Author's Note: Konnichiwa! I am Kuroneko, but you can call me K-chan. ^_^ I've recently been introduced to Summer Wars and absolutely love it! This little ficcie of mine takes place one year after the film, and deals primarily with Kazuma and his avatar, King Kazma, along with an OC and her avatar. I do my best to keep everyone as in-character as possible, so if anything stands out please let me know.

Let me know what you think! All questions, comments, constructive criticism, and/or suggestions are welcome. Thank you so much for reading!


Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Summer Wars. I just like to write for fun. ^_^


Lullaby Wars
By Kuroneko

Chapter 1: Rising Stars of OZ

All round the virtual martial arts coliseum, the screaming and cheering could be heard by anyone logged on in the wee hours of the morning. Millions of avatars packed the seats, crowding one another to get a better look at the victor who stood silently in the center of the game field as the challenger was briskly hauled away from blaring electronic lights.

Welcome to OZ, the online community where virtual reality becomes reality; the world where anything can happen with the click of the button. One year later, this Internet realm had expanded and flourished, adding more stores, users, and utilities than ever before. Every day, new user accounts sprang up: cell phones logging in, student registering their laptops – it could easily be said that OZ was rapidly becoming the online equivalent of Earth.

It was hard to believe that it was only last year that OZ had nearly met its downfall.

As King Kazma stood at the center of OZ's #5 Coliseum, he couldn't help but wonder how many people even thought about that incident anymore. With all these new users and competitors, he very much doubted it; now that the world – cyber and physical – had been spared, life had gone on as if nothing had happened. Those not directly involved with the downfall of the AI known as Love Machine would understandably begin to forget, even those whose accounts had been hijacked. And with all new security settings and virtual entertainment OZ now offered, who could blame them?

But King Kazma and his real world identity… they remembered.

The computer announcer at last revealed the final scores of the competition; again, the white rabbit fighter came out on the top. As the crowd of avatars screamed with praise and supposedly undying devotion, King Kazma gave a curt nod before heading back towards the cyber locker rooms, the illusionary obstacles dissipating as he moved along.

His sneakers made virtual tapping noises as he walked along the cybernetic hall. It was the same every time he came here: receive a challenge, accept the challenge, meet his opponent at the designated coliseum, kick the contestant's rear, and return the undefeated champion.

Both avatar and computer operator sighed; King Kazma certainly lived up to his title, but the monotony was beginning to become irksome at best.

It wasn't that there weren't any worthy opponents – just the opposite, actually. There were a great many users on OZ that provided a challenge. One or two had come close to besting the defending champ, but they never quite made it.

No, the problem wasn't so much the opposition, nor was it the game – actually, he didn't know what it was, Kazuma Ikezawa realized as his watched his avatar saunter into the OZ coliseum locker room and sink onto the nearest bench. Maybe it was because this summer would mark the first anniversary of the battle against Love Machine and Granny's death; maybe it was because in another month he'd be fifteen and when school resumed he'd be finishing his last year of junior high. It could have just been the fact that he was up and battling on OZ when he ough to have been asleep.

Maybe it was all of it, or maybe it was none of it; either way, both the martial arts king of OZ and the fourteen-year-old gamer were disconcerted.

A brightly lit screen appeared in front of King Kazma's face, the little chibi version of himself chirping that he had new incoming messages. The fighter rolled his eyes. This was one of OZ's best-loved inventions, supposedly guaranteed to transfer messages at the quickest speed while the user was online.

One half-gloved hand waved in front of the floating screen carelessly in consent, allowing for the streaming influx of messages to bombard him.

That same hand slapped onto his forehead. The white rabbit peered past overhanging blond bangs and groaned – they were from all of his fans again, cheering in all sorts of languages and trying to get him to respond.

"Gr8 job, King Kazma!"

"All Hail da King!"

"¡King Kazma - el defensor verdadero de OZ!"

"Ausgezeichnete arbeit!"

Message after message, the praises continued. It looked like he was going to have to delete everything stored in his inbox en masse again. The responses were welcome and wonderful, but they were repetitive.

Another round of screams and applause erupted from the stadium of King Kazma waved aside his screen. His ears perked up just in time to catch the announcer's voice:

"EVENING ROUND 937: NIGHT-FIGHTER MATCH-UP 90!" He cringed at the heightened screams. "DEFENDING CHAMPION FENGHUANG LEI VS. CHALLENGER AKANE!"

A new screen blipped in front of the king rabbit's face, revealing the information on the two fighters – one of OZ's latest additions to the Martial Arts Competition. On the left panel was Fenghuang Lei. Kazuma knew this player: some seventeen-year-old hailing from somewhere in South Central China, according to the minimal personal information provided – something the gamers provided of their own initiative. Fenghuang Lei ranked about seventh in the top ten fighters of OZ. King Kazma had been pitted against him before: he was one of the more difficult opponents.

Red eyes slid over to the information concerning the challenger: Akane. Both avatar and human raised an eyebrow.

Akane was a girl.

Kazuma blinked several times to make sure he wasn't reading his computer screen incorrectly. OZ's martial arts challenges seldom ever attracted female competitors – the one's who'd tried either gave up after several defeats; the more determined ones scraped their way to make decent rankings and were among the fiercest competitors. OZ's Martial Arts Championship wasn't for beginners.

But a beginner this Akane wasn't, he realized as he skimmed through her battle history. It wasn't the longest chronology he'd seen by a long-shot, but he had to admit that it was fairly impressive. And considering she was going up against one of OZ's envied Top Ten, he couldn't help but wonder how she'd fare. Compared to his own battle record and Fenghuang Lei's, she was facing a losing battle.

There was an option for the competitors to watch each other fight while still in the locker rooms – another free-floating screen in the corner provided excellent viewpoints and allowed a person to better view the match. It worked basically the same way real-life televised fights were broadcasted.

Kazuma looked over at the clock display in the locker room, his avatar doing the same. It was two-thirty-seven in the morning, and he still couldn't sleep. He wasn't slated for any more battles in the competition, and he was fairly certain that none of his other usual competitors would be up at this hour. And it had been a while since he'd last seen Fenghuang Lei fight.

It might not have been worth his while, but Kazuma wanted to see how this battle would play out. Even if it did end up the way he was sure it would, watching one of the rare times a girl offered a challenge sound interesting, especially if she didn't turn out to be a pushover.

What did he have to lose?

King Kazma sat down on the bench nearest to the corner screen and watched as the myriad of avatars jostled about in the stadium seats while trying to get a good look at the competitors as they entered the arena.


Translations:

"¡King Kazma - el defensor verdadero de OZ!" – Spanish; "King Kazma – the true defender of OZ!"

"Ausgezeichnete arbeit!" – German; "Excellent work!"