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(previous)

“Ready, Stacy?”

“Whenever you are, Tori!”

It was a rainy Friday afternoon, but the Games for Everyone foursome were simply excited for their long video game marathon at Cheryl’s house. The two other girls had their DS systems out, prepared for a long trading session.

“Today’s the day I finally get married,” Stacy exhaled in anticipation.

“Wait, you’re still playing that?” Oliver asked.

“Yeah, what’s your problem?” Stacy snapped.

Oliver shrugged. “You showed me it once. Couldn’t get into it, is all.”

“I’ve never heard of Rune Factory before,” Cheryl added, curious. “What’s this game about?”

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Stacy began. “I mean, you get to farm, cook, fight and tame monsters, make weapons, woo over cute chicks, all in one game!”

“Plus, the guys are total dreamboats,” Tori sighed dreamily.

Cheryl was confused. “Okay, so why are you trading an item back and forth?”

“I need a level 80 Lover Snapper in order to propose to Mei,” Stacy explained.

“Sounds like you’re into the hard-to-get type,” Cheryl remarked.

“Totally,” Stacy said. “Oh, it’s finally done!”

Tori and Cheryl gathered around Stacy’s DS, giddy with anticipation for the marriage, while Oliver just watched from the sidelines, bewildered at how dedicated the girls were. Finally, the Wedding March started playing while Stacy savoured the moment.

“You did it!” Tori cried.

“Congratulations, Stacy!” Cheryl complimented.

Oliver finally cracked a smile. “So, one of your gaming dreams has finally come true.”

“Like catching that Shiny Scyther, right?” Stacy grinned.

Oliver’s smile grew wider, until he started to giggle. “Got me there. Anyway, what was that big plan you had in mind?”

Stacy paused, collecting her thoughts. “I was thinking, we’re a gaming club, right? What if we made our own game?”

Everyone’s eyes widened in excitement. “That would be awesome!” Oliver answered loudly while the others nodded in unison.

Stacy smiled. “Okay, here’s what I had in mind to get us started. You know the Final Fantasy theme, right?” She hummed the recurring motif while everyone listened in awe and anticipation. “Well, it all began with a bridge, leading to a journey like no other. It wasn’t just about saving the princess, no, this quest was even bigger. It was a race to save the world from environmental collapse. And it ended with some time loop shenanigans. That was neat, when I was a kid anyway.”

Everyone nodded as Stacy continued. “That was the original Final Fantasy in a nutshell. Dated, but that’s how RPGs got their start, so we should pay our respects. Our journey too shall begin with a bridge leading to… where should it lead?”

“How about, a vast crystal palace?” Cheryl said.

“You mean like the Emerald City?” Tori added, having her sketchbook out and her pencil ready. “Perhaps we could call it Crystalia?

“Yeah, I like that idea,” Cheryl agreed. “And inside, the citizens would be protecting some hidden power source everyone’s trying to get at.”

“It’d be a lot cooler if Crystalia was some sort of floating fortress,” Oliver added. “Then we could also have sky pirates and airship battles!”

“Not just a fortress, an entire city!” Stacy continued. “Imagine, a lost civilization, tucked away in an impenetrable castle and hidden away from the surface world. Everyone would want in. Researchers, treasure hunters, unsavoury types, you name it.”

“Unsavoury types, eh?” Oliver smiled wickedly while Tori’s hand started quickly moving across her page. “How about we make our lead character a pirate?”

Stacy stared at him, intrigued. “Continue.”

“All right. So Callisto here, he’ll be a master thief, with plenty of precious artifacts to his name and a bunch of nobles out to get him. His next heist, Crystalia.”

“Looks like Stacy’s falling for him already,” Cheryl snarked.

Stacy blushed. “Whatever, Cheryl. Thieves are just cool. But he’s not going at this alone, is he? Who else is tagging along?”

“Well, we ought to have someone to keep our dashing rogue in check.” Cheryl thought for a while. “I was thinking his partner could be an airship pilot, Friduric. It’d be fun to give him a fighting style based on his crazy inventions.”

“Yes, indeed,” Stacy concurred while Oliver and Tori nodded.

“He’d want the power source to improve his airship and go where no man has gone before!” Cheryl continued. “Because Callisto depends on him to get around Crystalia, they’re forced to work together against their will.”

“Hmm…” Stacy pondered. “Each of our party members could have their own reasons for wanting to go to Crystalia, and that would be the only thing keeping them together.”

“A band of misfits,” Oliver remarked. “I like that. So what character did you have in mind, Stacy?”

“Astoria, a brave and powerful summoner,” Stacy answered.

“Go on…” Oliver told her.

“Um…” Stacy stuttered. “I haven’t thought too much about it yet. I guess she’d want to prevent Crystalia’s secrets from falling into the wrong hands.”

“Hmm,” Cheryl pondered. “She could be some sort of anthropologist or secret keeper. As such, she’d understandably be skeptical of our boys’ motivations.”

“Yeah,” Stacy continued. “But she travels with them anyway to keep an eye on them, or so she claims anyway.”

“So she has a dark side?” Oliver commented slyly.

“Mischievous, at least.”

She turned to Tori, who had been quiet throughout the conversation, absorbed in her sketchbook. “Say, who do you think should join our party?”

Tori suddenly looked up from her sketchbook, showing everyone a picture of a waifish blonde girl. “How about her? I was thinking about calling her Ai.”

Everyone paused while Tori winced. “Sorry. I know my idea is stupid….”

“It’s not stupid,” Stacy retorted hastily. “Um…what’s her reason for wanting to go to Crystalia?”

“I guess she vaguely remembers Crystalia as a little girl,” Tori replied. “She’d hope to rediscover her past by returning there.”

“Hey, that’s pretty interesting,” Cheryl complimented. “Sorry about the pause. I guess we were just surprised, since she didn’t sounds as badass as the other characters.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” Stacy remarked. “She’ll likely unlock some super-awesome hidden powers along the line.”

“Like summoning a giant meteor or something,” Oliver added.

“Well, I thought of her as a healer,” Tori replied. “I’m not sure how a meteor would fit into her spell set.”

“She can still have holy magic,” Stacy pointed out.

“True.” She returned to her sketchbook, which showed the basic outlines for the crystal city. “I think our ideas are great, but I’m not sure how fast I can draw it all.”

“That’s okay,” Stacy told her. “We’ll take a break for now. I’ll need some spare time myself to start trying stuff in RPG Maker.”

“Sure,” Oliver said. “I’ll try to flesh out our characters some more.”

“And I’ll work on world building,” Cheryl added.

“Good then,” Stacy said. “I can’t wait to see what else everyone will come up with!”

—-

“Why should I play the Roman fool, and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes do better upon them.”

“Turn, hell-hound, turn!”

Oliver turned to Ren, with an aggressive expression in his face, while the class stared at them in awe and amusement. He was prepared to recite the next line in the hammiest voice possible, when suddenly, he heard Stacy snoring beside him.

“Psst, Stacy,” Cheryl coaxed, nudging her.

Stacy woke up, mumbling, “Hey guys, what did I miss?”

Their teacher, Mr. Stewart, frowned at the group. “Oh, come on. Shakespeare isn’t that boring, is it?”

“Mr. Stewart, I assure you,” Oliver replied desperately. “Stacy doesn’t normally sleep through a fight.”

“Don’t mind me, Olly,” Stacy murmured. “Carry on with the show.”

Lucas snickered in the background, whispering to one of his friends, while Cheryl, Oliver, and Ren just stared awkwardly at Stacy for a while. Mr. Stewart, clearly embarrassed by the situation, gestured Oliver to continue. He put on an angry face once more, trying to ignore Stacy, while declaring loudly:

“Of all men else I have avoided thee, but get thee back; my soul is too much charged with blood of thine already.”

“I have no words. My voice is in my sword, thou bloodier villain than terms can give thee out!”

—-

Tori was waiting for her friends in the empty classroom, clutching her sketchbook in nervous, but excited anticipation. She finally saw them approach the door, and ran up to greet them.

“Hi!” she said.

“Oh hey, Tori,” Oliver replied, while Stacy just stared in embarrassment at her.

“What’s up with Stacy?”

“She slept through my big scene in English Class today.”

“Oh. What were you reading?”

“Macbeth.”

“Honestly,” Cheryl added. “Considering how loud you two were yelling, I was amazed anyone could snooze through that.”

“Why would Stacy do that?” Tori asked.

“I was tired, okay?” Stacy snapped. “Anyway, how’s Crystalia looking these days?”

Tori put on an anxious smile, hoping not to press the subject any further, and opened up her sketchbook. Spanning both pages was an expansive crystal palace on a floating island resembling a giant black tortoise. The palace was guarded by a rectangular wall fronted by two humanoid dragon figures. Protruding from the front-facing gate was a serpentine bridge, meeting the four adventurers at the deck of a steam-powered airship. Though it was a rough, uncoloured sketch, everyone was stunned.

“You thought this all up yourself?” Cheryl asked.

“Well, it’s just what I imagined it would look like,” Tori replied nervously. “I can change it if you want.”

“No need,” Cheryl assured her. “This is better than anything I could have done!”

“Indeed!” Oliver added. “Stacy, what do you think?”

Stacy stared nervously, trying to think of what to say. “It’s great!”

Tori blushed. “Glad you all like it! So what have all of you done?”

Cheryl took out a roughly sketched map from her backpack, representing the city interior. Symbols on the map hinted at a self-contained ecosystem, with a mix of trees and a vast lake and river system among ruin-like architecture. She turned the page, and the map became darker in colour, displaying a network of rooms and passages.

“We’ll have to tweak it to fit Tori’s concept art,” she explained as she passed around the map. “But I was thinking, it would be fun if we spent half the game within Crystalia itself. It can start with our crew finding a means to reach the city, and then all the action would happen inside.”

Stacy looked at the map skeptically. “Wouldn’t it get boring being in the same environment? I mean, this looks cool so far, but how much can we do in one place?”

“Well, I thought of making it a living laboratory of sorts to add some diversity.”

It was then Oliver’s turn to look at the map. He was more enthusiastic, examining it contemplatively. “Well, I like it,” Oliver said. “It would a nice change of pace to explore the city Metroidvania style rather than jump from place-to-place like most other RPGs. I don’t agree with the living laboratory idea, since I’d like the place to look more natural, but it’s a good start. I especially would like to do more with the underground labyrinth.”

“Me too!” Cheryl replied as Oliver passed it to Tori. “And we don’t have to go with the artificial ecosystems. It was just an idea I put out there.”

“It’s cool,” Oliver told her.

“I guess if you guys think it’s a good idea, we can work with that,” Stacy said. “I agree, it would be nice to do something different from the norm.”

She then shoulder-bumped Oliver. “So what have you been up to, buddy?”

Oliver shot back a playful frown at Stacy, which then turned into an eager smile. “I’ve come up with an opening for our game, narrated by our dashing Sky Pirate. Wanna hear?”

“Of course!” the girls cheered. Stacy and Cheryl looked at Oliver, anticipating what kind of over-dramatic flair he had prepared, while Tori had a more curious expression on her face.

“Crystalia,” Oliver began, attempting a suave Portuguese voice. “A legendary city in the sky. Some say it’s just a myth. But I know better. I saw it with my very own eyes, once upon a time. And now, I’m gonna see it once again.

“Who knows what lies within the city? A lost civilization, perhaps. Ancient technology, maybe. All I know is…it’s gonna be worth a fortune.”

Oliver stopped to catch his breath. “So, whatcha think?”

The girls nodded. “It’s cool,” Cheryl said.

“Just cool?”

“Well, it does establish Callisto’s character pretty well,” Stacy explained. “But I think our intro should be bigger than just one character.”

“Yeah, right now, it doesn’t sound legendary enough, if you know what I mean,” Cheryl added.

“I suppose,” Oliver said, disappointed. “I’ll keep working on it then.”

Cheryl turned to Stacy. “And what have you accomplished?”

Stacy smiled, directing everyone to a large flowchart on her computer. Everyone stared at it for a while, trying to comprehend what they were seeing.

“Um, Stacy,” Tori began. “What is that?”

“These are the characters’ skill trees!” Stacy answered. “I wanted to come up with a system where everyone would be unique, but there would be a lot of room for customization. So, for example, Ai can either focus on healing, or, if that’s too passive for you, she can be built more offensively with holy magic.”

The others merely stared blankly at Stacy.

“That sounds…complicated,” Tori said.

“How are you going to program all that?” Cheryl asked.

“It’s on the way,” Stacy told them nervously. “I’m still learning RPG Maker, but trust me; it’ll make sense once you see it!”

Stacy opened RPG Maker to demonstrate a battle. The party was facing off against a giant spirit dragon. She made Astoria call forth an Asura, which caused a black void to appear on top of the dragon. It swirled around for 5 seconds before shrinking and bursting forth in a rainbow explosion, dealing hundreds of thousands of HP and killing it off.

“Whoops, forgot to give it more defense,” Stacy said. “Just wait while I fix that.”

“Don’t you think we should get the basics down first before we worry about tech trees and flashy animations?” Oliver asked her.

“Well, of course I will,” she replied frantically. “I just wanted to make our game stand out, that’s all.”

“Honestly, I think you should slow down a little,” Cheryl said. “It’s a lot of work, after all.”

“Seriously, Stace, do you need some help?” Oliver asked.

“No, I can handle it. Really.”

Oliver noticed her drooping eyes, and stared disapprovingly.

“Oh, all right, maybe I do. But who else would be willing to help a bunch of high school kids?”

“Well, your uncle knows a lot about games, right? Maybe you can try asking for his advice.”

“Great idea. I’ll send him the plans tonight. Anyway, it’s been a good meeting, all, but I need to get home and work out a few bugs. See ya later!”

As she walked off, Cheryl and Oliver stared at each other awkwardly while Tori merely gazed at the open door with concern in her eyes.

—-

“Hi Auntie!” Stacy greeted. It was Friday night, and she was staying at her relatives’ place so they could go shopping the next morning.

Aunt Zhao looked at her niece with concern. “You look tired,” she told her.

“I know I was slow in roller derby practice, but I’ll do better next week!”

Aunt Zhao stared sternly at her. “Have you been sleeping right?”

“Um…okay, maybe I’ve been staying up a few hours late.”

Her aunt patted her back. “Just take it easy, okay? It’s good that you have an interest in programming, but don’t let your hobby get in the way of everything else.”

Stacy nodded, eager to get away from this conversation and meet her cousins.

“Hey, Stacy!” Nick greeted.

“We heard you were making your own RPG!” Ian told her.

“Sure am!” Stacy replied proudly, showing them Tori’s drawing of Crystalia on her laptop. “Just you wait, it’s gonna be awesome!”

“Wow,” her cousins gasped.

“It’s beautiful,” Nick said. “I can’t wait to see what the game is like.”

“When will you let us play?” Ian asked.

“Oh, I’m still working on it,” Stacy replied. “But I’ll try to have a demo for you by the end of the year.”

Just then, Uncle Zhao entered the living room and walked up to Stacy with a grumpy, disapproving expression on his face.

“Oh, hi, Uncle,” Stacy said quietly, intimidated by his face. “What do you think of our game?”

“It’s too complicated,” he complained. “Do you realize how long it would take to program everything? And yet you expect to be done by the end of the year?”

“That’s why I asked you for help.”

“Aiyah,” he sighed. “Do you expect me to quit my job over this?”

Stacy cringed. “Um, no, Uncle. I just thought, since you know a lot about games, that you might have some advice.”

Stacy’s uncle frowned. “Come, I want to show you something.”

The two of them walked over to Uncle’s room, which had an antiquated-looking computer showing a DOS interface. He typed in some commands, which brought up a question, and gestured towards Stacy to sit down. Confused, she looked at the screen.

“You find yourself at the entrance to a massive castle. To your north, you see that the door is wide open. To the south, you see a dense forest. Where will you go?”

Stacy typed in “enter castle.” The screen then prompted: “Invalid command.”

“What?” she blurted out.

“You have to type in a direction,” her uncle told her.

“Okay,” she said, annoyed. She typed in North.

“You are in the Great Hall. In front of you is a large staircase, leading to the upper rooms, while hallways lead west and east. The walls are decorated with portraits of nobles from throughout the castle’s history.”

Stacy typed in “North” again.

“You see a large door in front of you, with the door handle featuring a lion’s face. Additional doors line the west and east.”

Stacy typed in “North” again.

“The door is locked.”

“What’s the point of this?” Stacy asked in frustration.

“This is one of our old adventure games,” Uncle told her. “Made well before you were born.”

“But this is just a bunch of lines on a screen.”

“Back in the day, this is all we had,” Uncle snapped. “No fancy graphics. Just pure decision-making.”

“Yeah, but that was decades ago. Nowadays, people expect more out of their games.”

“Then why are people still making Space Invaders and Breakout clones?”

“A beginner could program those games.”

“But people still play them, yes?” Uncle stressed impatiently.

“Um, yeah. Because they’re easy to pick up at any time, but still fun.”

Stacy stopped, realizing what she was just saying. Uncle smiled.

“I guess I understand now,” Stacy continued. “It’s just that I’m always hearing about people who made great games all by themselves….”

“Anastasia,” Uncle interjected while Stacy flinched. “You’re only 17. You’ve got years ahead of you to make the game you want.”

“But they’re barely older than me….”

“It doesn’t matter! People don’t care about when you made something, they care about what you made, especially when you get as old as me. Do we remember what Mozart wrote as a kid? No, it’s his later work that everyone plays!”

Stacy sighed. He could tell she still looked unconvinced.

“Is that Lucas kid bothering you again?”

“Um, no, actually.”

“Then who is it?”

Stacy paused, thinking about why she was so dedicated to the project in the first place. Looking back, it did feel like she was trying to prove something to someone. Not Lucas, but someone else. She searched her thoughts for other gamers she knew, and she came to an uncomfortable realization. No, it couldn’t be. How could she hate someone that was so nice to her? It just didn’t feel right, yet the feeling persisted….

“No one in particular.”

Uncle Zhao stared at her in disappointment.

“Well, are you still playing? If not, I’d like a turn.”

—-

Defeated, Stacy spent the rest of her night in her room, aimlessly browsing Final Fantasy articles. Suddenly, she heard the notification chime. Realizing who it was, she reluctantly opened up video chat. She wasn’t really in the mood, but she felt she owed her friend some time.

“Hi, Anastasia!” Lydia greeted through the computer screen. “How’s life?”

Stacy was taken aback. “How did you know?”

“It was on the competitors’ list at the Smash Bros tournament.”

Stacy shook her head. “Don’t call me that.”

Lydia was perplexed. “Why not? It’s a lovely name. You know what it means?”

“Yes. Resurrection,” she answered nonchalantly.  “I don’t know, it just sounds pretentious.”

Lydia sighed. “I’m just really fond of that name, and I think you’re very lucky to have it. But if you’d rather me not use it, fine by me.”

Stacy frowned, embarrassed by her compliment. Right now, she wished Lydia would stop smiling all the time. “So, Lydie, what have you been up to?”

“I’m glad you asked. You see, my friends and I have been working on this adventure game, Memories of the Sleeping Village, and we’ve been looking for outside help. You interested?”

Stacy paused. Great, she thought. She already has a full game, while I can’t even get started on mine. “Um, sure, maybe.”

Lydia gazed at Stacy suspiciously. “What’s wrong?”

Stacy sighed. “We’ve been trying to make our own game too, and it hasn’t been going so well.”

Lydia was intrigued. “Really? What’s it about?”

“It’s an RPG with a misfit band of adventurers exploring Crystalia, a floating city.”

“Oh, like Castle in the Sky?

“So it’s not even original, then,” Stacy sulked.

Lydia paused, thinking of what to say to cheer Stacy up. “Every Japanese game owes itself to Miyazaki in some way. For instance, why do you think so many games have airships in them? And that’s not all.”

She paused, focusing away from Stacy as she clicked around for certain files on her computer. She sent them over to Stacy. Curious, she opened the images. One pair showed Sky Sanctuary Zone from Sonic & Knuckles and a similar-looking walkway from Laputa, the titular castle. Stacy was impressed, but it was the second pair that surprised her even more: a picture of a Chocobo shown beside a Horseclaw from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

“See the resemblance?” Lydia asked.

“Yeah,” Stacy replied, still amazed by what she just saw.

“It’s okay to borrow parts of your favourite things,” Lydia explained. “As long as you put your own personal touch on the game, enough to set it apart, copying shows your appreciation for other games.”

“Come to think of it, I did start the project as a tribute to the original Final Fantasy, with the bridge and all, and Tori’s concept art resembled the Forbidden City.”

“Exactly. Say, could you send me it some time?”

“Sure thing.”

“Good. Anyway, what other problems have you encountered?”

“Well, we’re still stuck planning stages. Worse, I’ve been having a lot of trouble actually programming the thing. I keep running into glitches and I’m still not entirely sure how scripting works.”

“Oh. Well, let me know what I can do to help.”

“Thanks, but I’d rather not take too much of your time.”

“I don’t have a problem with that. Better than you getting stuck for hours.”

Stacy sighed. “It’s just… well…what’s the point of me doing it if you can do everything better?”

Lydia looked concerned. “Why do you say that?”

“I mean, you’re a Smash Bros. runner-up, you’ve already made your own game, and on top of everything else…”

She gazed at Lydia’s long black hair flowing behind her navy blue sailor shirt and bow. “…you look like that. How am I supposed to compete? I can’t help but feel that no matter how hard I try, I’ll always be inferior to you.”

Lydia was listening patiently to Stacy’s complaints. She puzzled over how to respond, then smiled. “Tell me, how long did you think it took for us to program our game?”

“Um, 3 months?”

Lydia shook her head. “Three years.”

Stacy gasped. “What? How? It’s just dialogue trees and buttons, isn’t it?”

“If only it were that easy,” Lydia replied. “You see, it’s hard enough to find time outside of school to work on it. Also, Willow and I live on opposite ends of the city, so we don’t get to meet each other that often. And when we did, we had a lot of arguments about what direction to take the story. Then Drew joined in, and he had his own ideas, which was great, but you can imagine how much longer it would take to come to an agreement with three heads involved. I’d write something, but Willow or Drew would read it a different way, so I’d have to reconsider whether it was the right direction to take.”

“Yeah, but that’s story. That’s different.”

“Really? Isn’t that the main reason you play this kind of game?”

Stacy nodded her head. “Point taken.”

“Knowing the language and software only gets you so far,” Lydia continued. “It’s what you do with it that counts.”

“You know, this reminds me of the talk my uncle gave me a while back. He said I was overcomplicating things.”

“Well, the more complex you make your program, the harder it is to fix things. Even for us, the dialogue trees and buttons often failed to work or did something unexpected. We had to retrace our steps a bunch of times just to find the flaw.”

Stacy’s eyes widened in shock. “Wow, you had problems too? I thought it would have been effortless for you.”

Lydia was amused by her remark. “Thought I had magical TV hacker skills or something? Programming is hard work. But, if we had some extra help, we could get done sooner. What do you say?”

Stacy smiled in relief, feeling a newfound enthusiasm overcome her. “Don’t expect it to be quick, but I’m game.”

“Excellent.”

Lydia stopped to type in an email to Stacy. “You can download the game at the link I sent you. No need to rush, just tell me what you think. And most of all, I hope you enjoy it. Maybe it can give you some inspiration for your game too!”

“Maybe.”

“And Stacy? Before you go, I have one last riddle for you.”

Stacy put on an awkward smile. “Of course you would. What is it?”

“You have something I don’t. See if you can find out what that is.”

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“Here’s a hint. Was I the one who started the gaming club?”

“Tch, anyone could do that.”

“You sure? If it was so easy, don’t you think I would have done it by now?”

Stacy sighed. “I’ll think about it. Anyway, good night, Lydie! It’s been a pleasure talking to you again.”

“Always. Good night!”

—-

The Games for Everyone club met once again at Cheryl’s house, ready for wherever the afternoon would take them.

“Sorry about the game, guys,” Stacy told her friends.

“Don’t worry about it,” Oliver said. “We’re just happy you actually got some sleep this week.”

“Besides, it’s not like we were trying to sell the game,” Cheryl added. “It was fun enough just coming up with ideas.”

“Yeah,” Oliver agreed. “Still, I think I’d had enough of Crystalia for a while. Right now, I’d rather play a game than make one.”

“We can always come back to the idea someday,” Tori told Stacy.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Stacy said. “But for now, I’m gonna practice some simple games first.”

“Now you get it,” Oliver said, relieved. “Say, are you looking forward to next term’s computer classes?”

“You bet!”

Cheryl smiled, putting in the CD for Night Trap.

“What the heck is this?” Stacy asked, bewildered at the intro.

“Oh, you’ll see,” Cheryl snickered.

—-

The screen cut to a scene of a teenage girl screaming hysterically while a group of faceless men in black clamped her with some sort of motorized hook.

“I’m sure glad you showed us this!” Oliver said, in between chortles.

“I thought it was appropriate after all Stacy’s been through,” Cheryl remarked, barely stifling her own laughter.

“I guess this just goes to show,” Stacy guffawed. “Even with a bad game, we can still have a good time!”

Tori said nothing throughout; as she was too busy giggling at the sight of the girl’s neck inexplicably shaking. Though the group was crying a shower of laughter, outside the window, a rainbow was starting to appear. As the light shone on the crystal city they created, it revealed its own rainbow, its light reflecting off the palace walls, with the magnificent Ho-oh flying over it.

(next)

(table of contents)

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