"How selfish of you... or should I say naive. You believe that limiting yourself will make those around you happier. But by doing so, all you are doing is lying; to yourself and to everyone. Really... what's the point of living such a dull life?"
The bell chimed rather loudly throughout the school, signalling the end of class and consequently the end of the school day.
A certain black haired boy sighed in relief as the lecture on modern day geography was halted. Really, what was the point of simply reading the textbook aloud in class, especially if you knew the class was half asleep.
Lazily beginning to pack up his things, the boy was interrupted by a greeting from behind him.
He briefly turned his head to see a familiar brown-haired boy who was grinning wildly. Swiftly turning his attention back to packing up, he answered with a swift "No."
Nonchalantly walking up to the black haired boy and putting an arm around his shoulders, the brown-haired student was unaffected. "Come on now Kazu-kun, don't be such a drag. You had fun last time right?"
He received a glare in return from Kazuto. "If by fun, you mean absolute misery, then yes. "
"Seriously man? The girls were all over you!"
Shrugging off the arm that was draped around him, Kazuto finished packing up and began leaving for the door. "I'm not interested Ichiro, I have to pick up my sister today." He replied briefly, giving a backwards wave of goodbye.
Ichiro grinned despite having been shut down, It was not like he had expected Kazuto to go with them again. Last time, he had invited the boy to the new arcade that was opening in the mall, but along the way they had met a group of girls that were from a different school. Naturally he had used his own charm, and by throwing Kazuto's 'bishi' looks at them, he had successfully secured a 'mixer'.
Of course what had ended up happening was that the girls dragged them around doing all sorts of things before ending up at a Karaoke bar. It didn't help that almost all the girls were fussing over Kazuto in a hilarious way. Ichiro had literally 'thrown' Kazuto at some of the girls to the groups amusement.
He chuckled as he recalled the flustered looks on both Kazuto and the girls' faces. Really, the boy had to have some sort of aura that attracted girls like bees to honey. Even at their very own school he was very well known.
"Hey Ichiro!" A voice called from outside the classroom, shaking him from his thoughts.
He made his way over to greet his friends, a ragged bunch that he knew since first year.
"Hey guys." He greeted, receiving some nods. There were four of them in total including himself, and he wondered if he should have told Kazuto that they really were going to the arcade this time. There was a big event going on about the new VRFPS (Virtual Reality First Person Shooter)game that was coming out, something he was sure Kazuto would be very interested in.
"Ah, is Kirigaya-san not joining us today?" One of them asked.
"Tsk, that guy is too good for us or something right Ichiro?" Replied a rather chubby looking boy.
Ichiro chuckled lightly. "Now now Mashiro, no need to be jealous. Kazuto has to pick up his sister today Izumi-kun."
They all shared a look.
"You mean that sister?"
They all shivered, having met her a few times. If there was even a slight chance that you might be interrupting her 'Onii-chan time', you would be meeting the end of her sword.
"I don't understand what's so cool about Kirigaya-san anyway, almost half the girls in our school are obsessed with him in some way." The chubby boy ranted. "I mean, he looks so much like a girl! And the way he acts... its too nice."
The group shared a few nods.
"Now now, thats no way to talk about a friend..." Ichiro lectured, before widening his eyes. "Ah, I forgot you guys didn't go to the same elementary school as Kazuto and I."
He let out a short laugh at their confused expressions. "Fufufu~ look here." He said, moving towards the windows. The group joined him at the windows, where they looked in the same direction.
"You guys see Kazuto?" They nodded, seeing the black haired boy lazily strolling towards the school gate.
"Now the thing about Kazu-kun, is that he has more going on than just his 'bishi' looks. I mean he does look kind of frail doesn't he?"
"Damn right." They replied.
Chuckling, Ichiro continued his explanation. "If he was just a pretty boy, he wouldn't be that popular since he's the self made 'loner' type." It wasn't as if Kazuto tried to push those around him away, but it was more like Kazuto just seemed more comfortable alone. Never initiating conversations, he was the type that preferred to stare out the window in quiet contemplation.
Hard to approach.
"Aahh... I see." One of them said aloud. "...No I don't, how is he so popular then?"
"Like that." Ichiro gestured to where Kazuto had stopped. He was approached by a rather large group of girls that were giggling while seemingly pushing one of their members forward.
"Oowah~ That bastard, thats Nanami-chan from 2-B!" In terms of popularity, she was definitely within the top 5.
They watched in awe as she nervously stepped in front of Kazuto, pushed onward by her friends. She was blushing wildly as she stared at the ground rather than the awkwardly smiling boy in front of her. The group gasped as she handed him some sort of small package with both hands.
"That's the chocolate the girls were making today in cooking class! Damn..." One of the boys shouted in disbelief. "I can't believe this!"
"Watch closely now." Ichiro chided them.
They watched as Kazuto accepted the chocolate from her hands with a large smile. They couldn't hear what words were exchanged but the girl began blushing even harder if that was possible. Then he did the unexpected, he leaned down, lightly grasped one of her hands, and then laid a kiss on its back, causing both the surrounding onlookers and them to gasp.
She was holding both hands to her cheeks as Kazuto waved goodbye and left through the gates. Shortly after she was mobbed by her girl friends, where they quickly dragged her away to begin their interrogation.
"That's Kazu-kun for you." He gestured exasperatedly. "Even if it bothers him, he never fails to make the girls around him happy. Did you guys know he had a nickname back in our school? It was «The Prince» ."
As he turned towards his friends he sweatdropped as most of them were clutching their heads in anger, most likely cursing Kazuto mentally in a variety of violent ways.
Mashiro however, had a rather sageful looking expression on his face, as he seemed to stroke an imaginary beard with his right hand.
"I see now... His pretty boy looks, coupled with overwhelming charm. No wonder he earned that title, I'm sure of it now, Kirigaya-san is indeed the «Final Boss» of our school." He said to the bewildered looking group of friends.
"Hahaha! Final boss indeed, although I don't think any of you has the slightest chance of defeating him." Ichiro exclaimed in amusement.
They glared at him in return. "Hey! Does that mean you think you have a chance?"
He grinned widely. "Nope not even close. If this were a MMO I'm sure Kazu-kun would be the «Hero» class, while I would be a measly «Knight» class." He explained. "Of course you guys would all have to be my squires of course fufufu~" He laughed even as he was jumped by his annoyed friends.
After they had finished their rough-housing, having been kicked out by an annoyed teacher, they headed out the school towards the mall.
"Hey Ichiro." Mashiro called out, causing the group to look back at him. "«The Prince» Seems to be an awfully pretentious title, what's the story behind that anyway?"
Ichiro thought deeply before replying.
"Now that is an interesting story..."
Walking towards his destination, the black-haired boy sighed deeply, thinking about the neatly wrapped chocolate he held in his hands. He didn't like what he had done to Nanami back there, it simply wasn't nice to mislead others.
But...the alternative would be even worse. If he had rejected her in front of the school then he would not only be scorned, but would also have cause Nanami pain. If he accepted the chocolate, and let her finish her confession then he would have been forced into a relationship that he was sure would not have lasted long, no offense to the cute girl; he just wasn't interested in dating at the moment.
So he had ended up in the middle ground, he accepted the chocolate, but before the girl could finish stuttering out a confession, he had thanked her for the chocolate, complimented her looks and then kissed her on the hand in a gentlemanly manner. This way, no one was hurt, and nothing would come of it except some fresh rumours.
This method of his was 100% foolproof, and was something he frequently utilized during his school days. Of course he really wondered why so many girls were attracted to him, despite not even knowing him personally. He liked to blame Ichiro, who chose to declare himself as Kazuto's 'best friend' for selling out information about him.
Despite his annoyingness however, Ichiro was one of Kazuto's few friends that understood his desire for personal time. If only he would stop spreading rumours about him, especially about his supposed 'title' in elementary school. He really didn't want that embarrassing story to be well-known.
Shaking his head from his frustrating middle school life, he contemplated the chocolate in his hands. It was surely going to melt in the heat if he did not eat it now, and would surely suffer a similar fate in his backpack. He wasn't trying to dispose of it in order to avoid a certain girl from asking him where it came from. Definitely not.
Nibbling on the chocolate confectionary, he absently noted that it was really good. 'Perhaps I should reconsider going out with Nanami after all' He mused.
Coming to a stop in front of a different middle-school, he stared around awkwardly at the rush of students through the gate. He briefly wondered why Suguha wanted to go to this school so badly when she could have attended his.
Awkwardly brushing his way past the gate and past the odd stares of students wondering why a boy from another school was entering theirs, he found his answer.
A group of girls carrying a certain type of sports equipment passed him, and he shook his head in amusement.
"Number one middle school for Kendo huh..."
"Hey." He called out to the three girls. They stopped in surprise when they saw a boy around their age but from a different school. They also blushed as he smiled at them, all of them thinking how cute he looked; awkwardly standing there.
"Hai?" The one red-haired girl closest to him answered.
"Are you girls heading towards the Kendo club?" He asked, causing them to blink in surprise.
As the shout echoed through the large practice hall, two figures immediately began to circle each other. One a short-haired girl with a 'hime' cut, and another girl with long blond tresses. They were both adorned with the standard Kendo armour and helmet, and each held their shinai in front of them with both hands.
Two veterans of the sport.
Lining the sides were numerous spectators each cheering for both of the girls, and despite the serious nature of the two participants, the overall atmosphere was rather light.
The two opponents continued to circle each other, waiting for the other to either make a move or create an opening. The shorter girl dashed forward.
The spectators gasped in surprise as she moved, closing the gap in a flash and lashing out with a fast horizontal swing. The blonde grunted in effort as she deftly met her opponent's sword with her own.
A loud -CLACK- sounded through the room.
There was a tense few seconds as they held each others' gaze, their swords locked in place; each struggling to overpower the other. The blonde one smirked, and the short-haired girl smiled in return.
The two opponents jumped back as one before continuing their fight. This time the blonde girl led the way, lashing out with an overhead swing.
Once again their swords met, but this time the response was immediate. The short-haired opponent directed the sword to her left, letting it fall harmlessly away from her body and twirled along with her sword. Her skillfully executed maneuver was dodged barely by the blonde ducking just in time.
The fight continued with loud -CLACK- echoing throughout the room each time the two swung their swords.
It was an amazing sight for both the club members, and the frequent students who came to check out the famed club alike. The skill level in each of the combatants were clear as day to the newbies who watched on in awe.
Eventually however, one was bound to make a mistake.
The blonde fighter reeled in shock as one of their exchanges heavily favoured the shorter girl, causing her grip to slip.
In an instant her sword flew through the air and onto the floor. The crowd watched with disbelief as the short haired girl held her shinai to the blonde's head. It was so fast they couldn't even catch the movement.
The hall was silent for a few moments before somebody started clapping, causing the whole room to erupt into cheers. It was truly an amazing fight despite how short it seemed.
The two former opponents were panting, out of breath from their fierce battle.
"Uhg... Suguha-chan you were amazing as always." The blonde offered in short gasps.
The girl smiled shyly as she slowly got up and offered the other girl a hand. "Not true Ayame-chan, you were great as well."
Taking the offered hand, the girl sighed as they both stood up. "But you are my junior... how am I to show my face around here If I lose to a cute chibi like you?" She said, causing Suguha to giggle.
"It's fine sempai, you are only a year older than me anyway."
"Guh...somehow the way you say it makes me angry." She muttered.
"Hai?" Suguha tilted her head cutely.
"That!" Ayame exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at her chest area.
"I mean thats just not fair Sugu~ are first years allowed to be this big?"
Suguha covered her breasts with her hands all the while blushing up a storm. Her blonde-haired friend laughed at her cuteness. Suguha was about to yell at her friend but was interrupted by a familiar voice.
Immediately her expression changed as her eyes seemingly lit up. She turned around to see Kazuto awkwardly rubbing his neck as he seemed to be gathering a lot of attention. She didn't care.
"Onii-chan!~" She yelled, running into him with a crushing hug.
Kazuto let out a grunt as she crashed into him, almost falling over before he stabilized them with his hands. Smiling at the affectionate girl in his arms, he laughed lightly as he saw her close her eyes, resting her head against his chest.
"Oi Sugu, as much as I would love to remain as your pillow... you know there's a lot of people staring." He said softly so that only she could hear. Indeed, it seemed everyone was staring at them oddly. Of course given Suguha's loud yell he was hopeful they wouldn't think too much of it.
"Ah!" She gasped, letting go of him and turning around. She gulped as she took in the looks of her friends, as they looked suspiciously at the two.
"Ah um... come Onii-chan I'll introduce you." She grabbed his hand in a familiar gesture and brought him forward to the group of girls which included her blonde-haired sempai.
Kazuto suddenly felt like he had been brought in front of a firing squad, as the girls seemingly gave off an ominous aura.
Before Suguha could do anything, a short haired brunette gave an over-exaggerated cry before seemingly pretending to faint onto Ayame's shoulders.
"To think...my pure and innocent Sugu-chan would already have a boyfriend. What a tragedy! Why Sugu?! How were you seduced by this man! Was it his sparkly black hair huh? Or maybe... " She trailed off.
Kazuto let out a yelp as she clasped his face in both hands. "Was it his deliciously cute face?!"
The two girls that were beside her shared an exasperated look before Ayame pulled the excitable girl back away from Kazuto's face.
"B-boyfriend?" The girl that remained beside Kazuto was now blushing madly, both hands raised to her cheeks.
"Calm down Yumi-chan, this is obviously Suguha-chan's brother." The blonde-haired Ayame said, causing the excitable girl to pause in her examinations of him.
"Brother?!" She shouted loudly. Thinking deeply, the girl let out a gasp of surprise before pointing at him. "He must be Kazuto!"
"Um... Hello?" The poor boy nervously greeted. Under the weight of three very judging stares he felt unnaturally naked.
"Psst, Sugu." He whispered, nudging the girl to his left who was still shaking her head. "Huh?"
"Ohh!" She gasped, turning her attention back to the present. "T-thats right this is Kazuto. My brother."
Seemingly broken out of her daze, she gestured to the leftmost girl; a blunette who was shyly looking down at the ground. "This is Chiyo-chan, but we call her Chi-chan." The girl offered a shy hello to him.
Moving on, she gestured to a grinning brunette that was bouncing on her feat. "And this is Yumiko-chan, she is kind o-"
"Hello Onii-chan~ So nice to finally meet you! You can call me Imouto-chan!" The hyperactive girl interjected. Kazuto laughed nervously.
"Uuuu..." Suguha pouted. "And lastly this is Ayame-chan, she's my sempai."
The blonde-haired girl grinned widely, offering her hand for a shake which Kazuto graciously accepted. "It's great to finally meet you in person Kazuto-san, Sugu-chan has told us all about you."
"Ah, nice to meet you too Ayame-san, I actually saw your duel with Sugu earlier, you were both amazing!" He exclaimed, causing the two aforementioned girls to blush.
"Hehe~ It was nothing!" She replied, rubbing her neck bashfully. "Say, are you interested in Kendo at all? I mean especially knowing Sugu-chan's obsessiveness over it."
He blinked in surprise before answering. "Ah maybe just a little."
The three girls all stared at a wide-eyed Suguha who seemed to be struggling to say something.
The girl glared at Kazuto slightly before sighing. "My Onii-chan is just too shy." She muttered, causing the others to look at her in confusion.
"Anyway." She coughed. "I've managed to secure Onii-chan for today!" She exclaimed.
The girls gasped in surprise.
"You don't mean?"
She smugly grinned in triumph. "Yep! He's going to take us shopping!"
Kazuto groaned into his hands as the girls erupted into cheers, he knew he shouldn't have promised Suguha that he would make up for missing one of her local kendo matches. You really couldn't say no to that pouty face of hers. He just hoped his wallet would survive the trip.
"What's going on here!"
A rather sharp feminine voice interrupted their celebration. The girls all gasped in surprised and seemingly straightened themselves up.
The owner of the voice was a rather strict looking raven-haired beauty. She was a tall figure that stood imposingly over the rest of the middle-schoolers. At her side she held a shinai and Kazuto could immediately tell that she was someone who was overly familiar with the weapon.
"K-karen-sempai." Suguha stuttered out.
"Suguha. Ayame. What are you two doing giggling over here when it's still practice time?" She scolded. "And really what have I told you two about bringing your friends over all the time?"
The girls all looked down bashfully at their feet as the overbearing girl continued her lecture. Kazuto almost wanted to whistle at her enormous aura, the kind that screamed 'listen to me or be killed', that he had been sure only his mother knew. That thought quickly escaped his head as she turned her burning eyes on him.
"You!" She pointed at him. "There's no flirting in my dojo, if you want to pick up girls do it somewhere else!"
Kazuto spluttered a denial, but before he could verbalize it, Suguha cut in.
"Ano... Karen-sempai, we have permission from Sensei to leave early today."
The imposing figure turned back to face Suguha, an action which caused the smaller girl to shrink in on herself.
"And?" The taller girl scoffed. "I am the team captain you know, I would think you would ask for my permission too! And Suguha, need I remind you that the regional qualifiers are just weeks away? You can't afford to be slacking off if you want to keep your spot on the team."
Suguha was visibly crestfallen at her words, her face now on the verge of tears. She turned her dangerously pitiful face towards him, and he sighed.
'Hah...really Sugu, don't look at me like that!" He screamed inside his head, heart already clenching due to her pitiful look.
"Hey." He called out, gathering the attention of the girls and curious spectators alike. "There's no need to be so harsh alright?"
Karen glared harshly at him. "Stay out of this, kid, this is club business."
He sighed at her words. "Then I will make it my business."
"What did you say?"
Loud whispers filled the room as everyone looked on at the building confrontation between the unstoppable force that they knew was Karen Yoshida, and this newcomer who was obviously in over his head.
"This is all about practice right? Personally I think they already practiced enough... but if you don't think so, then I guess I'll have to show you in their place." He said blandly.
The raven-haired girl gritted her teeth. "You...impudent little... fine! Lets go, get on the mat!"
With a last glare, she turned towards the changing rooms in order to get into her equipment, the crowd parted hastily out of her way.
"Kazuto-san!" Ayame shouted. "Oh no. Oh no, you need to apologize!"
He gave her a curious glance. "Why?"
"It's not like I don't appreciate you standing up for us but..." She hesitated. "Karen-dono is on a whole different level than us."
She looked towards her friends for help. "Right guys?"
Suguha was now looking at Kazuto with stars gleaming in her eyes. "Onii-chan... Senpai...hehehe..."
"Onii-chan fighto~" Yumiko yelled from the sidelines, the crowd already clearing off the mat.
Even the timid Chiyo was looking blushingly at Kazuto.
Ayame sweat dropped. 'I tried...'
A short while later, amidst the muttering of the crowd, the ominous figure of Karen dressed fully for battle appeared.
She stomped her way over to a seemingly oblivious Kazuto who was testing the weight of the shinai in his hand.
"Not even wearing armour?" She yelled. "Are you trying to waste my time here brat?!"
He finished swinging his shinai around, and turned to face her. "It's okay I won't need it."
It seemed to be the wrong thing to say as Karen literally growled inside of her facemask. "Your funeral."
At her gesture they moved to the center of the mat, where a reluctant Ayame stood as referee.
"Um, rules?" She asked the two combatants; one looking calm and the other literally glowing with rage.
"Informal, first to yield or touch the outside of the mat." Was the answer from the raven-haired beauty.
Ayame looked startled at the rather abnormal set of rules. Karen was always a stickler for rules, even practicing under formal tournament rules each spar.
"Do you agree to these rules Kazuto-san?" She asked him, hoping he would decline.
She winced when he nodded his head. This was going to hurt... and since it would be an informal battle where one side wasn't wearing any equipment. And she knew from experience that taking a point, which meant a direct hit, from Karen was next to impossible.
Reluctantly she raised her arms high in the air and swiftly brought it down.
In an instant, the imposing figure of Karen dashed towards him, an overhead strike that would undoubtedly hurt if it connected.
Her strike was held back by her opponents own shinai, but what surprised her however was the fact that he was holding it back with just one hand.
'So he does know how to fight...'
In a formal match they would inevitably have to reset, but here...She pressed her advantage, her angle allowed much better leverage as the boy grunted in exertion trying to hold back the shinai upwards.
Giving up the struggle he jumped backwards, effectively breaking off their struggle. She glared as he deftly raised his sword again in only one hand. 'This bastard...'
With a loud cry she began her assault, swinging from every direction, she hacked at him viciously. The crowd was awed at the speed of her strikes, making the previous showdown seem slow in comparison.
What was even more incredible however was that her opponent managed to redirect or block every blow each time they came. His efforts however were steadily declining as he was slowly pushed back, coming dangerously close to being disqualified.
"HYAH!" The girl yelled, swinging with all her might in a diagonal swing hoping he would step back once more.
Everyone looked in surprise as his shinai blocked her strike solidly, as he used both his hands to meet her strike for the first time. He smiled in satisfaction, which annoyed her to no end.
He pressed forward, and the entire battle changed. Using a series of hazardous one-handed swings he steadily but surely gained back his lost ground. While only using one hand did little to push her back in terms of strength, it was the speed in which he swung that astounded her. By the time she recovered from deflecting one swing another would already be dangerously close.
'Just who is this guy?!' She yelled in her head.
The world blurred and it was just him and her, she drowned out all the distractions around her in order to focus on blocking the relentless assault. It was working... her considerable talent allowed her to steadily recover precious ground, but just as she tried to push onto the offensive something took her by surprise.
His left hand, which remained constantly unmoving at his side the whole battle seemingly lunged forward, making her recoil in shock. A jab hit her lightly on the throat portion of her headgear.
"Tsuki." (Throat) He whispered.
Her eyes widened in shock, lashing out with her shinai in reflex caused Kazuto to pull back from his offensive.
'That was- what is he playing at?'' She thought. 'This is informal so he doesn't need to declare his strikes, if he really wanted to use his fists then he could...'
She narrowed her eyes at the grinning boy, suddenly feeling cold at her realization. The boy in front of her used Nito-Kendo (Two Sword Kendo). And suddenly she understood why his stance had seemed awkward and open at the beginning.
'If he had a second shinai...'
Shaking her head and trying to steel her nerves back to normal, she retook her stance and charged. This time she swung directly at the shinai in his hand.
'If I aim for his hand.' She thought desperately. Even an experienced Kendo practitioner would struggle not to drop his shinai.
It happened in a blink of an eye, one moment the sword was in his right hand, and the next...her fast strike hit nothing but air, causing her to widen her eyes in shock.
The voice was accompanied by a light tap on the top of her helmet. She followed the sword to its owner and found it in a left handed strike from above.
The entire room froze as they took in the shocking scene.
Kazuto looked at the girl that was shaking with a concerned expression. Maybe he had gone too far?
"I lost." She stated.
She took a deep breath before facing Kazuto and looking him in the eye. "I yield."
She looked at the stunned boy in amusement before shaking her head, and heading for the exit. Ignoring the sudden but expected amazement from the crowd as they swarmed the unexpected victor.
She couldn't stop her shaking hands as she neared the exit. What she had felt in that short battle was simply shattering. Especially for a girl who had been raised in Kendo ever since she could walk, having been brought up by her parents; who were both rather famous Kendo practitioners. But the skill difference between her and her opponent was as if she had just stepped onto the stage at the internationals.
Startled at the sound of her name, she abruptly turned her head towards the source.
"Ah Sensei!" She shouted in surprise.
He smiled at her lightly. "I saw that fight just now with that boy... informal huh?"
"Sorry..." She muttered in embarrassment. "but I was completely outclassed anyhow."
"Heh, it's to be expected." He said causing the girl to look up in surprise.
"What do you mean?" She asked. "Do you know who he is?"
The teacher gave her a knowing grin before answering. "That boy is Suguha's brother... Kirigaya Kazuto."
"You mean?!" She gasped.
"No wonder..." She suddenly straightened up and looked back at the boy who was now being teased alongside his sister. A rather effeminate looking boy, that you would never believe to be once considered the most talented prodigy ever to hit the Kendo scene.
"I never stood a chance."
"Kazuto-kun, how do I look?"
"Ahh, stop calling Onii-chan that!"
"K-Kirigaya-san, how is this?"
An awkward looking Kazuto groaned deeply into his hands as he was assailed by the voices of four rather bubbly schoolgirls. Of course any regular teenager would be happy to have been asked for his opinion on some rather skimpy outfits. Not Kazuto though, since he had been doing this for the last two hours. Two hours straight of clothes shopping, sitting by the changing rooms, being giggled at by girls, while holding a closet-full of clothes in his arms. And the worst thing out of all of this you might ask? He was paying for all of this.
A boy could only take so much.
"Um, you four look very cute." He said aloud, cutting into their budding arguments. The four equal blushes he received was also rather cute in his opinion. "Hey, how about we take a break, get something to eat?"
The four girls blinked in unison, making him shift nervously.
"Okay." They said in unison, causing him to sigh in relief.
Grabbing all of their new clothing he made his way to the giggling sale-girls at the register who had likely been gossiping about him the whole time. Putting the rather enormous pile of clothes onto the checkout desk, he absently pulled out his rather empty looking wallet. No doubt he would have to use his debit card, dipping into his steadily declining money he had saved from previous tournament winnings.
Shaking his head as the cashier finished ringing up the total, he reluctantly handed his card to the exuberant girl. He reminded himself desperately to never tell Suguha that he will 'do anything' as a way to console her.
Grabbing the four rather large bags of clothing, he let the girls lead the way to the food court. The four girls were happily engrossed in conversation and he smiled wryly at Suguha's blushing face. Absently hoping that they weren't teasing her about him, he was content to see that Suguha was enjoying herself. It had actually been awhile since he had actually hung out with his little sister, mostly due to her club activities.
Arriving at the rather crowded food court, the group quickly found a table and sat down, Kazuto rather happily since he could now rest.
"Hey Kazuto-kun, what would you like to eat?"
He looked up tiredly at Ayame, the blonde girl looking back at him with a smile.
"Uhm, I would like some iced tea if anything... maybe a burger." He replied absently.
The girl beamed at him. "Okay! You stay right here we'll be right back." Before the other girls could react she grabbed them and headed to one of the food stalls.
Happily resting his head on the table, Kazuto almost fell asleep, but a rather annoying voice interrupted his rest.
He blearily looked up to see the smiling face of Ichiro and his three friends. Already a feeling of foreboding settled in his gut.
"You have the wrong person." He said sharply, before resting his head back onto the table.
"Heh, its definitely Kazuto-kun..." The voice continued, ignoring his dismissal. "Woah, guys. Check out all these shopping bags..."
He sighed deeply into his arms, and prayed that these guys wouldn't stay for long.
"Mmm, these brands are all from popular shops catering to girls..." The group of guys gasped. "Kazu-kun, mind telling us something?"
"Look, I'm just here with my sister alright?" Seeing no other way of dismissing these guys, Kazuto decided to deal with them.
Ichiro smirked. "Nice try Kazuto-kun, even I know Suguha-chan wouldn't buy this much clothing."
He glared at him. "They're gifts."
Already he could see the group of friends giving him a suspicious look, and he shuddered to think what would happen when the girls came back.
"What are you guys doing here anyways, picking up girls at the mall is kind of low even for you."
If he was hurt by the jab, Ichiro didn't show it, merely smiling at Kazuto's question. "If you must ask we are actually here for this." Ichiro handed Kazuto a bright looking pamphlet.
It had the words 'Gun Battle Arena Launch Tournament' written boldly on the title, and Kazuto looked through it briefly in recognition. GBA was a rather new VRFPS that was supposed to launch this week. Its premise was that of a very realistic shooting game, that was supposed to surpass all other VRFPS games that were currently out, most of which were rather lackluster in gameplay.
The creators of the game were planning on showcasing the launch by having several tournaments spread throughout popular malls around Japan. Interesting enough anyone could sign up for the tournaments and have a chance of winning huge prizes.
Kazuto was rather surprised that the group was actually planning on attending something interesting.
"Surprised Kazuto?" Ichiro smirked at him.
He looked up at him blandly. "Yes."
Laughing at his reply Ichiro gestured to the group behind him. "Anyways we are going to go watch the event at the big screen, one of my good friends is actually participating in it. You and Suguha-chan can join us if you want to."
Waving goodbye at the group of friends and acquaintances that he knew, Kazuto went back to browsing the pamphlet. It was actually rather interesting since gaming was something that consumed a great majority of his time. The new area of Virtual Reality gaming was something very interesting. Although since it was relatively new technology, not many could afford one of the rather expensive pods required to play it. As such, not many game creators were interested in the new platform. There were rumours however of a rather prodigious developer that was coming out with both a new portable platform and a brand new MMO.
Having kept up with the latest news and rumours, Kazuto was actually excited to see where this new platform would go. The sheer amount of data that would be required for a VRMMO was simply astounding, and many skeptics were already criticizing the mere idea of such a game.
"Onii-chan." A voice brought him out of his musings. Seeing the girls arriving with trays of food he called out a small greeting.
As they sat back down, Kazuto happily sipped at his iced tea. He had been feeling rather hungry the whole while.
"Neh, what's that in your hand Kazuto-kun?" Ayame asked, having sat next to him. The girl was leaning rather closely over his shoulders to look at the pamphlet.
"Some event going on at the mall." He replied vaguely, trying to avoid looking at the girl that was almost rubbing against him. Seeing the girls look at him in question he elaborated. "Its the launch of a new VRFPS... a virtual reality shooting game."
The girls all nodded in acceptance, not really understanding the idea, but understood that it was rather popular amongst guys.
"Did you want to go see that Onii-chan?" Suguha asked him, knowing that he was interested in those things. "We actually have time, unless you want to continue shopping?"
He sweated at her question. "Uhm... If you girls don't mind I suppose we could take a look."
Receiving a collection of agreements from the girls he sighed in relief. He was in the clear for today if he played his cards right.
"Hey, what's this about the prizes Kazuto-kun?" Ayame asked from beside him, looking at the back of the pamphlet.
"Hmm?" Kazuto looked at the section in question and blinked rapidly in surprise. The winner of the tournament would not only receive a rather large sum of money, but will also be given an exclusive invite to beta test the new VRMMO game «Sword Art Online». SAO was something that was always considered just a rumour, yet this pamphlet...
Where the tournament was being held, a tremendous number of people had shown up, surrounding the centre of the mall. The location itself was a circular clearing that was in the middle of the multi-story mall. During the christmas holidays, a huge tree would be erected in the center, but for this event they had settled for four extremely large screens that would be covering the game being showcased.
Several TV crews had already shown up to cover the exciting event and already the crowd was growing restless. At the base of the screens was a platform where a variety of staff members could be seen doing some last minute preparations. Surrounding the platform itself were rows and rows of Virtual Pods, where the players that would be playing in the tournament, gathered around. Beyond the pods was where the audience gathered at the edge of the ribboned separators.
Kazuto led the girls steadily through the crowd, searching for a particular person. The girls were awed at the amount of people that had shown up for the event. Suguha who was tired of being bumped into by the crowd grabbed onto Kazuto's arms. Ayame similarly took his other arm, making Kazuto shift awkwardly amongst the crowd. Since the majority of the crowd were men, they stared at him in jealousy, as they drew a large amount of attention.
"How bold..." Whispered Yumiko in the back. The petite Chiyo next to her nodded in agreement.
Seeing the familiar mop of messy hair he knew to be his friend, Kazuto called out a greeting. "Yo Ichiro."
The boy turned around in surprise, along with the rest of his group. They were all in shock to see that Kazuto had several girls with him, even two that were clinging to his arms. It didn't matter that one was his sister, they were all cute in their own way.
"Woah Kazuto-kun... I didn't expect this... not in a million years." Ichiro said, whistling aloud as he appraised the girls silently. The group of guys around him all glared in unison.
Suguha glared at him from her place beside Kazuto. "It's that baka from before." She muttered aloud, causing Ichiro to chuckle. "Yo Imouto-san."
Kazuto was about to ask something when he was interrupted by a cry.
"HOW!?" Suddenly a rather chubby boy latched onto the front of his shirt, causing Kazuto to jerk in surprise. "How do you do it Kazuto-sama!? Teach me!" The boy sobbed. Kazuto looked around awkwardly as the boy sobbed into his chest comically.
Absently pushing the boy he somewhat recognized as a classmate of his away from him, all the while the crowd looked on in confusion at the crying boy. Kazuto turned back to his amused looking friend.
"Anyways... Do you remember that one favour you owe me?" He asked.
Ichiro blinked slowly. "You mean...that favour?"
The boy suddenly straightened his posture, and turned to look seriously at Kazuto. "What is it?"
"Get me into the tournament." Kazuto stated simply, causing everyone around him to gasp in surprise.
"I hate you Ichiro..." Muttered a voice beside the boy.
Ichiro shrugged and patted his friend on his back. "It was necessary. Besides, it wasn't like you were going to win anyhow."
"Kuhh... thats not the point!" Seethed the boy. "I wanted to impress some girls here you know, like those ones!" He pointed to a group of four girls that were talking to an effeminate looking guy.
"Fufufu~ You know they all came with that boy there, the very one that's replacing you in this tournament."
"WHAT?!" He exclaimed. "Grr...what the hell's so special about that bastard. Does he even know how to play?" He asked.
Ichiro thought on the question before answering. "Nope, it's his first time playing a VRFPS."
His friend beside him groaned deeply into his hands wishing deeply that he didn't owe his friend so much. "I hate you Ichiro."
"Hehe. Don't worry though, if it's Kazuto-kun, I'm sure he will show us something good.
The world faded around him and reformed in a scattering array of lights. As far as he could see was an endless field of blue. Standing atop a platform of translucent hexagons, this was the standard welcome area for the VR system that Kazuto was familiar with due to his frequent outings at the arcades.
A rather robotic voice greeted him in monotone. Turning his head toward the voice he was greeted by a humorous looking robot NPC. It was a miniaturised version of a steampunk robot, even having steam puffing out of several vents.
"Welcome to the pre-launch of «Gun Battle Arena», Entrant number thirty-two, please state your preferred username."
"Kirito." Kazuto answered immediately, that had been his online username ever since he was a little boy.
"Username Kirito received, confirm?"
A short ding of confirmation sounded throughout the area and Kazuto noticed that he now had access to a HUD. On the top left of his vision he could see the name 'Kirito' displayed along with his health bar. To the bottom right was where he guessed his weapon information would be displayed, was a static image of a pistol. He was actually rather disappointed at how the game presented itself, thinking that it was supposed to be a more 'realistic' game.
"Beginning weapon selection process. Please wait."
At the end of the robotic sentence, the area around him blurred and Kazuto immediately found himself in some sort of modernized barracks. A rumbling sound was heard and the walls opened up to reveal a huge array of weaponry.
"Please select a primary weapon and a secondary weapon. "
Looking around idly, Kazuto immediately dismissed the rather heavy selection of mini-guns and sniper rifles. Moving toward the more light-oriented weaponry, he hovered his hand over a pistol he was rather familiar with. Touching the «Five Seven» handgun, he was greeted with a confirmation screen, and after tapping the 'Yes' button he felt the handgun transfer itself into a holster on his waist. Happy with his selection he moved towards the robotic helper.
"No primary weapon selected. Please select a primary weapon."
The monotone reply caused Kazuto to frown, he just wasn't comfortable with assault rifles or sub-machine guns, preferring the maneuverability that a handgun provided. From his previous experiences in VRFPS; which was not that much considering he disliked the genre - the more you moved the more effective you were.
Suddenly coming up with an idea, Kazuto moved back towards the wall of pistols and reached for another gun. As soon as his hands touched the black pistol, «Glock 17», a different confirmation screen popped up.
«Secondary weapon selected, place in primary slot?»
Smiling as he hit the 'Yes' button, Kazuto was now rather confident of his success in this tournament. Immediately heading towards the robot npc, and confirming his selections he was immediately teleported once again.
This time the area was more urban and less futuristic. Around him was filled with rust and old machinery. It seemed the setting of the match was near some industrial graveyard, and as he stood in place with the transparent cylindrical barrier that kept him in place - Kazuto idly hoped the girls weren't too bored.
«10 minutes until start of match»
Back outside the crowd was growing even more restless than before, but finally relaxed as the lights dimmed and the large screens blinked to life. There was loud cheering as the cameras centered on the main stage and one of the professional looking announcers strode into view.
"Good evening everyone!" He yelled, to the cheer of the crowd. "And welcome to the launch of «Gun Battle Arena»!"
Pausing to bask in the loud applause, he finally gestured to the large screens behind him. "Today we will be covering a rather exciting deathmatch between 32 players that will be all be captured and broadcasted live! The makers of GBA have created a rather inventive AI system that will cover all the camera work for us." The large screens in front of the crowd suddenly featured ingame footage which the crowd cheered for. The camera seemed to be slowly shifting around the starting locations of the players and sometimes even on the players themselves. "Now I will be going over the rules of the game. This mode is fairly simple, it is called Arena Deathmatch. Players will have three lives each and to win, you simply have to have the most points by the end of the time limit, or when no one else has any lives left. Points will be given for kills, but you will also receive points for good assists. Players with no lives will be reduced to being a spectator, and those who have lives remaining at the end will receive a bonus of points."
The camera suddenly centered on a particular black haired boy, and the crowd gasped as he had seemingly taken off the standard issued helmet that was on every avatar.
"What's this? It seems we have a player that has taken off his helmet... our information panel has suggested that it is allowed... but the player will have to deal with having zero information in his vision. Wow, I wonder what kind of player this 'Kirito' is." Indeed, as the camera centered on the players face, many in audience were surprised, none more so than the girls he had come with. His face was calm and he had his eyes closed in silent contemplation.
Suguha deeply hoped this wouldn't turn into a huge thing, Kazuto already had enough admirers in her opinion.
"Now without further ado, let the battle commence!"
Immediately the cylindrical energy barrier shattered around him, and Kazuto moved into action. Without his helmet on, he could actually hear a lot clearer and everything felt a bit more realistic to his senses. Already an idea formulated in his head, and he moved steadily towards the centre of the map.
The idea was rather simple in his mind. Every player in this game would have the standard equipment set which allowed them to pinpoint where gunfire was located. Therefore if Kazuto fired a round directly in the air at the centre of the map, surely the more aggressive players would be drawn like moths to a flame. In which case, the more passive players with the sniper rifles would also attempt to control the area in order to gather some easy points. At that point, a player like Kazuto with only pistols as his weapons would surely be at a disadvantage.
He wasn't a normal player however.
To the centre of the map was a large abandoned warehouse with multiple rows and sections of industrial machinery. Propane tanks, carts, barrels of chemicals, and large crates of wares made for a rather messy fighting area.
Rushing towards the middle of the warehouse and into heavy cover from the long ranged enemies, Kazuto fired two shots into the air... then waited.
"And what's this now? Our first gunshots of the game... ah coming from our helmet-less player! I wonder what his plans are as now that he has attracted everyone's attention." The camera hovered around the abandoned warehouse before zooming out, causing the crowd to murmur in excitement as several outlines of players could be seen steadily making their way towards the area.
In a densely packed area such as this, their radar system would prove to be useless, sure they could detect which direction the gunshots came from, but could they ever get a direct shot without moving directly to the enemy? That was Kazuto's reasoning as he stood calmly behind a large crate.
When the enemies came, it would be a matter of reflexes, who shot first and where. As he had already deduced, everyone in this game had the exact same body type, therefore everyone had the same height. A headshot is a 'for sure' kill no matter what the weapon, and as long as he aimed directly at the head area, there was no way he could miss.
All it came down to in the end was, who had the better reflexes... and Kazuto had never lost in that regard.
The first enemy stepped into view, bearing a large assault rifle that he rapidly searched the surrounding area with. His eyes met Kazuto's, and before he could even react a loud bang echoed through the warehouse.
«Kill Confirmed +1 Points»
The crowd all stood in awe for a small moment before erupting in momentous cheering, the performance they witnessed was incredible even for those who had never seen such a thing before.
With an incredible score of [74 - 1] Kazuto had decimated his way to the top, with his only death resulting from running out of ammo and then being gunned down by multiple enemies who had banded together in order to kill him.
Stepping out of his pod, he was hastily grabbed and shoved onto the stage to his embarrassment as he realized just how many people were cheering for him. Ignoring the rather bubbly commentators and the cheering crowds, especially the rowdy crowd he knew from school, Kazuto accepted his prize.
The large check presented to him was ignored in favour of the smaller voucher that was also handed to him.
An express invitation to the beta test of «Sword Art Online» by the creator of the game himself.
Kazuto Kirigaya smiled in happiness, he had a feeling that things would be much more interesting from now on.
A/N: Hello everyone and thanks for reading.
This story will be about a Kirito who doesn't hold himself back because of his desire to remain unknown or to make others less uncomfortable. This is a Kirito who accepts that he is unnaturally talented and doesn't have motivation issues. The reason Kirito quit Kendo in canon was because he didn't like his overbearing grandfather and the sport in general, not because he was bad at it.
I am of the opinion that Kirito is one of those unnaturally talented people that are only motivated by things they find interesting. The reason why Kirito continued kendo will be expanded upon later.
Moving onward to the next chapter and onto the SAO storyline, I will be be back to referring Kazuto as Kirito.
And don't worry about the OC's as they won't be making much appearances after this introductory chapter.
Feel free to leave a review.
Next Chapter: Ray of Light
11/18/2012: Beta'd by n0mster.