What the actual fuck Bunch of assholes Fuck sake
Cursing, he returned to Fladnag’s home and logged out.
Suzuki glared at the reminder on his PDA to attend the formal banquet in the evening. He could not believe they had interrupted Kashi for something as mundane as this.Suzuki glared at his reflection in the mirror. The suit fit him like a glove, but he felt trapped. He unbuttoned the jacket, then loosened the top shirt button. That felt much better. His bangs were a whole other issue; they all but covered his eyes. He might as well have raised a signboard announcing himself as a neet.
Not that he cared; he was more concerned with the fate of the dark elf. Stop! This and that are completely different.
He shrugged, then walked over to the wardrobe. He slipped on a pair of black sneakers-he had no dress shoes-then exited the room.
Suzuki entered the building where the banquet was to be held. The lobby was filled with people chatting excitedly with each other. He cringed at the girls with so much foundation, they could build a complex on their faces. The guys did not lose out. They all seemed to have gone to Edward Scissorhands to get their hair cut. All of this for a stupid dinner party. Ugh, humanity.
He could feel their sneers of disgust at his sneakers and hair, and put on his headphones on. He ignored them as he walked into the hall. Round tables were symmetrically placed around, forming an open circle at the centre. Instruments sat on a stage opposite the entrance.
He took a seat at the farthest table from the entrance. He closed his eyes, engrossed in his mix.
He may or may not have slept off, but the next time he opened his eyes, the tables were almost filled up. Except the ones close to him. He looked up at the source the disturbance.
Jade glared at him, hand on the table. She had on a black gown with white frills. It provided a nice contrast against her pale skin.
“‘Sup?” Suzuki offered after an awkward pause.
Her eyes narrowed and he could swear he saw an inferno swirling behind them. “Hoho. Sup? That’s all you got to say?”
He stared at her stupefied. “…Hello?”
She gritted her teeth, opened her mouth to say something, but then decided against it. Shaking her head, she grabbed his arm. “Come with me!” She yanked him off his seat.
“Uh, you’re attracting some attention,” Suzuki mumbled as she pulled him out of the hall.
“They can bite me,” she spat. She led him into the boy’s bathroom. The prima donnas who were in the middle of spraying poisons onto their hair paused.
“Yeah, yeah. Girl in a guy’s bathroom; get over it!”
She seized one of the hair gels as she paraded Suzuki in front of the mirror.
Suzuki frowned. “What’re you…!” he balked when she withdrew a pair of scissors from a little handybag.
“The hell are you doing with those?”
She shrugged. “Some girls pack lipstick, I pack essentials. Now, shut up!” She brandished the scissors like a pair of weapons, and Suzuki felt a chill run down his spine.
“Um, I don’t know why you’re so mad, but maybe you should drink some cranbe-” The terrible joke died in his throat.
*snip snip snip*
As she inched ever closer with the blades, his heartbeat increased in intensity. He let out a cry as she set to work on his hair.
Several minutes and some poor chap’s hairgel later, Suzuki gaped at his reflection. When was the last time he had a clear view of his eyes? Heck, he had forgotten their dark, almost black color. His mates had likened them to depressive black holes.
Jade looked him over as she sheathed the deadly blade. “That’ll do.” She turned around and made her way towards the door. “Are you coming or not?” She called over her shoulder. Well, it was more like an order.
Suzuki did not understand her anger. More importantly, he did not want to be the one she took it out on. So he gave his reflection one last cursory glance and accompanied her back to his table.
As they waited for the event to start, he could not help but notice her incessant tapping and fidgeting. Sighing, he asked, “What’s wrong?”
Jade snapped to him, eyes distant. “Hm? What was that?”
“I asked what’s up with you?”
Her mouth opened and closed repeatedly as she battled whether to trust him or not.
“If you don’t want to tell me, it’s fine.” He relaxed in his chair, looking absolutely bored.
Her eyes jumped around the room– everywhere apart Suzuki himself. Swallowing hard, she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. “O-okay. Remember when I told you I came to search for my grandfather?”
She looked away, twiddling her thumbs. “Well, I had to hack into their systems to info on him.” She glanced at him for signs of shock, anger or disgust. All of which were common reactions to ‘hackers’.
The fact he looked no less interested was kind of annoying in its own way.
“So, how’d that turn out for you?” Suzuki asked.
“I… I got in.”
This time he reacted. He slammed his palm onto the table, eyes wide in amazement. “You did what?”
“Shhh. You’re too loud,” she chided. His outburst had gained some curious glances.
“So-sorry. But, seriously. You hacked Genaco? That’s… like impossible! It’s currently the world’s highest ranking in net security. Not even the Chinese could break in!” He whispered forcefully.
Jade was taken aback. “You seem to know a lot about this.”
“Well, yeah,” Suzuki said. “I had to be sure my brain could not be hacked somehow through the Nerve Gear.”
“Y-your brain?” She snorted, unable to stifle her amusement.
He turned red as he mumbled, “I-I was a kid, okay. Animes made me skeptical of V.R. Besides, that you still haven’t told me why you’re mad.”
She sighed as she took a sip from her glass. “I made a mistake. I was impatient and created more backdoors than I was supposed to.”
“It’s a good thing I watch sci-fi, or you would have lost me right there.”
“Haha, good one.”
“So… were you caught?”
She frowned, and resumed tapping on the table. “I don’t know, and that’s what’s bugging me. I was sure the system caught me, but the alert was gone faster than it appeared.”
“‘Sup, Sukki-chan!” a familiar voice called as its owner patted him on the shoulder.
Ugh, not him too. Suzuki looked up to see Taiga grinning wickedly down at him. He retained his wild hairstyle, but it seemed to charm the ladies nonetheless. “Hello to you too.”
“I’m hurt. You could look happier to see me,” said the silver-haired teen. “At least introduce me to your date.”
“She’s not my date!” “He’s not my date!” They chorused.
“Like two peas in a pod,” Taiga mused. He bowed to Jade as he introduced himself. “The name’s Taiga.
May I have the pleasure of your name?”
“Yuhi… Jade Yuhi. Call me Jade,” she replied.
“Jade, a pre-”
“Darling!” interrupted an energetic voice.
Oh, great. The whole gang’s here.
Saeko wrapped her arms around Suzuki’s neck from behind. “Darling, you didn’t answer any of my calls.”
Suzuki had two choices. Play along with her ludicrous game, or firmly tell her off. No wait, there was a third option: flip the table like a boss, then stomp out. Unfortunately, that went against his low-profile policy. Though now that he thought about it, between the goth-hacker, the siver haired wierdo, and the big-breasted blond, he had definitely high-profile.
Yes, he could feel the heated glares coming from the crowd. They were directed at the oddball out of the group.
“I was in the drive all week, sorry,” Suzuki apologized.
“It’s okay darling.” She pecked his cheek, then took a seat opposite Taiga. She noticed his lack of bangs. “You got a haircut?”
“…Something like that.”
Saeko was about to say something but was drowned out by a roaring applause.
Akari walked onto the stage, accompanied by Yukino. She looked stunning in a flowery yellow dress.
Akari stopped in front of the standing mike and cleared his throat. “Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am glad to see we have a full house tonight. This event is hosted by one of our very brightest minds. I present to you… James Shouyou.”
Suzuki inhaled sharply. He watched with clenched fists as the young CEO took to the stage, accompanied by roaring applause.
James flashed his winning smile as he waved down the applause. “Hello all you handsome gents and exquisite ladies. You all look absolutely amazing!” His cheery voice washed over the audience. “So, some of you are no doubt wondering why I pulled you guys out of the game?”
Murmurs rose around the hall.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” James said. “Here’s the deal. I saw some of you were beginning to spend a lot of time in the virtual world and neglecting this one. Before I go any further, how many of you here like the new park, and recreational facilities I opened up?”
The murmurs grew louder, but no one spoke up.
“And I’ll also take that to mean a lot of you did. So at the very least, a couple of you by now have made some friends. However, there are still a good number of you guys who spend their entire days cooped up in their rooms. Some immerse themselves in the game while others…” His eyes swam across the room “…engage in interesting activities.”
Jade shivered, feeling like he spent a bit too much time on her.
He stepped down from the stage and begun walking among them. “What does this have to do with me interrupting your game time? Well, most of you are in the prime of your youth. I personally believe it is a waste to spend all of your time locked away.” He leaned in towards a girl who blushed scarlet, and said in a musky voice. “You’re all too pretty for that.”
He left the girl short of breath as he continued energetically. “In lieu of this, I have ordered Mondays and Thursdays as bonding days. This means no gaming for you guys on those days.” He raised a hand to calm the rising murmurs. “We will be increasing the time paradox to five times ours to compensate for this. So, rejoice! You get more playing time.”
“As to what we’ll do on bonding days… well, nothing really. There might be other events like this one, but those days will mostly be dedicated to you guys hanging out or making friends. Now I know some of you are gamers because, let’s face it. The real world sucks big time. Why bother with judgemental classmates and annoying bosses when you can be heroes and have people listen to you for once.
Most of you guys here have been shunned by girls because they label you as NEETS uncool by definition. Good news, the girls are as much gamers, if not more than you guys are. So, while we are here to find a cure for parallel, your well-being is our utmost concern.”
He paused, and returned to the stage where he replaced the mike onto its stand.”I have taken up enough of your night. Mingle, talk, have as much fun as possible. And most importantly.. enjoy the evening.” He bowed and left the stage, to a standing ovation, whistles and cheers.
Five guys replaced him on the stage, each with their own instruments. After a slight drumroll, the evening kicked off in earnest.
“That was a nice speech,” Jade said. She and everyone at the table had noticed Suzuki’s intense glare. However, she was unsure on whether she should inquire or not.
“He’s always had a way with words,” Suzuki ground out through gritted teeth. His gaze was fixed on the blonde dancing at the centre with someone he did not recognise.
“You sound like you know him,” Taiga pointed out.
“We go way back.” Suzuki directed his intense gaze at Jade. “Care for a dance?”
“Uh-um…” Jade stammered, caught off guard by his request.
Saeko huffed. “If you do not accept, I will.”
“I-I’m fine,” she mumbled, as she took Suzuki’s outstretched hand. She kept her gaze at her feet, trying to remember everything her father had taught her. Damn, should have paid more attention during those dance lessons.
Taiga and Saeko watched as Kashi led her onto the dance floor. “So… are you going to ask me to dance or not?” Taiga asked, brow raised.
Saeko returned his mocking smile with one of her own. “Isn’t that the man’s job?”
He shrugged, grey eyes shining. “Well, I’m all for gender equality.”
“Ha. Then you can sit there all night and be equal to zero.” She got up and turned towards the dance floor. “I on the other hand, have places to be.”
Taiga grabbed her hand. “That’s no way for a prince to act right?”
“Wha?” She stared at him, eyes wide. Little by little, she began to see the resemblance.
“You.. no way.
He grinned. “The very one.”
Saeko closed her eyes and sighed loudly.
Taiga blocked her left hook. “That’s more like it… Prince.”
A vein popped on her forehead as she wrenched her right hand from his grasp. She turned away, as if to leave.
Then whirled around sharply.
Taiga blocked her punch, then precisely parried a couple more hits. She made to punch his chest and he blocked. But she opened her palms and slapped away his guard. She attacked his chest with both fists, pushing his chair back. He grabbed her hands before she could retrieve them and pulled her forward.
Inches away from her, he smiled, panting as he said, “So… about that dance?”
“Fine. But call me Prince one more time and a sore chest will be the least of your worries.”
“Oh, you flatter yourself. What makes you think that hurt?”
She raised her fist. “Want to try again?”
He chuckled nervously as he waved his hands. “No, no. I’m good.” As he escorted her to the circle, he mumbled. “By the way, you look great.”
She looked away from him. “Thanks. You clean up nice yourself.”
“Not too bad,” Akari muttered, taking a sip from his glass. “That guy actually put together a pretty decent dinner party.”
Yukino stood by his side, her brilliance dimmed by a frown.
“What’s the matter?” Akari asked.
She glared at him and he backed away, at a loss at what to do. She swiped a full bottle of champagne from a passing waiter. His protests were cut short with a single look from her. “A toast to idiots,” she mumbled as she filled a glass and downed it in one gulp.
Meanwhile, Jade was mesmerized by Suzuki’s skill. He led her effortlessly across the dance floor, drawing the admiration and ire of girls and guys. “Where did you learn to dance like this?”
He focused in on her, pausing as if to reboot his brain. “My previous game character picked up a plethora of skills while exploring. This is just one of them I inherited from him.”
She chuckled. “The way you view your avatars never gets old. So, what game did you play before this one?
You must have been pretty good to be drafted for this weird project.”
“King’s Journey,” he said. “I’m seeing now that whole game was most likely a beta for this one.”
“Huh? Did your avatar take part in that last battle against Razznik? It was the biggest news in gaming network since the advent of VRs.”
Suzuki paused. “He died a terrible death.”
“Haha. Well, a lot of people called Razz a monster. Ain’t a surprise you lost to him.”
Suzuki nodded as they came up beside James Shouyou and his partner. “Excuse me for a second.” He let her go, and launched a punch at the older man in one swift motion.
James also released his partner and blocked the blow. His hands quivered under the force of Suzuki’s blows. “I guess you’ve got some questions, Mato-kun.”
“Ah,” Suzuki said, grinning. “I have lots of questions.” He retrieved his hand, and spun around, his elbow aimed for the older man’s face.
James anticipated the attack and blocked it. Suzuki kept up the barrage of attacks with his back to him but he blocked them all. He pushed Suzuki. The youth stumbled forward, stopped, then turned around.
The dance floor quietened down as gazes fell on the two of them
“What are you so upset about?” Shouyou asked. “I would have thought you’d be pleased.”
Suzuki charged forward. He jumped, spun horizontally and struck downwards at James. James stepped back just in time, and attacked in kind by kicking the teen in the mid-riff.
Suzuki shielded the strike, but it launched him into the air. Not one to lose, he forced himself into one more spin and struck the older man in the chest. James staggered backwards a few steps.
“Now, look what you did,” Shouyou muttered. “You just ruined this suit.” He took of his jacket and folded his sleeves. Kashi did the same.
The charged each other. They met at the middle, hands clashed against each other in a contest of strength. They both turned red in the face as they fought to gain some ground.
Suzuki gritted his teeth and headbutted the older man. As James reeled back from the shock, Suzuki raised a leg to his face. smack!
James bent his cheek to soften the impact. However, he used the momentum from the strike to pay the teen back with a kick of his own.
Girls drooled as they took snapshots of the men whose shirts had begun to slip off, revealing their harshly sculpted bodies.
The clash continued with no side intent on backing off. Bloodied, Suzuki ripped off his shirt which had begun to get in his way. As he flexed, he did not notice the increase in flashes from PDAs.
He and James rushed each other for one final bout but two figures interfered.
Taiga stopped Suzuki while Akari punched James.
“I should have known I could not take my eyes off you,” Akari said.
“Why’d you interfere?” Shouyou asked. “It was just getting to the good part.”
Akari sighed. “For all your smarts, you can be really dense sometimes. You two talk over whatever this is outside.”
Shouyou grumbled as he picked up his jacket. Unbelievably, he looked brand new once he straightened out his shirt. “Come on, Mato-kun. Let’s talk outside. We’ve disrupted this party long enough.”
Suzuki followed him out of the hall.
Akari clapped his hands and the band resumed their music as the dinner slowly recovered from the mayhem. Once everything was back on track, he walked over to Yukino. “You still want to dance?”
She glared at him over her cup. “Took you long enough.” She hid her huge grin as he escorted her to the dance floor.
The may breeze licked at Suzuki’s cut lip. He wiped the blood as he turned to Shouyou. “Start talking.”
“I thought you’d like i-”
“I don’t care about that!” He grabbed James’ collar. “Why the hell is Razznik still alive?”
Shouyou blinked, trying to process what he just heard. “That’s what you’re mad about? Not the fact that you were kidnapped?”
“My life sucked already anyway. This whole fiasco barely makes my top fifty worst moments.”
Shouyou laughed like he had never laughed before. He covered his eyes with his palms to stop the tears from rushing down. “Who would’ve thought that’s what you were mad about.”
“Have you forgotten the day you signed up? Section C Clause 4 of the contract.”
Suzuki shut his eyes as he recalled the sheet of paper. “… In the event of character deletion… retain.. use…” He released Shouyou, stunned by the memory.
“I see you remember.”
“You. Just how far ahead did you plan?”
Shouyou smiled. “That’s for you to find out.”
He made his way to the building’s doors as he waved over his shoulder.
“Have fun in this game.. Oh, and give my regards to Kashi.”