alright i had a bad day and felt like posting a chapter because your happy reactions make me happy
Honestly, you couldn’t blame Toffee for being awestruck. The underground training club was…jaw-dropping.
Hoards of fighters from the very morning were mingling in the wide area. Loads of arcade machines were pressed up against the wall, including one freaking old Dance Dance Revolution game, which a few fighters were playing happened to be playing upon. Their expressions were completely carefree. A bar carved into the wall displayed sodas and ice creams, priced accordingly to the menu.
In the center of this ridiculously massive, underground space, sat a replica stage, alike the one used in the training area. A DJ set was rigged in the corner, with music blaring from it for the two training upon the stage. The song precisely playing for these two fighters?: Night Club Junkie by YUC’e.
Riri grinned as she swung her scythe in a bold swoop at Confidence, who confidently dodged the blow and swung back with her relatively medium-large sized battle axe. Confidence’s weapon was a bit scaled down, after all, with not a lot of muscle, it’s hard to wield such heavy things.
Riri was knocked back by the blow, which Hyperbole burst into cheers of “You’re doing great, Confidence! Keep at it!” and “Rooting for you!”.
Averting her eyes from the training session, Toffee snapped her fingers to the beat and decided to look around more, ignoring the screaming and fighting from the mini-platform behind her.
Luana smiled as she stirred the paper straw around in her milkshake again, gazing happily at a girl who had the nose, tail, and ears of an otter, who was looking quite nervous in the busy situation. “So, you finally signed up for Rhythm Access? It took you long enough, Gulfy!”
Gulfstream chuckled and took another spoonful of her chocolate ice cream. “Yeah, I’m really excited. Thanks for getting me into this place.”
Luana shrugged. “Hyperbole’s a regular, so I usually just tag along. They let me in here.”
Toffee slowly made her way to the table and gave a timid wave. “Hey, can I sit with you guys?”
Luana grinned upon seeing Toffee, drawing up a chair. “Toff, long time no see,” she grinned, motioning for her to sit down. “What brings you to the underground?”
Toffee grinned, her cat tail waving back upon seeing Luana. “A slip of paper and a Pop category fight.”
Luana nodded. “Yeah, that’s how Time got me in at first. Hey, have you met Gulfstream?” she motioned vaguely to the girl sitting next to her.
The girl laughed, twirling a lock of her dirty blonde hair with her webbed and slightly furry hands, resembling otter paws by themselves. “Hey, I’m Gulfstream,” she said with a smile. “You know Luana?”
Toffee nodded with a grin, her ears perking up. “We were neighbors a while back.”
Luana smiled, as if to confirm that fact.. “Yep. Hey, have you met Necro? She’s up at the bar again if you wanna talk to her some more.”
Toffee took the statement as a bit of a surprise. “Uh, yeah! I have. I’m gonna go talk to her, mmkay? She seemed on edge and I wanna know her more.”
Gulfstream grinned. “Okie dokie! Come back soon!”
Toffee grinned, her tail flattening into a resting position as she strode over with confidence.
Necro stood at the opposite end of the bar, polishing the counter while humming a tune softly to herself. Out of nowhere, a blur of black hair-tinged red slammed onto the counter and looked frantically around. It was MJ, looking slightly disconcerted.
“Necro, you gotta help me,” she hissed. “Summer is here!”
Necro smiled but continued to wipe the counters. “Eureka here too? We both know he has a crush on her.”
MJ seemed as if she was about to die of embarrassment. “Can I just stay behind the counter with you? Please, please, please?”
Necro laughed. “You’re nothing like the tsundere that people call you. All right, but you have to help out. I’m not paying you, either.”
Toffee walked over with her eyes widened. “…you all okay?”
MJ had already vaulted over the counter, her face set back to her casual cold expression, faltering a few seconds here and there. After a dreadfully long pause, she said one word: “Yeah.”
Necro grinned. “She has a ridiculously large crush on Summer. You see him over there?” With the swoop of a hand, Necro motioned towards the Dance Dance Revolution machine, where Summer was currently racking out a 231 combo and counting, with Ishmael and an unfamiliar girl with dark gray hair and deathly pale skin.
Necro sighed with a smile. “Yeaaah, that’s her unrequited crush all right. But he likes Eureka, the girl cheering him on.”
MJ slunk to the floor and moaned in despair. “Necrooooo…”
Toffee’s eyes widened. This is the stone-cold fighter from earlier? Wow…people have such different personalities outside of Rhythm Access.
Necro chuckled. “This is what you get.”
Toffee sighed. “Okay then. Can I get a strawberry float?”
Necro shrugged as she concocted the order drink. “Sure thing. You can pay when you’re done, no rush.” Sliding it over, Toffee grasped the base and took a long sip.
Eureka was chanting “Su-mmer! Su-mmer! Su-mmer!”, the energy in each chant making her hair bounce as he racked out points, feet flying between the arrows. Summer’s hair would occasionally fall in his eyes, which he quickly wiped away with a dry hand. The music continued to play, specifically, “Butterfly” from the soundtrack. Ishmael had his phone out, filming the entire scenario with a happy smirk twisted upon his lips.
The song quickly ended and the trio cheered at Summer’s impressive score. Ishmael reached out for a high-five, his grin obscured by his wolf mask (per usual, this was a public place after all). Eureka bared her fangs in a happy grin and Summer pumped his fist in the air triumphantly.
Eureka smiled, her nerves finally at ease. She was with her friend group, after all.
Hyperbole, who had been watching and cheering on nearby, hopped atop a sturdy, four-legged table, and yelled, “Who dares challenge the Dance Dance Revolution King, Summer?!”
The room went silent as everyone looked around. No one wanted to brag about their skills, because, well, people were better than that.
From a table in the corner, a girl with hair like the galaxy and a black trench coat stood up, a black surgical mask blocking her facial features.
She strode up to Summer, albeit being an inch or two shorter, she met his joyful gaze with a confident one.
“My name is Nova,” she grinned, “And I’m here to challenge you.”
Summer smirked. “All right,” he said in a sly tone. “If you can beat me in multiplayer, you can order whatever you want and I’ll pay. If you lose, however, it’s the other way around.”
Nova’s eyes crinkled around the corner. “Prepare to go bankrupt on your bank account.” With the flick of the wrist, she slung her quarter into the machine and stood on the arrows. “Ready?”
Summer grinned and slid the quarter in the designated slot, shaking his wrists to loosen his joints again.
Nova grinned as she slammed the “start” button and immediately selected the song “Butterfly” once again.
The music started and the slamming of buttons began.
Three minutes later, a winner emerged.
Nova sat happily at the counter, five empty bowls of ice cream next to her and three more full scoops to her left. Summer looked mildly disturbed at the bill, wringing his hands through his hair. “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go bankrupt.”
Nova shrugged as she shoved a bite of mint-chocolate chip ice cream in her mouth. “Your loss for making such a risky deal.”
Ishmael was silently dying of laughter in the corner with Eureka, due to the hilarity of the situation and the fact that Ishmael had just said “that bill can surely make him i-scream.”
Riri sighed from a nearby table, exhausted from her sparring session with Confidence (which Riri had won. She did, however, give Confidence enough pointers to last her to her next life). “How the heck did I miss all of that?”
Bixbite grinned and sat down, a small sketchbook in hand. Whipping out a pencil, she immediately started on a profile sketch. “I have no idea. You tend to get carried away in situations and block all other things out, you know.”
Riri sighed. “Yeah, I know…still, isn’t it weird that no other fighters know about this place?”
Another small blur launched itself onto Bixbite, causing Bixbite to scream and then abruptly stop, because — well, it was Nyx again. Repeating the incident from before.
“I told you not to do that,” Bixbite said as she pried the eleven-year-old off once more.
Nyx shrugged. “And I told myself I wouldn’t eat fruit gummies for breakfast, yet here we are.”
Bixbite sighed and shook her head, a calm smile upon her face. Handing Nyx a five dollar bill, the bat-winged kid immediately took off to the ice cream counter. “I swear…”
Toffee collapsed into a nearby chair, sighing loudly. “Oh my gosh, how do you all deal with this? It’s insanity here!”
Riri laughed in a slightly deranged manner and slammed her head down on the table. “It’s loud, it’s fun, and it has ice cream. I come here for that and that only.”
Bixbite looked at Riri with a concerned expression, eyebrows slightly raised. “You okay?” she asked as Nyx proceeded to cling herself back onto Bixbite, Nyx’s hands slightly sticky with chocolate syrup, her face retaining a grumpy expression (per usual).
Riri nodded. “Peachy.”
Bixbite shrugged and promptly flung Nyx off, starting on the little details in the portrait sketch, eraser stick shoved over her ear. “If you say so.”
Gulfstream rushed over to Toffee with a smile. “Uh, hey! Do you…do you wanna spar?”
Toffee looked up immediately and beamed. “Of course! Come on, let’s go!” she said as she drew out her crossbow, Gulfstream clutching her war fans in her paw-like hands.
The immediate instant that the duo left, Riri stared at Bixbite with a silly grin. “Hey, I saw your fight against Toffee. You were so close!”
Bixbite nodded, the pencil continuing to scratch upon the light paper. “It went pretty well, especially for a Forbidden Item round. Good job on your match against MJ earlier too. I haven’t seen a tie in a while…”
Riri nodded. “It was pretty cool to have a tie with her. She’s a good fighter.” She stopped abruptly in her sentence to take a large inhale. “Hey, do you smell something burning?”
Bixbite shook her head. “It’s probably nothing, Riri. Oh, right. When are you gonna pay for your commission?”
Riri looked up from the table. “When I get home, can I send the money digitally?”
Bixbite nodded, her face content with the outcome of the drawing. She quickly closed it and then smiled at Riri pleasantly. “Sure.”
Eureka bobbed up her head, watching Summer desperately challenge Nova again for her to pay the bill instead of her. With a subtle shake, she sat down. I’ll never be as good at Rhythm Access as them, why bother asking to play against? Summer got an impossibly high score last time.
Eureka tapped her finger to the beat of the song of the music playing in the background, “Wonderland” by Caravan Palace. Don’t I have a battle soon?
Taking a large deep breath, Eureka practically choked on her own inhale. A smell, smokey and gross, almost like…
Oh my god, what do I do? Eureka thought to herself, looking around frantically. I…I can’t cry out fire, if there was nothing wrong everyone would hate me more. Wait, do they hate me? Yeah, they probably do. But what should I do?! There could be a fire, and—
A scream came from the back. The room went silent. Nova coughed faintly.
The scream came again.
//Forumers in chronological order of mention: Toffee, Riri, Confidence, Hyperbole, Luana, Gulfstream, Necro, MJ, Summer, Eureka, Ishmael, Nova, Bixbite, Nyx (THAT'S FOURTEEN FORUMERS)