Story 1: Hikaru Ichibanboshi
“This victory is mine☆!”
A roar of approval echoed through the stadium.
At the center of attention was a young man in a flashy outfit, his body twisted in a dramatic pose. Hearing his declaration, the announcer lost her composure.
“He’s done it! The winner of the second match of the Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs semi-final round is our new rising star, Hikaru Ichibanboshiiiii!”
Her excitement was understandable.
The Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs was the biggest event of the year, with participants that included celebrities from the entertainment industry. The last semi-final round had concluded, which meant that the second competitor that would be heading to this year’s finals had just been decided – the young man still showing off his signature pose, Hikaru Ichibanboshi.
Currently a ninth grader, Hikaru had continued an amazing winning streak despite it being his first time participating in the tournament. Now he was moving on to the final round.
“Mister Hikaru, your next match will be the finals. How do you feel about this upcoming match?”
“What a foolish question. Obviously, the winner will be me, Hikaru Ichibanboshi☆!”
“You seem incredibly confident. Do you have some secret strategy up your sleeve?”
“A secret strategy? My strategy is being me, Hikaru Ichibanboshi, of course☆!”
“After all, everyone knows the world revolves around the one and only me☆!”
As Hikaru winked at the camera, brilliant stars flew all around him.
The interviewer couldn’t help but smile wryly in response.
For the spectators and the interviewer, this was an all too familiar scene. The whole world knew Hikaru Ichibanboshi as a flamboyant, confident character who radiated positivity no matter what came his way.
Yes, that was what the world knew…
The final match was the next day.
◇ ◇ ◇
This is an outdoor shopping center on a street corner.
I stepped through the back door of a tiny bento [boxed lunch] shop and entered my home.
“Oh, welcome back, Hikaru. You’re home earlier than expected.”
“Congratulations. I was watching the live broadcast of your match–!”
“…Thanks. More importantly, how was sales today?”
“Thanks to you, we sold out of everything. As usual.” My mom smiled happily.
Seeing her smile, a part of me felt relieved, and another part of me felt bashful.
“‘Kay. Well, I’m gonna go get ready for tomorrow.” I quickly headed upstairs to hide my embarrassment.
From behind me, I could hear my mom’s voice. “Don’t forget to tell your father how you did–!”
“I know.” I responded without looking back, and headed into a certain room on the second floor.
My mom wipes this room down every day, so it’s incredibly clean no matter when I go in. There’s no sense of life in the room, which makes it feel kind of lonesome.
I walked to a desk in the corner of the room. On the desk was a small framed photograph. From the frame, a man gently smiled at me.
“Hey, Dad. I’m home. I won again today.”
◇ ◇ ◇
My father collapsed from an illness and passed away several years ago.
It all happened so suddenly, it took me and my mom some time to accept our new reality.
But my mom said “I don’t want to lose this bento shop that your father left us,” and took charge, learning how to do all the things that my dad used to do. Of course, you can’t run a business by fumbling around in the dark, and our customers decreased day by day. Even so, my mom continued to improve through trial and error, and did her best to keep the store running.
At the time, I’d grown withdrawn and depressed. But seeing my mom like that, I started to wonder if there was anything I could do to save our store. That’s when I met a certain someone.
“You’ve got the potential to shine!”
I’ll never forget those words, spoken with such confidence. Her words, her passion, moved something within me.
I thought, “If I have the potential to shine…”
I started working as a model soon after that.
◇ ◇ ◇
I went back to my room and changed into casual clothes, then sat in my chair and took a deep breath.
Just one more win until my goal.
I can’t afford to lose now.
But can I really win this?
[Hikaru. Are you worried?]
A voice echoed in my head.
To be clear, I wasn’t talking to myself out of anxiety and stress. The owner of the voice was my Buddy, Bigbang Dragon. He’s the Dragon of Genesis who lives in Ancient World. He can’t speak any human languages, but he can communicate through telepathy. From time to time, he talks to me through his card.
“Is that a problem?”
[And yet you spoke so boldly at the stadium. What did you say? Something about the world revolving around you...]
“Ahhh! Ahhh! Stop, stop, stop! That’s just my public persona!”
[I know. I was teasing.]
“…You’re really getting the hang of our Earthly humor.”
[Don't be cross. I have the intellectual capacity for enjoying conversation, just as you humans do. Earth's culture of recreation and amusement is most interesting.]
Was it just my imagination, or did Bigbang Dragon seem to be enjoying himself as he said this? Or maybe I was starting to know Bigbang Dragon better.
[However, you must win no matter how worried you feel, correct? In order to make your dream come true...]
“Yeah. I’m going to become even more famous. I’m going to spread the name ‘Hikaru Ichibanboshi’ far and wide. And I’m going to make Dad and Mom’s bento shop famous as ‘the bento shop that Hikaru Ichibanboshi goes to’. That’s the dream that I’ve chosen.”
[And as a big step towards achieving that goal, you're going to win the Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs, with the whole world watching. Isn't that right?]
I nodded my head slightly.
“And the person I’m facing in the finals is someone very special to me.”
[She was the human who showed you your path, wasn't she?]
My opponent in the final match was the person who showed me the way.
The person who helped me establish my dream.
“It’s Miss Ageha Gokuraku. She’s my mentor.”
She was a woman who had once taken the modelling world by storm.
I learned everything about being a model, as well as the basics of Buddyfight, from Miss Ageha. She was still working as a model, and regularly appeared in the top ranks of the annual Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs.
And she was going to be my opponent in the final match.
“In order to spread the name of ‘Hikaru Ichibanboshi’, and to show Miss Ageha how far I’ve come, I’ve got to win. Or rather, I want to win.”
[If that's the case, then you have no time to spend worrying.]
I took a deep calming breath, removed my deck from its deck case, and spread my cards out on my desk. After I spent some time in deep thought, Bigbang Dragon muttered in an exasperated manner.
[You know, those who only know your public persona probably can't imagine you like this, thinking and working so hard.]
“That’s fine. ‘Hikaru Ichibanboshi’ is someone who always believes in himself and has no doubts, like a brilliant shining star. In order to create that impression, I’ll work as hard as I have to, and nobody needs to know that.”
[Hmm. Nobody, you say. I'm afraid that's impossible.]
[At the very least, I know the truth.]
“…You’ve got me there.”
My buddy and I worked late into the night, building our deck together.
◇ ◇ ◇
“All right, ladies and gentlemen! It’s finally here! The final match of the Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs! We’ve seen countless fierce battles in this tournament, as the competitors showed us their beauty and their strength. But this is the grand finale! These are the Buddyfighters who have clawed their way to the top, defeating a whole host of powerful rivals!”
As a great cheer went up from the croud, the entire Fighting Stage went dark. A spotlight shone down on one of the Buddyfighter Areas, and a woman clad in a gorgeous purple dress appeared.
“Her record includes six past championships and two runner-up rankings. She’s unquestionably the top candidate for champion! The totally glam hype-hype Buddyfighter synonymous with the world of Model Buddyfighters! Miss Ageha Gokuraku!”
The cheers rang out once more, and Ageha responded by spreading her arms wide.
“This year’s championship will be ours again!”
“Oh my! Aggie-kins, you’re rockin’ it like always!”
The white dragon wrapped around Ageha’s neck like a scarf and flattering her shamelessly was Aettir, her Buddy. Ageha and Aettir had been Buddies for many years.
“Next, we have an unexpected dark horse competitor who has battled to the top despite being a new competitor! He’s the beautiful hottie Buddyfighter destroying his opponents one after another with the overwhelming power of his Buddy Monster! Mister Hikaru Ichibanboshi!”
Hikaru appeared and struck his signature pose, as stars twinkled around him.
“I’m definitely going to be the winner. Why, you ask? It’s because I’m me, Hikaru Ichibanboshi☆!”
The stadium was enveloped in a crescendo of admiring screams.
As the two competitors took their positions, V-Boards appeared before their eyes.
“Miss Ageha. Today is the day I’m going to surpass you.”
“Oh goodness, the little newbie who followed me around like a lost puppy until just the other day seems awfully confident.”
“I’ve heard it said that a boy can become a man within three days.”
“Just don’t disappoint me, okay?”
The two competitors faced each other, and although their eyes blazed with competitive spirit, their smiles showed how much they were truly enjoying themselves.
“Now, the curtain is about to rise on the final match! Both competitors, please luminize your decks!”
“The blessings of the celestial deity will demonstrate my beauty! Luminize, Super Hype-Hype Heaven!”
As Ageha placed her hand on her V-Board, her luminized deck appeared. From her deck, six cards emerged.
“Who am I? That’s right! I’m the shining star that lights up the world! Luminize, I Am HIKARU☆!”
As Hikaru also placed his hand on the V-Board, his deck appeared. Six cards spread out, just as they had for Ageha.
“Buddy…fight! Raise the flag!”
As the two competitors shouted, Ageha was the first to turn her flag over. “Divine Guardians!”
Next, Hikaru turned his flag over. “Ancient World!”
Finally, the Hikaru versus Ageha Buddyfight had begun.
Ageha started the battle with 12 life.
Hikaru started the battle with 10 life.
“I have the first move. Draw☆! Charge and draw☆! First, I cast YEAH! HIKARU☆ and discard a card from my hand. I check the top five cards in my deck and add two Genesis Dragon cards to my hand, and send the rest to my gauge!”
For each card that he drew, Hikaru stretched out his arm, swiftly swung it around, wowing the audience with his elegant movements and exaggerated actions.
“Now, why don’t we go all out? My buddy and I will raise the curtain on a brilliant stage! I pay 3 gauge and Buddy call Great Dragon of Genesis, Bigbang Dragon to the center!”
Hikaru’s Life: 10 → 11
A runic spell circle floated in the air, and a massive dragon comprised of just a head and torso appeared in the center area. His deafening howl seemed to rumble earth itself as it reverberated throughout the entire stadium.
“Here he is! Hikaru Ichibanboshi’s Buddy, Bigbang Dragon! In this tournament, nobody has been able to overcome this monster! Will Ageha Gokuraku be able to break through?”
“In addition, I call Right Arm of Genesis, Rightes to the right, and Left Arm of Genesis, Leftes to the left!”
This time, spell circles appeared in the right area and left area, and two pairs of giant arms emerged from them. Each of the five fingers had a dragon’s head at the tip, and they all growled as they appeared.
“Bigbang Dragon, attack Miss Ageha!”
The massive form advanced towards Ageha, but…
“I’m going to make good use of that attack! I cast Glacious Defense Wall! I pay 1 life and nullify the attack. And I increase my gauge by 1.”
Ageha’s Life: 12 → 11
A large defensive wall stopped Bigbang Dragon’s huge body.
“My turn is over. Bigbang Dragon can’t be destroyed as long as Rightes and Leftes are on the field. Now what will you do, Miss Ageha☆?”
“My turn! Draw, charge and draw! I cast and set Gate of Pardon, -Forgiven- and Gate of Absolution, -Sanctuary-!”
The two spells were set on the field, and then…
“Sanctuary’s ability lets me draw two cards. In addition, Forgiven’s ability lets me choose Miraculous Water Envoy, Ochimizu from my deck and call to the right!”
A white dragon wearing golden armor appeared in the right area.
“You’re up next, Aettir!”
“Leave it to me, Aggie-kins!”
“I pay 1 gauge and Buddy call Eternal Guardian Dragon, Aettir to the center!”
“I’m all hyped up and ready to go!”
Ageha’s Life: 11 → 12
Aettir, who had been wrapped around Ageha’s neck, leapt out and transformed into an enormous form as she descended on to the center area.
“Because I regained life due to buddygift, Ochimizu’s ability activates. My gauge increases by 1, and I draw one card! Teehee, and I drew a good card, too! I call Envoy of Sol, Meraciel to the left.”
A humanoid dragon with pure white wings floated down to the left area.
“Now my attack begins! Ochimizu, attack Leftes!”
Leftes was destroyed by the attack, but stayed on the field using the Soulguard ability.
“Ochimizu, Double Attack! Meraciel, follow up with an attack!”
Leftes was destroyed twice in a row, but stayed on the field with Soulguard both times. However, this meant that Leftes had no cards left in the soul.
“And finally, Aettir, put an end to Leftes!”
“I’ll do it with beauty and grace! Aettir Breaker!”
Aettir’s attack drew near, but…
“I cast! Dragon Blessing! The effect returns Leftes and Rightes to my hand!”
Hikaru’s spell returned his monsters safely to his hand, and Aettir’s attack ended up missing its target.
“Hikaru Ichibanboshi not only saves Leftes from imminent destruction, but also returns the undamaged Rightes to his hand as well! Now the two arms protecting Bigband Dragon are gone, but his opponent Ageha Gokuraku has no cards remaining that can attack! Looks like she can’t break through this time, either!”
“Isn’t it a little early to make such a call? I cast Recover Veil. My gauge increases by 2.”
Ageha spoke these words very calmly, and then…
“Final Phase!” she declared in a voice that rang out as clear as a bell.
“Impact Call! I pay 3 gauge and call Avalon “Benedict Ray” to the right!”
As Ochimizu moved to the bottom of Ageha’s deck, an awe-inspiring humanoid dragon appeared in the right area.
Even Hikaru couldn’t help but gasp at the sight.
“And that’s not all. When Ochimizu moves to the bottom of the deck, Meraciel’s ability is activated.”
“I return Bigbang Dragon to your hand, and gain 1 life♪!”
Ageha’s Life: 12 → 13
“Bigbang Dragon, use Soulguard!”
“But now you’ve used up all the soul cards. And Bigbang Dragon has the Lifelink ability. In other words, the moment it leaves the field, you lose this Buddyfight. This next attack will finish you♪!”
Ageha pointed her right hand at Bigbang Dragon like a pistol and pulled an imaginary trigger while commanding Avalon.
“Avalon, attack Bigbang Dragon! And at this moment, ability activates! I move three cards in my dropzone to the bottom of my deck, and return all of the cards on my opponent’s field to his hand!”
“Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable! Avalon’s ability has returned Bigbang Dragon to hand! That means that Hikaru Ichibanboshi will lose instantly due to Lifelink!”
Countless swords of light created by Avalon showered down upon Bigbang Dragon.
Everyone was certain of Ageha’s victory. But at that moment
“…I’m impressed, Miss Ageha. I knew that you of all people would take advantage of Bigbang Dragon’s weakness, and Impact call Avalon “Benedict Ray”! That’s why I’m not going to lose yet! I cast Dragon’s Temper!”
“What did you say?!”
◇ ◇ ◇
The previous night.
“Bigbang Dragon, you’re strong. But I’m sure that Miss Ageha will bring something stronger.”
[Something that surpasses my power? That's a bold prediction.]
“She doesn’t need to surpass your power.’If you can’t win using strength, then win using your wits.’ That’s what Miss Ageha used to say. No matter how strong you are, Bigbang Dragon, I’m sure she’ll find a way to exploit your weaknesses.”
Since I’d used Bigbang Dragon right up until the semi-finals, my opponent would have complete knowledge of my strategy. There was no way that Miss Ageha wouldn’t prepare some counter-measures. Of course, I was familiar with the contents of Miss Ageha’s deck too, so we were on equal footing there.
[I am certain that you know my weaknesses better than anyone else.]
“The Bigbang Dragon card can’t be destroyed unless both arms are destroyed first. In exchange for that strength, it has Lifelink. The moment that Bigbang Dragon leaves the field, I lose the fight.”
What battle strategy and what cards would Miss Ageha use to knock Bigbang Dragon out?
“Lifelink, huh. And when it leaves the field… Leaves the field… Huh? Wait a second, I think I remember a card that Miss Ageha used before that…”
◇ ◇ ◇
“Dragon’s Temper’s ability nullifies the attack! And also, a card from my drop zone is added to Bigbang Dragon’s soul!”
The instant before the sword of light hit their target, a card entered Bigbang Dragon’s soul. As a result, Bigbang Dragon was not returned to Hikaru’s hand by Avalon’s ability, but instead sacrificed the soul card to stay on the field.
“What an unbelievable turn of events! Hikaru Ichibanboshi has increased Bigbang Dragon’s soul and survived the vicious assault!”
Ageha had been left speechless for a moment, but she recomposed herself and looked at her hand before smiling softly.
“I was certain that you’d use Avalon, Miss Ageha. That’s why I used Dragon Blessing to return both arms to my hand. After all, Dragon’s Temper can only be used when a size 3 monster has been attacked.”
“I see. You’ve gotten quite good at thinking things through.”
“Of course! Don’t you know who I am☆?”
“I suppose you’re going to say ‘I’m the great Hikaru Ichibanboshi’?”
“No. I was going to say, I’m the great Miss Ageha’s apprentice, Hikaru Ichibanboshi☆!”
“Ha! I like that! Now, give me all you’ve got!”
“Certainly! Draw☆! Charge and draw☆! Come back now! I call Rightes and Leftes!”
The spell circles appeared, and the two arms appeared to the right and to the left.
“Make it flashy☆! Make it magnificent☆! Make it beautiful☆! Go, Leftes! Attack Aettir! And destroy Sanctuary with your ability!”
“Argh! I send Avalon to the drop zone!”
Because Sanctuary was destroyed, Avalon was eliminated due to surpassing the size limit.
“Aettir, come back!”
“I hate this! I’m going home!”
The moment before Leftes’s attack landed, Aettir used her own ability to return to Ageha’s hand.
“Leftes, Double Attack! Use your ability to destroy Forgiven!”
Ageha’s Life: 13 → 11
“Triple Attack! Use your ability to destroy Meraciel!”
Ageha’s Life: 11 → 9
“Next, Rightes. Attack the fighter! Use your ability to deal 1 damage to Miss Ageha. Together with the attack, that’s a total of 3 damage!”
Ageha’s Life: 9 → 6
Ageha’s Life: 6 → 3
“I cast! I pay 1 life to cast Glacious Defense Wall!”
Ageha’s Life: 3 → 1
“This is the finale! Bigbang Dragon, attack the fighter!”
Bigbang Dragon roared, and raised its massive form for a body slam attack. As the attack approached, Ageha gently closed her eyes and whispered quietly in a voice so soft that nobody else could hear her.
“I know you can shine even brighter than this.”
Ageha’s Life: 1 → 0
Hikaru struck his signature pose and brought out a single rose from nowhere in particular. He threw it upon the stage and announced,
“This victory is mine☆!”
“He’s done ittt! For the Model Buddyfighter Ultimate Play-offs, the winner is Hikaru Ichibanboshiii!!”
The loudest cheers of the day rained down on the stage.
◇ ◇ ◇
Several days later.
When I got home, mom ran over to me and said, “This arrived for you, Hikaru.”
She handed me a letter.
The sender was… Kei Jinguji?
It wasn’t a name I recognized.
I went back to my room and opened the letter.
It was an invitation to a newly established school, the World Buddy Academia. Apparently they were gathering powerful and skilled Buddyfighters from all over the world, and they wanted to invite me as I had just won a major tournament.
It sounded like there were quite a few Buddyfighters who were already enrolled, and I spotted a name that was familiar to me.
“…Yuga Mikado. The Ace of Games, huh…”
Interesting. It was an opportunity to spread the name of Hikaru Ichibanboshi that simply could not be missed.
I quietly felt the competitive spirit burning within me, as I decided to take on this new challenge.
Text by Haru Menjo
*V-Board: A stage for Buddyfighting where Buddyfighters can place their deck and summon monsters.