Chapter 25:

END Vol. 1, Ch. 25: The Famous Example

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

“Dead Rover, Dead Rover, send vital signs over,” Adele said from the hall through Rover’s closed bedroom door that night.Bookmark here

The door swung open, and she was met with her brother’s rabid, scruffy appearance, as if he’d been dead for a hundred years and was suddenly zapped back to life.Bookmark here

“Ack!” Adele gasped, covering her face with both arms. “Send them back! Send the vital signs back!”Bookmark here

Rover ignored her, trudging past with his feet dragging on the carpet.Bookmark here

“Hey,” she said. “What are you doing…?”Bookmark here

He stopped, making a quarter turn to look at Adele sideways.Bookmark here

“Oh…I don’t know.” His warbling voice broke through his withered smile. “What’s a man to do in my position? Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha… Perhaps I’ll mow the lawn. Yesss…”Bookmark here

Adele raised an eyebrow with a meek grimace. “Uh, it’s nighttime.”Bookmark here

“The grass grows evermore…even betwixt the hours of day.”Bookmark here

“Uugghh…” She sighed and crossed her arms, leaning on the wall. “I know you’re mad about losing your Beelzebub Glove Aliens. I get it, I would be, too. But ya had it coming. You should’ve stayed low-key with it because it wasn’t worth winning those matches.”Bookmark here

“It was worth it.” Rover turned the rest of the way to face his sister. “I wouldn’t have two Special Numbers right now without them.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, and everyone’s pissed because of it. They’re calling you a cheater. I’m calling you a cheater.”Bookmark here

“Lots of people have already been calling me a cheater.”Bookmark here

“And now they know you are, for sure! I mean, it’s hard for me to stick up for you because even I’m mad at you.”Bookmark here

“Whatever.” Rover turned his back on her. “I’ll face the challenge of fighting my way to the top on even ground with everybody.”Bookmark here

“Why’s it so important to be the best?” Adele asked.Bookmark here

“It isn’t about being the best.”Bookmark here

“That’s not true. You’re obsessively competitive, period.”Bookmark here

“I know I am,” he said. After a moment, he added, “But I have a real goal. I’ve always had one real goal with Glove Alien Fight. Being interrogated by Sergeant Major Bloodshank and Lawellen Skofkov opened my eyes, and it reminded me of the path I started on from the beginning.” He looked at Adele, who could see the vigor and spirit pour back into him. “I’m gonna defeat CEO Claudius and free Thugwood of his stupid Glove Alien Fight quota.”Bookmark here

“Ya know what?” Adele resisted the urge to ridicule Rover, and she smirked and said, “…That daily quota is a really stupid thing.”Bookmark here

“I’m not the only one being oppressed. I’m just the famous example.”Bookmark here

“So,” Adele said, studying her brother, “you’re gonna be the one to rise up against it? Even after this?”Bookmark here

“Yep.” Rover’s feet shuffled down the hallway.Bookmark here

The next morning, Dad was surprised to the see the entire lawn had been mowed.Bookmark here

25!25@25#25$25%25^25&25*25(25)25_25+25Bookmark here

In the halls, while Rover headed to his first class Mondee-day morning, a hand grabbed his shoulder from behind.Bookmark here

“Hey!” Graphite barked in Rover’s face.Bookmark here

Rover narrowed his eyes. “What?”Bookmark here

After a deep breath, Graphite pointed his finger at Rover and shouted, “Cheater!!!” It echoed down the hallway, making everyone gawk their way.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I am.”Bookmark here

“Everyone knows. Everyone. The topic spread like wildfire on the internet yesterday, but that’s not all. That article the Daily Thug was gonna write about you beating Benedict Torrent? They still did, but they changed the headline and contents to you being a cheater. It’s front page news, Rover.”Bookmark here

“Every dog has his day.”Bookmark here

“How can you be so smug about it?!” Graphite spat. “You beat me and stole my consumable items because you cheated!”Bookmark here

“I’m not proud of it.”Bookmark here

“Cram it. You looked all bubbly and stuff when you were being praised for beating Benedict Torrent yesterday! A real soaring underdog posing for photos and answering interview questions.”Bookmark here

Rover sighed. “I had to do what I had to do.”Bookmark here

The blood pressure in Graphite’s face threatened to pop his pencil lead-colored eyes out of his head. “Don’t give me that!!! What the hell are you trying to do that warrants cheating your way to the top of Glove Alien Fight?!”Bookmark here

“Lifting the damn Glove Alien Fight daily quota, that’s what!” Rover yelled, clenching his fist. “I’m gonna beat CEO Claudius and wipe out his stupid, idiotic mandate!”Bookmark here

Graphite was taken aback as a zephyr of gasps and “egads” swept through the hallway.Bookmark here

For real???” Graphite’s face was screwed up with confusion. “You really are shooting for that? Trying to sound all noble to cover your cheater ass?”Bookmark here

Rover nodded, undeterred. “It’s been my goal since he first announced a way to lift the quota.” He looked around. All the students in earshot were giving him looks of disbelief, skeptical to be on his side. “This isn’t stopping me from moving on. The whole publicity and fame thing wasn’t intentional, but it sorta happened anyway.” He snickered with a flicker of a smirk. “I guess my notoriety as a cheater just brings me back to where I originally expected to be: Doing things my own way, not wanting to be a star, not caring about my public image, but wanting to be the one who ends this stupid law.”Bookmark here

“You think people are gonna let you be the *cough cough* ‘hero’?” Graphite sneered, making quotation marks with his fingers. “After you blatantly cheated in front of everyone?”Bookmark here

Shrugging, Rover said, “How can they stop me? Glove Alien Fight is set to reach the Next Phase when someone collects all ten Special Numbers. I don’t know what this ‘Next Phase’ thing is, but I’m assuming it has something to do with unlocking a way to challenge CEO Claudius. Like Benedict Torrent, CEO Claudius won’t accept challenges until certain conditions are met.”Bookmark here

“You’re just guessing,” Graphite said.Bookmark here

“We’re all just guessing, Graphite! This is a stupid game to him, but it isn’t a game, it’s actual people and our lives…although it’s a game…”Bookmark here

“What’s your point, man?”Bookmark here

“My point is it doesn’t matter whether or not people are on my side,” he replied, raising his voice to make sure the eavesdroppers could clearly hear. “To move to the Next Phase and get all the Special Numbers, people will have to challenge me because I have two of them. That automatically sets the possibility to get all ten myself, meaning I’ll be the one to challenge the CEO.”Bookmark here

Graphite clicked his tongue and shook his head. “You’re awfully confident, bud. Why not let someone else do it? Nobody’s gonna champion a cheater!”Bookmark here

“I’m not riding on being championed.”Bookmark here

“But can you do it?” Cynical and condescending, Graphite looked Rover in the eyes. “You wouldn’t have won any of those matches without those modded Glove Aliens. Your crutch is gone.”Bookmark here

“When the crutch is gone, the real strength is built.”Bookmark here

Rover walked off, swatting away a drone that hit him with an AthletaCom dart. The other students whispered amongst themselves. Watching Rover’s back, Graphite shook with anger and gritted his teeth.Bookmark here

“Dammit,” he muttered, “nice punchline.” Someone approached him from behind, and he turned to face them. “What, Tallyhawk?”Bookmark here

The dark-skinned, crow-haired girl shrugged. “Ya know what? I’m actually rooting for Rover.”Bookmark here

“Urrggh.” Graphite rubbed his eyes. “You’re not mad because you still beat him.”Bookmark here

“That helps.” She smirked. “But I am still mad at him. Still doesn’t mean I don’t hope he gets rid of the daily quota.”Bookmark here

“But why him?”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk shrugged. “He’s got that spark.” She crossed her arms. “And he’s got Quinn Integrity. He’s got the Super Club.”Bookmark here

Graphite gazed down the hall, but Rover was gone. A few suction cup darts with the Interschool AthletaCom emblem littered the floor at his feet, and he picked one up.Bookmark here

“I’m not happy about it,” he said, toying with the dart between his fingers, “but yeah…if someone’s gonna beat the CEO, it would be the frickin’ Super Club. Destiny is an asshole like that.”Bookmark here

25!25@25#25$25%25^25&25*25(25)25_25+25Bookmark here

The Super Club members sat around the sea-marble coffee table, munching on crispy rice cakes. Ryuumba-chan swiftly made lap after lap around the seating area, picking up the never-ending dusting of crumbs from the flaky snacks.Bookmark here

“What’s our next fundraiser gonna be, team?!” Crumbs fell from Quintegrity’s mouth, and she lifted her feet for Ryuumba-chan to slip underneath.Bookmark here

“Clearing Rover’s name?” Lumpy suggested. When Rover glared at him, he chuckled. “Sorry, man, I couldn’t help it.”Bookmark here

“These may be trying times, Rover,” Quintegrity said, her voice full of wisdom and mouth full of rice cake, “but you mustn’t steer from the tasks at hand.”Bookmark here

“I ain’t steering away,” Rover replied, leaning back on the couch. “I’m gonna beat the final boss, CEO Claudius himself.”Bookmark here

“Who’s to say he’s the final boss?” Lumpy asked. “There might be someone else pulling his strings—the true final boss!”Bookmark here

“Then I’ll whoop him, too!”Bookmark here

“Fear not!” Quintegrity told them, her hands held out in a gesture of grandeur. “CEO Claudius is, indeed, the top of the fool chain!”Bookmark here

“Uh, food chain, you mean?” Adele corrected.Bookmark here

Quintegrity made finger guns at Adele. “I mean fool!”Bookmark here

“You really shouldn’t badmouth the CEO,” Adele whispered, glancing over her shoulder. “You’ll be tried for treason.” She stopped, then sighed. “I guess it doesn’t make a difference in your position.”Bookmark here

Rover swirled the blastberry-lavender sparkling tea in his skull-shaped cup.Bookmark here

“I couldn’t care less about what people think of me,” he said. “I found some new Glove Aliens, so I’m gonna see what they’re like and make use of them. Losing my Beelzebub Glove Aliens is my biggest irk, though. I worked hard on modding them and only wanted to use them for fun every now and then.”Bookmark here

“But you relied on them for genuine competitions,” Lumpy told him. “That was stupid, dude. I’m just as mad at you as most of Thugwood.”Bookmark here

Rover half-shrugged. “Live and learn.”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m proud of you, babe!”Bookmark here

“Wahh!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity hugged Rover, some rice cake crumbs falling from her mouth into his tea.Bookmark here

“Never give up!” She stroked his hair, getting close to his ear and whispering, “Never surrender…”Bookmark here

Rover’s ear twitched with each breathy syllable. He pushed her off him before his sweat soaked through his clothes and into hers. Quintegrity hopped off the couch, giggling and running around the living room with her arms out, making airplane noises (as she often did).Bookmark here

Lumpy took a sip of his sparkling tea and asked Rover, “Did you contact those people who emailed you? The ones who challenged you to AR matches.”Bookmark here

“I did. The guy with Special Number 2 is still on for tomorrow, and he roasted me and said I don’t stand a chance without my mods. The people with Special Numbers 4 and 6 haven’t responded.”Bookmark here

“It’s gonna be interesting from here,” Lumpy murmured. “I’m sure I’ll be lumped in with your status as a cheater because I’ve been helping you.”Bookmark here

“Nice pun, Lumpy!” Quintegrity said.Bookmark here

“…There wasn’t a pun.”Bookmark here

“We have the disguises,” Adele told Lumpy. “We can still hide our identities.”Bookmark here

“Actually,” Lumpy said, “I’ve decided against the disguises.” He smiled at Rover. “If my best friend is going down this path, then I wanna be there with him, taking the punches, too. No sense hiding.”Bookmark here

Rover was surprised, but he grinned. “Thanks, Lumpy. It means a lot.”Bookmark here

“I’m still mad at you, though,” Lumpy said. “I can’t believe you lied to everyone, including me.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah.” Rover stared at the ceiling. “I know…and I’m sorry.”Bookmark here

“Even so,” Lumpy added, “I owe you my support. Think of all the times you bailed me out of hairy situations. Like when you were my alibi all those times I snuck outta the house to see Iori Hajima when I dated her. Or when you took that hit for me from the teenager prods when we got caught by the Curfew Crusade.”Bookmark here

“That really hurt,” Rover sneered, “a lot.”Bookmark here

“Hrrmm…” Adele crossed her arms and stared at the floor. “I don’t know… I have my dignity to keep.”Bookmark here

“It is what it is,” Rover said.Bookmark here

“What a copout answer, Big Bro.”Bookmark here

Rover took a few gulps of the delicious blastberry-lavender sparkling tea. A shiver accompanied a realization, and he gazed into his cup, seeing the floating bits of rice cake that had fallen out of Quintegrity’s mouth.Bookmark here

His hairs stood on end. “Oh no, what’d I do?!”Bookmark here

“An indirect kiss!” Quintegrity declared, throwing her hands in the air. “I got you, Rover! Mwa-ha-ha-haaa!”Bookmark here

“Aahhh…gaahh…uh…” Rover shook his blushing, sweating head and put the cup on the coffee table with an unsteady hand. “A-Anyway, uh, the fundraiser! Let’s talk about the fundraiser!”Bookmark here

“The AthletaCom is coming up,” Adele said. “Maybe we can do something for that.”Bookmark here

“A power ramen stand?” Lumpy suggested, opening his notebook.Bookmark here

“Ooh, that’s a good idea.” Quintegrity nodded at the thought. “Yes…power ramen is the best supplementing food for athletes. I can look up some recipes and master the techniques, then pass it along to you guys!”Bookmark here

Rover snorted. “Become a master just like that, huh?”Bookmark here

“It’s settled, then!” Quintegrity grabbed the Militia-grade tablet off its charging station. “I’ll get to work crunching the numbers and making a PowerPunch presentation for us to review later this week.”Bookmark here

“Wait,” Lumpy said, “that’s it? It was my idea, but we don’t have any other ideas?”Bookmark here

No reply.Bookmark here

“I guess power ramen it is,” Adele said with a shrug.Bookmark here

*Taptaptaptaptaptaptap*Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s fingers tapped on the tablet screen at lightning speed.Bookmark here

“Don’t break that tablet…” Lumpy warned. “I know how you are with electronics.”Bookmark here

“It’s Militia-grade and bulletproof,” Quintegrity explained, her fingers moving faster each second. “I bought it with the tips I made from those crepe transactions yesterday.”Bookmark here

“It’s crazy you made that much from those free crepes,” Adele chuckled.Bookmark here

Quintegrity cackled as she scoured the internet for recipes. “We’ll show those Cryptozoology Club members who has the best power ramen! Oh-ho-ho-hooo!”Bookmark here

“Let me guess,” Rover muttered, “you liked the power ramen idea because somebody else at school is doing the same thing.”Bookmark here

“Correct!”Bookmark here

“And, if it’s a competition of any kind,” Rover continued, “then it qualifies for the AthletaCom. That’s an easy win for you.”Bookmark here

“Incorrect!” The vibrant girl shot a determined smirk at Rover. “True, I plan on this power ramen competition being during the AthletaCom. However! I won’t be participating! You guys will! After I master the ramen technique, I shall instruct you three on the craft and set you on the path to power ramen conquest.”Bookmark here

“Uhhh…” Rover was speechless.Bookmark here

“What’ll you be doing in the meantime?” Adele asked Quintegrity.Bookmark here

“Anything! In fact, I plan on entering a footrace because they’re always mega popular with tons of participants in the AthletaCom.”Bookmark here

“So,” Rover grunted, “you plan on trouncing weaklings in a footrace, eh?”Bookmark here

“I’ll hold back,” she assured him with a teddy bear smile as her fingers assaulted the bulletproof tablet screen.Bookmark here

Nobody believed her.Bookmark here

25!25@25#25$25%25^25&25*25(25)25_25+25Bookmark here

After school the next day on Tsu-day, Rover met the holder of Special Number 2, a heavy metal guitarist dude calling himself Jones the Bones. He had a giant Mohawk haircut dyed the color of unripe bananas. Tattoos covered his body.Bookmark here

“I don’t care if ya cheated.” He sneered at Rover as the Ring Hiders scattered throughout Mooface Park along the Gubbuh-Plardy River. “I want your Special Numbers.”Bookmark here

“Then you’ll be going home disappointed,” Rover retorted, configuring his character.Bookmark here

Above the park, a Thugforce Militia chopper hung low. Rover tried peering through the windows, but to no avail.Bookmark here

Don’t worry, buttheads. I’m gonna play legit from now on.Bookmark here

Quintegrity crept around a rooftop nook across the street, staying hidden from the Cohort Squadron helicopter. She wore a baggy jersey with basketball shorts, and her jester-like face was painted like a Thuggalo fan of the hip-hip duo Demented Jester Posse.Bookmark here

When the Ring Hiders split up, she noticed a girl in the back of the congregation wait until she was out of sight (or so she believed) to hop on a floating device—an Anti-Grav skateboard—her avatar riding on a little AR scooter. The girl zipped off and Quintegrity followed, sticking to the alleyways.Bookmark here

Far away from the match’s starting location, the girl stopped next to a busy highway overpass. Her avatar wore the Tortoise Spacesuit, which reduced its weight and increased its jumping capability. She had her avatar equip a Goosepack, soar high above the heavy traffic, and place the gold bagel in the beams under the highway bridge.Bookmark here

“It was you!!!”Bookmark here

Aaahh!!!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity popped out of nowhere, scaring the girl, making her lose her balance and jump off the Anti-Grav skateboard before falling over.Bookmark here

The girl was dressed in punky skater clothes, a backwards flat bill cap, and Adverse brand shoes. She trembled as Quintegrity stepped closer.Bookmark here

“Oh no…” she breathed. “I-I’ve heard of this! Thuggalos jumping people under bridges!”Bookmark here

“Ha-ha-haa!” Quintegrity put her hands on her hips. “That’s not true! Thuggalos are only scary-looking misfits. They aren’t the devil’s minions!”Bookmark here

“…Uhhhh…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity looked at the AR ring in the bridge’s trusses. “You’re the one placing those rings in hard-to-reach places, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

Backing up with an unsure expression, the girl said, “Well…I try to. It makes it more fun.”Bookmark here

“Yes…I recognized your little game dude with its turtle armor.” She looked at the Anti-Grav skateboard, smiled, and said, “Recon complete!”Bookmark here

“Q!” Rover barked through the earpiece. “What are you doing? Who are you terrorizing now???”Bookmark here

“Just doing my Thuggalo business! Whomp whomp! Tee-hee-hee!”Bookmark here

Th-Thuggalo?!”Bookmark here

When Quintegrity dashed off with a gust of wind, the skater girl fell to the ground and sat there for a moment.Bookmark here

“Man…” she muttered, a drop of sweat rolling down her cheek, “there sure are some whackos in this city…”Bookmark here

25!25@25#25$25%25^25&25*25(25)25_25+25Bookmark here

“An Anti-Grav skateboard???” Adele leaned into Quintegrity, her face flushed from inquisitive eagerness toward her upperclassman. “Where’d she get it? How much did it cost?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, Adele, she didn’t say.”Bookmark here

The four Super Club members sat side-by-side on a swing set in Mooface Park, looking out at the Gubbuh-Plardy River as they snacked on tangerine-flavored Jabba Cakes they’d bought and reviewed the match against Jones the Bones.Bookmark here

“An Anti-Grav skateboard, huh?” Rover mused as he admired the Special Number 2 item recently added to his inventory list. “And her character used the Tortoise Spacesuit, Scooty-Go-Rounds, and Goosepacks. Yeah, that’ll give her everything she needs to put those rings in tough places.”Bookmark here

“Scooty-Go-Rounds are super hard to get,” Lumpy said, licking the tangerine filling off his fingers. “If she’s willing to waste them on hiding rings, then she probably has a lot, meaning she’s probably at a pretty high level.” He grinned, saying, “Who knows, Rover? You might be facing her someday for a Special Number.”Bookmark here

“Foreshadowiiiiing!” Quintegrity hissed in a mysterious, theatrical voice, wiggling her fingers in some “hocus-pocus” gesture. The Thuggalo jester face paint only amplified this act.Bookmark here

Rover chuckled, taking another Jabba Cake out of its package. “Yeah… Foreshadowing.”Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 999Bookmark here

All Money… {T}113,100Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}112,100Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Fine… {T}50,000Bookmark here

Anti-Grav Skateboard… {T}499,999Bookmark here

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Gloves… ScribblyBookmark here

Armor… FASCAR ShirtBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

#1, #2, #5

Bookmark here

***AUTHOR'S NOTE***Bookmark here

If you're reading this, then allow me say I am super grateful that you read my story! It means so much to me! xDBookmark here

Writing this ridiculous story has been a great breath of fresh air for me. My main series, ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ , has been a huge undertaking for me. Writing something fun and lighthearted was almost necessary for me at this point, so I conjured up this zany rom com thing to relearn how to making writing fun again.Bookmark here

As you've probably noticed, this is only the first volume of the story. At this point, I plan on there being three volumes total. If you enjoyed the story this far, I hope you'll stick around for the rest of it. I need beta readers and feedback to improve my craft, so please comment on anything you feel like. It'd be much appreciated!Bookmark here

Until then, happy reading!Bookmark here

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