Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Ammokkx
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I see that smile, day after day.
It's always there to greet me... no matter how hard it gets, you always keep up that smile.
But I know better, that you're just trying to hide how much it hurts.
Every day.
That's why, I...

The halls of school were filled with the one joy students experienced at the end of their long days; the sound of the bell signalling the end of classes. Seats were shuffled, chatter erupted, people dashed for the gate and from next to Rui, a female student spoke up.

"Kadomori-san?" she addressed her, with the Rui turning her head to look at her classmate. She'd wanted to go through her notes again before leaving, but that seemed out of the question at this point.

"Ah... Shio-san," Rui replied rather neutrally. "Is something the matter?"

"Yes, I mean no, uh... well, me and some friends wanted to go to Karaoke today. I never see you hang out with anyone, so I thought maybe you might want to come with us," Shio told her.

"Ahaha... I guess that's true," she awkwardly agreed. However, Rui couldn't accept her classmate's offer. After all...

"Ah, so you'll come? You could invite your brother, too!"

...it was always the same story. It was never actually about Rui at all. "No, I'm sorry... I actually have to go straight home today," she excused herself. Obviously, Shio was dejected. The girl tried in vain to convince Rui to come anyway. Her every attempt was met with polite refusal. After being alone again, Rui left her classroom behind, then started to make her way to the exit. Her attention was caught, briefly, by an open classroom on the way. She peeked through the open door, spotting a few students crowded around a desk. Two of those students were sitting down, seated across one another, as the both of them seemed to be playing some kind of game. Cards were scattered all across a mat that had been laid out on the desk. 'They seem to be having fun...' Rui thought to herself, briefly, before moving on.

Rui switched her shoes at the lockers, as usual, but paused once she'd closed the compartment again. "Sora, huh...?" she muttered to herself, pulling her phone out of her bag. She began to type something. "You don't have club activities today, right? Do you want to walk home together? I'll wait at the gate."

But then she deleted it again. Rui didn't have the time to be thinking about these things and Sora had plenty of friends to hang out with. She shouldn't force him to go home with her when he still had the entire rest of his day to spend.

'We're not kids anymore. I should give him some space.' is how Rui justified it to herself. She probably looked weird standing in front of her compartment like that, she figured, so Rui spun around and started making headway toward the school's gate again. She'd be fine on her own. Besides, if she didn't go home straight away, she was sure her parents would... well, it didn't matter.
Hidden 2 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by Squirrel98
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Within the first couple of minutes after the school bell rang, Sora found himself surrounded by seven students. While his friends started to talk among each other, he put away his books in his backpack. He laughed at some of their jokes, stood up, put on his jacket and threw his backpack over his right shoulder. Together, they walked towards the lockers, where they switched their shoes before going towards the school's gate.

He noticed that his friends were talking about some game called 'Nexus' and couldn't help but think about how nice it would be to play it with his older sister. He remembered how fun it was playing with her when they were children, but the sad look in his eyes gave away the fact that they weren't that close anymore. He could never understand how they were able to grew apart the way they did.

"Sora-kun, are you paying attention?" One of his friends asked, waving his hands before Sora's face. Sora took on of the hands as to make it stop waving in front of him and smiled softly.

"I'm sorry, Haruto-kun. I was somewhere else for a minute. What were you saying?" Haruto started laughing at Sora, mumbling the word 'typical'.

"I was asking you if you tried out Nexus yet. If you did, we could have a battle sometime." He said, tickling the curiosity of Sora's other six friends.

"Not yet. I am afraid. But I'll certainly take a look at it." Sora took his phone out of his backpack and was about to text Rui, his older sister, in order to ask her if she wanted to go with the guys to the new ice cream parlor around the corner, but he knew that she wasn't going to go with them and that's why he put away his phone without texting her or their parents. It's not like his mother or father cared where he went or what he did. All they cared about was Rui.

"Yeah, yeah, I am coming!" He yelled, waving his hand in the air and running after his friends, after Asahi called out his name.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Ammokkx
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"It's cold today too, huh...?"

Rui clutched her scarf a little as she walked down the streets, her bag in the other hand. Her home was close enough to not have to take the train, but it was still a few minutes worth of walking. Not that she wanted to rush it; if anything, Rui was walking slower so she could avoid it for as long as possible. She paused at the corner of one of the many walkways she passes through daily. "Maybe I'll go this way, just for today..." Rui told herself, taking a slight detour from the usual. She felt the road less travelled more familiar than her daily routine. And, looking down another street, she knew why. She went off-course again, stepping foward to a location she hadn't visited in a while.

"..."

Contemplative and silent stood Rui in front of the entrance to a playground, a public pen for young children. Nobody comes here much anymore, but Rui's lived in this town long as she can remember. She and Sora used to come here so much. She was the older of the two, yet could never keep up with his energy. He was so much better at the climber, and still bars... Rui often just sat on the swings and watched. Her glasses were a little foggy, but she wasn't looking much at the location as it is. Rui was caught up in her own mind, smiling softly at the warm memories as she tightened the grip on her scarf just a little more.

"Is this place special to you?"

Rui jumped ever so slightly as the unfamiliar voice next to her snapped the girl out of her trance. She turned her head, seeing a masked boy having suddenly come stood next to her. He wasn't looking at Rui, keeping his gaze turned at much the same location she had been staring at. "Um... I guess so. Just a little," she answered him. A brief pause, then she posed a question of her own: "What about you?"

He still didn't turn to look at Rui. In fact, the boy barely moved a muscle save for raising his chin up a little. "Me, huh...? No, not really. Or if it was, I can't remember." he said. Rui felt awkward. She didn't know this person and he hadn't given her a name either. She'd ask, but that mask unnerved her. He was a weird person, but she couldn't just run away either. After a bit, he finally turned his head to Rui. She could just barely make out his emerald eyes beneath the holes. "My apologies for disturbing you. Something about you... no, nevermind. Memories are precious. Whatever you were thinking of... keep it close to your heart. You should hold onto your past, no matter what."

After his cryptic (and weird!) speech the boy turned away from Rui and walked off. She had questions; a lot of them, even, but didn't have much heart to press them. Rui looked back at the playground. "...I'd never forget. Even if you hadn't told me that," she muttered to herself, irritation at the idea welling up inside of her. She didn't want to forget.
"I'm back, mom!" Rui shouted into the entryway of her house as she immediately began to take off her shoes.

"Welcome back, Rui. Dinner is almost ready." she heard coming from the kitchen. Rui stepped down the hall, towards that place. The girl stared at her mother's back as she stirred the pot. It smelled like Curry.

"Um... what about Sora, mom? He's not home yet," Rui asked timidly. His shoes weren't there.

"That boy always comes home late. He can reheat his dinner later," she curtly told her.

"I see... I'll be in my room," Rui said, darting off to drop her bag and throw herself onto the bed. She felt so bothered. So bothered! Rui shot a glance down to her stuff on the floor and reached out to fumble for her phone. She still had that texting window open to her brother. Rui turned around on her bed, laying now with her back against the sheets. She began to type another text, and this time, actually sent it when she was done.

"Are you far from home? Mom's almost done with dinner. She didn't wait to hear from us."
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"Takahashi-kun!" One of the girls in Sora's class came running towards the table where he and his friends were sitting. Haruto had a blush on his cheeks when he stood up and greeted the girl politely. Apparently he borrowed her notes, because he had 'troubles' with mathematics. He never had troubles with mathematics. Sora's lips formed a soft smile, with a tiny bit of mockery, as he licked from his matcha ice cream.

When he noticed that his phone was vibrating, he took a second before looking at who it was, because he had a feeling and he really didn't want to talk to them. It was his sister. He was right. He softly sighed. of course he absolutely loved his older sister, but their relationship had become so damn complicated when they got older that he almost felt uncomfortable being around her at times. He hated the distance that had grown between them and that was still growing with each day, but he didn't know how to make it disappear, or even how to make it decrease a tiny bit.

"New ice cream parlor. I'll reheat dinner."

It was best to keep his messages short, so that she could focus on whatever she was doing. He knew that she never had time to relax, so it was best to not distract her... right? Even after Sora put away his phone, he couldn't stop thinking about his sister. Was there something he could do? Something?

Haruto sat down next to Sora with a huge smile on his face. "Hina-chan was worried for me. She was thinking about me." Sora chuckled. "She asked if you were able to read her handwriting." Sora's chuckle turned into a very loud laugh. Haruto laughed along and soon after that, Sora was walking home together with Haruto and Asahi.

Asahi was the first one to reach his home, so he waved at the other two and ran inside, where he was met by his angry mother. Sora and Haruto were laughing at how Asahi was getting yelled at for arriving late, but Sora stopped laughing when he noticed one of the shops they had walked by. Haruto noticed how Sora had suddenly stopped walking, followed his gaze and took Sora by his wrist when he realised where he was looking at. "You want to learn how to play? Come on! We'll buy you a deck!" The two of them ran towards the shop.

Inside the shop, Sora felt a bit shy. Those kind of shops really weren't his scene. "Maybe I can pick something up for Rui too..." He almost whispered, but of course the curious Haruto with the good ears had heard him. "So it's not about me, it's about that sister of yours? I feel insulted." He joked, but Sora was too lost in thoughts to laugh about it. "Can you help me pick?" Haruto smiled, winked and helped him with choosing two decks before the two left for home.
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"New ice cream parlor. I'll reheat dinner." was her brother's response. Rui dropped her arm to her side.

"Well, I guess he's just like that..." she wistfully muttered to herself. She felt a bit uncomfortable laying down, though. "Ah, right... my coat." Rui mused, pushing back against her bed to get off it. She changed out of her uniform, then shuffled over to her working desk. Some light rehearsal in the short time she had before dinner couldn't hurt, she thought. Though she took the initiative, fatigue settled in even before she got to work. It was the same routine every day. Going through her notes right before school, diligently paying attention to class, then when she got back home she studied some more. Rui opened one of her textbooks, on the page she left off at, with some notepaper next to her to write on. Her pencil smoothly slid across the surface of her paper, the movements like an automaton. The minutes ticked by as she mindlessly memorized, up until her mother came into the room.

"Dinner's ready, Rui."
"Mm. I'll be right there," she replied without meeting her eyes. When her mother had gone away, Rui looked up at the ceiling and let out a sigh. She got up and joined her family at the dinner table. The food looked good and she thanked her mother for making it, but no matter how tasty it would be, her mind would always be elsewhere.

"Did you get any test results back today?" her father asked, as usual.
"No, not today. I think we'll get some at the end of the week," she half-heartedly replied. It was always the same song-and-dance. Rui's mother gave her a compliment because she'd seen her study, Rui thanked her and then father would point to saying just hard work wasn't enough. She needed to make absolutely sure her results stayed at the top of the school. This conversation always played out between the three of them and Rui could do nothing but nod along. She briefly shot a look at the empty seat next to her. It was doubtful the conversation would've played out much differently had someone been seated there.

Rui didn't want to spend too long at the dinner table. She excused herself as soon as she'd finished and retreated back into her room, back to her desk. Back to her studies. Back to endlessly writing down the contents of her lessons. It wasn't just enough for the girl to get good grades; everyone expected her to get the best grades. So Rui rehearsed her lessons just one more time and when she was done, moved on to the next. Then the next.

"I'm so sick of this..." she bitterly mused to herself, but didn't stop working. Even if she hated it, Rui didn't have much choice but to keep going. Her parents wanted her to excel, so she obeyed. That's all there was to it.
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On the way to his own home, Sora stopped by Haruto's for a short period of time. Sora enjoyed being there, because he had a closer bond with Haruto's parents than with his own. They treated him like their second child and he loved that about them. They asked him how he was, if he was enjoying school and how his grades were. Things his own parents weren't interested in at all. The only one they were interested in was Rui. "You're always welcome here. You know that, right?" Haruto reassured him after hearing the sad undertone in Sora's voice when saying that he was going to go home. Most people at school thought that Haruto was scary and possibly dangerous, but Sora could never see it. At that moment, Haruto told Sora exactly what he wanted to hear. Haruto was like a brother or possibly even more than that. He meant everything to him. How could he be dangerous? He always cared for Sora, more than anyone had ever done.

When Sora finally came home, he didn't even get a 'welcome home' or 'where have you been'. He didn't even get a 'your dinner is in the refrigerator'. His parents didn't even look at him. Sora rushed towards the stairs and came to a stop before Rui's bedroom. He took a deep breath, went to his own bedroom for a couple of seconds and then stopped before Rui's bedroom again. He dropped the extra matcha ice cream he bought earlier and one of the two 'Nexus' decks on the floor before the door. On the 'Nexus' deck was a note.

"Maybe we can play. Enjoy the ice cream."

He knocked on Rui's door, but didn't wait for her to open it before going back downstairs again. He heated his dinner, took a seat at the dinner table and ate his dinner in total silence... alone. Tears were rolling down his cheeks when he noticed his parents talking peacefully to each other. They weren't even far away, but they still didn't care that their son had come home. They didn't care that their son was way too late. They didn't care about their own son. Sora meant nothing to them.

After he was done with his dinner, he put it in the dishwasher, wiped away his tears and locked himself in his bedroom. He lied down on his bed with his 'Nexus' deck laying next to him. He wanted to ask Rui to learn about the rules together, to ask her if they could try playing it, but he shouldn't disturb her. She needed to study, she wanted to study, so he shouldn't do anything to distract her any more than he had already done.
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Rui's head was bobbing and her eyes half-shut as she kept writing and writing. She'd gone through history, literature and was now memorizing her kanji for Japanese. If Rui kept this up any longer, she was going to collapse over her desk. She didn't stop even though she knew this. Until she could write them without thinking, all the while not making a single mistake, she couldn't stop. She kept going, and going until there was a knock on the door.

"Mom?" Rui instinctively let fly, jumping a little from the sudden sound. She turned back in her chair to look at her door. Nobody answered Rui and neither had it opened. She got up and approached, but when she opened it nobody was there to greet her. Down at her feet, though, was a small container, a note and a box. Rui crouched down to pick them up.

"Maybe we can play. Enjoy the ice cream."

"This is..." she muttered. Rui shot back up. "Sora?" she shouted down the hall. No response. Well, he must've been in a hurry... couldn't be helped, she thought. She carried the gifts back into her room, starting with the icecream. She opened it and though it was a little melted, still looked good. It was one of those types that had a wooden spoon included. She scooped up a bit and chowed down. It was good. Really good. Well, it was a little weird to be eating ice at this time of year, but she was happy he'd thought of her at all. Rui pushed herself up against her bed to enjoy it even more. 'Maybe I can get something for him in return...' she thought to herself. Well, not like Rui had any idea what boys of his age liked...

Though the ice cream had been her first concern, Rui hadn't forgotten about the other gift. She looked a bit closer at the box once her snack time was over. She read the text on the back. It said: "Enter the world of Nexus with the Yellow Rebellion starter deck! Use powerful incantations to swing the tide of battle in your favour! Each starter deck contains 1 avatar card, 10 colour..." and so on.

The card images shown for advertisement kind of look like what she saw those other students playing with earlier today. Was this popular in Sora's class? Rui felt a little excited to discover it. It'd been a while since she'd done anything with her brother. Although she needed to study, but... just a little was fine, right? Thinking like that, Rui took off the plastic wrapping and gently opened the box. There was a little rulebook tucked in there, to the left of a deck of cards. Rui went for the rulebook first, quickly skimming through it. "Attackers... traps..." she mused, trying to quickly comprehend the gist of it. Rui looked back inside the box, towards a card that had been tucked underneath the rulebook. "And this is... an Avatar, right?" she continued talking to herself. Pulling the card closer to her face, nothing actually seemed to be written on it. She'd think that was weird, but before Rui got a chance to do that, her head started to go misty. The world around her spun, twisted, until black flames burned away the environment around her. It left her with nothing but an empty void, at which point Rui felt all strength leave her body and collapsed.


In the next instant, her eyes snapped open again as she was somewhere completely different. Somewhere familiar. Rui was standing in front of the entrance to the playground she visited earlier in the day... but not only that, somebody else was standing in front of her. Another girl, one with strange clothes and two animal ears were twitching on the top of her head. "Gooood morning! You're my new Commander, huh?" the girl said in a cheery, upbeat tone.

"C-...Commander? What are you talking about? Where are we? Who are you!?" Rui replied, a bit panicked from the sudden shift in scenery. The other girl waved her hands in front of her, seemingly in an attempt to calm Rui down.

"Calm down, calm down, it's fiiine! I guess you could call this place, um... your memories?" she sheepishly answered. "As for me, well, I'm your new Avatar from today! My name is Lumia and it's nice to meet you!"

"My... memories?" Rui could only respond with confusion in her voice, looking around the area again. Nobody was here except for the two of them.

Lumia looked apologetic, scratching the back of her head as she said: "Well, it's no wonder you're a bit confused right now... here, look at this," the animal-eared girl said, opening the palm of her hand. Inside were seven small, golden coins which floated up in between the two of them. "We're in this place because there's a strong memory associated with it. Each of these seven coins contains a memory of the past. Some of them will turn black soon, and when that happens, you'll no longer be able to recall them, but..."

"Wait! What are you talking about?! Why would I... how do you expect me to believe something like that!?" Rui yelled back at Lumia, overwhelmed by the situation. "Even if that's true, you... how could you do such a thing?" she angrily snapped at her.

"Wait, please calm down okay?! It's not all bad!" Lumia desperately attempted to placate Rui. "Even if you can't remember right now, some of these coins will remain gold. You'll keep those memories. If you want to get the others back, you have to look for and battle other Commanders in a game of Nexus... if you win, one of the coins turns gold. If you lose, another one of your memories is lost when the coin turns black. And, if you turn all of them to gold, I'm allowed to grant you a wish! Any wish, honest!"

"That's... no, I don't want to!" Rui yelled back, defensively hugging herself. Lumia shared her sad look.

"Ahaha... I guess you wouldn't, huh? However... you were chosen. Even if I don't want to, I don't get to choose this either..." the girl said, swiping her hand to the side. One of the coins slowly burned out its colour, turning its lustrous shine an ashen black. Rui felt a sharp pain course through her head.

"Please... stop... I don't want this..." she begged, but Lumia was just as powerless to stop it. Rui clutched the sides of her head as another coin turned black. She could see the images of her past vanish and burn out before her eyes, faces of people she knew get muddled and irrecognizable. Four coins had tuned black so far and another one started to turn. Rui looked up around her as the playground started to fade, flickering away slowly as if being erased from existence. "No... I..." she fumbled for words she couldn't find. A little distance away she saw a little Rui and a little Sora. Rui was crying, but she couldn't remember why. Sora was hugging her.

"...?" She couldn't make out her own words.
"...!!" Neither could she Sora's.
"...promise...!" Only a little snippet of hers made it through at all.

"Promise? What promise?" the adult Rui muttered to herself, desperation written clearly on her face as she dropped to her knees. She could see herself smiling and hugging Sora back. She felt an empty sting inside her heart. "It's important to me, but... I can't remember..." Rui continued to babble, burying her head inside her hands. The coins stopped turning black; five had turned in total, leaving Rui with only two. Lumia and her were left in nothing but an empty void. Rui couldn't see how the other girl was looking down at her with pity.

"From today, you're my Commander. And... I'm sorry."
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Sora sat up straight and wiped away his tears. The 'Nexus' deck of cards was laying on his bed and for some reason, he just couldn't take his eyes off it. Well, if he and Rui couldn't figure the game out together because Rui had to study, he could at least figure out the rules on his own. Rui was much smarter than he was anyways, so it would take Sora a lot more time to understand how to play the game.

He took a deep breath before taking the little box with the deck of cards in his hand. He took out the paper with the rules written on it, but those things really didn't interest him. He wasn't used to studying or reading. Sora always told himself that he just had too much energy for it, but deep down he truly believed that he was too stupid.

Before trying to understand what kind of game it was, he threw away the paper with the rules on it and looked at the cards that were in the box. One of the cards had a little boy on it. His lips formed a soft smile and the word 'cute' appear in his mind, but then he saw the little fellow moving inside of the card. He literally fell off of his bed out of surprise.

"Ahww... That really hurt... Okay no, it didn't hurt one bit." Sora stood up from the floor, but suddenly noticed that he wasn't in his own bedroom anymore. For some reason, he was in the living room. Weird... He didn't remember ever going downstairs. He looked at the direction the unfamiliar voice was coming from and saw the little fellow from before. A guy with white hair, yellow eyes, clothed in green and surrounded by leaves.



"Yooow! The name is Wolf. Nice to meet you!" Wolf put out his hand, but Sora didn't want to shake it, so Wolf put his hand away again. "Why the hell are we in the living room? How did we came here? When? Why aren't my parents here? They are supposed to be here." Wolf looked around.

"Oh, so this is what your living room looks like? It looks really nice! But to answer your question, we're not in the real living room, but the living room from your memories." Sora wanted to make a big deal out of what Wolf said and he wanted to act out really confused, but he already had seen a guy move in a card, so he could handle it. "So why are we in my memories?"

Wolf laughed. "You're a hard guy to break, huh. Well, you are chosen to be my Commander, which means that soon five of your most precious memories will sadly go away." Wolf opened his hand and seven coins were to be seen. "Two of the coins will remain gold, the others will go black and if they do, you forget. You are supposed to play Nexus with the other chosen ones. If you win, you get a memory back. If you lose, you lose one of the remaining memories." Sora nodded silently and looked like he was thinking, although he wasn't the smartest guy around.

"And what else do I get when I win, except for my memories back? In the films, there is always a price to win in those sort of games. There is a prize, right?" Wolf nodded. "Of course there is. I fulfill one wish. Any wish." Sora's mouth literally fell open out of surprise. "So I can wish for more time with my sister? To be close with her like we were when we were little?" Wolf started to laugh. "That's fairly easy one, yes."

Sora smiled. "Alright. Not like I have much of a choice, but I accept." Wolf smiled back at Sora, but then Sora heard his own voice from the couch. He saw a little Sora sitting in the couch with tears running down his cheeks and a little Rui standing in front of him. He could make out some of his own words, which were 'they were mean'. However, he couldn't understand anything his sister said to him. Who was mean? People from school? No... He was pretty popular at school. So who?

"This is one of the memories that is going to disappear, right?" Wolf smiled at Sora with a hint of pity. "Yes." Losing his memories was both emotionally and physically more painful than he thought would be. Especially since most of the memories had his sister Rui in them.

"Are you alright, Commander?" Wolf seemed really worried about Sora, but was he really? "Y-yeah, I-I am. Not one aspect of this game is in your control, right?" Wolf shook his head no. "Alright. Then let's get my memories back and fulfill my wish." Wolf smiled and after a couple of physically painful seconds, they were back in Sora's bedroom and Wolf was back inside of his card. "By the way, you can call me Sora." He said without even looking at Wolf, whose card was in his hand. He suddenly rushed to Rui's bedroom.

"Rui, don't open..." He didn't finish his sentence with the words 'the box', when he saw the Avatar card in Rui's hand. "You too..."
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Rui sat on the edge of her bed, Lumia in one hand as her other was filled with the seven memory coins. "Are... are you okay, Nee-chan?" Lumia carefully asked her Commander, staring up at Rui from the card she was contained in.

"...Nee-chan?" Rui repeated in a confused tone.

"Oh, um, sorry! Do you hate that? It's just, you seem so much more mature than me and, well, I thought... maybe you'd want to be called that instead of 'Commander'..." Lumia hurriedly apologised, trying to back down from her statement. Rui just shook her head.

"I don't hate it," she replied back to her Avatar, who breathed a sigh of relief. Lumia answered back that she was worried having to come up with some other thing, but Rui didn't really look back in her direction.

'It's been a while since I've heard that...'

Rui looked back down at her open palm. Five of the seven coins were still dyed black. Five of her memories were still gone. No matter how much she sat and thought on it, none of them were coming back to her. As Rui was preoccupied thinking about it, Lumia suddenly began to panic about from inside her card.

"Nee-chan! I feel another commander nearby!" she suddenly yelled. Rui flinched and shot upright, dropping the coins in her hand by accident. The seven of them vanished into thin air as soon as they left her hand. Rui wanted to ask Lumia what she meant but didn't have the time to as her door suddenly flung open.

"Rui, don't open..."

A pause. "Sora?" Rui stammered out in shock, seeing him hold onto an Avatar just like her.

"You too..." he answered back to her. Rui gave him the softest smile she could muster.

'It's still "Rui", huh...?' she briefly thought to herself. "I'm sorry. I wanted to see what you got me and, well..." Rui looked down at Lumia. She turned the card to Sora.

Inside of it, Lumia awkwardly rubbed the back of her head while giving a wave. "Ahaha... what the heck, right?" she sheepishly said. "I didn't expect Nee-chan's little brother to be a Commander, too."

Rui turned around and closed the starter deck's box, putting it on the floor next to her. "You can sit down if you need to. I don't mind," she said to him as Rui did so herself. She put down Lumia on her lap, looking at Sora's own Avatar. He seemed much more confident, relaxed even, compared to Rui's. She gave Sora a bit of time to sit down in her desk chair, come take a seat next to her on her bed or to just keep standing there in the doorway. She wanted to ask him so many things, but for now, she looked back down at the card on her lap.

"She told me her name was Lumia." Rui said. Lumia nodded fiercely. "What about you?" she asked Sora's Avatar directly after raising her head up to meet his gaze.
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Sora felt overwhelmed in a wave of sadness when he realised that Rui had the same problem as he did... and it was all his fault. "I am sorry... It's all my fault. I shouldn't have bought the game." Wolf shrugged his shoulders. "It isn't your fault, you know. It's just mere coincidence that you both are Commanders. Only a small group of the Nexus players are in fact Commanders." Even if that was true, it still stung.

Rui's Avatar seemed pretty uptight. 'Fitting...' Sora thought. He decided to accept Rui's offer, so he closed the door and took a seat on the bed, pretty close to Rui. It felt weird, being alone with his sister. It had been so long since they spent any time together that he forgot how to talk, move or act when he was around her.

Sora put Wolf on his right knee. "You two look pretty alike you know. Oh, my apologies for being rude. The name is Wolf! Nice to meet you, Sora's sister!" Sora nervously rubbed his head when Wolf called Rui his sister. "You can call her Rui, you know." Great... He already started talking like the guy.

"I didn't expect this to happen at all. I am not even good at games like these, I picked it because I thought you would be good at it and... you know... lately..." Sora was thinking about how to finish the sentence, but Wolf suddenly finished it for him. "Lately, you're no fun at all?" He laughed. "Wolf! That's rude! I just meant... You seem to work really hard and it's okay to ask for a break. I thought that if I gave you something you would probably be good at... You would be alright with taking a break."

Wolf shrugged his shoulders again. "That's the difficult way of saying exactly the same thing." Sora chuckled. "It's the respectful way of saying the exact same thing." Sora really started to like having Wolf around. He was relaxed, nozy, direct and he had a lot of energy. He just was fun to be around. He reminded him of... himself when he was still comfortable being around his sister.
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"Oh? So you don't think I'm any fun, do you?" Rui narrowed her eyes as she butted into the conversation. The older sister leaned in closer to stare into his eyes for the remark. She waited a bit for his reaction, but couldn't keep a straight face for long before starting to snicker. Rui backed off and winked at Sora, then pointed down to the Avatar on his lap. "Honestly, he seems just like you. You two won't have any trouble getting along at all," Rui told them. Lumia, having been ignored for a little too long, raised her voice to grab everyone's attention.

"Hey, wait, hold on!" she said. "If he's Nee-chan's little brother, does that mean I have to call him Nii-chan?" the card said, putting her two index fingers to the temples as if she's thinking really hard. She opened one eye to look at Rui. "...! A-ahaha, I'm joking of course! Sora-kun is fine enough, please don't glare at me like that!" she quickly backpedalled.

Rui sighed. "Really, though... you don't need to worry about me, Sora. I'll be fine. If I didn't work this hard, my grades would drop. Besides, you have more time to spend with your friends if you don't have me hovering over you at all times, right?" she looked back at him with a smile. "You know, you're really popular with the girls. They're always asking about you," she continued, "and it's no good for your big sister to get in the way of that, right?"

"That's... kind of creepy, actually." Lumia off-handedly interjected. Another glare from Rui caused her to go down on her knees and apologize profusely for the comment.
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Sora chuckled together with Rui when Rui mentionned how similar he and his Avatar are. "Yeah, I believe so too. But I can say the same thing about you two." Sora said, after which he winked at Rui. "You're both stressed out and uptight. This game will do you good." Sora started to laugh really loud. "Wolf, that's no way to talk to them. But he is right, you know. We used to play together all the time and now you do nothing but sitting at your desk! Let's battle!" Sora said, immediately jumping off the bed, excited.

Wolf was shocked to hear those last words coming out of Sora's mouth. For once, he wasn't the relaxed, don't-worry-about-it guy. "You're going to battle your sister? You haven't even read the rules properly!" Sora shrugged his shoulders. "It's not like this will be a life-or-death battle, right? We still have two of the seven coins." Wolf took a deep breath. "But the loser will be at their last coin. That battle will be life-or-death and you won't know how cruel or strong the next opponent will be!" Sora started to lose his patience.

"I thought you wanted her to be more fun. Battling will be fun." It seems like that sentence was all Wolf needed to get back to his usual self. "You know what? You're right! So... what will it be, ladies?" Wolf said with a grin. Sora held up the card right before him, so Wolf and Rui were at eye level.
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"Oh, that sounds good!" Lumia eagerly agreed with Wolf and Sora. She turned to Rui to say: "Let's do it, Nee-chan! You should totally take them up on that offer!" but she didn't get much further than the word 'you'. When Lumia had turned to face her Commander, Rui had turned her head down. Even if Sora couldn't see Rui's face, Wolf could maybe spot her expression from where he laid... as could Lumia. Rui was gritting her teeth. "Nee-chan?" the avatar called out to her, concerned.

"Why...?" Rui softly spoke, her voice slightly cracking. She had her hands clutched tightly on top of her lap. "Why are all of you okay with this?" she continued. Rui stood up from her bed (accidentally tossing Lumia onto the floor in the process) and looked back at Sora. It wasn't her usual kind, collected expression. Her face was something she never showed Sora. Genuine anger. Rui yelled "Don't you get it? We're betting our memories!" at him. She averted her eyes from Sora briefly to look at Wolf. "Didn't you explain it to him?! That if he lost, he'll just lose more?!"

"Nee-chan, please calm down!" Lumia tried pleading from her new comfy place on the wooden flooring, but they fell on deaf ears.

"I won't! Because I... I can't do that!" Rui hysterically kept shouting, grabbing her head as if trying to placate the voices coming from inside. She continued to chew Sora out: "I-! I have memories I don't want to lose, Sora! How could you... could you just... casually dismiss them? Don't you care what happens to me? What happens to you?!"

Rui, shaking like a leaf, pointed to her door. She choked out "Please, just... just leave," and waited for him to do just that. "Go!" she urged him again when she sensed his hesitation. Once Sora was outside her doorframe, she weakly muttered: "Thank you for the ice cream. Good night," and closed the door on him. Rui slumped back against it, curling up into a ball and burying her head into her knees.

"...Are you okay with this?" Lumia asked, seeing Rui's pitiful state. The Avatar wasn't feeling great about this herself. Rui weakly shook her head. "I'm sure he didn't mean anything bad. You can still apologise and-"

"And what? Can't you see he doesn't care about me?" she bit back. "You chose memories dear to me, right?" Rui looked up and glared at Lumia. "You took everything I knew about him! I... I know he's important to me, but that's it! But he doesn't seem to care at all... so... the memories we shared... he doesn't..." Rui whimpered. She hugged herself as tightly as she could.

"...Do you have a wish, Nee-chan?" Lumia asked. "Sora-kun probably has one, you know? A wish he wants to make true no matter what," she continued. Rui didn't respond. Lumia wasn't sure whether or not to keep talking, but did so anyway. "Let's get your memories back, okay? I'm sure he wants that, too." she said. Her Commander looked up, eyes red from the tears welling up.

"I don't want him to forget me, Lumia..."
"He won't. We'll make sure of that."
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Sora really got his hopes up when Lumia seemed to agree with his idea, but immediately sunk into the ground after hearing Rui's reaction. "Of course I know, he did explain... But we can't get our memories back without battling right, so why not try on each other?" However, what he said didn't matter as she only got more and more upset. He felt like he couldn't say anything at that point that wouldn't make her more disappointed than she already was. Was that really the Rui from before? Had she always been like that? He couldn't remember anymore.

He was already down from hearing and seeing her so upset, but he was completely shocked to have been kicked out of her room. He couldn't say anything, he couldn't move, he was just... shocked. He stumbled out of the room after she yelled a second time. After the door closed, tears streamed down his face. "I just... I just wanted to connect..." He whispered so soft that even Wolf had a hard time understanding what he said. "Sora-sama, I don't think she meant what she said. Don't worry about it." Although Wolf had a hard time feeling compassion and be serious, he didn't push any further than that.

After breating deeply in and out for a couple of minutes, he ran as hard as he could down the stairs and outside the door. Even outside he kept on running until he was out of breath. When he came to a stop, he punched a tree close to him, which made his fist hurt very much. "Sora-sama!" Wolf, who Sora had put in the pocket of his jacket, cried out. Even more tears streamed down Sora's face and he didn't know what he felt anymore. He took Wolf out of his pocket and looked at him closely.

"Why does she have to be like that?! I tried... I really tried to become close to her, just like when we were little, but it seems as if everything I do fails! Every attempt to become close to her backfires. It feels as if she doesn't WANT to do anything with me before. It's as if Rui hates me... That's why I need to do the battles! If I do the battles, then I can wish for us to be close again and everything will be fixed!"

Wolf didn't know what to say, so the first couple of minutes after Sora said those last words were complete silence. "You're yelling." Wolf finally said. "Of course I am yelling! She really hurt me deep! I don't remember why I come home to the same house every day anymore, nobody in that house cares what happens to me... I need to battle." And it was at that moment that Sora heard a familiar voice.
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"Sora-kun!"

It was Haruto. Just a little distance away, dressed casually for the cooling weather, was Haruto. He ran up and grabbed Sora's arm. "Let me look at that," he demanded, 'that' being the fist Sora used to punch a tree with. Haruto's face twisted with concern. "You're bleeding, man! Why'd you do that? What are you even doing here?" he asked, concern on his face.

"Ehehe, for the same reason you are, silly! We both know you heard him say 'battle!'" a second voice came from Haruto's direction. His face went pale. Haruto's eyes drifted to Wolf.

"No way! You too?" he said, pulling his hand back to dive into the inner pockets of his jacket. From it, Haruto pulled the same kind of card Sora was holding.

"Hiiii~!" a rather effeminate boy cheerily greeted from within its borders. "You know, normally I neeeever feel any Commanders around here, so I was, like, super surprised and excited when I found one. But then it turns out it's Sora! You only just bought a deck!"

Haruto sighed. "What a mess... I'm sorry for dragging you into this, Sora. I didn't think you'd be selected as a commander when I recommended those decks to you," he sheepishly told his friend.

"Pfu! It woulda happened sooner or later, Haru. We come to our commanders one way or another- hey waaaait a minute... didn't you say you wanted to battle?" the yet-unnamed Avatar excitedly swapped topics. "You know, you know, Haru loves battles! You two should totally duke it out!"

"Hey, calm down... we have to keep Sora-kun's feelings in mind," Haruto made sure to chastise his partner, who playfully put a finger to his bottom lip. Haruto looked back at Sora, a serious expression on his face. "But... I would really like to battle you. I didn't get a chance to do so earlier today, but now's perfect right?"
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Sora was both shocked and glad to see that Haruto was there with him. He didn't think that he wanted to see anyone, but Haruto could always calm him down. "I know that you didn't do it on purpose, Haruto-kun. Don't worry about it. I am not angry at you or anything, how could I? You're my best friend!" He smiled.

It was quite a shock that Haruto was a Commander too, but his Avatar was even more of a shock. Wolf was quite similar to Sora and Lumia was quite similar to Rui, but Haruto gets... that... guy? It was almost laughable. "Of course we would love to battle! I was getting quite bored anyways!" Wolf said excitingly. There was something off about the duo, he did feel it, but he was too excited to battle to worry about it. "Let's go, Sora-sama!"

Sora was hesitating. "Wolf, I thought you said I shouldn't yet, because I didn't read the rules properly?" Wolf laughed. "Yeah, that's still true, but I am so bored and battling is really fun!" Sora looked at Wolf, then at Haruto and realised that he shouldn't be scared of Haruto. "Well, it's fitting that none other than my best friend is the first opponent I battle against. And I do have a wish I really need to make come true." Wolf felt like he was floating when he heard Sora agree.

"Alright! Hold my card in front of you and say 'open'!" Sora nodded, after which he did what Wolf asked of him. "Open", he whispered.
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Haruto smiled as the duo agreed to the proposal. A gentle, caring smile like Sora had known up to that point... or at least, that's what it should have been. To Wolf, who didn't know Haruto before this, it looked different. It had malice behind it, like the smile of a hunter as he approached the sprung trap he'd laid out beforehand. Haruto raised up his Avatar, narrowed his eyes and said: "Open."
"Rui? Is everything alright?"

Rui jumped a little when she heard her mother's voice from the other side of the door. "Did you have a fight?" she continued to question and Rui was at a loss for words. Rui's mother wanted to open the door, but because she was sitting in front of it, couldn't make much progress. When her mother protested, Rui quickly shot up to her feet and opened it up for her.

"Sorry, mom! I... I yelled at Sora," she sheepishly admitted.
"I see... well, as long as he doesn't interfere with your studies it's fine. I'll give him a talking to when he gets back home," her mother replied.
"No, don't! It's my fault, you shouldn't- wait, huh? Did Sora leave the house?"
"Hm? Oh, yes, I suppose. I didn't really notice him earlier, but he ran down the hall and out of the door before your father could tell him to be quiet..."

Rui's face went pale. "No way..." she muttered. Rui's mother noticed the card on the floor and asked about it, reminding Rui she could be studying instead of playing games. Rui grit her teeth as she picked Lumia up off the floor as she was told to. "...I'm sorry, mom. I'm going after Sora," she said to her mother, running past her into the entryway and putting on her outdoor shoes. Rui's father and mother were close behind her, chastising her for wanting to leave so suddenly and telling her to stay put. She repeated "Sorry, but I'm worried about him!" to them before running out the house to go look for her brother.
Sora and Haruto found themselves in an entirely new place. The air was cold and pierced through their clothing like they wore nothing at all. The space was illuminated, but the light was gloomy and dyed everything a slight shade of grey. Black little snowflakes fell all around, but they disintegrated as soon as they touched anything else. Each boy stood on their own platform, a fancifully designed table floating in front of them. The platforms themselves were partially submerged inside of a thick mist that covered the entire field, coloured in the same shade as the main colour of their decks. Haruto's was Red, but all of that wasn't the strangest thing about the situation. On the tables in front of them, dead in the center, was each person's Avatar. The cards weren't just lying face-up; no, the people themselves were standing proudly, in the flesh and blood, on top of the now-empty art box. Wolf was a lot smaller now compared to when Sora saw him inside his own memories. Once both players got their bearings on the situation, seven black cards appeared behind them. Inside the centre of two of them, for Sora, appeared a small golden coin. For Haruto, however, four were lit up.

"Sacchi, let's proceed like usual." Haruto flatly stated, hovering his hand over the pile of cards in front of him. One of them floated from the top of the deck and joined five others already laid out in front of him. "Colour charge," he continued.

"Leave it to me, Haru~!" Sacchi said back to him, striking a cute pose before reaching out his hand. The red mist from below gathered in his hand and focused at a front point in the table, collecting into a small ball.

"Two attackers, level 1 and level 0." Haruto proceeded in monotone, two cards lifting up and placing themselves next to Sacchi on the table. "Go ahead, Sora." he said. Haruto didn't explain any of what he'd just done, which had to have been a mistake, right? But even if Sora asked, all Haruto would do was coolly stare back at him, saying nothing as he waited on Sora to play his turn.
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'Something feels off. I can't quite put my finger on it.' was all Wolf could think about when Haruto and Sora got transported to the battlefield. Sora was shocked to find himself in a very dark place. His body started to shiver and he was forced to close his eyes for a minute. Fear took over both his mind and his body. Scared, he couldn't remember ever being as scared as he was back then.

"Where are we? Haruto-kun?" He mumbled, but Haruto didn't respond. "Is this where we fight? Haruto-kun?" He asked Haruto, but he didn't respond. Sora looked around himself and noticed a small boy standing up on the table before him, a small boy who seemed very similar to Wolf. "This is the battlefield, Sora-sama. Only Commanders are allowed in here." Wolf said in a relaxed way while stretching his body. "Looks like Haruto-kun will start the game." Wolf said, pointing upwards at a large clock whose hand pointed towards the color red.

"Looks like Haruto-kun has a Red deck, we have a Green one." Wolf said, preparing himself for what would come. However, there wasn't any attack to prepare for. "Sora-sama, looks like it's our turn." Sora was so surprised that his mouth literally fell open. "Haruto-kun? What did you just do? You're not going to tell me how to play the game? How is this a fair game?" However, Haruto still didn't respond to the questions. Haruto wasn't acting like the Haruto Sora knew. "Sora-sama, be careful." Sora was confused about Wolf's warning. "Wolf, don't worry. It's just Haruto-kun. He probably doesn't tell me anything, because he already showed me. Let's start by drawing a card like he did." He said as he held his hand above the pile of cards, after which one of the cards joined the other five.

"Then... What did he say? Colour... colour... colour change? No... colour... colour charge! That's it! Colour charge!" He said happily and still full of hope. The green mist from under their feet gathered in Wolf's hand and formed a small ball at the front of the table. "Now... I should probably put some attackers on the battlefield too. Two attackers, level 1 and level 0." He said, repeating the action he saw Haruto do. Two of his cards placed themselves next to Wolf. "Now... Attack, Sora-sama!" Sora was confused.

"What? But Haruto-kun didn't attack. Should I attack?" Wolf seemed to become frustrated. "He doesn't want you to attack. He doesn't want you to win. He probably knew you would imitate him. Attack, Sora-sama!" Sora shook his head. "No! Haruto-kun isn't like that. He wouldn't trick me." Wolf sighed. "He would. Now, attack, Sora-sama!" Sora felt conflicted. He was fighting his best friend, who was helping him, so why did he feel like that? Was Wolf the problem? "Turn end."
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"No waaay, he really didn't attack~!" Sacchi playfully commented on Sora's mistakes. "Hey, hey, Haru? Aren't you being a little mean to him?" he said back to his Commander after twirling on his heel.

"Quiet, Sacchi." Haruto reprimanded his Avatar.

Sacchi, with a playful hum in his voice, replied again: "Oooh, you're so scary~! It's a good thing I like that about you~"

The clock's hand shifted back to Red with a loud clicking of the gears, Haruto hovering over his deck as two cards joined his hand this time. "Colour charge." he said, same as before. Sacchi, too, went through the same motions, a wry smile on his face as if he knew what was coming. Haruto continued his turn. "Your blockers are an eyesore, Sora... let me get rid of them for you. Incantation: Scorched Earth." he told his friend. One of Haruto's own cards, the level 1 attacker, burnt away. A flickering flame remained on his field in its stead. The flame suddenly shot out and leapt at Sora's table, splitting into two and incinerating both cards on either side of Wolf. Sacchi could barely contain his laughter.

"Pffufu! Don't look so surprised, Sora! Your cards will be fine after the battle's over," he explained with a wink, "but now that you don't have much left to protect you, let's have some fun!"
'Sora... Sora!'

Rui desperately ran through the darkening streets in search of her brother, but didn't make much progress. She took a short breather, leaning up against a nearby house. From her pockets, she could hear a voice chiming in. "Nee-chan! Nee-chan!" it kept pestering her. Rui took Lumia out of her pocket, mildly annoyed. When she saw the serious look in Lumia's eyes, however, Rui couldn't find any words to tell her to be quiet. "I didn't know how to tell you this, but... there's a battle going on not far from here. I don't want to believe it's Sora, but..."

The pupils in Rui's eyes shrank. "No... he wouldn't- that idiot!" she angrily shouted as she stomped her feet. "I need to make sure he's safe! Tell me where it is!" she demanded and Lumia obliged. Rui continued her mad dash, following the instructions fed to her by Lumia. She soon reached a small clearing where she found Sora and somebody else slumped up against a nearby tree. Rui dashed over, grabbing Sora's shoulders and calling his name.

"It's no use, Nee-chan... he's... he's battling," Lumia timidly informed Rui. Their eyes met.
"Then tell me how to stop it!" she demanded. Lumia just shook her head.
"I'm sorry, but we can't. It's impossible for a commander to stop a battle between two other commanders. However... we can still enter their battlefield." she replied. Lumia explained that Rui should "Hold me up and shout 'Open'" to her commander. Rui, determined to do what it takes to see Sora safe, did just that.
"Open!"
Haruto's eyes remained fixated on his board. "Two more attackers, one level 0 and level 1." he continued, having a full formation lined up as the two joined his one remaining attacker. "Sacchi, full attack."

Upon hearing his Commander's order, Sacchi narrowed his eyes as he grinned. "Aye aye, sir~!" he playfully replied. The three cards around him briefly glowed with a red aura, those auras then coalescing around the avatar. He kicked off from his platform and shot forward, being in front of Wolf before Sora had time to blink. Since Sora had nothing to block with, Wolf couldn't do anything to guard against Sacchi's upcoming strikes. He grappled Wolf, threw him down onto the table and then jumped into the air. Even if Sacchi was wearing sandals, the force with which he crashed down into Wolf's gut with left its mark. Sacchi proceeded to use Wolf as a springboard to leap back all the way across the battlefield, landing neatly on his side while the other Avatar lay battered and bruised. Seven little lights had surrounded Wolf, of which four shattered. Sora's life had been reduced from full to three within just one turn of starting the match.

At that moment, from the depths of the intersection between the two mists, another platform rose up. Rui's platform. She didn't have a table to play Nexus with and it was much narrower compared to the other two, but she still had more than enough legroom to herself. "Sora! Sora, are you okay?!" she shouted in concern. Rui didn't really know what was going on, but any confusion about the situation was pushed to the wayside to make sure her brother was alright.
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Wolf turned around to take a look at Sora. His face showed an angry expression, which really didn't match with his usual personality. "I told you, Sora-sama! You're going to make us lose the battle!" Sora put both of his hands against his face and closed his eyes. "This can't be happening. Haruto-kun is a good person! He was always there for me. Always. Even when others weren't." Wolf sighed and actually started to feel sorry for the guy. "Sora-sama, he is just using you. Let's fight back." He could hardly finish the sentence before Haruto made two of Sora's cards disappear. "Sora-sama, please!" Wolf begged Sora.

Sora couldn't do anything but sob at the thought that the one guy he trusted the most wasn't to be trusted at all. His mind went back to all the time he spent together with Haruto. When Rui graduated primary school, his parents threw a big, fancy party to celebrate her excellent grades. One year later, Sora graduated primary school and his parents just didn't care. They didn't throw a party, they didn't even congratulate him. Sora was so sad that he ran out of the house, not being chased by anyone. His parents simply waited until he came back and his sister wasn't allowed out. But Haruto came after him. Haruto consoled him and congratulated him. Haruto told him what he wanted his parents to tell him so desperately.

That guy was gone. Maybe that guy never even existed. He didn't know anymore. He didn't know anything anymore. Was there whole friendship a joke? Had he always been using him or did the thought recently came to mind that he could? "SORA-SAMA!" Wolf yelled. The sound of his voice made Sora aware of the battle again. However, it didn't matter anymore. As he didn't know or understand anything about the game, he was forced to watch his Avatar be beaten. "WOLF! WOLF! WOLF, I'M SO SORRY!" Sora cried. He felt like the worst Commander Wolf could have gotten.

"I'm... I'm alright... Sora-sama. Don't mind me. Just play." Wolf coughed and couldn't even stand up the first two attempts, but he didn't cry. He didn't give up. He believed in his Commander. He wanted to believe in his Commander. At that point, it didn't feel like he had much of a choice. "Sora-sama... The fight is only done when you stop believing you can win." Wolf still had hope. He still had the courage and the willingness to fight. Sora on the other hand had no hope, no courage, no willingness to fight against the guy he considered to be his best friend up 'till that battle.

Then suddenly, another platform rose out of the darkness and on that platform was Rui. The last person Sora expected, but probably exactly the person Sora needed. "Onee... chan..." Sora said with the tears rolling down his cheeks. He couldn't remember the last time he cried where other people could see him. He couldn't remember the last time he called his sister anything but Rui. And he couldn't tell if it was because it was too long ago to remember or if it was because Nexus made him forget. "Haruto-kun... Haruto-kun..." He couldn't even get himself to tell his sister out loud. "Haruto-kun is a traitor." Wolf said, obviously being out of breath. "Sora-sama, please. Battle. Fight back." Wolf begged Sora again.

"Colour charge." Sora said after drawing two cards, just like before. "Now, Sora-sama!" Wolf yelled, but Sora had no idea how the game worked. "Sora-sama, it doesn't matter what you do. Just do something." Wolf lied.

"Euhm... Haruto-kun has three attackers, so I probably should summon three attackers too. One level 0, one level 1 and... another level 1." Although Wolf was extremely injured, he started jumping up and down out of excitement. "Looks like the presence of your big sister has a great influence on you." Wolf winked at his Commander.

Sora took a deep breath. "Wolf... Full attack." He whispered.
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