the music scale in the right place at the right time to fill in the correct note. He could only miss three times before he lost. Sieg had used the same music challenge throughout the tournament and no one had beaten it. Even those who knew the song he played found it difficult as his speed increased and the complexity of the notes grew. Then he stopped playing. He smashed his fingers on the piano, causing a sour note.

“Tut mir Leid, Mutti und Vati.” (Sorry, Mom and Dad) He said. The piano shape-shifted into the cockpit of a mech suit while German pop music started blaring. The black void shifted into a flashy cityscape with exaggerated bright colors, like in a cartoon. His parents’ faces when they saw the giant robot and heard the trashy electronic music were priceless. His father even stormed out. Teo grinned and jumped onto a rooftop. Sieg’s robot fired a barrage of missiles at him, causing big, overblown explosions. Teo ran quicker than the explosions until he had to jump back from the impact of Sieg’s fist crushing a building. A glowing power-up appeared in the sky. “Had to give you some chance!” Sieg called. “But you have to catch it first!” The power-up zipped across the sky.

“Easy!” Teo said, dodging past missiles and lasers. He created platforms for himself in the sky that he bounced from and timed his last jump just as the power-up was shooting by. At the same moment, Sieg fired a missile—a direct hit. For a moment, it looked like Teo had been blown away—only a cloud of smoke remained. Then an arm emerged from the smoke and punched Sieg’s mech. As the smoke evaporated, Teo’s mech suit revealed itself—made of lines similar to the ones he used in his own world.

“Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to finish it. I never expected to actually use this world.” Sieg said.

“It’s okay, this suits me better.” The mech suits traded blows and shot lasers at each other until they became locked in a grapple. Sieg got the upper hand and pushed Teo down until Teo jumped out of the robot and onto Sieg’s robot. “Smile!” Teo blasted into the cockpit and Sieg’s world was replaced by the cheering crowd in the arena.

“Round 1 goes to Team KAI!” Kuu bellowed. Teo appeared on our balcony and we all took turns awarding him high-fives.

“What a statement!” I said. Teo looked away and smiled, always bashful at praise.

“Nah, it was a mess. But I won, so I guess it wasn’t so bad.” A yell from the balcony next to ours caught our attention—Sieg’s father had visited Team Upstart’s viewing space. Didn’t seem happy. A few moments later, Sieg came through the doors onto our balcony, his cheek bruised. Adam rushed to give him a hug.

“You did it! You showed everyone your world!”

“But I lost.”

“So? It was still incredible! At least you did it the way you wanted.” Teo gave a thumb’s up to Sieg.

“It was a great fight.” Sieg nodded and smiled.

“Mind if I stay with you guys? The mood over there’s not great.” Adam invited him to the seat next to his and Sieg started taking off his formal suit until he was down to a tank top. “Ahh, that’s better—it’s summer in the desert, why do they make me wear that stuff?”

“I can make you some shorts and sandals with CREO.” Adam offered.

“Yes, please!” Lucy rose from her seat as Sieg began lowering his pants.

“On that note, I’m up.”

The arena went quiet, save for confused whispers as the next competitors entered the arena. WhiteWitch looked the same as always, but the dark, foreboding armor of Pluton was replaced by a simple girl in white.