Fanfic The U19 Club

James Rye

Registered User
英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member
Oct 18, 2014
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Chapter 1 - End of a bud

This was it.
Blankly Teppei looked at the spot at the wall that was once reserved for his series first Jump Cover, his portrait so to say. It was taken down and replaced by a boy with white hair and red eyes looking a bit stupid into the audience, reaching for a silver key while purple monsters of all sorts stream forward from a door behind.
"So generic...", muttered Teppei under his breath. The how many Exorcist themed series does this make for Jump? The 5th, the 6th, the 7th? Are they so desperate for a new Kimetsu no Yaiba that they take any send-in with an exorcist or shaman or priest or spiritual detective or whatever that they don't care for courage and originality anymore? Teppei realized he had been gripping his fingers into tight fists and released them. Those thoughts were wasted now. He was finished, his series was over, he... got not prevail, he had been unpopular and unloved, hated even. His throbbing heart wrenched in his cold chest. Reality was cruel, far more cruel than fiction. A horrible feeling has nested in his stomach and Teppei wished there was a medicine to let him no longer feel anything in his life.
"Just where did I go wrong?", he asked himself when a big hand was put on his right shoulder.

"Still thinking in terms of right and wrong, hm? No matter how many time-skips you got you're still the same guy as you were in chapter 1."
The rough voice Teppei hear fit the rough appearance of the guy behind, acting so familiar and matter of factly. It was his first editor, the one who had failed his own original attempts and who was flabbergasted at the plagiarism he had made by accident.
"You don't remember my name either, right?", smiled the middle-aged man sadly, taking off his hand and reaching into his pocket for a smoke. Teppei wanted to tell him that no smoking was allowed in this building and that it was disrespectful to the portraits of the other series catching on the smoke and taking a stink, but after a moment that thought felt rather soothing to his mind and less of a problem. Teppei shook his head, he really couldn't remember the name of his first editor for four years despite all the dozens of series he had been supposedly handed over to him.
"Well, no wonder. Don't beat yourself up, kiddo, I was always meant as a hindrance, a goon of the evil editorship lacking in empathy and being too full of myself." The laugh of the editor sounded empty and hollow.
"What do you mean right and wrong, Sir?" Teppei tried to get away from the other topic as the thought of a character being forgotten even by his own peers, by the MC himself, by him, hurt him too much to dwell on too long. The editor gave Teppei an appraising look, the one he had always hated in the chapters untold before the first released one. He took a deep drag of his cigarette before releasing a large smoke cloud. Then he looked over Teppei's shoulder to the new series that had taken the place on the wall that was once his, theirs.

"You believe that mangas exist as art and as a way to tell a story and you are not wrong with that assumption but neither right. Mangas are much simpler beings: They are entertainment. They are meant to bring joy and tension to the boring and stressful lives of our readers. Mangas which cannot grip the attention and love of the readers end up like ours; discarded and forgotten. And mangas like this one,", he points with his glowing cig to the Phantom Seer poster, "might just have enough "entertainment" in them to continue long enough to tell most of their story. Or even get a chance to gather a large amount of fans to one day be elevated to an anime and more."
"Ours never got that chance.", the words jetted from Teppei's mouth before he could even think. The unwell feeling in his stomach rumbled once more.
"Not because we were bad per se, but because our theme was handled clumsily, confusing and annoying for the readers. They could not get into it, not many at least, they could not get into you and your thoughts, no matter how often you threw those at them at the earlier chapters because they were so alien and wrong to them. They could not see the overarching goal of this series and that, and some more, led us to our downfall."

Teppei felt anger rising in him. How dare this guy talked about his, their, series like that? Had he no shame? No compassion for the other characters left behind untold of their stories with this sudden, unfair end? Even he and Aino who had the most focus were hardly more than plot devices in the end to tell the story meant to be told, but they took those roles on like they were supposed to. Was this the way of a side character to think who was only there for one chapter? Then it was an ugly way Teppei wanted no part of, it was undeserving and disloyal to the series they represented.
"I... I don't think so. The readers simply couldn't bother to look behind our curtain of plagiarism and condemned us from chapter 1, not giving us a chance to shine. Our creators tried so hard to make them sympathize with me and my plight yet all they did was mock me and the story we were meant to tell: That even if only one person gets you, that that is a stroke of luck any creator could cry about." Teppei felt uneasy and nervous saying those words looking his old editor straight into the eyes, those damn indifferent eyes of a veteran who according to his background story had seen too many series fail to even make the cut or die young long before they had a chance to bloom like the flowers they were meant to be.

"Then why do you lament that the masses didn't love you and your series, Teppei?"
Teppei's heart skipped a beat.
"Why is it so important that they didn't understood us? Should we have not made it easier to understand? Should we not have done some things differently to be more self-inserting for readers? Can we put all the blame on the readers and none of ourselves?"
"It-it wasn't just the readers."
Teppei couldn't take it anymore, this horrible feeling in his stomach tore his innards apart like a wild storm while his heart felt like a broken ice cube stinging his chest and his head just throbbed like a giant zit ready to burst.
"We got no support from our editor! He was too busy with the other series to give us much guidance! We got no Color Pages to show us support! We had no tries attempted to gather popularity for us! We were made a mockery on the internet! We were made a joke! We had no twitter account! No fan letters! No love! They dropped us dead from chapter 1, telling us to die from chapter 6 on, just 6 chapters in and we were supposed to be dead already! How is that not unfair!?"
Teppei's hands were clenched around his chest ready to tear down his shirt as he screamed his pain into the unchanging still expression of his former Editor. Yet as he ended and gasped for air, he saw a change in his eyes, a glimpse of sadness and pity. Feelings the mangaka had seen far too often around him the past weeks which is why he had been mostly enclosed in his room, desperately trying to inspire his creators to turn this mess around, to stop this train wreck of a fast told story, to give him and Aino and everyone the dignity they deserved as characters. Yet all he could feel from his own creator and artist were resignation and desperation. And anger, so much rage it had filled him to the brim in that room, all alone on his own, just him and the mocking images of the internet circling around him over and over like crying birds.

"Well", sighed the man in front of Teppei,"guess I was not wrong with my advise from chapter 1 then."
Instead of explaining himself the man let his cigarette drop to the floor and squashed it with his shoe leaving a black spot on the floor.
"I see you on the other side, Teppei." With that said the editor turned around and walked towards the front-gate leading to the streets where all the other magazine towers stood.
"W-wait, what's your name?" Teppei felt guilty to have made his former editor his target for his wrath, it is not like it was his fault they never took off with the audience. The man turned his head to look over the shoulder, his eyes now looking as indifferent as before.
"Does it matter?"
He left and Teppei was all alone again with his awful feelings tormenting him.

After a while Teppei was able to rip himself off staring at that damn portrait and leave the building. He walked down the streets past towers big and small to the center of the city of towers where there stood a giant gate with a white shining entrance of a vortex of alien energy - the gate all series which ended were meant to step through, no matter if they were a success of failure. Many series saw this gate as the great equalizer where all series would come together in a fabled world called Mangahalla, but Teppei just hated the sight of that giant door. Each step towards that golden gate got heavier and heavier the closer he got. Then as he arrived at the large white marble stairs shining spotless in the brilliant sun he stopped, unable to even take the first step on those holy stairs.

He remembered how it was a few weeks ago, when Act-Age had to suddenly end due one of its creators turning out to be a criminal, sick, unable to keep his perverted fantasies in check. Thus the WSJ Magazine refused to continue and fulfill the story Kei, Chiyoko and all the other amazing characters had wanted to tell their fans and everyone else reading their series. He remembered how everyone from the Jump Tower had been there to say good-bye to all those many many Act-Age Characters leaving them so suddenly. There had been many tears and hugs and heartfelt good-byes and so much regret, much more on the others staying in the city than on the ones leaving. They were not angry at their creator just disappointed and sad, especially for their young artist. And they all left with great applause, a red carpet was brought and rolled out, flowers handed to each of them, even to the side characters. Teppei had been there as well but he hadn't been really part of it. Sure he applauded and said his condolence but deep inside he was worried about when he had to leave, how the impending doom had already taking hold of his heart. He felt like a fake standing there while Aino cried rivers of tears when hugging Kei or joined Chiyoko in mocked anger at her creator when handing over a beautiful flower bouquet to the angelic actress. And when Kei as the MC and last character entered the gate with a wave of her hand, everyone packed up, cleaned up and hold a memory party in the Weekly Shounen Jump Tower, but he had not been there, already back at his room, staring at the table before him where his next chapter crystallize page by page, accompanied by the dark thoughts of his creators becoming his own with each passing day, so much that he dreaded the moment to see each new pages finished as it was just another step towards eternal slumber.

Cold sweat dripped down his face and Teppei whisked it away. Nobody was here but him. The few characters his story owned had already left this morning, most were relived they had no witnesses as there is no joy in getting good-byes and apologies from the older, more successful series or worse the young growing ones who still had the future before them or who already knew they would not follow them for quite some time. The other new series who looked at them in fear of soon finding themselves in the same position was no better. Thus even a part of Teppei was glad that no one saw him like this and yet somehow he wished anyone was here to applaud him and the series he has starred in. Was his series really so horrible that he deserved this treatment?
"Sensei! There you are!"

It was like the sun had gained a human face and beamed happiness over both ears by how cute it was. Aino Itsuki came rushing and out of breath towards the stairs. Her expression filled with joy and excitement felt so estranged to his own feelings, even the sweat running down her cheeks felt different to his. As she stood before him Teppei could understand once more why so many readers had loved her character for being so hopeful and bright even in the darkest times. Who else but her could smile so honestly happy on the day she is supposed to enter Mangahalla?
"Haaah...haaah...I....puh, so hot today, I was looking all over the place for you, Sensei. You weren't with the others when we left this morning so I checked on you and asked everyone in the tower if they had seen you. Luckily one of the boys, I forgot who, had the power to locate people and he told me you were here so I came as quickly as possible. After all, I can't leave after you, the MC, can I?" Aino laughed her little Odyssey off but Teppei felt his heart crushed. It must have been so terrible, knocking at the doors of all the others on-going series and asking for their help as heroine of a failed series to find the failure of a main character.

"I am so sorry you had to endure this, Aino-san...", Teppei said, meaning for the series to end long before Aino had been able to show off everything her character had to offer for the audience.
"Hm? Whatever do you mean?"
"W-well, looking for me and stuff..."
"Oh, that? That was not so bad at all! I got so many hugs and good wishes from the others, especially the girls were so nice to me. Nami-chan, Noelle-chan, Ochako-chan and all the others had all a kind word for me while offering their help to look for you." Aino's wide smile could have burned Teppei's face off with its radiance. He knew he should felt relief upon the knowledge of her positive experience yet all he felt was the sting of jealousy. This series has been supposed to be about him, being a tragic hero saving the heroine at the cost of his own morals yet everyone loved the heroine and disdained him. She was only briefly shown at the end of chapter 1 yet she took the attention of the readers in storm with her surprisingly Genki character type revealed in chapter 3. She was more talented than him, even overcoming her own future self by coming up with Anima as a teenager and destroying him in the rankings for countless weeks. No matter how hard he fought he needed a Deus ex Machina to "win" against her and even then it was just a "this is a manga all of humanity can enjoy" yet it was never shown nor explained why that's case and he himself was forced to say that there ain't a manga every human could enjoy. The ending had left Teppei so unsatisfied because he felt his solution to be so inadequate, his explanation so obvious and cliche he could have died on the spot there. But she took this last chapter so seriously and gave it all her energy that he could not break down there yet. He did it later in his own room after the chapter had been complete and left to be read in the real world.

Teppei did a little jump as he noticed how close Aino had come up to him. He had been so deep in his brooding thoughts that he had forgotten about where and with who he was. But still, he couldn't believe that this shine in her eyes and the mouth corners dancing over her rosy cheeks like Latino dancers were all for real. Surely, she must feel similar how he does!
"Aino-san, a question please, if you don't mind."
"Ahaha, I keep telling you, no need to be so formal with me even outside the series. It is over, we can call each other however we want. Right, Teppei?" The playful tease weld together the broken pieces of his heart but it was a searing burning not a healing one.
"It's about our series." How could she took everything so lightly while he carried such a heavy burden of guilt and pain?
"Sure, shoot!" How could she still smile like this when everything they had worked for was broken?
"Were you satisfied with the ending we got?" How could he think like her?

Aino put her left forefinger on her mouth, making a pensive face. The seconds ticked by and felt like hours for Teppei who was in an up and down of feelings, glad to finally hear her thoughts as the second most important character and mortified upon what the answer might be as he feared he might not be able to make a lick of sense to it.
"Hmm, in my opinion satisfied ain't exactly how I would describe our ending. I think we got the best with what our creators had left for us and if that is not good enough for me, what else could it be? It's an ending which left many questions open but finished the main core of the story we were set out to solve. It might have not done it in the most elegant way, but it still finished it and that is more than many other series could ask for. I'm not satisfied, I am at peace with our ending because it is all we will ever get. Plus it showed us drawing mangas for the rest of our lives and that was all I wished for!"
Teppei had no idea that even his toes could feel awful. He never felt so dragged down by his negativity, even in the series he had the strength and stubbornness to stand up to it all. Here however, before the stairs to Mangahalla, he felt weak and helpless before this earnest girl answering him so seriously, her smile now tinged with sadness he had brought onto it with his question. She really had wanted to draw manga in their series for a longer time than she was allowed to.
"Haha-ha, ye-yeah, I see it the same way, Aino-san..."
"Really now, Teppei! What did I just say we could call each other?"
"Hmpf, much better."
Teppei felt so miserable at not only lying at the heroine of his story who's lifework he had stolen but also for not even being able to stand up to her in such a simple matter of how to call each other. No way he could ever call such a young and beautiful girl on a first name base! What's wrong with her? Well, quite some screws are loose in her head but she's a genius so that is to be expected, but still.

"Come on, let's go! We can't let the others keep waiting for us on the other side." With this declaration Aino grabbed Teppei's hand and started to pull him as she ascended the stairs with bravado towards the golden Gate beckoning them. His feet felt like large iron balls as he lifted one feet and stepped on the first stair with dread in his soul. He couldn't stop Aino just like he couldn't stop his series crashing down. He would die as he had lived his short life, as a failure depending on others to make the moves for him.

"I gotta stop you right there, Aino-chan."
A youthful voice came from the bushes around the stairs and both Aino and Teppei stopped in shock as three figures emerged from the bushes which had been fakes all along. Come to think of it, it should have been pretty obvious with only three bushes on the entire spotless Plaza. The three people dropped the bush disguises and whisked away any leaves left on their clothes. Teppei felt conflicted who to look at first, it was like the presence of all three demanded to be looked at. The one who had spoken was a teenager with pink short hair raised in spikes and parted by a bolt-like scar going from his left eye all the way over the head. A lean young fella wearing a black jacket with various stickers over his white school uniform accompanied by a loose tie. No way that would be allowed in any decent school, it was obvious that he was a rebel character.
To his right stood a large young man, his Afro being an eye catcher, he wore his white shirt sleeves rolled up showing his impressive muscles. His expression was sincere and a bit goofy, clearly he was a hardworker character.
The left of the pink haired rebel was graced by a slender small girl wearing a white sommerdress with a white hat on which was a white rose and white ribbons, of course even the shoes she wore were white as well. It seems like her creator had been dead-set on only using white colors on her, her choker on her slim neck was white, the silky armbands on her thin wrists were white and her long eyelashes were white just like her hair. Yet her porcelain-white skin and snow-white long hair seemed even more pristine than her purely white colored clothes. Her modest chest emphasized her graceful face. The Rubin-red eyes stood out like shiny flames in her unmoving expression, burning so cold as if ice could be a fire itself. She was transparently a cool beauty character but there was something mysterious and dangerous to her which Teppei couldn't name.

The young man in the middle stepped forward, his honest smile and wide eyes indicating a kind-hearted boy who would left no injustice unchallenged - Teppei would have used the White Knight Character to describe him.
The large man hurried after him, his neon-green sport shoes and attire revealing him to also be a student; with his powerful movement in his limbs Teppei would see him as a sports character, the excitement in his expression reminded him of the young Hinata from Haikyu!.
The young lady huffed slightly as her step following the others was so light and elegant that Teppei suddenly wasn't sure if she was of the same age as the boys, with the disdain evident in her look Teppei could see her as an Oujo-sama yet it felt wrong to call her such.
But he knew one thing, all three had something that made them main characters, they were made and designed like he and Aino were to catch the eye and interest of the readers. Then again he had never seen them in the WSJ Tower nor seen their designs in any of the other towers freely available magazines.

"Who are you and how do you know my name?"
Aino's question reminded Teppei that she was still holding his hand. Embarrassed he pulled free of her grip as the three intruders suddenly got into a superhero pose. Well, better said the two boys got into such poses with the large young man taking his arms up shoulder-high and tensing up his muscles making his shirt even more tight than it was before. The rebel teenager brought his upper body down to his right knee with his left leg stretched far away from him as his right hand covered part of his face and his left hand was reaching out as a palm to Teppei and Aino. The girl in white just rolled her eyes and faced slightly dismissive from the others, looking away with her arms crossed, a dramatic wind playing with her long white hair, letting the two braids in it dance on her shoulders. Honestly, because of the two boys overly dramatic poses her not posing felt the most chunni outta the three.
"WE ARE THE U19 CLUB!", declared two manly voices loudly while a third soft one muttered it under her breath. Teppei had no idea what an U19 was but before he could ask the boys changed their poses yet again.
"I'm Kudou Eiji!" The pink haired boy stood up from his crouched pose, his right hand on his chest, the left clenched into a fist still directed at the two characters on the stairs.
"NAME'S BANDA - THE MAN!!!" The Afro boy shouted even louder, both his thumbs pointing at himself.
"White, nice to meet you~" The white girl had closed her eyes as she spoke those words softly but clearly, however there was no "nice" feeling in her words, it was cold and uncaring.

"You guys are U19? So you were real!" Aino's exclamation made Teppei speak up.
"You know them?"
"I heard of them. The others in the tower said that a few years ago some characters refused to leave the city to enter Mangahalla and have since survived in the Underbelly of the city. They see the current system of grading and axing fresh series as oppressive and unfair, their goal is to change it into a more forgiving and chance giving system. At least that's what the girls told me in the sleepovers." Teppei wasn't sure what to comment on first, that there was no way anyone could change a system which worked from outside this pocket world of fictional series or that Aino had taken part in sleepovers and he had no idea that those were even a thing in the tower.
"Ah, I see our fame precedes us." Eiji in the middle smiled happily and rubbed his hands together. White no his left side sighed blatantly.
"More like infamy as sewer rats. I doubt they speak about us as positively as Aino-kun makes it seem."
"EH? You mean they badmouth us in their golden tower with their silver spoons in their mouths?" Banda words seemed shocked to the core.
"Just saying, it seems more likely than them seeing us as heroes."
"Uhm, well, they did not speak very positive of you guys but I wouldn't say they think badly of you or anything like that.", laughed Aino nervously, scratching her cheek.
This seemed to take some spirit from the leader-like boy before he caught himself and moved on a script he must have spoken of many times, so easy did his movement and speech feel like.

"Then you know what we are and why we are here. We'd love you two to-"
"I'm sorry, thank you for the offer but no." Now the boy's shoulder clearly hung low due the sudden refusal and apologetic bow from Aino.
"Couldn't you at least let me finish my sentence before rejecting me? Do you know how rare this is an occasion for us?"
"Didn't you got to say it more lately though? You were jumping around like an overly excited monkey the past months."
"That's not true, White!"
"She kinda has a point, dude. You even trained your speeches before the mirror to make them perfect to the T."
"Banda! TMI!"
"Uhm." Teppei raised a hand as all four were looking at him. "Excuse me please, but I have no idea what is going on. Could anyone please be so kind to explain to me what this is about?"

"Certainly!", Eiji clapped his hands together. "If you were so kind to follow us to our headquarters for some tea so we can have the talk without any interruptions."
Teppei knew following three strangers to their "headquarters" was pretty dumb but he was too curious to not do so. It was as if his heart was telling him to follow those three, no matter how often his brain reminded him what a stupid idea this was.
"Are you sure, you want to follow them, Teppei?"
Aino's question made him stop but he felt no hesitation, no heavy weight on his feet no more, he felt secure and at peace. So he answered her worried expression with a smile and said:
"Yes, I want to."
The genius mangaka mirrored his smile and shrugged her shoulders before her hands moved up to her hair. She took off one of her two red hairclips with a smiley on them and threw it towards Teppei who absentminded caught it, looking confused at her.
"So you won't forget where you came from. I hope we see each other someday in the future. Cya~"
She turned to the other three characters with a plea.
"Make sure you take good care of Teppei, he tends to overwork himself."

"Of course we will!" Banda hit his chest with his fist creating mighty bang sound. White walked up to Aino on the stairs, moving so close that Teppei could no longer see her face hidden by her long hair and large summer hat.
"Are you sure you want to leave? For all we know this gateway could be nothing but a giant trash bin, meant to erase all characters who walked through it. Or why should heaven await you over there and not hell?" For some reason Aino stepped back in surprise and shock before her expression turned into a huge grin with excitement burning in her eyes.
"How interesting! You look so cool! I love it! A real shame I don't write manga anymore that would have been a twist to make any reader turn their heads, haha." The girl in white seemed taken back by Aino's reaction as if it was not what she had expected to happen.
"White, no need to persuade her anymore. Aino-chan made her choice, we gotta respect that." The girl in white huffed at Eiji's words before turning away and walking down the stairs, in her face were haughtiness and disappointment fighting a close battle.
"Pfff, just another female deuteragonist who's keen on leaving everything behind because she was nothing but a plot device to her story." Teppei wanted to speak out against such an unfair assessment but Aino beat him to the punch there.
"Maybe I wasn't as involved in the series as I had wanted to be, maybe I don't know what awaits me on the other side and maybe I am running away from it all, but no matter what is on the other side I will see it with my own eyes. Because I am not scared to walk into the unknown." Teppei wished he could think up such cool lines on the ready and not ages later when the argument has long been over. White didn't reply and moved back to her group. Aino nodded towards Teppei before she walked up the stairs. The closer she got to the swirling white energy framed by the golden gate the tenser her shoulders got. She was scared after all, but also dying of curiosity to see what the others who stepped through this gate had seen before her. Below on the stairs Teppei felt his heart clench in guilt yet again as he watched Aino walk the stairs, once more she had stolen the march on him, proven how much stronger of a character she was, not in need of a deus ex machina to showcase her positive traits. The words of White had also left an impression on him. Soon he might never see her ever again but he couldn't, didn't wanted to rush after Aino as she reached the gate and stood before it, taking a deep breath to get ready to walk through.
"AINO-SAN!" Teppei screamed from the deepest of his lungs to make sure his admired rival and cherished friend could hear him. "I have always thought how amazing you are! It was thanks to you that I could become able to not only chase but fulfill my dream and realize what it really meant to be a mangaka! It was all thanks to your work, your White Knight! Thank you so much for... for everything!"

Despite the 99 stairs between them Teppei could have sworn that he saw crystal clear the self-confident and as ever mischievous smile of Aino-san when she turned around and put her hands to a funnel before her mouth.
"Thank you for never giving up on saving me! I wish you the best of luck, Teppei! And call me Itsuki the next time you see me, got it?" And with both her arms high in the air waving good-bye to the small crowd watching her, Aino stepped backwards into the gate and vanished into the whirlwind of energy.
"Well, that's it. Do you need a moment or will you follow us right away?" Eiji was empathic enough to know what it feels like to watch your friends and comrades leave on their own will even if that meant leaving the MC of the story behind. He didn't wanted to push Teppei too much but the new found comrade just turned away from the gate and with dead serious eyes asked to be lead the way to their headquarters.

"This is your headquarters?"
"You're not kidding me?"
"BAHAHAHA! It sure looks unremarkable, right, Sensei? Exactly what we had in mind!"
"You're not joking after all..."
"That's what I say each morning I wake up in this hellhole..."
"But...but... this is the CELLAR of the WSJ Tower!!! How can nobody have ever noticed that you're living right under our noses?!"

"Because why would any running series bother going down when they have everything they need and can dream of above?" With those words Eiji opened the door to the headquarters located deep below the shining Tower Teppei had just left this day. The whole way to their HQ he had felt more and more nervous as the vicinity kept getting more and more familiar until they stood before the backyard of the Tower he once called home. Through a hole in the fence hidden by a blanket they entered it and Teppei saw that the Backdoor which was supposed to be closed had been opened with its many locks being only decorations as they had been lock-picked a long time ago. While walking through the dark damp hallway Teppei had tried to make sense of it, hoping this was just a elaborate joke.
Sadly it was not.
The swung wide open door revealed a large room, mostly empty except for a table, some chairs, a couch and a large board at the wall which read "Welcome to U19!". This wasn't quite what he had imagined from a rebel headquarter.

"In with you, Sensei!" Effortless shoved Banda the guest into the room while White took place on the only comfortable place in the room by claiming the couch as her own. Two more doors, one to the left site and one to the right site lead to other rooms but none said what was behind them. Teppei was sure though to have heard some rustling and whispering behind the wooden doors, but ofc it could just be the sounds of rats and machines. Banda walked past the mangaka and leaned onto the table, crossing his arms. Teppei stood still as Eiji closed the door behind him and strode to the board with the welcome greeting. His arms wide spread out he faced Teppei and with a grin repeated the words on the wall:
"Welcome to U19!"
Teppei was not impressed in the least. This felt more desperate than planned. He was suddenly unsure if he should really be here.
"He's getting cold feet, oh great leader~" White lazied on the couch, looking disinterested at her nails.
"First thing, Sensei, you gotta sit down and relax!" With the strength of a bear Banda pushed Teppei onto the sole chair in the room. "I gotta go and bring the cups and tea, back in a few!"
Eiji watched Banda get through the left door before licking his dry lips and trying to get back on track. Ever since his series ended in 2017 he had done this speech a couple time yet it was an act of courage each time as everyone looked as Teppei now, a bit confused, a bit scared but mostly questioning themselves what they are doing here.

"What are we doing here at U19?", began Eiji his club introduction speech, hoping to grab Teppei's thought written on his face and with it his attention. "U19 means under 19, that is under 19 chapters in Jump, which is all we in those room were given as time to tell our story to the readers. And I ask you as a mangaka character - how much can you tell in 19 chapters when you had a 100 and more in your head?!"
"Not that much but most mangakas don't really have a 100 chapters thought out in advance, usually they got a rough idea where they want to head to and-"
"Dude, that was a rhetorical question."
"Oh, my bad. Continue please."
"Exactly! NOT ENOUGH! We at U19 want to change this cruel system of axing young series into a fair system that gives a fresh manga an appropriate amount of time to at least tell the core of their story in a satisfied way and not in a rushed one! For this we gather like-minded comrades to finally have enough members to become a force to be reckon with. No one shall have to suffer the humiliation of being ended as a "failure". Everyone deserves to be heard and to be read even if most of the audience do not want to read it, the story should still be told! Every story is worth being seen! Else why would they have found their way to Jump in the first place?"
"Because the editorship receive a lot of stories and it is hard to tell which one will really click with the readership?"
"Teppei, that's beside the point."
"Ah, okay."
"Alas! Our club shall not only be a safe haven for those characters who were driven out of the golden Tower of Jump but the starting point of a cultural revolution! A revolution for respect and empathy! Down with the money-grubbing adults and their one-sided way of defining series as "success" or "failure"! Begone should be the times where a few lucky series survive on the corpses of the unfortunate ones! We will stand for justice of the unpopular and the mocked series! They were each created with love and thought of their creators just like the long-running and popular series! They also deserve a spot at the sun and not a lifetime in the garbage bin! WE! WILL! BE! HEARD!"
With the last four words Eiji was pumping his right fist into the air four times and then stood there, hyped by his own speech, oozing the air of a hero ready to jump into action, entrapping Teppei into the greatness of a MC's aura. A slow and tedious clapping from the couch broke the magic in which EIji and Teppei were enveloped.

"Yay~ Great speech~ You really showed them, Eiji~" Those words spoken with no feelings or care behind were very disheartening and Teppei felt sorry for the young pink haired leader in front of him. But Eiji just sighed and shook his head.
"Thanks, White. Always a pleasure to speak before you."
"You bet.", grinned White playfully in response.
"Tea's ready! Did I miss the speech?"
"You didn't miss anything, Gorillafro. He gave him the classic wewillbeheardyaddayadda stuff."
"AHAHA! The good old stuff he got us with! Hey, don't call me a Gorillafro, Sharkface!"
"Hoh? You wanna go, Mr. Japan Representative?"
"Sure do, just lemme put down the tea, Ms. Monster Commander!"
"Guys! Zip it! What's our guest supposed to think of us?"

The guest felt strangely entranced by their bickering. It reminded him of the long running series character casts who often got more a family than a coworker feeling with them and who used to tease each other with the knowledge of best friends and sibling love that they would make up before anything bad would happen. It was something Teppei never had heard in his series apartment where he mostly kept from the others away who were all depressed of the bad reviews and yearning for more screentime to have their characters been fleshed out to improve the attention they got from the readers. It had been a tense and brooding environment where only Teppei and Aino received enough attention from both the creators and the readers to live a relative good life-style, albeit Teppei could have really give the kind of attention he got a miss. Then it hit him like a brick.
"How are you guys still alive?"
The three looked confused at the question giver.
"I mean, your series ended years ago. Shouldn't you have starved to non-existence by now? Even shitty manga enthusiasts could not have feed you over such a long period of time, their attention would divert to other newer series!"
The three looked at each other.
"Who wants to do the honors today?", asked Eiji very generously.
"Oh! Oh! Me! It has been a while since I last did it!", volunteered Banda his raised hand nearly touching the ceiling. White just rolled her eyes.
"Ugh, human boys..."
Banda gave a few strong coughs to ready his voice while Eiji stepped away and White covered her ears. The large boy with the Afro gave Teppei an intense look then he jumped aside to dramatically point to the board at the wall with the welcome greeting.

Before Teppei's eyes the words on the board disappeared and gave way to a manga double page spread with a very familiar setting. It showed Eiji, Banda and White greeting another member to the U19 club, this time it was Bone Collection, the exorcist series that had finished just a week before his own series. Teppei was surprised that those three still received drawn pages considering they were from three different series! But then he noticed some differences. Eiji didn't wore his jacket with the stickers, White had an untypical school uniform with too long sleeves on and the Banda near the table wasn't Banda at all, he just looked similar to him. He realized what this was as it was something he had seen often for himself each day and all the more so often the closer his series end approached.
"This is just a Meme!"
Teppei's surprised declaration wasn't quite what Banda had hoped for. A bit peeved he rose to his full size of nearly 1,90 meter, crossed his arms in a defensive manner and puckered his lips into a pout as his eyes narrowed into slits.
"No, this is LOVE!"
Both Eiji and White started to snort with laughter which made Banda's head crimson red. Both young adults were holding their stomach while Banda tried desperately to hold his pose as he started to shake off the embarrassment. White pointed wheezing at him.
"Love? Did you really just called this love? Hehehehe~"
"Hohoho, even I would not go that far for this."
"Argh! Can it, Sharkface, Romeo! In any case, Sensei! This is how we survived so far! We took all attention we got and shared it between each other, making each day a struggle, a battle we win every time no matter how hard it gets! What else to call it but love, if not from the readers so between us!"
The mangaka was moved by those earnest heartfelt words of the young man's conviction. He himself had seen all the memes about himself as something hurtful and mean-spirited, as proof that the audience rejected him both as MC and as a character, denying his series the love he had hoped to gather for it. Back in his room, he had hardly shared any of the few good attention he got with the others in the apartment. Aino was more of the type to spread the love and joy she received from the readers with the lesser known characters. He felt bad for his selfishness. Those three strangers had a deeper bond with each other than he had with nearly all characters of his own series except for maybe Aino.

"Well, those memes alone would not fed us enough of course. Nor would it provide us enough energy for creating hygiene articles and other daily necessities we need." Eiji wiped away the laughing tears from his eyes as he continued the explanation. "We take the left-over attention from other series that they discard of and make the best of it. It might not be the most honorable profession but it feeds us."
"What? How are you doing that?"
"You'll hear an example soon, it is almost 2 o'clock, guys." White's warning came lazily as she started to put in earplugs into her ear. The two boys followed swiftly and put on the ear protection, leaving Teppei with large question marks in his eyes.
"Ah, did anyone give Teppei any plugs?", asked Eiji the other two.
"3...2...1...showdown!" With the countdown of White Teppei fell from his chair as the entire room started to shake violently, vibrating like an earthquake was holding it tightly in its paw. Pressing his hands onto his ears he heard a swish of lots of water, so loudly as if he stood right below a waterfall. After two minutes the noise stopped and Teppei opened carefully his eyes as he looked up to the three teenager who removed their earplugs.
"This was short today."
"Seems like the One Piece Monkey Gang planed a quiet day for today."
"Lucky us! The last storm they had went on for hours! Even with earplugs I thought I would go deaf!"
"Wha-what was that?"
"Oh, sorry for not providing you with ear plugs, Teppei!", Eiji gave Teppei a hand which he took to stand up again. "This was just a short water exchange from the highest apartment where the One Piece cast lives. Given the short time interval it seems they only changed their fresh water of their pool and not the ocean water for when they do their ship battle plays or storm exercises. So lucky us, we probably siphoned some good water in the tank now, lasting us for some time."

"Were you never in someone else's apartment? Gosh, you're really a shut-in, aren't you?" White dismissive words were like knives homing into their target but Teppei could not refute those claims as he truly had not spend time in any other apartment than his own. He thought he could do so once his series has been established and his apartment moved up a few levels but instead his series got risk-labeled and he got so busy working hard for his creators sake that he never even thought of visiting another series's room. And why should he have done so? To complain about how unfair it is that the readers think his series as uninteresting and even criminal?
Banda put an arm around Teppei's shoulder, all comradely.
"Listen, Sensei, all apartments are their own dimension growing and adapting to the cast of the series and popularity of it in the real world. The more characters the more rooms and the longer the series runs the more the apartment changes into whatever the cast wants it to be. The One Pice characters have created a giant ocean with a big island in their apartment. They all got their own ships and the island has villas, villages and even a large port town where everyone lives. I heard though that the Straw hat Pirates prefer to live on their old ship, the Going Merry, despite having their own Luxus Villa with pool and everything."
"I know that already, Banda.", deadpanned Teppei at the large young man. "It's just that my world never grew like that. I imagined I would grow a large studio with many shelves of mangas as reference and many tables for my assistants, editors and friends, but I stayed all alone in a tiny room that never felt like home. The others lived even worse, they were sleeping in the living room or shared a single bedroom as they had no chamber of their own. I hardly left my room to not look them into the eyes. I just used the few attention I got to keep myself fed! I lied to myself that I had to do it to stay healthy and strong for the future of the series! But the truth is I just wanted to avoid the blame from everyone and I was scared I didn't had enough attention to give everyone something from it! I-I-I-"

Teppei felt his eyes grow wet. Tears of frustration ran down his cheeks. Banda jumped away in surprise, looking panicky at his friends. It was White who stepped forward and offered Teppei an, of course, white handkerchief.
"Dry your tears. Are you a man or s baby? You ran away from your responsibility as a main character, do not except pity from me." Eiji pulled the girl in white quickly away as Teppei was clenching onto the handkerchief, close to crying again.
"A bit harsh, White! But she ain't wrong, you know? We were all there as well, in our limited world within the walls of our apartments. We could feel it all, the indifference, the frustration, the mocking, the outright hate for us just being ourselves. And we all were destroyed in this whirlwind of negativity. However, that doesn't mean that this is the end, Teppei. Tell me about your series and I mean, the series as you, the main character had imagined it would be like."
"Y-you serious?"

"Aye, Sensei! I help you out if you need an example, okay? I always imagined I would be the cool dream goal striker, basically the big titan to the small titan Hinata. I had my own best friend who would give me the great trick shots to make awesome goals with. I had this super cute girl who would have helped me learn the ways of soccer after her misunderstanding of in what I was so good in. And I had the Captain who was a man among man who would have been my ideal to follow and surpass. We would have become a team of friends going to tournaments and the nationals with many tears and cheers! Well, that never came to be as I ended in 12 chapters, but I like to think back to those times where my future was still undecided and open for any possibility."

"Hmpf! A nostalgic way to halo the past, befitting of a banana-brained fool. For me it was obvious to me that I would play the first large villain as I was both the Commander of Monsters to destroy humanity as well as the one who made the Main Character go on a rampage killing his own girlfriend, mother and thousands of people as the first monster! However in the long run I would become a partner and ally of the MC I once used as there were other Commanders of color planed and other 47 Monsters to battle. I would have seen the worth of humankind and be one of its steadfast guardians and together with the MC we would have fought the others and brought peace to the world. Instead I got cut off so hard that I teleported out of the story, being nothing but a caricature of the role I was supposed to have! I even played my role perfectly, the fans loved me, but they disliked the dark nature of my story and how one-dimensional Kou, the MC and first Monster, had been. Ugh, this story had sooooo many loose screws due my creator being so incompetent to plan ahead properly, no matter how good I was it was never enough..."

"I'll interrupt your rant here, White. In my story we would have introduced so many more powers and how we would have slowly changed society for the adults to be more in favor of us teens and how the Grown Up Party would lose favor with each of their crimes we uncover and release to the public. We would had traitors who would sell us out to the Grown Up Party for favors and for the safety of their parents. We had seen terrible fights with loses and sacrifices on our side and much headwind from the public who wouldn't want to change their ways of how society had become and call us terrorists. All that though was pretty much cancelled and we went straight to the Aryan plan school final battle phase and ended it there trying to tie as many loose strings as possible. Instead of a beautiful woven scarf we had an entangled mess of a yarn ball, it really wasn't a good ending~"

"Maybe cut the knitting references next time? You don't have to bring in your hobby all the time, Eiji.", criticized White her friend.
"Excuse me, who was it that said she did everything perfectly fine and is not at fault for the fall of her series?", retorted Eiji slightly annoyed.
"What can I say but the truth, right?", smirked the girl with red eyes proudly sparkling back.
"Well, what is your take on your series, Sensei?", asked Banda, trying to get the train back on track.

"I..:" Teppei hesitated, unsure how his description of his hopes would be received by the others. But they had been frank and open with him with their series and their dreams, so it would be only fair he repays in kind.
"I never wanted to stand in focus so much. All I wanted was to write a manga that all of humankind can enjoy. For that not me but the manga would be important, I would just be the tool for its greatness. But I never achieved that on my own, so I plagiarized by accident a series send to me from the future. Yet that should have only been the start for the real series to capture all the hearts of the readers, not this cheap copy of an amazing series. I would have told the truth to the real creator, Aino-san, and I would have given up on continuing her story because I am not what it deserves as I was far from perfection.
Aino-san would have stopped me, the energetic positive girl she is, and proposed a plan in which she helps me as an assistant so that she can take part for her story she had thought up so long. We would have adapted a Pen Name, would have faced hardships like the series getting hiatuses and color pages not identical with what we got. We would have learned from each other, I how to write a coherent and interesting story with breath-taking characters, she how to draw beautiful lines to express the non-spoken parts of a manga. In time we would have gotten more friends, assistants and rivals competing with us.
White Knight would have been finished by us both after we find out that her future self died and the series had been brought to a satisfying end for us. Afterwards we break apart each of us creating a new series, trying to surpass each other. I would get visions of Aino-san's future and the warning that she is on the path to die for her ideal. Then I would have won on my own due taking in all the advise and support from my other friends and editor whereas Aino-san would have tried to do everything herself and ultimately fail to keep up. It would have been an up and down, a close race between each other but at some point my sales and ranking would overtake hers and she would admit defeat and ask how I was able to do this amazing series to which I explain to her that I gave up after all on ever reaching the perfect manga all of humanity can enjoy.
It would have been a journey of my growth and my persistence. Instead it became all justification about my plagiarism and Aino-san was pushed out of the story as my partner and became a rival and damsel in distress. It was undeserving of her. I-I really wanted to create a manga with Aino-san together even if that had meant taking a step back to give the manga itself more room to be presented. But now I don't even know what my series which I worked on for so long to convince Aino-san was about. It was just empty papers filled with everything and nothing. It was a farce and I felt horrible for doing it that way. I wish I could restart the whole series anew and do it differently this time."

Teppei closed his mouth. It was stupid to wish that, the author was the one writing and the artist the one drawing the manga, he was only a character. The Characters just breathed life into it, inspired their creators and capture the hearts ot the fans to lose themselves in their world. He couldn't do any of those three things, always feeling like a puppet on strings in his own story. And all he had done now was making an epic rant about his deepest desires which never came true. This was not how a MC should behave.
"I get you, Sensei, I get you!" Banda cried with emotion, touched by Teppei's worries and wishes. "If I could do my story again, I would be a more driven, less goofy person!"
"If I could have a say, I would have made the start of the story less extreme because that really limited our development into what direction we wanted to go to.", admitted EIji.
"I wouldn't change anything about myself as I was perfect, but I would make Kou have less of a revenge-boner and I would change the entire brain wave stupidity of weaponry, I mean I alone was able to disarm all of mankind's best warriors with the snap of a finger! How stupid is that?", complained White.

Teppei felt his heart grow lighter and warmer as the three laughed about their failed series, the attempts to change things to win back the favor of the crowd and the inescapable doom of their series being finished in a couple of chapters. It was okay to fail, you could still laugh afterwards. It could have gone the other way but it didn't and that was alright. He had done all he could as a character but in the end the product was made by his creators and he could not and would not want to use his creators like a tool meant to bring him fame and happiness. Teppei was already thankful for having lived and experienced at least a part of his story. Without it he would have never met Aino and become the mangaka he was supposed to be.
"But you know, given your strong empathize on Aino-kun, doesn't this mean that my theory of him being a villain from the first chapter and making Aino-kun the main character who had her work stolen first chapter would have totally been a home run? After all the twist of the villain being the secret hero trying to save the MC from herself all the time would have been a great revelation in the finale!" White threw her hair back, her smile proud and her eyes lit with fire.
"Hey now, easy, girl! If anything it means Sensei should have been a man's man and confess to Aino-chan that he did copy her future work! I'm sure that balla move would have swayed the hearts of the readers in his favor and would have created a new dynamic which would have catapulted the story forward by a mile! It's like a cross-shot in soccer, you expect it to happen but the outcome can still take you by surprise." Banda's right fist hit into his left palm with a loud smack.
"I would have put greater focus on the manga itself. If you start the series by saying you want to create the manga everyone can enjoy then we should know what genre would be taken, how would the hero look like and behave, what twists and changes would the story entail. This way the mangaka could have a theme he is familiar with but can still recherche deeper into and show off drawing techniques and story telling abilities, on what features you have to keep an eye on when creating a character and of course with two mangakas both aiming for the same goal you could have show-cased the differences between their approaches. I think this would have interested many readers quite a lot considering all of them love manga itself." Eiji nodded sagely, confident of his theory.
"Did... did you guys read my series?" Teppei couldn't believe his ears to hear such elaborate versions of his own story. Only someone who had read it and put deep thoughts about it would come up with such changes to see the story and its core theme to be told from a different perspective.

"Of course! We all read it. We read all WSJ series." Banda and White nodded in agreement with Eiji's statement before they restarted their argument.
"You two think of female characters too much as accessories for a male hero character! Why not make the 2nd MC the main MC when she has so much more Charisma than the first MC? Aino-kun would have taken the hearts of the audience in storm and with her tragic story of her work being stolen by a deviant selfish copycat she would get so much sympathie right from chapter one. And people love to hate villains, this guy here would have had an armada of haters who all would be interested in the punishment of him just to be surprised to see that he was the true hero all along and that exaggerated ideals were to blame."
"Nuh-uh! What about the title then? With Aino-chan as MC you cannot bring in the time paradox aspect. My confession handles that as Aino-chan would be part of the whole timetravel jump magazine thingie and Sensei would gain a partner he can confide in while she gains the knowledge that she DID became successful in the future of an alternative world. That will be a huge boost to her morale and not destroy her!"
"Bakuman already had huge success with its focus on manga creation. TPG could have recreated it with Teppei and Aino having their own styles so the copying is not line by line but by thought as in Teppei sees stuff from an artistic view that could be improved."
"Eiji, I'm pretty sure the readers read it because of the characters way of creating manga in such a "shounen" way and not the technicalities."
"I agree with White. Weren't you the only one disappointed we never saw the "manga all of humankind" can enjoy? I mean, that was obvious to happen. If the creators were so good they would have done one themselves from the start."
"Hey! No teaming up! That's unfair, you two!"

"What if we take the premise the other way and show me in the future sending back the magazines to the Teppei of the past to prevent Aino-san dying in the future?" All three stared at Teppei after he made his suggestion with dismay.
"That sounds so dumb, you really should leave thinking up plot-lines to Aino-kun." White shook her head in disbelief.
"Wouldn't that reveal whole time travel thing from chapter 1? What are the readers supposed to look forward to?", says Eiji with wild gestures.
"...I don't get it." Banda's confession made both Eiji and White facepalm. Teppei started to laugh and laugh and couldn't stop laughing. The others joined in with Banda's roaring laughter, White's chuckles and Eiji's hearty laughs.

After a while Teppei stopped to listen to his stomach grumbling loudly. This was the first time in a long while he had felt so hungry.
"Guess it is time to fill our stomachs. Can you get us the chairs, Banda?"
"You got it, Boss-man!"
Never before had Teppei looked so forward to eating a meal. At the start of his journey he saw his meals as great reward for his series good work but with time he dreaded those moments; did they just show him the change in attention he had received. From opulent feasts to a poor man's meal, only those series rich with attention could eat whatever they wanted. The others had to take due with what they got. It was easy, just imagine something you want to eat and you get it or a variant of it, befitting your series attention. But as Teppei sat down with the others at the table he knew that those three were even more dirt-poor in attention than he was. So he was surprised when White brought a couple bags from the other room and put them on the table.
"Excuse me, White-san, what are those?"
"Left-overs and scraps we pulled from the trash.", answered White without any hidden shame or disgust. Teppei's eyes grew wide as he watched the three pulled the remains of different dishes out and arranged a meal for each of them.
"Thank you for the meal!", shouted the boys while White muttered a mere thanks as they all clasped their hands in prayer.

Teppei couldn't imagine eating the attention meant for other series, he knew his own was not so great but even so he rather ate his own attention than ate the garbage of other more successful series. With his eyes closed he tried to imagine a simple meal, hot rice with egg and soy sauce. This has been his last chapter, maybe he could get enough pity attention to get what he want. He opened his eyes and before him was a plate with a couple rice balls and a salt shaker next to it. Teppei sighed, but still he felt that this was miles better than what the others must have, at the very least it was his very own attention he worked so hard for, his last meal so to say. Because he knew in the future he would share the same meals with the others from the trashbags.
"That looks good, Sensei." Teppei looked up wondering if he should over Banda one of his rice balls for the praise and was caught off-guard by the large ramen bowl Banda had before himself. Looking at White she had meat and sausages and hamburger on her plate with sauces and Eiji was eating a rice curry with gusto. How came their meals looked so much better than his?
"Something the matter?", asked White as she delicately cut her steak into tiny pieces with silverware certainly taken from the trash or even stolen for all Teppei knew.
"No, no, nothing! I was just surprised how good your meals looked. My eyes must have played a prank on me because I was certain it didn't looked so great before..."
"Well, it didn't.", admitted Eiji between his curry-flavored noms. Teppei just blinked back in response.

"This here ain't just the attention we, uhm, bored from the other series, it is sprinkled and mixed with our own. Thus we were able to change the meals look and taste to our liking.", explained Eiji showing an example by pouring water from an half empty bottle into a glass but then it changed its color as Eiji closed his eyes and focused on it. It now looked like normal coke in a cup.
"Your own attention...", repeated Teppei still not believing his eyes.
"Aye! I just got someone new this week who had never read my story before and read through all 12 chapters in a go. He even searched to find the english version of the 3rd chapter but that one is only available in spanish. And in the week before I had another who checked my first two chapters before dropping it! I can now make real spicy ramen for some time!", caroled Banda taking another huge helping of the ramen into his mouth.
"You're lucky in that regard. I only ever got three chapters translated by Viz so the international audience always has a hard time to follow me over it considering I only really become relevant in chapter 7, so I depend a lot on the Japanese readers to take an interest in me. Thankfully I still got those hentais made from me, they give me lots of attention I can mix into my meals. Also if I hear one meat or sausage joke on the table I will zap you jerks. You're just jealous you got no doujinshis made of yourselves." Eiji and Banda quickly shut their mouths, their playful grins indicating though that they had this spat many times before in the past.
"And I still use the attention I got three weeks ago from a reader who randomly came my series across. That plus all the Meme interest we collect is enough to not go hungry into bed and that is already plenty.", added Eiji to the food conversation as he took a another big spoon of curry into his mouth.

Teppei looked back at his own 100% self-attention made meal. He felt embarassed for pitying the others for their meal when they had learned to live like that for years and here he was with his couple weeks of experience using only his own attention.
"Go on, take a bite from your rice balls before they get cold.", suggested White as meat piece of meat piece wandered into her small mouth.
"I have a feeling you might be surprised, Sensei.", grinned Banda suggestively as his eyes started to tear upon the spiciness of his food.
"Please tell us what you think of your meal, Teppei-san." Eiji's smile would have looked grander if it wasn't smeared with curry on its left side but it gave it a childish honesty that was endearing. Hesitating Teppei grabbed a rice ball and put some salt on it, remembering the tastelessness of the past weeks. But with the others looking so intensely onto him he couldn't dare nibble on his food like he usually would do so he took a large bite to get over it quickly.
This time besides the usual salty and crunchy rice grains, Teppei's taste buds felt something else, sour and sweet. Atonished he looked at the riceball in his hand and saw the purple color of...
"Pickled plum."
The others smiled at their guest's marvel of such a simple extra hidden in his dish.

"Teppei, you can see from where the attention used for your creation came from, remember?"
"Why not check who you have to thank for this plum?"
"Come on, Sensei! We're all curious!"
Teppei obviously knew that and had done so many times in the past when his series had been young and new but later he couldn't bear witnessing the mocking words, the spiteful comments and heated discussion filled with hate and dread, he closed his eyes before the attention he received because it was less hurtful to ignore it than witness the indifference and negative feelings towards his story. This time he couldn't help but share the curiosity of the others at the table. When was the last time he had eaten something with company? The plum disappeared at this thought of Teppei's and everyone could read the words formed in the air:
*This had so much potential so it would’ve been awesome to see it run longer but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I hope to see more works by the mangaka in the future cause the art is beautiful and the concept was great, so I’m sure the next one will be amazing!*

Teppei stared at those words as they disappeared into nothingness. He could feel the sorrow but also joy and hope of the person who had expressed his opinion, his attention, about this series, Teppei's series. Slowly he grabbed another riceball and bit in it. Tuna! Again he exchange the food for the knowledge of who gave him this attention to have created it:
*Thank you sensei, this was a truly wonderful manga! I really wished it continued for longer because it had amazing potential! The themes of “drawing just for fun/ self enjoyment” really hit close to home, as I was almost about to give up drawing too. Can’t wait to see more stories from this mangaka*
The next, Cucumber:
*La fin de cette série n'est pas si mal au regard du temps qu'il lui restait à vivre. La logique du Shonen Jump est respectable, mais l'éditeur gagnerait à prendre davantage en compte l'intérêt des lecteurs internationaux, quite à renvoyer les séries de ce genre vers d'autres systèmes de publication.*
*It‘s sad that it had to end so quickly. I wish this had run in another magazine where the author can tell the story he wants (with a clear goal in mind) rather than working under the constant pressure of weekly rankings. It was a good ending nonetheless, and an important message.*
*It actually got really good around the half way mark I wish it could’ve been extended so that the ending could’ve had more of an impact but this artist has a lot of potential to make something great I hope he continues to make manga I enjoyed this one a lot.*

"Sensei! Imagine some noodle dishes!"
*Thank you Tsunehiro Date sensei and Ichima Kenji sensei, i love your work. I will miss the thrill and excitement when i read time paradox ghostwriter since the first chapter. Looking forward to your next work. Arigato*
"No! Get us some sushi! Think of all the sushi you can!"
*Thank you Kenji and Tsunehiro for this amazing series It really touched me and the ending is also still the same best quality I’ll miss the series, but I’ll be glad it ended at least in the best way possible*
"How about some sweets, Teppei? It can be anything, icecream or cake or pudding, I love them all."
*Thank You Kenji and Tsunehiro Sensei for this amazing manga! Hope to see you with a new banger soon! ❤ *
*good series ended too soon :c :c :c *
*So much potential, it was good while it lasted*
*sad it ended too fast. the story actually great.*
*“You can’t make something everybody likes”. When he said that, I thought it is a message for those who their manga were axed, including this manga’s authors. I really enjoyed this manga, I will support authors’ works in the future. Thanks for creating this manga, so many of us loved it.*
*I had a great time reading this manga, i loved it. Thank you, i look forward to your next manga.*
*U-19 club has a new member. Please welcome, TPGW~*

"The usual abbreviation is TPG to remind of TPN...", choked Teppei tear-soaked voice quietly. He couldn't remember to have ever cried so much before, even when his creators got told their series was finished he hadn't cried as much. With shaking hands he whisked the running tears off his cheeks and tried to keep his trembling lips under control.
"Uhm, Teppei? I think this is enough..." Eiji's cautious words brought Teppei back to reality.
The table was creaking under the enourmous amount of food Teppei had imagined with the attention he had received for the last chapter. There were many noodle and rice dishes, meat dishes frizzling in their hot fat, several pizzas, sushi on a large plate, so many different soft drinks, a cake and a large stack of pudding of all kinds of flavors.
"Wow! You made so much tasty food, Sensei!" Banda's eyes were nearly popping out of his head.
"What's bad about it? It just means our dear guest was thinking of us and creating a gift for our great welcome, am I correct?" White had already claimed ownership over the sushi and was putting the best parts of it on her plate. Teppei laughed and invited them all to eat as much as they could. It really became a joyous feast.

Later when Teppei's stomach was full and content, the table was still filled with much uneaten food. But Teppei didn't cared. This was proof he and his story had been loved. There had been meaning to his existence.
"You see, you might not have had the adoration of the world, but isn't the love of a few people already filling enough?" Eiji's eyes looked nostalgic and sad as he shared his wisdom gained from his own experience as a failed series who still had some fans as it ended.
"You probably spend too much time on the negative thoughts and comments of some readers which made you lose sight of what you had all along." White looked up to the ceiling into a past only she could see. Her expression was full of regret and anger.
"BURP! Uuugh, I gonna die, my poor stomach will explode and then Banda the man dies as he had lived - going to the limit and beyond!", bragged Banda as his large bulge of a stomach was nearly ripping his pants apart.

*You'll only capture a small audience, but at least it's something with value.*
The harsh but realistic advice of his Editor of four years entered Teppei's mind. Seems he had reached his goal from chapter 1 without realizing it himself. Despite the message of his last chapter Teppei had been so busy wrangling with his fate of not being a popular series that he couldn't see the words, hear the thoughts and voices, feel the feelings of those who truly loved his series, no matter how short and rushed it became over time.

"Kikuse-san..." The name of the man who had searched for him besides Aino flashed before Teppei's inner eye. How funny to remember it only now, when it was all over.
"Nobody... nobody who matters anymore..."
Absentminded Teppei reached into his pocket, touching the parting gift of Aino. As he pulled the little hairclip forth and looked at it under the artifical light of the cellar lightbulb a decision took form in his heart.

"You sure about this?"
"Yes, I am sure."
"You know there is no coming back. This is final."
"I am aware, thank you for your worry."
"Hmpf! As if I'd waste a thought about you."
"I GONNA MISS YOU, SENSEI! Thank you so much for the food you gifted us!"
"Hahaha, you take care, Banda."

Teppei stood at the white stairs to the golden gate once more, looking straight at each of the three characters from three different stories who had all meet an end too soon. He felt no weight dragging down his feet anymore, no dark clouds were covering his thoughts and his heart was singing like a taiko drum. He felt good, he felt happy, he felt complete. He knew he was doing the right thing. He had put on Aino's red hairclip onto the front hair of his and even though it looked a little silly, Teppei liked this unique little accessory on his head. The others had accompanied him to the stairs, talking the whole way about comments from fans and thoughts of readers and how attention can be put to different uses. Now that they had finally arrived it was time to say good-bye.

"I am really sorry that I decided to leave after all you have done for me.", began Teppei to which the others only waved off with laughs, smiles and shakes of their heads. "You guys really helped me finding myself. Without you I would have always been caught in my self-made prison with no escape, tormenting myself with the inevitable. You showed me there were those who enjoyed and even loved my chapters in Jump. I was not garbage and even if I was there is still someone out there who would have clicked with my story and what greater joy could I ask for as a character to receive as attention? Truly, thank you for helping me reach a resolve in this matter."
Teppei bowed to the three as he gave his thanks coming deeply from his heart.
"We did nothing, Teppei, that was all you."
"Yeah, Sensei! Don't make yourself smaller than you already are!"
"That was always the problem with his character, wasn't it? But nonetheless, even you had fans who cheered for you the way you were. Cherish that thought."

Teppei felt his throat tighten again as tears swelled up in his eyes. He really wished he had been this open and communicative with the other characters of Jump the past months as he had been today with those three strangers of a past long forgotten by most. Maybe it would have been more of a good-feeling experience if he had not taken retreat in his room to be alone with his thoughts. But that time was gone. All he wanted to do now wasw to meet Aino and all the others from his series and open his heart to them and listen to their side of the story. It was high time he did that and from now on he would have all the time in the world to do so.
"I wish you three all the success in the world with your plans. I hope we get to see each other someday again."

Eiji smiled confidently as he stepped forward to Teppei's front to put a fist on his chest.
"When this world has become fair and caring I am sure we will meet you on the other side."
"Speak for yourselves, boys, I'll find a way to claw my way back to the top, no matter what the world thinks of me."
"Way to kill the mood, White.", sighed Eiji.
"Yeah, read the mood, Sharkface!"
"Ain't there a tree somewhere you have to climb, you Gorillafro?"
"Ähm, excuse me?" Teppei felt sheepish to ask this question now, but he couldn't find a better timing before and now that he was about to leave this world it was not like he had anything to lose by asking this: "Why is your nickname Sharkface? It doesn't seem to fit your petite beautiful character. It could be because of your personality having a mean "bite" but then you wouldn't call Banda a Gorillafro since he obviously looks like a Gorilla with an afro on his head."
"SENSEI?!?", interjected Banda in badly acted shock as Eiji had a laughing fit.
"Ku ku ku~" The shadow from the hat onto White's face seemed to darken as an evil laugh escaped her lips. "So you are curious after all, hm, I see, I see. But I have to warn you, Sensei, the truth ain't as beautiful as I and many have paid a high price for seeing the real me. Do you still wish to know?"

Teppei gulped hard, feeling the seriousness of the situation. He nodded, aware of both Eiji and Banda shaking their heads viciously behind White's back. White's smile widen and widen and widen, with each inch revealing razorsharp Sharkteeth, ivory-white. Her rubin-eyes grew larger and the red fire in them intensified. Her cat-like pupils changed into goat-like pupils but lined up vertical with a small line crossing it in the middle giving it the look of a heretic cross. Her looks of beauty were not gone but devoured and changed by her monstrous expression of a devil's smile.
"Annnnd? Do you still think I am beautiful?" White was enjoying herself as she looked at Teppei's perplexed face. She loved those moments so much when people got captivated in her looks just to be shocked and scared of her alien supremacy. She didn't quite took into account who Teppei was though.
"AMAZING! I totally get why Aino-san said you were cool! Man, this is so good! I thought you were a bit too one-sided on the color scheme but the whole Monster feeling throws you off so much while the rest of your remaining beauty enhances the evil aspect of the transformation! And to think that was only achieved with the teeth and eyes! The jarring difference between your usual petite composed looks and the large monstrous changes is great!"

White's joy was gone. This fool was as much a manga idiot as the girl character. She turned to the boys to complain but both were looking away from her changed face.
"Seriously? You guys know me for years and you still behave like that while this idiot is gushing about it?"
"Nope, can't get used to it...", Eiji admitted while covering his eyes with one hand.
"Great, my appetite is gone.", lamented Banda gloomy.
"How can you still be hungry after eating so much? Are you Luffy's cousin?" White's Manzai act broke the spell and her features slowly returned to her usual human look. Teppei already knew what kinda topic to discuss with Aino after their first meeting and heart to heart talk.

"Guys! I'm off!" Teppei smiled from the bottom of his heart as he turned away from those three kindred spirits and walked up the 99 stairs with ease. Applause and shouts from the three accompanied him on each step.
"Good bye, Teppei! Greet the others from us!"
"Look after your feet! Except you want to fall to make us laugh then go ahead and do so!"
"So by tomorrow you'll have him forgotten?"
"Harsh, Banda, harsh. I should call you Goldfishfro from now on."
"Do you two really trust me so little with cherishing Teppei's gifts?"
"By tomorrow was a generous expectation, buddy."
"Or Pigfro or Boarfro, you are eating like a wíld animal after all."

Teppei smiled to himself. He had no idea how the Main characters of a failed sport manga and a failed battle shounen as well as a villainess of a failed monster series could play each other off so well, but they did and they showed the deep connection they had with each other. He knew in his heart, no matter how difficult their path may become, those three would never surrender before fate. Maybe they really could change the world, who knows. They certainly changed his. Before the swirling vortex of the gate, he turned around for one last good-bye wave, then with a deep breath he stepped through the gate, the first step to his final journey.

"Is he gone?", asked White slowly sinking down her hand which had lazily waved good-bye compared to the enthusiastic waves of the boys besides her.
"Yep, can't see him. He is gone for good.", confirmed Banda with his great eye vision.
"Ugh, finally I can roll my eyes now. Aino's hairclip on his hair was sooooooo tacky! I can't believe he thought that was a good idea..."
"I don't think he cared about whenever or not it was a good idea. He just felt like it. He felt happiness and freedom for the first time, it can make anybody do questionable choices to express themselves, especially in fashion." Eiji was proud that they had managed to help another poor soul crushed by their series death, but he felt sad that Teppei would no longer sit and eat with them.
"Yeah, you're an walking example of that statement."
"Says you, the monoton in white Lady."
"You heard him, I rock my style~"

The three left the golden gate to return home as the sun started to sink behind the horizon, painting the city in red and orange.

"You know, given we got a period of so many potential U19 members, not many of them stayed behind. Only that one suitguy from Zipman did so far. Should we maybe change our recruiting approach? We should enlarge our team after all." Banda looked at the others questioningly. Eiji and White gave each other a short glance.
"Personally, I don't mind Teppei leaving us. I don't think he really wanted to stay behind, he was just lost and lonely, that's all. So I suppose our approach was not wrong."
"You know, you always surprise me when you show your empathic side, White."
"You might be a girl inside, Eiji, but I am a girl with a monster inside, of course I am empathic if I want to be."
"I fail to see how liking fashion and having knitting as hobby makes me a girl."
"It makes you pretty feminine, bro, but that's cool. You do yourself! Now about that next series who could join us..."

The whole way to their base the three comrades were arguing about which series had the most potential to end under 19 chapters and how to get them to join them and why they would want to have them on their team.
It was a good day.

Word of the Author:

Finally, after so many years I wrote a fanfic about the Internet Meme U-19 club. I hope it was not too confusing to read, I tried to make differences in the speech like Eiji never calling Teppei with san or Banda always calling Teppei Sensei or White refusing to use Teppei's name until the very end when he had already left. I hope you guys liked this, if you see ways where I can improve or where I made mistakes please let me know. I hope I can make a chapter about this club each week albeit future ones probably will not be as large as this one which got 15121 words in total.

Thanks for reading.

PS: If any of you know if chapter 4-14 of Ziga got translated and where would you be so kind and send me a link? I know that a couple years ago there seems to have been a translator group who wanted to translate it, at least that is what the only comment on mangadex says, but even bakaupdate tells me that only the first three chapters got translated by Viz and that's it. Is there really no translation for Ziga?
Last edited:

James Rye

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英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member
Oct 18, 2014
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Chapter 2 - The Zipman FUBAR discussion

Eiji Kudou sat at the kitchen table, taking in the strong scent of his dark coffee. Before his series ended he wouldn't had liked the bitter taste and hotness of his drink, but outside his story he learned to enjoy the mature taste of this beverage. He had changed on his own, outside his creator's mind and the eyes of the readers and he liked that change. But not everyone could adapt to such "changes" well enough.
"I tell you, eggs and bacon are the best breakfast!"
"With all the smell and cleaning? A muesli with fruits and yogurt is obviously the better choice for the start of a day."
"As if, with all that preparation and easily to turn bad fruits."
Their newest members Zipman, the Mascot version not the cool looking one, and Little Brother of the Main Character of Zipman!!!, Koshiro Tatara. They had been the only ones from the axed new series to join the U19 Club, the others all decided to dwell no longer over their series failure and moved on through the gate.

Zipman and Koshiro had a specific reason besides their grieves over the rushed ending of their story: They wanted to know why two Koshiro Tatara versions existed at the same time. White had explained to them that they got caught up in a FUBAR (Fucked Up Barely Authentic Resolution) due their series abrupt ending. Normally the soul of Koshiro in the suit Zipman should have moved into the real body at the end of the story just like it was told. However the way it happened was so confusing and implausible, that when the last chapter was released there were two Koshiros leaving the Weekly Shounen Jump Tower.
Ever since the two tried to figure a solution for their situation out and over the weeks they had spend here in the U19 Club they had realized the first part of the problem: Who of them should "disappear"?

Obviously the Koshiro in the real body argued that he is alive and that the story ended with him as an adult, though he appears as his true self which is still his teenage version, and that the soul in the suit got left behind and should hurry up and merge with him again. The Suit however disagreed and pointed out that he had been the Koshiro Version for most of the future with the human version just being the end result by coming back from the dead, or the soulless in this case. Koshiro should hurry up, enter his suit and then they would merge together into Zipman. Obviously the human Koshiro wasn't very keen on that plan.
So till now they co-existed, being the same soul and person, yet with time differences between started to show up as Zipman seemed far more child-like, idealistic and rule-bending while Koshiro appears more adult-like, pragmatic and rule following. But the part that made them fought the most was what they ate or even why one of them was eating considering he was just a suit. Eiji sighed before sipping on his coffee. He didn't minded that the place lived up more but he didn't liked the circle running of this argument as it led to no where.

Banda strolled into the kitchen carrying a large banner together with Tamashiro Dan, both looking all hyper that something is about to happen.
"What's up you two grin-squirrels?", greeted Eiji the duo.
"Good morning, Kudou-san!", greeted Tamashiro back. "Banda and I got the Banner ready for this week's *New Series's first Chapter Talk". We put in a lot of school and family related stuff and even drew the Cat in school uniform on it. Was a lot of work but Noah and Hajime helped us out a lot."
"Yeah, the banner looks ballas, man!" Banda enrolled the large Banner which carried the title as said by Tamashiro as well as the name of the Series they were supposed to talk about today: High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku. Eiji stared at the banner, put down his cup and pointed at Banda, who looked confused at the finger.
"That's it! Thanks, Banda."
"Aww, shucks! I knew, you'd have forgotten about the discussion today, so I wanted to hype it up a little-"
"We're going to have a discussion about Zipman and Koshiro's dilemma!" Banda blinked in confusion while Tamashiro let out a long depressed sigh.
„I knew, we shouldn’t have bothered trying…“ Banda on the other hand was not a man to quit.
„You know, Eiji, bro, we could do both after each other or even at the same time or like tomorrow…“
„Move it, Gorillafro, Pipsqueak.“

Both boys moved quickly aside as they heard the grumpy female voice behind them. White was not a morning person by any means and if looks could kill she would axe-murder half the Jump tower each morning. Walking past the two banner-boys White right towards her target, Eiji’s coffee. With a brisk movement she took the cup from the table and gulped its still hot dark matter down like it was water.
„Pwah! I am awake now.“ White‘s death stare improved into her usual not-giving-a-shit one.
„Morning, White…“ Eiji had hoped to finish his coffee before the girl clad in her white pajamas would enter the kitchen. Years of torment had taught him that she didn’t cared for who made what as long as she wants it nor does she possessed any shame of drinking from the same cup as his if it meant avoiding work. Which is why Eiji had learned to drink coffee early in the morning.

„So we’re going to waste our time talking about the two doofus outside arguing for the Xth time which breakfast is best?“
„That’s the plan, yes.“
„Guess I don’t need to tidy up my looks then.“ White threw her long unplaited hair back. Usually she gave a lot about appearances, but when it came to internal U19 matters, she’d take the easy way to laze around on the couch.
„But, the banner, we…“ Banda tried helplessly to get a word in while Tamashiro had pretty much given up at this point, enduring the inevitable outcome with a smile.
„Oh? I must say, this looks quite well made. Roll it out to let me see.“, praised White, the corners of her mouth barely moving up. Gaining hope Banda walked away from his partner to showcase the banner in all his glory yet again.
„Looking good, right? When Banda the man puts something into his head, nothing can stop him-“
White took a big marker from the kitchen counter and removed the top.
„Oh no.“
Before Banda could stop her, White crossed the title with one swift stroke and wrote in tiny letters „FUBAR talk“ in the free space left.
„That should take care of it.“

Damn it, Sharkface! We’re supposed to talk about Kokosei Kazoku today!“
„What’s there to talk about, Gorillafro? With the current piss-poor set-up of Jump, the Editor-in-Chief having a hard-on for comedy series and an actual Comedy mangaka coming out with his new series after his old one had finished after running for 4 years in 2017. If this one runs even half as long it will still have more chapters than all of us put together. Happy with the foregone conclusion of our new series discussion?“ White’s words were frosty and slicing knives, cutting down Banda’s will to fight. He surrendered to his fate while Tamashiro gave him an encouraging clap on the shoulder.
„Gather the rest of the crew. I want this handled right away.“ Eiji felt sorry for Banda and the others working on the banner, but solving a comrade’s problem was of higher priority. Plus White was pretty much right with her assumption about the new series fate in Jump.
„Before Breakfast?“, asked White with a raised eyebrow.
„Before Breakfast.“, affirmed Eiji.

After a few minutes everyone had gathered in the large meeting hall with the Board on the wall. White was lazing on the couch using Hajime in his alien form as a stomach warmer, Banda and Tamashiro apologized to Noah about the change in the banner but he just laughed it off as he sat down on his chair. Momiji walked in with his light blue pajamas with marble leafs on it and sat down on a folded chair still half-asleep. Zipman Koshiro and Human Koshiro were separated by Mr. Commentary who had visited the U19 club many times while Mitama was still running and had refused to leave despite his series end and him not being a member on the Club. After a few weeks everyone agreed to give him a „honorary member“ title as they couldn’t get rid of him.

Eiji looked at his comrades: A silver Alien, a white Monster Commander, a Mascot Suit claiming to be the original character, a ghost refusing to pass on, a golem with a heart bigger than most humans and many boys from sport and battle mangas, himself included.
The Club has gone through many changes in the past years since his creation in 2016 but Eiji still saw the comrades of old whenever he sat down with the new and remaining ones: Poro-kun and his girlfriend, Marin-chan from Full Drive like Tamshiro, Kaname-kun and Cheena-chan from Zipman.
But he knew in the future he will see old friends leave and new ones arrive like it has always been~

„You done narrating my thoughts, Mr. Commentary?“, asked Eiji the ghost amused.
„Yeah, I’m good.“, answered the chubby Ghost chipper.
„Great. Everyone! I welcome you to our special discussion featuring our two newest members: Koshiro Tatara and Koshiro Zipman. The problem? Who of them is the real Koshiro and how can we resolve this situation of two Koshiros existing at the same time?“
„Uhm, weren’t we supposed to have a talk about the newest Jump newbie?“, asked Momiji, rubbing his eyes.
„Get with the times, trash leaves.“ White’s comment was accompanied by pointing at the banner above the board.
„Ah, I see. My condolences, guys.“ Momiji gave the three boys who had worked on the ruined banner a slight bow which they greeted with a sad grin on their faces, except Noah who returned it with a huge happy smile.

„Can we please focus on the matter at hand?“, asked Koshiro, the human one, the chair circle.
„Then why don’t you start by telling your problem and then Zipman Koshiro does the same?“ Koshiro nodded at Eiji’s suggestion and pushed his glasses up before standing up to address the crowd.
„My problem, as White-san explained it a few weeks back, is a FUBAR situation where due the sudden ending oft he series I was in, my character has been split in half and one of it now inhabited the Mascot Suit. I thought it would solve itself with time and he’d give my half of character back, but now he insists of me giving up mine to him! I want Jackman Koshiro to surrender his claim of the half of my character back to me.“

The suit, which looking like a large Doberman puppy with a huge zipper on its neck and big gloves on his hands, stood up looking angrily at the one who just sat down after his speech.
„My problem is that I am the one who has been the character of Koshiro for most of the series, until we got to the BS chapter with the soul zipper stuff to wrap things up quickly. Yet even after that I was still there, as a suit. I said nothing and did nothing as the script didn’t demanded me to do so, but I never disappeared even after Koshiro’s „soul“ returning to his body. What else can this be but evidence that I am the real deal and this human Koshiro is just an echo of my character which refuses to return back to me. If he were to enter my suit we would become like the Zipman Koshiro Tatara was meant to be. But he refuses to accept that this is his destiny.“
With that said the suit sat down once more.

Silence hang in the room like a heavy curtain. Everyone had noticed their little fights the past weeks growing in size and numbers, but the absolution in both statements basically denying each other existence was harsher than most had expected-
„Seriously, Mr. Commentary, no comments during the discussion please. You get to say your piece when picked in order and only if it has to do with the topic we’re discussing.“ Eiji was rubbing his forehead, hoping the Ghost would get the cue and be less interruptive. He didn‘t had enough coffee intus for those shenanigans.
„Already quiet, Koudo-san.“
„Good. Does anyone want to say anything after the two involved have said their opinion?“

A tiny silver limb raised from White’s stomach belonging to Hajime Sorajima who was getting petted by the petite girl. The little Alien preferred his real looks to his humanoid one after his series finished. He had always been unhappy that he felt more like an „object“ in his series than as a „main character“. Eiji pointed at Hajime giving him the go signal.
„From my perspective, it sounds like Zipman Koshiro is unhappy to be treated as just a suit when he had Koshiro’s consciousness from the start oft he series whereas the human body was brain-dead. Koshiro, the human, was considered dead, even by Koshiro himself so. Considering what the chairman said about souls being information, it could be that a back-up copy was left in the suit or that the consciousness transferred to the human body was a copy. I’d for for the fusion because either Koshiro might step out whole or the Suit will stay as the Zipman version.“
Zipman Koshiro nodded approvingly while Koshiro Tatara just crossed his arms.

Momiji Kuramichi raised his hand, getting picked next in line.
„I don’t really get how the Zipman Koshiro is supposed to hand over his part of the character. Can the Human Koshiro please explain how that is supposed to work? If it involves destroying the suit, I am against it because in my opinion that would be killing.“
„Certainly. Just like in the series the zipper is where the soul and control of the suit is located. All I ask for is for Zipman Koshiro to prove that he is the real version by destroying his zipper. If he does and still exists then he is the real version and I’m the copy. If he disappears then his half of the character will be freed and return to me, the original. That’s all.“
„So in the end both of you got your defense up and wait for the other to make the first move, huh? Can’t say I hate that kinda thinking, but I will go with Koshiro’s zipper theory. It is an accessory, much like a tie, we can repair it whereas with the suit plan we might not be able to handle the full Weiss Zipman version. Let’s not forget the huge trouble we had with Kyubi after Bone Collection ended. Without Kazami, Paira and the other Bone Collection characters he would have wiped the floor with our weakened powers. Who tells us that the Zipman Version we get will be the good one and not the Weiss one?“
Koshiro Tatara smiles triumphantly whereas Zipman Koshiro clenched his fists.

Eiji stroke his chin. Kyubi had been a dangerous foe, a villain who hated how he was treated like an afterthought. His hatred and the general attention from the yokai Kitsune. on which his role is based on. gets daily gave him plenty powers to resist the Call from the Gate and to topple the whole city in his image. Since only series which ended can leave the towers, it was up to the Bone Collection characters to deal with their rogue villain. Usually the characters from all series no matter how they ended left the world on their own or if a villain goes rogue the main character and support cast is usually strong enough to deal with it on their own and take the villain with them.
Not in this case.
Because of the low attention the Bone Collection characters had received over the course of their series they were much weaker and were unable to defeat Kyubi on their own. It took all of U19 and the entire Bone Collection cast to defeat Kyubi, even some One-shot characters had to help out to turn the tide of the battle.
Dealing with Weiss Zipman without the Zipman Cast might be too much for them right now.

„Thank you for the summary, Mr. Commentary, but if you do this one more time I’ll ask you to leave, got it?“
„I shut up, I promise.“ Eiji wasn’t so sure about the promise of some guy who’s whole after-life existence was about commenting on stuff.
„Zipman Koshiro, you have lived with us the past weeks as a friend and comrade, so I will put this question to you: Can you assure us you will not become Weiss Zipman if Koshiro Tatara were to enter your suit?“

The suit stood up onto his chair and hold a hand up.
„I swear by my existence that I will not become Weiss Zipman. I can’t become that suit because I am Zipman, you know, the cool black version, not the Chairman copy. Those fears about me turning rogue are unfair and biased. I demand them to not play a part in our discussion.“
„Alright, I take your word for it. But I don’t think we will discard the possibility of you turning rogue entirely. After all, it will be us who have to deal with the fallout. I hope you understand.“
„…Yes, I get it.“ Zipman Koshiro knew that this made his position weaker as there was less danger in him destroying his Zipper than Koshiro entering his suit. Now he had to suck it up.

Next to make a motion to speak was Banda. The large teen with the afro made a serious face as he put forth his suggestion.
„This whole philosophical soul talk is a bit too high for me.“ From the couch came a female snort which Banda generously ignored. „But can’t we just deal with this situation by having both accept that they are now their own characters and move on from figuring out who is real? In the past weeks, I spoke, ate and played with both of them and I can tell you I would not be able to tell which one of them was „realer“ than the other. In my opinion this is less about them finding peace about their character and more about their ego. Ego’s fine and all, but we’re a team, but your ego above it and you start hurting us as well in the process. I vote neither should risk anything and they stay how they are.“
Neither Koshiro nor Zipman Koshiro looked happy with that proposal though the suit was glad the recent talk about him potentially being dangerous had not influenced Banda at all.

Tamashiro Dan moved his hand up a bit, looking as calm as ever. You wouldn‘t expect a burning hothead under the red hair of his but those blue eyes which usually looked sad and lonely could turn into hot fire in the right moment.
„I get both being anxious. This ain’t just a step into the unknown for them, it might very well mean the end for one of them and I am not talking gate end but final end. From what I have seen the past weeks those two are fairly similar but there are many small and big differences which makes it hard to believe they are supposed to be the same character. Yet both claim they are and want the other to risk their existence to prove their own. Normally I’d not take the safe route, but we got nobody from the Zipman characters left but those two, taking on a Weiss Zipman seems too much of trouble for me so I would be for the safer route of Zipman Koshiro proving that he ist he real deal. We risk nothing that way and have a definite answer either way.“
Koshiro Tatara looked victorious while Zipman Koshiro started to look nervous.

A purple smokey hand you could look through raised in the middle oft he two. Eiji steeled himself and gave Mr. Commentary permission to speak.
„I vote for Zipman Koshiro’s solution.“
Eiji waited a few seconds but no long-ass explanation followed so he had to ask.
„And why, Mr. Commentary?“
„Because it seems to be the most interesting one, that’s why.“ Eiji sighed quietly while Zipman Koshiro looked relieved and Koshiro Tatara disappointed. Eiji looked at the two remaining U19 members besides him who had to give their opinion and vote on how to resolve this situation. White, who had her eyes closed while her hand stroked the soft surface of Hajime’s alien form and Noah, who looked the whole time seriously confused. Better to go with the less confused one.

„White. Can you tell us what you think our two Koshiros should do?“
White opened an eye, looking at Eiji.
„What about my proposal from a few weeks ago about letting those two fight to the death?“
„Same answer as back then: Denied.“
„Then I don’t really care. Let those two solve this on their own or let them continue the way they have lived now, either way is fine for me.“
Both Koshiros looked at each other in annoyance.

Eiji suppressed his smile. As crude as White sounded, in the end she had made the same suggestion as Banda. She might put other reasons for it, but after all she would rather see both continue in the club than have them destroy each other. At least he hoped this was the case, sometimes it was hard to read what White‘s true intentions were.
Noah raised his arm high in the air grabbing the pink-haired boy‘s attention. Right now it stood 2 for 2 for 2, not counting the two Koshiros about which the discussion was about. The blonde boy might be the one to tip the scales before Eiji has to give his own opinion and verdict

„Yes, Noah-kun, your opinion please.“
„So what exactly is the problem we are discussing here, Eiji-niichan?“ Snickers, eye rolls and some face palms made the round among the other attendants. The Golem boy with the star above his right eye and the triangle symbols on his cheeks had asked that question with the regular huge smile of his. He was honest to a fault, so Eiji was sure his question was genuine but he wasn’t quite sure what Noah didn’t understood so far.
„Uhm, basically we have a character who got split into two bodies and both want to become one character again but disagree on the way on doing it. That about covers it, I think.“
„Eh, but don’t we have two different characters there?“

Everyone stared at little Noah as if he had declared Earth being flat.
„No, no, Noah-kun, look. I get that you think that they are different persons on the way they behave but according to the story both are from, one of them has to be a copy of the other or their are both halves of the same character.“, tried Banda to explain it to the little boy next to him frantically.
„Yeah, I get what you say, but those two are not like that. They have been two different characters since they entered the club. Have you all not noticed that?“ Noash spoke those words so sure of himself that Eiji started to question himself when he had seen Koshiro the human and Koshiro the suit as two separate people over the past weeks. Wasn’t it fairly early? Looking at the two of them, they were both flabbergasted by the suggestion they had been two different characters from the start and their fights over who was the real character had been meaningless.

„Why…why would you say that, Noah-kun? Those two claim to be the same character so why do you disagree with them?“, tried Eiji to make sense of what Noah had said. The Golem kid wrinkled his forehead, thinking hard.
„Hmm, this is difficult to explain as a Golem to Humans. But I think the question Tamashiro-niichan is asking himself each morning in the mirror might help to clear things up!“
Now all eyes were on the redhead who looked confused and a bit worried past Banda to the kid who smiled happily at him.
„What are you talking about, Noah-kun?“ There was a slight tremble in Tamashiro’s voice and Eiji hoped to the Manga Gods that Noah would not burst out with an embarrassing secret of the table tennis player.
„That question of yours, of course! *Am I THE Main Character?*."

Tamashiro’s mouth dropped and his eyes dancing between everyone who started to look away immediately. His face turned red as a beet which was something Eiji had seen only once and that was the goodbye french kiss Marin-chan had given him in front of everyone on the day she left U19 to go through the gate.
„Th-this is not what it sounds like, guys! I have been asking that myself ever since my series started and kept going even after it finished because…ARGH!“ Tamashiro was covering his face while Noah looked unsure if he had said a bad thing or not that a human would not wish to hear.
„So, how do you answer that question each morning, Tamashiro-kun?“, asked Banda not looking at his fellow sport manga comrade. Tamashiro looked up between his fingers, before taking a deep breath and answering.

„No, I’m not; I’m just A Main Character but not THE Main Character…“ Tamashiro smiled sadly and looked at the ground. Momiji and Hajime had a similar look on their faces, carrying a similar doubt about their MCness. Banda put his hand on Tamashiro’s head and looked at him.
„You are the main character of your own life. Ain’t nobody out there who could live it better than you do, buddy. Don’t let your story drag you down, that isn’t a real man’s way.“
Tamashiro rubbed his eyes, put the big hand on his head away and looked at Banda with a small smile, still sad but confident as well.
„Alright, Banda, I get it. No need to get sappy on me.“
„Just saying what I’m thinking.“
White on the couch let out a big yawn, bored by the male drama and bonding.

„Okay then, I see no reason why we shouldn’t try that question out. Zipman Koshiro, Koshiro Tatara - Are you THE Main Character?“
„Yes, I am!“
„No, my brother is.“
Their answers were spoken at the same time and so came the reactions to them.
„How can you say you are the main character of Zipman, you are a suit, a tool! My brother was introduced as the hero of the story!“ Koshiro the human stood up, confused how this deep seeded conviction of his was not part of his half of character in the suit.
„How can I not be the main character when the story was all about and through me? Your brother might have been the hero but without me he wouldn’t have gone past chapter 1!“ Koshiro the suit stood up, angry that he got belittled so much when he had been the main focus from start to finish of the Zipman story.

„Guys, relax!“, tried Eiji to calm the two agitated Koshiros down. Or was it only one Koshiro after all? If so who or what was Zipman?
„You are a concept, not a character. You are the Quirk of Zipman to say it in BnHA terms. Nobody would see a Quirk as the main character of a story, maybe as the main plot device but that’s it!“ Koshiro kept steadfast in his belief of his brother being the main character, the thought that this rude suit dog was the real main character was too big of a toad for him to swallow.
„I am a character! I got a body, a purpose, I have „unexplainable technology“ to back my existence up! I am even the title of the series! I’ll prove to you that I am real!

With those words Zipman grabbed hold onto his zipper with shaking hands as he started to pull on it to break it apart from his suit. Everyone, except White who looked up mildly interested, jumped from their chairs, unsure if they should stop this from happening or accept Zipman’s daring trial to prove himself a real character.
With a loud scream the zipper tore from the suit and fell to the ground with a clang. Zipman stood there unmoving. Nobody dared to blink.

„Am I…still there? Ah. AH! I AM! I AM STILL HERE! I AM REAL! I KNEW IT!“, shouted Zipman as he started to jump up and down and all over the place. His joy broke the silence of the others who started to cheer and clap. Even Koshiro who stood there amazed by the result, started to join the applause.
„But how can this be?“, he asked still puzzled that the suit who he thought was carrying his second half of his character was still jumping after getting rid of his soul hosting zipper. Just what were those unknown technologies he never was able to truly research in the story?
„Does it matter?“, asked Eiji smiling from ear to ear. „This means you have been whole the time without realizing it, isn’t that great?“

„Hm.“, agreed Koshiro, feeling something strange tug at his heart.
„How do you feel, Foureyes?“ For the first time since the debate had started White sat upright on the couch, Hajime still clapping his tiny silver hands together on her lap.
„I…I feel unwell, I suppose.“
„That’s not you being sick, that's The Call. Your character is complete, now the Gate calls for you to enter it. You never had what Zipman had, Foureyes: Discontent. The only reason you were here was because you were unsure if you were whole, not because you were dissatisfied with your character in the series. It is the same reason why your brother and childhood-friend left after a while, they couldn’t resist The Call any longer because they already were content with how the story ended for them. They just entered the club to be with you and when they saw that you could handle it yourself, they relaxed and gave in to the pull of the Gate. That’s why they left you behind and that’s why you will leave us as well. Make sure to greet them from us when you see them again.“
„White-san…I think this is the most you ever spoke to me.“
„Hmpf, that’s because it’s the last time we will speak together. Consider it an honor.“
*White will never be honest.*, thought Eiji watching the exchange as he had already wondered how to break the news to Koshiro that he might soon leave the club on his own will.

„Argh! But now my poor zipper is destroyed! Quick, Momiji-kun! Repair it!“, Zipman was over his bliss of being a character himself and now mourned his ripped off zipper, holding it towards Momiji who shook his head and formed a X with his arms.
„Dude, I am a Shogi player, not an engineer!“
„But you said we could repair it!“
„We does not mean me!“
„I can repair it.“, offered Koshiro stepping forward. Zipman looked at him with teary eyes.
„R-really, Koshiro-kun?“
„Yeah, consider it my apology for not believing you and pushing you into doing this.“
„Already forgiven and forgotten!“ Zipman hugged Koshiro who returned the hug to flaring up cheers from the others.
„Can we have breakfast already? I’m starving.“, complained White frustrated.

After a hearty and loud brunch where everyone had their most beloved dish, Koshiro repaired the zipper with the tools available until it looked as new. When the deed was done everyone came along with Koshiro to the Gate to say their final goodbyes to him. There were many hugs, jokes and tears as each of the U19 members spoke their last words and wishes to their ex-member. Koshiro thanked them all for the fun and silly times spend together and he would never forget them. With those words and a large smile he stepped through the Gate to be united with Kaname and Cheena once more. As the gaze of everyone lingered onto the white energy whirlwind, Zipman stepped forward.

„Everyone! I know, this is selfish of me to ask since you all have helped me out so much already. It’s about my name. I really wanna be called Jackman, not Zipman! It’s okay if you don’t want to but…“
„Say no more, dude. Jackman, Zipman, doesn’t matter what we call you, man. You always gonna be our buddy!“, grinned Banda while White gagged behind him. Eiji laughed heartily.
„Alright, everyone! Let’s greet our old new U19 member! On three! One…two…three:“

Word of the Author:

5600 words, roughly 1/3 of first chapter, still was quite a toll to write it all down in one day.

Current U19 Members after Koshiro Tatara left:

- Eiji Koudo (U19)

- Banda (Ole Golazo, oldest member)

- White (Ziga)

- Jackman (Zipman)

- Noah (Golem's Heart, 11 year old version btw)

- Tamashiro Dan (Full Drive)

- Hajime Sorajima (Invade you!)

- Momiji Kuramichi (Momiji no Kisetsu)

- Mr. Commentary (Mitama Security)

Think 9 members is enough, I like it more if the U19 club is one of few rebels and outcasts and not the gathering of hundreds of characters. Obiously Eiji, Banda and White are the "main troop" whereas the other 6 make up the "support cast".^^

Hope this chapter explains it in an easy to understand way, what happens when both heroes and villains have to leave after their series finds an end and why they leave after all.

If ANYONE can tell me the name of Poro's girlfriend, the one with the black hair and ponytail, please write me a pm! I have only found it in russian and I can't read any of that... that said if anyone knows where I can read Poro's diaries in english, please tell me so as well.
Same goes for Invade you! or Kimi wo Shinryaku Seyo! where I have only found 3 chapters in english and not even the RAW! >.<
I was lucky to find Golem's Heart in full, man, this was good, what a shame this had to start in WSJ and not another magazine.
Momiji also seems to suffer from the 3 translated chapter curse same as Ziga. If anyone knows where I can find the full english version, I would really appreciate a pm with the knowledge. Thanks a lot.

Here's to hope I can write up another chapter next week.^^
--- Double Post Merged, , Original Post Date: ---

Chapter 3 - Our Blood Ordeal discussion

"Alright, everyone!", Eiji clapped into his hands to get everyone's attention as they all sat around a circle in their chairs, except for White who stretched her limbs on the couch. On the big board in the meeting room they were in was written "Newcomer Discussion: Our Blood Oath". After dropping last week's newcomer talk in favor of helping two U19 members out with their identity crisis, Eiji really wanted to hold a proper discussion circle about a new WSJ manga. However before he would open that round, one other U19 tradition had to be honored.
"Before we begin, let's all give Moriking a round of applause for avoiding the U19 curse with their latest chapter!" Everyone started clapping, some enthusiastic like Banda and Noah, some slow and quiet like Tamashiro and White. Eiji began with the congratulations.

"Congratulation, Moriking! You're my favorite go-to-bed-manga to fall asleep over quickly!" All congratulations of the U19 were accompanied by bad wishes, curses and what they disliked the most about this series. It really helped to get rid of frustrations.

"Grats MK. drop dead~" White's congratulation was as lackluster as her clapping, you couldn't say the same about how she finished her sentence though.

"Gratulation for avoiding us, Moriking! I just wish you were more interesting or funny or at least had more soccer scenes in your series, damn it!!!" Banda put his soul both in his clapping as well as his best wishes and critic of this series from the last newcomer batch.

"Gratulation to get past 19 chapters! The way you go you cannot go past 40, so put some UUMMPH in it, got it!?" Momiji actually liked Moriking, so he was a bit worried about the series sales and latest rankings.

"Many gratulations for getting to this milestone, Mori, but now it is time to show whenever you are a King or a *Kackbohn." Nobody knew what German word Tamashiro had used but since it was used to counter King it probably wasn't a nice one.

"Gratulation, Moriking, gratulation! You're very repetitive and most of your jokes don't land, so I hope you'll work harder else you gonna get axed in the next round for sure." Due his own comedy series, Hajime cared a lot for other Comedy series, especially the ones he saw doing badly as they reminded him of his own series. Needless to say he got his work cut out with the current WSJ Line-up.

"I had over my deepest Congratulations, Moriking-dono. Why, you remind me of my own series, Mitama, but with insects and not ghosts. Also you have more of a tendency to do jokes that showcase the superiority of Moriking and not really make him the butt of jokes unlike Mitama. I think you could use more self-appraisal to see your own shortcomings and what the readers really want to see thus-"

"I gotta interrupt you there, Mr. Commentary! I'm not gonna keep clapping throughout your entire sermon! Yo, Moripet! Think you're a big deal having more chapters than me, huh? Well, suck my zipper! You are already on your way down, I can smell it! Enjoy the few weeks you have left, you lucky bastard!" Jackman really disliked new series getting past him, the wounds of having to end so suddenly were still fresh and quite open with him, so he took it very personal whenever a series avoided to be called an U19. With Guardian of the Witch he had been especially mad with.

"Thank you so much for being such a fun series, Moriking! I really love your bond of Shota and Moriking and Shoko is so funny, she's a great big sister! I hope to see many more chapters of yours in the future!" Noah was a peach, too good of a boy to talk badly of another series success, even if it was only avoiding this club's signature. Nearly everyone had given up on telling Noah that he is supposed to actually talk smack about the series that from now on will never be called an U19 series, a badge they all would never get rid of.

"You're supposed to say something mean, Noah-kun, not praise it to the heavens." Note: Nearly everyone. Jackman still tried to teach Noah the proper way of sending of a WSJ series past chapter 19. Noah made a deep thinking face while he and the rest of the club kept clapping their hands. Then his face lit up into a huge smile and his claps got louder as he announced:'
"I think you are super lame for only having 19 chapters!" Everyone in the room, except Mr. Commentary and Noah, winced at that painful burn.
"Damn. I just wanted him to be a bit mean, not a monster..."
"And that's it, folks! Wrap it up, guys!", called Eiji for the end of their congratulation round. Everyone, except for White who rolled her eyes at the sight, made a spitting noise and acted as if they spit on the ground, then stopped the clapping.
"Ugh, boys..."

"Good. Now that that's done, we can move on to the main event! I declare the Newecomer Dicsussion for open!" Everyone raised their hands. Eiji sighed helplessly. "Remember the rules. We only talk about the first chapter of the newest WSJ series. We will not discuss Chainsawman", White clicked her tongue and her half-raised hand sank back to her chest, "or Undead Unluck", Banda clenched his raised hands to fits, throwing his head back and opened his mouth to a silent cry, "or Ayakashi Triangle", Mr. Commentary looked as disappointed as he could with his stiff facial expression, "or Roboco&me", Noah sank his head like a scolded child, "or Agravity Boys", Hajime turned his alien body into a liquid puddle,"or Jujutsu Kaisen, Mashle and Dr. Stone!" Momiji, Tamashiro and Jackman stood up, putting their hands on their shoulders as if to support another.
"Seriously, guys! Get with the program. If you wanna talk about what chapter you found amazing this weekend, we can do so after this discussion, okay?" At that offer everyone´s eyes lit up, Eiji knew this would be a long day before any of them got to bed today.

"Remember, you have to start with something positive, then with what you found bad or in need of improvement and end in how you see the future of this new series in Jump. Who wants to begin?" Banda rose his hand as Eiji just finished and snapped with his fingers to gain his comrade's attention. Eiji gave him the go signal and sat down while Banda stood up to his full height, towering everyone in the room.
"When I started the series I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The title hinted at Vampires and the sneak peaks we got showed us a duo of brothers who's bond I found genuine. The kid, Ko, felt like a real bratty child what I liked and which he should be in my opinion, considering he is a royal vampire and really powerful. I am disappointed in the big brother to be honest, he just feels...there and he shouldn't since he is the Blood Oath Taker. Yeah, I know he took out that weird Sheep Vampire thingie but compared to the cool blood powers of the kid, he was just lame. I think there could be more improvement there. As for its future, I think it can survive for a while but I don't see it going past 100 chapters. You wanna go next, Tamashiro-kun?"

Tamashiro stood up, rubbing his red hair before speaking up.
"I knew this series would not be my cup of tea, I still read it but I think I will drop it after the first chapter. So positive uhm, I agree with Banda, little kid was cool with his powers and they introduced the big bad and their goal of humanity and vampires living in harmony from the start, so you know where it might go. What annoyed me wasn't the wonky art, the one-panel fights or the chunni way of talking but the inconsistency like Shino getting blood on his uniform and running home but having no blood anymore on his sleeve or the parents not reacting to two bloodied kids and half their house trashed. Actually, why didn't anyone in the neighborhood call the cops or the firemen when they heard Shino screaming or the fox trashing the house? Either give us an explanation why all that didn't happened like a "Vampire bubble" that entraps the human prey and makes all other human oblivious to what is happening inside or have someone reacting to all this. Otherwise as a reader you get a feel of disconnection and that's not. I believe that Phantom Seer might have more of a future than Our Blood Oath does, I see the brothers joining us in the near future. I see your tentacle, Hajime-kun, just speak up whenever you're ready."

Hajime who looked really small on his human-sized chair, started to morph as he slid onto the ground, growing into a normal lanky boy with a horny hair-style. He doesn't show his human form as often since his series ended but whenever they hold their weekly discussions he would turn into a human as the larger lung and voice box gave him the necessary volume to be heard clearly by everyone. Hajime cleared his throat before he began.
"Well, I liked the Super Sayajin transformation of Ko using his big brother's blood. I hope that in future chapters there are different weapons he can summon with it, like swords, bows or shields and the like. "Vampires" seem to be a synonym for "Yokai" as the sheep, the kitsube-head beast and of course Cerberus all exists in some form already, just with the attribute blood-drinking added to it. So I see it more of an exorcist series than a vampire story albeit future chapters might change my mind if it focus on the usual Vampire themes like immortality vs mortality, blood-addiction, hunter and prey and so on. I didn't liked the jumps in the storytelling, I feel like too much was tried to cramp into one chapter - brothers introduction, their powers, their oath and sibling bound, the background story of human and vampire brother, the flashback to the parent murderer, the leading to and the resolution of Cerberus and the end of the chapter with the goal of harmonizing humanity with the vampire-kin. It just felt bloated and could have been handled better if some scenes had been left for future chapters. I think it gonna have around 60 to 70 chapters in total before it will end, if it can get a proper story-telling flow."

Hajime looked around the chair circle, Momiji tapping his knees with his fingers caught his eyes.
"Momiji-kun, if you'd like to talk next, you can stand up now." Momiji nodded and as Hajime morphed back into his little alien slime form, the Shogi-player rose from his chair, clapping his hands together.
"I know, we are supposed with the good first but I will take the other way around because I can't stand this obvious Fujo-baiting! Like the start with the color page with the red band between the two not related by blood brothers, their tragic backstory of their murdered parents with the big brother swearing an oath to his younger brother with his life, Ko clinging to Shin all the time, the master-servant vibes behind the sibling bound, it's just too much. Only way to make it more obvious would have been to show Ko biting Shin in a more seductive way with a close-up. Yeah, I get why OBO tries to get some fujos on their side, they got a hella lot of money and are fanatic fans who support the series they love all the way, but this is just too much!"
Everyone nodded after Momiji's rant and Eiji agreed with him as well in secret so he let him continue speaking. "As for the positive, I'd go with the possibilities that are open if OBO can grab them, that is. Like will they go for a city based story with a larger cast or will the two travel the world due their rich parents funds they still have available to them. Or if there are beast and royal vampires, will we see different vampire clans with different attributes, fighting over territory and food or is it even that vampires are the ones secretly ruling over humanity behind the shadows? There are many interesting ways this series can go, so if it does get enough fans with or without its fujo-pandering content, then I can see it going up to 150 chapters."

"So, who want to go next. You, Jackman?"
"Yeah, I don't mind." The cute looking mascot remained seated as he started to his piece of mind.
"As for me, I can't really agree with you, Momiji, I rather liked the bond between the two brothers and didn't saw it as Fujo pandering but family love of two people who need another and want to protect each other. It felt pretty genuine to me. Also with the art-style the way it is, I don't really see it all that much appealing so I doubt many female readers will find it much attractive. You can often see large differences in art quality in the same panel, like the shoddy drawn feet of the possessed mother and the well detailed picture below it. It is often the background which seems very well-done, the mangaka must have a good assistant, yet that just makes the glaring missing of it all the more obvious in those panels where you just got heads and faces and nothing else. Since Mashle got quite a big fujo following depsite not doing any pandering the slightest, I think it is due its clean, smooth art as well as having a big cast of many different, cool or good looking boys which can be shipped together. Our Blood Oath is missing all that, so if it is trying to gather a fujo base themselves, I see them only failing. As for its future, I agree with Tamashiro but I see them going just above 20 chapters due Jump having problems finding enough well received series to run for some time before they meet the axe of their natural end."

The moment Jackman ended his speech, Noah was jumping up and down on his chair.
"Jackman-niichan! Pick me! Me next please!"
"Alright, alright, I hear and see you, Noah-kun. Go nuts."
"Why should I go pick up nuts when I wanted to speak next?", wonder Noah bewildered.
"No, uh, I meant for you to speak freely.", explained Jackman, who had forgotten that Noah in his kid form took most if not everything literal.

"Oh, I get it. Here I go! I really really really liked the first chapter of Our Blood Oath! Vampires are supercool! And the Blood powers were mega cool! But the blood transformation of Ko was ultra cool, the coolest!" Eiji had a good guess what word might be Noah's favorite word of the week. "I agree with Jackman-niichan about the bond of the two brothers Shin and Ko being very good, I don't have a brother but I think that is how I would behave if I had an older or younger brother and our world would be full of vampires. The art is superadorable with the big eyes but also very scary with the monsters but not as scary as in Phantom Seer which I think is a good thing. I like that the first chapter ended on several goals, the brothers keeping each other safe, hunting future vampire encounters, finding the killer of their parents and bring peace between humankind and vampirekind! It is really ambitious and I believe it will go on for a loooooooong time! A very long time!"
Eiji waited a few seconds but there seemed no follow-up about what Noah found bad about this series. Well, not that that was mandatory but an explanation why Noah saw nothing to critize for would have been nice. The pink-haired ex-rebel noticed Jackman sliding back and forth on his chair, clearly he had a hard time whenever to decide to speak up and tell Noah to say something bad about Our Blood Oath or to just let it pass and ignore it.
"Wanna tell him?" Jackman looked at Eiji then back to the still looking Noah.
"Nah, I'm good. Still feeling the heat from the Moriking burn. No reason to poke a sleeping tiger a second time."

"I.....chooooooose.... WHITE-NEECHAN!" Noah's choice groaned but submitted to the rules. Gracefully arose the girl in white, her summer outfit complete with hat and braids. Her eyes as ever were cold red fire that could burn you worse than Noah's vulgarities about appropriate amount of chapters.
"The only thing good about this series is that it will serve as cushion for other slightly better series." You could hear the *Daaaaaaaaaaamn~* thought going off in everyone's head, except for Noah who tried to imagine which series would want to sit on the brothers instead on a chair. "What I really disliked about the first chapter of Our Blood Oath were the inept thugs and villain.
That sheep vampire got dusted with a palm punch of a slightly altered human. The Vampire killer just watched the two brothers form a blood oath and instead of stopping them or killing them afterwards he just left which is 101 defeat flag rising! It's stupid! If you go in to murder the royal vampires murder their son as well to truly have done the job! It's not like those two kids could have stopped you back then. But what really ticked me off was the Cerberus Vampire! Like why did he even possessed that family when it just put a mark on his target getting those vampire killers into the house? He could have waited till the birthday of Shino, then possess the family and eat him and nobody would have took notice of him before! No explanation was given why he needed to be there those 6 months, like for example increasing the suffering of his prey to spice up the blood a little with stress hormones.
The worst however was his fighting though...this is a manga so yes, talking in fights need to happen but for the Cerberus to just stand there and let everything happening without interfering is just plain stupid..... this is a manga, not a turn-based JRPG!!! Don't just stand there, attack with all three human bodies! Or interrupt the blood bonding of the brothers to have an easier fight! Use that damn "Moonlight" of yours, you got three heads, USE THEM! Go, grab a human of the family as hostage to keep yourself safe when the boy transformed and you were outplayed! Stop being so freaking passive and let everything happen, like it doesn't matter!!!"

White's tirade had grown from calm and collected to furious and frothing. Her shark teeth were in full display and her hair was waving in the electrical static she created with her powers. The air crackled as her snow-white hair moved by itself, framing her beautiful scary face. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, when she opened them, she looked as uncaring as ever.
"This is why I don't care for its future, it can run ten, a hundred or a thousand chapters, whatever. I will not even look at it with my butt." Noah's giggling snorts broke the tension and everyone had a little chuckle at the fatal verdict the sole girl of the group had given this series first chapter.

White looked at her two remaining choices to speak their minds next: Eiji and Mr. Commentary. Not a single facial muscle moved as her eyes stared holes into Eiji, then they wandered over to the big purple blob sitting on a chair and White look changed as if she saw sitting garbage. This happened three times before she made her choice; uncaring - garbage, uncaring - trash, uncaring- burning trash. Eiji wasn't quite sure what was worse: That White needed this long to chose him or that she might pick Mr. Commentary over him after this display of disgusted rage. Her look remained on the ghost while she raised her right forefinger, then at the last moment she made an abrupt movement with it pointing directly at Eiji.
"Knock yourself out."
"Sure, sure.", Eiji wouldn't admit it, but he felt a bit of relief at White's decision.

"Whenever a new series starts I am always curious to see what the creator decided to put the most focus on to capture the readers interest. As you know my own series first chapter had 54 pages but my creator choice of focus on the social injustices over and over again didn't quite gathered much interest. Some people read only the first chapter and if that one doesn't sway their hearts, many of those will stop reading your series right away and punish you with indifference. In Our Blood Oath the focus was largely on the two brothers, the vampire beats, fights and the potential system behind vampire types were either glossed over, done quickly or not mentioned at all. The sibling bound and blood oath was the main focus and I think it did that well so, any reader reading this chapter will know that this series will be about the trust and love of two brothers, one vampire, one human.
However I think that part drowned out other parts that many readers might find more interesting like the power system behind the blood techniques, more drawn out fight sequences, some explanation what it actually means being a vampire in this manga's setting. In Blood Alone for example, the first chapter also largely focused on the two main characters and their relationship but it also showed what it meant being a vampire in a human society, the dangers of drinking a vampire's blood, their healing abilities, how to make enough money, etc. It was more diverse although this is an unfair comparison as Blood Alone had more pages in its first chapter than Our Blood Oath. As for its future, I think that depends on its next couple chapters. If it can explain how to live life as a vampire in a human based society, this blood in the thermos-flask has to come from somewhere, the various types of vampires as well if the brothers are alone in their pursuit of coexistence between humans and vampires or if they got allies then i think it has a decent change to run for some time. I would put it between 20 and 100 chapters depending on the next chapters content. Now, it is finally your turn, Mr. Commentary."

Mr. Commentary stood up and first made some light stretches, something he certainly didn't needed as an incorporeal purple spirit. After cracking his not existing knuckles, Mr. Commentary started talking.
"Most of you brought up very good points about the good and bad parts of this new series, so I won't repeat them here. I will talk about the duality and the repeating effects of this first chapter, before coming to my assumption of how long this series might run. Duality in this case is meant as a positive example well done by Our Blood Oath. We see it in its most prominent example of the two brothers, one a vampire, one a human, one a master, the other a servant, one most likely immortal, one certainly mortal. This goes further with their behavior of Ko being rude and impatient and Shin being polite and patient. This duality between the two is intensified with their oath relationship beyond their sibling relationship with one being the giver of blood and the other the taker of it. It will be interesting to see if there are some sort of blood withdrawal symptoms or blood addiction dangers which would put another spin of the duality mentioned between human as prey and vampire as predator.
Now to the negative parts of this first chapter: The repeating of the obvious. You know me, my name and position already suggest it, I am more of a tell, not show type, however I see the benefits of show, not tell many successful and less successful series like to do. What I do dislike is the show and tell way Our Blood oath decided to go. Not that it has no purpose like on page 3 where Shino thought of what he saw, a weird looking sheep sucking the blood of an unlucky cat. However, when it is done over and over again, that's when the annoyance takes hold, because nothing of worth is added by just stating the obvious. In my case tell, not show means a deep, detailed explanation to something that is already going on but would take too long to showcase per art. With show, not tell you often either hint at stuff in the background or foreground of the paneling work or have an explicit panel sequence showcasing what is happening. In the first chapter of Our Blood Oath we has some of those examples but mostly, due Shino being the main carriageway, show and tell examples. Like the Hand action of Shin where he goes through the sheep's head and Shino goes "His hand went through it?!" or the part of Shin protecting his brother and him, servant part, the not real brother part after Shin already said his piece after his flashback, the blood scythe part and further examples with the Cerberus and ofc the two brothers. While this of course has the obvious effect of lack of knowledge of Shino and his fear of the unknown, it is to avid readers an annoyance, a tripping stone for the mind so to say. I believe a more knowing start would have been better with not Shino being the one we look into his head but the two brothers who are far more interesting than Shino who for all we know might never appear again in the story. Of course he could become a cornerstone of the brothers team, we don't know yet, but I don't see an average 16 year old being able to help an adult big brother and a kid vampire that much. I would have preferred a first chapter with more explanation behind vampires like why is Ko able to go around in broad daylight, how does the blood not clot in the thermos-flask, why do such many different vampire kinds exist, what is the blood star for Ko is cracking after basically giving a prayer and much more. It wasted a lot of time with stuff that was either already shown or said so I worry about the pacing in future chapters with less pages available to tell what the creator wants to get to the readers.
With that said, I now come to my prediction for the possible amount of chapters Out Blood Oath might get in Weekly Shounen Jump. As Eiji-kun already noticed, this is a difficult matter as are any first chapter predictions about the future of its series. I remember you all being very wrong on the longevity of Timeparadox Ghostwriter, not that I blame you, the first chapter left a strong impression on me. But this doesn't mean that a weak or average impression like in Our Blood Oath means it is doomed to die an early death like the rest of you."

"That's it. I will shut that babbling cakehole of his forever.", announced White after getting more and more annoyed by how long Mr. Commentary comment about OBO became with time. As she stood up to make her words come true, both Eiji and Banda rushed towards the petite girl to stop her from murdering, if that is even possible, one of their fellow comrades.
"...examples like Samurai Usagi or SWOT show that...." The purple ghost continued his Our Blood Oath saga now drawing lines to the vast history of Jump titles to explain the difficulty of sensing popularity with just one chapter.
"Easy, White, easy! Don't do something you'll regret later!", tried Eiji to convince his female friend though he doubted she would regret any of what she was about to do.
"...circumstances like current WSJ line-up as well as reader trends can vary over long periods of time and have large consequences...."
"Yeah, pretty sure I'm not gonna regret it."
"...and let's not forget about the influence of Editors who were the first to see the first chapter and give their Input..." Just as White was about to unleash Zap-hell on the non-stop talking spirit, Banda jumped in-between taking the lighting like a lighting rod.
"...clearly the inspiration for Our Blood Oath were taken from various series like..."
"...if we take all those points into account, I can most certainly conclude that this series will probably amount to..."
"...and with that said, I rest my case.", finished Mr. Commentary his speech, oblivious to the screaming and zapping around him. Eiji turned to White who hadn't stopped her lighting onslaught on poor Banda who started to create strange poses while being electrified.
"White, he's done, you can stop as well."
"Alright, I already feel refreshed anyway." Banda coughed a black ash cloud as White stopped her power. His Afro was now thrice the size as before and his skin looked charred and his clothes had tiny fires on them.
"...I feel like I need a shower..."

"Before you do that, let me tell you all my thanks for appearing and speaking your mind.", said Eiji letting out a deep breath as White let herself fall back into the couch and Banda sat down like a beaten Boxer on his seat. "It seems we can agree that our newest WSJ member has many things to improve on but that it wasn't all that bad either, thus we cannot agree on how likely it will survive the future axe rounds. Now I know you all want to talk about your favorite chapter this week, so I start by telling you that Yozakura had the best chapter for me this week. It was so cute, adorable and romantic and-"
"Now wait a minute, bro! Undead Unluck had way more-"
"A hopeless romantic as ever, Eiji. Chainsawman obviously-"
"Robodo&me was GREAT with Gachigorilla this week-"
"Actually, Ayakashi Triangle had a very nice development-"
"Guys, it is Jujutsu Kaisen or nothing at this point, considering-"
"Mashle is still going strong, it will-"
"Dr. Stone with its twists really got me this week, so-"
"Uhm, I liked the Agravity Boys chapter a lot-"

The U19 club would have a long, long debate about most their favorite chapter getting mixed with best chapter of the week, but at the end of the day, they would eat, drink and laugh together before falling dead into their beds before a new dawn arose in the city of Towers.

Word of the Author:

Well, this got close! Two less days to write while dealing with your life issues sucks!
Still another 5247 words and hopefully a good look into how those people spend their time each week discussing Jump and the new recruits in it. I am curious to see what the next WSJ release will bring on the table for the U19 Club to talk about. Hope you had fun with this chapter.^^
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 4 - Axenator Talk

"Settle down everyone, settle down." Eiji clapped his hands together to get the other eight U19 members attention, who were already seated in their chairs and couch, but were still busy talking to each other. At some point the pink-haired rebel wished he had a Gong like the monks are using, but attention to create one was scare those days, even food was harder to come by those days since many of the big sellers of Jump had left the magazine. Teppei's food from a few weeks ago was fully gone and people were already talking that dumpster diving ain't paying off anymore so more drastic measures should be taken: Stealing attention from the running series, harmlessly called attention collecting. Eiji would have none of that nonsense as it was way more dangerous than taking thrown-away attention nobody cares about, so he tried to keep his comrades minds busy with something else.
"The 12th Axenator Talk is hereby open! I will give a quick overview of the series which are struggling, seem to struggle or might struggle in the future until the next axe round in Jump starts. First is the one we applauded just some time ago: Moriking or Moripet as some of you like to call it."
"I'm calling it Moridead from now on.", interrupted Jackman Eiji's explanation to the laughs and cheers of the other members.

"Next is the one series that had similar luck as our dear honorary member from Mitama, dodging the axe time and time again - Agravity Boys!"
"I prefer the title Arrivederci Boys~", fake whispered White to the other listeners with an evil smile, followed by hoots and hollers from the audience.
"The newest series on Jump which second chapter was widely disliked among many of you. I am talking about Our Blood Oath!"
"More like Our Burial Oath, am I right, guys?", grinned Tamashiro widely, having predicted the newcomer becoming their next member from chapter 1.

"Two more series which have good chances to survive the next axe round but can still get chopped off in the next couple weeks if they are unlucky. Magu-chan: God of Destruction and Mission: Yozakura Family. Yozakura has been around for over a year, it might make a 2nd one if it can increase its sales, while other series do worse. But it might also get replaced by a new romcom in the next axe round if Jump believes it can grow no further. Magu-chan got a great start and I know a lot of you like Ruru-chan and Magu-chan as they are a fun duo but if the first volume sales are atrocious it might go down the same way Moriking has gone - all the way to the bottom, which it is already very close by." Eiji waited a moment and let his eyes wander over the deeply thinking U19 members. "You guys also had troubles coming up with some fitting nicknames for those two?"
Mr. Commentary snapped his fingers and then raised his right hand as he had a flash of genius: "Mission: Yozakura Failings!"
The other eight members gave their purple spirit member a round of respectful applause, but then it died out as everyone wrecked their head about a nickname that dissed Magu-chan's series. Momiji's eyes lit up as an idea formed in his mind:
"Magu-chan: God of Dumpster diving!"
Everyone had a hearty laugh at that suggestion considering the many times Magu-chan or his chaos god college Naputaaku had dived or ended up otherwise in some trashcans. It was quite befitting of the series so far.

"Good one, Momiji-kun. In any case those are our most likely candidates bar any surprises like it happened with Timeparadox Ghostwriter where most of us did not expect it to end before the 19th chapter after reading its first one. Personally I am not sure if Jump will axe so many series before the year ends. Maybe one or two at most and then Moriking and Agravity Boys are probably the most likely candidates to get axed. If it is only one Agravity Boys might just make it to live one more round but its rankings are so bad I can't see it surviving the next axe round. It has been in the bottom five for ages now." Eiji's honest assumption was based on what the editorship wanted to see as success. Hajime and Jackman nodded, agreeing with their club's leader.
"I agree with Moriking being a walking dead man at the rate it is going but Agravity Boys could survive if Magu-chan's sales are really bad or the TOC feedback for Our Blood Oath as bad as it was for Timeparadox Ghostwriters. The fujobait boys have at least an online presence and they might improve unlike what happened with Mitama which ran longer with dropping sales than AB has so far. I believe Moriking to get axed first and then either Magu-chan follows or the vampire brother with his human servant gets axed before ch.19." Mr. Commentary and Tamashiro gave White a thumbs up for her assertion, standing fully behind the popularity theory.
"You two believe too much that Jump will do a new batch. I think they will give many of those series more time to grow or drop before doing such a thing. We already got a ton of new series this year plus we still have We Never Learn most likely ending in the next three months, that already opens an extra slot. If Moriking's sales drop then it will be the only series axed and two new series will replace it and WNL. But Agravity Boys and Our Blood Oath will survive the next axe round for sure." Momiji and Noah gave Banda their cheers as his statement supports their own conviction of Jump being more easy-going now.

"Damn, another stalemate. Though it seems we all see Moriking as pretty much headless at this point, don't we? Whereas with Agravity Boys and Magu-chan it is a toss-up if they get axed or not depending on how many new series Jump wants to introduce at the end of the year. And who knows what kinda reviews Our Blood Oath got so far, it will take some time till we see its 8th chapter ranking. Yozakura will probably see its 2nd years easily though with so many other series doing worse than it does." Eiji looked in many agreeing faces and just Noah looked unsure and a bit sad about Moriking's possible demise. He liked that series a lot with Shota and the other kids being in it and Moriking being such a cool pet. The girl in a white dress patted his blonde hair while she put her other hand's index finger on her rosy lips.
"Indeed, but even if we were to take WNL's soon end in account Jump might still want to introduce three new series, maybe a sport batch this time. With so many new series and axe fodder this is a good time to check which sport series might have a potential chance to grow into a new Haikyu!. Thus I wouldn't count on just one series meeting its doom in the next months."
"Sport?! HELL YEAH!!!" Banda, Tamashiro and Momiji screamed in excitement, loving White's suggestion that a new batch might be in order before the year is over. Those three boys had been so disappointed with the lack of sport newcomers that they nearly gave up on ever seeing one again. Thus White, who saw sports manga as a muscle-head way of wasting time, having that belief of a possible sport batch rekindled their burning passion for all kinds of sport.
"It gonna be a Hockey one!"
"No, Tamashiro-kun, Jump will use a martial art sports manga. I can feel it in my biceps! HAARUMM!"
"Why would they need such a manga when they got Jujutsu Kaisen and other fight series, Banda? If anything an intellectual sport manga will find its way in the Jump ranks, maybe a card based one, maybe Poker with gambling or a magical one in hopes to create a new Pokemon, Digimon, Magic the Gathering series that can sell its own card merchandise. Also stop flexing your muscles in my face!"
"Ugh, I shouldn't have said that...", muttered White massaging her forehead as the three Sport-crazy Main Characters raves on about the sport possibilities for a new series with it as main theme in Jump.

Eiji wasn't so sure if White really regretted what she said. He remembered her complaining about it being too quiet in here with the sport idiots still mourning Haikyu! ever since it ended. Then again she used to always throw her anger at said idiot trio whenever they gushed over the latest Haikyu! development. It was probably best not to think too deeply about it.
For the rest of the day the U19 club spend talking about possible sport series reaching from A in Air-Hockey over racing and fantasy sports with magical components to Z with a sci-fi sport called Z-Ball, which all could be featured in Jump and either fail or have a big future ahead of them because of this and that reason. The Axe talk was quickly forgotten for it would take many weeks before the next round starts swinging its favorite execution tool again. When the day came to an end the friends ate a modest dinner with rice, fried vegetables and miso soup. After everyone had gone to bed and feel asleep, three certain figures rose from their beds and meet each other in the large living room.

"I won't lie to you two, the food situation looks grim. The end of the current axe round also meant no more memes of us circling around and not enough people getting curious about our series to give them a try. Our attention wells are pretty much dry, so to say."
"Damn, bro...", muttered Banda, visibly taken aback by the bad situation. Many times they had faced hunger before but never before did Jump had so many fresh series in under a year which all had yet to achieve an excess of attention from which the U19 could take a daily cut off to make their own lives bearable.
"How many days worth do we have?" White was focused on the more strategic matter of their circumstances, it was the foundation on which to base their next moves on after all. Her goals from ruling over monsters and destroying humanity might have changed but she still had a commander's intuition in her nature. Eiji answered her quietly.
"Ten days if we keep the current rationing. Maybe 12 if we cut down a bit ourselves."

In the dark room with only the automatic light from the hallway shining through the door cracks Eiji couldn't see his comrades faces very well. He heard Banda's sharp intake of his breath and White's hair moving as she shook her head.
"We can't cut down on our rations, the others would notice and worry. It would affect the troop's morale too much, the current rationing had already taken its toll, any more and we risk rash actions done by the others without our knowledge." Eiji shared the same worries as White had voiced. It didn't helped that quite a lot of their friends were hot-headed main characters used to be in the spotlight. Yet with their current skills and lacking attention fuel they were weaker than most side characters, a stupid decision made from the goodness of their hearts could very well end tragic.
"So we got ten days to deal with this. Let's do it then! I don't wanna see Noah-kun and the others go hungry to bed." Banda put both of his large hands on each of his friends shoulders, his voice strong and steady. Having clear and easy to understand goals were his favorite.
"Easier said than done, Gorillafro.", replied White coldly as she removed Banda's hand from her shoulder. "We three might be the strongest in our group but even our powers won't hold a candle to what is going on in most series right now. We cannot take a step into Jujutsu Kaisen or Chainsawman for that matter, both have crazy high power levels right now, deadly situations and no large background crowd we could slip in to hide ourselves."

"Agreed.", nodded Eiji. "Other series are too young or have not yet reached a large enough fandom for us to take some attention unnoticed. Many also have the problem of being a tight cast in which we cannot blend in unnoticed, like Mashle and Undead Unluck with their current fight situations."
"We gonna need at least a series with 100k fans, else we can never get enough attention to last till the next axe round and until some of the newbies are big enough to not miss a little attention here and there.", said Banda, crossing his arms and probably looking very seriously in the dark. White put her hand onto her forehead as she sighed.
"No need to state the obvious. This limits our options greatly though, 2020 really sucks. We got either We Never Learn, One Piece, Black Clover, Dr. Stone and My Hero Academica, all others are too low in their attention pool for us to siphon up much."
"Besides Chainsawman and Jujutsu Kaisen we also gotta avoid My Hero Academica.", thought Eiji out loud. White tilted her head probably raising her eyebrows at the same time.
"Why? Our Powers can hide well among the many heroes, a bit make-up, a few masks and costumes and we bath in attention." Eiji knew the others couldn't see his worried expression, so he shook his head.
"Just a bad feeling. The way the last chapter ended seemed to suggest a win of the heroes but Shigaraki being pushed into a corner makes it feel like he will get out of it with the upper hand and wreck terrible destruction. And I don't wanna be caught up in that nor do I want to see any of you in it." White stared at Eiji for a short while before furiously rubbing her hair.
"Argh. Fine. Because you're the leader, Eiji. But if this drought continues we gotta risk it. The attention this fight gets is too good to pass up."
"Thanks, White."

"We also can't use Black Clover.", mumbled Banda sullen.
"You forgot, Eiji? Black Clover skips a week till 4th October."
"Ah damn, you're right..."
"I don't mind. Black doesn't fit me and the Elves arc makes it too hard to get into the story unnoticed. We need big crowds or a large Battle to get our share of showtime while hiding who we really are. We Never Learn might have the crowds depending on how the next chapter goes and One Piece is thick in a battle full with crazy powers and lots of smoke screen and combatants to hide within. I know what I would chose, what's your decision, oh grand leader?"

Eiji ignored White's taunt, obviously she wanted to go for the One Piece Battle but combats were always dangerous to enter even if they provide the perfect cover in all the Chaos.
"I'd prefer if we'd use We Never Learn to get our attention. but..."
"Same deal as with My Hero Academica?", asked Banda, uneasy about their opportunities getting cut down from a few to next to nothing.
"Yeah. The chances of this being a conclusion chapter with the Main Character, the current Main Heroine and the dangerous situation the kids are in, is very high. In that case large crowds will probably not be used, especially since it is raining heavily at the scene. So getting into the chapter when it performs might not be possible. Plus..."
"Plus One Piece had a break last week, thus the chances are high that the fans might pay extra attention to it when it releases a new chapter this week.", finished White Eiji's sentence, her mood rising at the prospect of her choice being the one their leader would choose after all.
"Exactly. This means we will enter One Piece to gather the attention we need to make it to the next axe round."

"Yes!", caroled White happily in a quiet voice.
"Puh, alright then, we gonna do this the hard way, guys.", pushed Banda himself up.
"So we're in agreement, we're the only ones who go as attention collectors.", confirmed Eiji who preferred a small group he could trust, especially in such a dangerous situation.
"What? You want a shogi player, a table-tennis player, a child, a ghost, a tiny alien and a living mascot suit enter one of the biggest Battles in One Piece? We'd be too busy taking care of them to put ourselves into scene, much less that they stick out as a sore thumb even if we dress them up.", argued White against taking a large group with them. "We should even leave Banda behind, since he is the only normal one without superpowers of us three."
"Oho? Someone wants a daaaaarghl?!" Banda's huge grin disappeared in a gargle as a slender arm snapped forward in inhuman speed. White's gracile fingers were on Banda's thick throat holding it tight and unwavering like a machine. Her left hand started to sparkle, creating a white light illuminating the dark room like an LED-bulb.
"Did I just hear a Gorillafro grunt? I thought we only got humans and a monster in here." Her voice felt a few degrees colder than usual as her lips curled up into a sharktoothy smile. Banda realized he might have taken it a step too far, but he was not a boy to back down from a threat, even if it was a monster disguised as a beautiful girl. His huge paw of a hand laid itself onto White's narrow neck and covered it whole in his burly grip.
"YoufirstSharkface.", countered the large Soccer player former Taekwondo Japan champion in a determined wheeze through his squished throat. White eyes flared up in amusement.

"Guys, you're gonna wake up everybody up and then the plan's a bust, you know that. White, chill out. Banda, no teasing. When I count to three you both let go at the same time, got it?" After waiting for a nod of both, Eiji counted down to three and to his relief both did let go as his count ended. Banda was breathing heavily while White looked unfazed as she let the lighting in her hand disappear in a fizzle.
"White, I know that you know why Banda stays with us on those mission even if he has no super-powers, because he is hella strong, fast and knows martial arts. So stop making fun of him for missing supernatural powers. Banda, I know you know she is just trying to get under your skin, stop taking the bait so easily." Eiji couldn't quite see what the two scolded characters looked like, but he was sure neither was apologetic. It was quite an unexciting life-style to exist without a series to run in, so Eiji could understand why those two enjoy their banter with each other and measuring their strength every once in a while, but he couldn't need that right now in a situation like this.
"Listen closely, this ain't an attention collector mission like usual to make some extra equipment or to make our lives more homely. We need this attention to survive till we can get enough attention the usual ways. I need you two on your A-game, especially since we are up for a big fight in the One Piece-Universe. Can I trust you two to behave?"
"Of course you can, bro. Banda the man always hold his promises! What kinda man would I be if I didn't?"
"You've seen me enough times in past missions to know how seriously I take those, don't insult me with such a rhetoric question, Eiji."

"Then hands in the ring, we gonna get up the tower tomorrow with the Nameless and grab as much attention as we can for the next weeks to come."
"Hell yeah!"
"I hate this embarrassing ritual..."
"Interesting talk you three have here."
The three conspirators jumped as a big purple hand was put on their three. The squishy looking hand had hardly any weight and felt cold like a lonely midnight's wisp of wind. It belonged to the only member of the Club which Series had gone beyond 19 chapter and who was not its Main Character/Villain.

"Mr. Commentary, what are you doing here?", whispered Eiji hastily, angry the bothersome chatterbox had heard of their plan. The ghost with the large belly chuckled.
"Why, I just came back from my nightly stroll and just when I came through the ceiling I saw Banda-kun and White-san here in one of their usual match-off with an interesting outcome. So you're going on a collection round after such a long time? Maybe I could pay Phantom Seer a visit and get some for us as well."
"And what of value would come out of it?", asked White annoyed about this unneeded hindrance to their plans going smoothly. "Phantom Seer is a series below 8 chapters and so far it has yet to generate any big attention. The Characters in it are surely counting every bit of attention they got so far to reshape their apartment and they can't wait for the real test when they are out of the baby zone. Stealing from them right now gets us hardly anything and puts too much of a target on us. And don't ask if you can accompany us on the One Piece mission, no way the readers would not stumble over the sight of a purple chubby ghost in the background." Mr. Commentary looked a bit inflated. It's true his unique appearance was hard to conceal, but with the appearance of Phantom Seer the Uncle-like Ghost had hoped to be able of more help than usual. Banda could sympathies with that struggle as he often felt inadequate to EIji's and White's powers and that he felt his own character being more of a team player and less of a captain, a leader, which both Eiji and White had been in their respective series albeit on different sides of morality. He put a Hand on Mr. Commentary's shoulder, careful to hover over the purple form to not let his hand fall through it.

"Guys, why don't we let Mr. Commentary here keep watch of the others to prevent them from following us?", suggested Banda, doing his best to ignore the numbness in his fingers as they brushed a bit too deep into the purple mist of the shoulder part.
"That would just rally them up even more to go after us and it would piss them off, getting a babysitter assigned to them.", worried Eiji knowing his hot-blooded members very well.
"Not if we give them their own mission to complete.", developed White Banda's suggestion further.
"You mean, a false lead?", asked the pink haired rebel his white haired comrade as he got intrigued by this spin of said suggestion.
"Indeed. Mr. Commentary tells them we left early for some day long dumpster diving, they will want their part of that as well and our dear pink magpie can lead them around to various dumpster sites while saying we are in the opposite direction. That way they might have some success and will not feel left out to be really angry at us when we return after a successful mission."
"Sounds like a plan to me. Banda the man is in!"
"This does feel like the best way to avoid putting the others in danger. Would you be okay taking this part of the mission, Mr. Commentary." The Ghost mouth stayed a swirly point as usual as he took a bow, but you could hear from his voice's tone that he was smiling.
"Always at your service."
"Then tomorrow we wake up early, put on our costumes and it is attention collecting time!"

"Well then, hush hush, to bed you three. Tomorrow awaits a stark challenge to you all. I stay up and think of some convincing excuses why you three left ahead of everyone else. After all, I'm a Ghost, I need no sleep. Why, the last time I slept well was in 1969 when..." Eiji, White and Banda moved quickly without a word to their beds as Mr. Commentary went on and on about his background story which never got quite properly unfolded in Mitama.

Word of the Author:

Finally a chapter below 5k words! At 4134....
And next week's chapter will probably be waaaaay bigger than 5k if I am not wrong in my assumption.
Hope this chapter('s pun title did not throw you off) made you more curious for what is to come next week in regards to dumpster diving and attention collecting aka stealing and that you are not too disappointed with the current Axe Talk of the U19, lol. But the deal of who gets the axe seems pretty much done already, so it wasn't really possible to make a big case out of it. Still think it belongs as an important aspect to the life as an U19 member as those talks might prepare them for what series might join them in the not so far away future. Cya next week if I get finished in time.^^
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 5 - Attention! Breakfast!

"Huwaaaaaaaaah~" A mighty yawn escaped a mouth so wide open you could put a train into it.
"Morning, Sunshine.", greeted Mr. Commentary the latest arrival at the breakfast table which was Momiji who ruffled his bed hair as he walked into the kitchen room half-asleep. Jackman, Tamashiro, Hajime and Noah were already seated and ate their share of the breakfast that Mr. Commentary and Noah had prepared.
"For some reason I slept very well this night. Like there was no noise of those two fighting in the morning like usual, really nice. So where are they?", asked Momiji as he took the last toast with egg and bacon plus some fruit salad as desert. In response Hajime shrugged as good as you could shrug with no shoulders in your slime body.
"No idea, they're ain't in their beds, that's for sure." Tamashiro said, munching on his last strawberry of his fruit salad. For some reason breakfast was better than the last days and everyone was wondering what the occasion was for and why three of their members were nowhere to be seen.

"Oji-san? Where are Eiji-niichan, Banda-niichan and White-neesan? And why did you allow me to use so much attention to create such a nice breakfast?" Noah was the only one calling the purple ghost Oji-san and Mr. Commentary loved it, it reminded him of the old days when he had still been alive. While he couldn't pat the blonde head of the little boy, he mimicked the movement a bit above the hair in the air.
"Now now, Noah-kun. Let's wait till everyone has eaten, shall we?"
"Just tell us now while we finish, I am curious as well.", countered Jackman the kindness of Mr. Commentary with his mouth full of bacon and egg. Mr. Commentary's three hole face remained as samey as ever as he put up a thinker pose.
"You all can't wait for the explanation?" Several heads or whole body in Hajime's case were shaken at that question. "Very well then. Our dear Eiji-kun, Banda-kun and White-san have left us today to do some dumpster diving at some other Magazine Towers. The plan is for us to do the same, get our gear and look what we can find in the dumpsters of the tower our friends don't have the time to check on."

Everybody stared at the spirit standing there in all his purple plumpness, then Jackman raised a huge glove-hand.
"Excuse me, dumpster diving? Am I missing out on something? I have been living here for months now and I was never part of that kinda activity."
"There was no need to, Jackman. Due plenty of big series ending this year we had a such surplus of attention so we didn't needed to send out many teams. Same with fresh series like yours ending early thus giving our prominent Club members more attention without having to do anything. Since you were new and had your little problem with Koshiro, we decided to leave you out until your situation has been dealt with. And after that we had Teppei-san's food donation to the club.", explained Tamashiro.
"Okay, I get that, but is our food and stuff really from the trash-places of the magazine towers?" Jackman eyed his untouched fruit salad warily.
"If you don't wanna eat it, I'll gladly help you out.", offered Hajime to which the mascot suit quickly pushed the bowl forward to the hungry slime alien.

"What we're getting from the dumpsters ain't food, but unused attention thrown away with the garbage attention. That's what we are after and which we can use to make anything we want to.", added Momiji to Tamashiro's explanation, putting down his empty bowl.
"I know what we can use attention for, I've seen it when we lived in the Jump Tower. But we had to do with the attention we were given by the readers not from other series. How can we use their thrown-away attention?" Jackman looked both confused and eager to learn as his round puppy head was darting between the people at the table. Instead of an explanation Noah threw in a question of his own.
"What kinds of attention have you been used to use so far, Jackman-niichan?"
"Uhh, it was usually the others who made most stuff. I only gotten some brownish and silvery attention with which I made some snacks and comics for myself. Didn't really needed a bed or anything like that after all."
"Think that's your cue to give an explanation, Mr. Commentary.", commented Hajime as he absorbed the rest of the fruits from Jackman's desert.

"Indeed, it sounds like a lesson is in order for our newest club member who will lose his diving virginity today!" Mr. Commentary's mood rose to a new height as a chance to let his explanation gig flow freely presented himself. "Momiji-kun, Tamashiro-kun, would you be so kind to get us an example of each of what we have in the attention storage room?" Both boys looked at each other, stood up, faced the other one and then made a rock-paper-scissor battle.
"Rock! Paper! Scissor!"
"Dude, you always use rock, you should really get out of your defensive shogi behavior when it comes to this child game.", laughed Tamashiro at his friend's misery, who went to the kitchen drawer to get himself some rubber gloves. As the two boys left the kitchen to go deeper into the club dungeon, Mr. Commentary started his long-winded explanation. Hajime already settled on Noah's lap to be more comfortable while the boy hugged the warm alien as if it was a weird looking cat.

"You see, Jackman-kun, attention is not equal attention, there are different kinds of it which we can make use of. At its basic all attention is energy, raw power, given to us from the readers in their world through their deep-seated emotions and fleeting thoughts as they read the work of our creators to which we breath Life into. Attention can be given widely like water over flowers with a watering can or it can be focused like a laser on a single target. That's up to how the readers feel about our series and us starring in it. Of course, the focus put on by the creator helps steering said attention into a specific order, but usually if a series runs long enough, it doesn't matter that much as the readers will love or hate or not care about said series by then due their own will.
The amount and value of attention received gets poured into the characters of the series and their apartment which either grows and rise in levels or which stagnates or even shrinks as its level falls in the tower. You already described two attention, brownish and silvery ones. In total there are five different kinds of attentions which can be roughly put into three categories: Unusable. widely usable and personal usable. As a series which ended young, you probably didn't saw that much attention as many readers wouldn't even look at your pages and panels to give you a dime of their attention. They just skipped you, creating nothing at all. Ah, I see our two errand boys returned with the goods. Get in and put it on the table, thank you very much, you two."
Tamashiro carried a silver and a cooper glowing ball in his hand in the size of a table tennis ball. He smiled quite happily and carefree whereas Momiji behind looked disgusted and exhausted as his rubber gloves armed hands hold onto a black and white glowing ball in the size of a tennis ball. After all 4 balls were put on the table, the silver one seemed to hover still slightly above the table, the cooper was moving on its own axis with a hum and the white one had turned into several smaller balls which all seemed to be connected like frog spawn with a slimy mist, but the black ball had flatten its lower surface that touched the table and it looked like it had rooted into the table as tiny black shreds escaped the ball to disappear mid-air.

"Reality is the best teacher there is. Watch with your eyes, hear with your ears and you will witness what makes this world go round: Attention. I start with the black one. Those are called Tarbatz, they are negative attention from readers aimed either at a series in general or at a specific character or part of the story of the series. This yucky thing is why Teppei had been unable to see all the nice and good attention his series and he himself had received from the other world as they were smothered in an assault of those little things. Many of those dark attention gathered at and in him, taking his soul for a bad turn if it had not been for that talk with EIji-kun and the others. We characters cannot make use of it or if you do it will yield no satisfying results. See?" With that said Mr. Commentary reached for the black ball, put his hand on it and then its surface started to swirl and its form to wobble. Jackman blinked and then he saw a moldy, smelly rice cracker on the table.
"UGH! What is this? This smells horrible!"
"Bad attention. Hate, mockery, dislike, disdain and much more form those Tarbatz and if aimed at a single character forced to take it all in, then it can wear the strongest character out. Every series has its "haters" as readers are a fickle bunch who like to hate what others love. As you see and no doubt with your fine nose smell, this cannot be eaten. No matter how hard you try food will always be spoiled and tools broken if you try to use it as foundation for your focus. It is the kind of attention which the towers throw away regularly. Same with this adorable fluffy ball-bed."

Now Mr. Commentary pointed at the many tiny balls sticking together like mochi balls but for some reason those didn't looked quite as tasty to Jackman. More like styroform with a slimy mist attached.
"Those white fellas are called Cloudlichs. A Cloudlich stands for the indifference a reader felt when reading or skimming through our series or in particular to characters he doesn't care about but are the spotlight of a page or two. Usually though they are widely used on an entire series. If it different from being ignored though because at least the readers did read the chapter or series which received this attention. But getting this means your series failed to capture the reader's heart, mind and feelings. While not as malevolent as Tarbatz, Cloudlichs have their own trouble as you might be able to use it for food, tools and furniture and more but it will be tasteless and brittle. If a character gets too much such attention then he might sooner or later suffer cloud-hunger, he will basically fade away and might even be forgotten by its own creator and the series cast. This happened to one of my series member, a girl called Saki-chan who was supposed to be Rena-chan's best friend, but soon after the first two chapters she was pushed to the background and hardly ever showed up again, if only for moments. Even if you ate regular food, you would soon stop as you feel full already despite not being full at all. Try it out yourself, Jackman-kun, no worries, this little one cannot hurt you."
The Mascot stretched one of his hands to touch the bed of balls and under his glove covered finger it became another rice cracker. White and proper, looking just like a normal rice cracker. Jackman took it into his big hand, tried to smell it but nothing seemed suspicious. He took a bite and crunched the cracker with his canine teeth.
"It really tastes like nothing."
"And it holds no nutrient value. Thus it is also thrown away as unusable garbage by the towers except from series which suffer greatly under having no attention. The side characters of Teppei-san's series for example were mostly eating white attention, even with Aino-san's help and gifts. They too struggled to keep an apperance in the series, I think even Teppei-san himself forgot about some of them. You probably avoided most of this because your series didn't generated much attention to begin with plus a lot of the attention you got was directed at Koshiro-kun, not you, the suit. This way you could profit from more positive attention for looking cool or cute whereas all the bad and unusable attention was aimed at the younger brother of the Main Character."

Jackman nodded, letting the half-eaten rice cracker fall on the table.
"So those are the attention we don't want but get in droves. Do the towers even throw away usable attention?"
"Oh my, of course they do! If I put before you a 100 egg and bacon dishes, could you eat them all in one go?"
"No way, hombre!" Jackman laughed loudly then realized what this meant for series far more popular than his ever was. With so much food, some was bound to either go bad or just been taken away to make space for other dishes. "Wait, can attention go bad?"
"Yes, like I said, readers are fickle creatures. They might love a series today and not care for its chapter next week or even come to hate it due a development they do not approve of. This brings us to our little quirky buddy here." The Ghost pointed at the brown-reddish glowing ball that still moved on its own axis creating a humming sound. Momiji did the honors of turning the ball into a rice cracker and handed it over to Jackman who taste-tested it.
"Tastes normal, just like you think a rice cracker should taste like."

"Those lively attentions are called Copperbugs. They are usually widely spread out over a whole series if a reader likes it enough to think about it and its characters. They taste pretty good and make sturdy tools and other utensils. It is the most common and largest attention pool after the Cloudlichs and before the Tarbatz. Because of their movement and sounds they will fly all over the place and sometimes get lost in bunch of white and black attention and thrown away or they get thrown away simply because the series is so rich in attention they have no need for it and it only takes up space. Usually though it is kept as reserve as it feeds the growing cast of side characters that most series get the longer they exist. A very useful and easy to gather resource. Now let's talk about my favorite attention, the Argentberries."
Tamashiro picked the silvery glowing ball up, threw it into the air and caught a pristine looking rice cracker with his hand as it came down and transformed.
"Tss, what a waste of a good Argentberry.", muttered Momiji when Jackman caught the third rice cracker thrown at him. It felt warm and smelled fresh, with herbs and spices tingling his twitchy nose. As it broke under his teeth his tongue felt a myriad of flavors hit his taste buds. Warmth flooded his every fiber of being. It was the best rice cracker he had ever eaten and Jackman devoured the whole cookie in one bite, hungry for more. And questions dancing in his mind begging to be asked.
"I have eaten snacks made of silver attention before but none of them tasted as good as this one did. Why is that so?"

"Because size and purity matters, Jackman-kun. This attention is from Kimetsu no Yaiba, a long running series with a strong following. Your attention in comparison was short-lived and not even close in the same size of readership. This silver attention you just ate is one of the best things for body and soul of a character. It is love and deep interest for a series or single character that provides much nutrition and makes you happy when eating or using it to create new stuff with. Food will be tasty and everything you transform it into will last for a long time. It is high quality stuff. Of course, it comes with a drawback that if you eat it too often and in large volumes, then you might not want to eat anything else anymore and Copperbugs might as well be Cloudlichs to your palate. A smart character eats a well-balanced meal instead of a one-sided one no matter how good it tastes. You can mix different attentions together to create new variations. A tiny bit of Argentberry in a pot of Cloudlichs and Cooperbugs works wonders to create a filling dinner."
Jackman still licked his fingers for crumbs of that delicious rice cracker. He looked up curious as it seemed Mr. Commentary was already satisfied with his explanation which was odd considering something was missing.
"What about the last kind of attention? You've only explained four but you said at the beginning that there are five." Mr. Commentary crossed his arms, seemingly in deep thought. Then he nodded, coming to a conclusion and stood up from his seat.
"I didn't wanted to talk about it because it is unlikely you or any of us gonna get our hands on it, but I will show it nonetheless."

With that said, Mr. Commentary put his right hand into his chest and rummaged in it as if it was a box looking for something.
"Aha, found it!" When the hand came out of the purple chest, in it was an egg, a golden egg. Jackman could feel the heat coming from it across the table, yet it seemed not to burn Mr. Commentary's palm nor did it fall through the incorporeal hand as it should have. It shined with a brilliant light as if it was something holy. Yet at the same time its pristine surface looked so fragile as if it could crack just by looking too harshly at it.
" A Sunheart. The rarest, most precious attention a character could ask for. It is the culmination of many years of loyal reading, constant thinking and deep caring that creates such a golden egg. Sunhearts are passion and love pressed into one form, some characters call it true love of what the readers feel for the series or the character they bestow such attention on. Sunhearts never go bad, they stay with you until you use them up on your own will. They can make you stronger, more prominent in the series and give you courage in time of strife and fear. It is what I and Noah-kun used in our fight against Kitsune to keep him contained until Paira-chan and Kazami-kun worked their bone magic. This is my last Sunheart from the final chapter of Mitama. I didn't had that many fans and from the few I had even fewer would think so deeply about me that their attention would manifest itself as a Sunheart." Mr. Commentary fingers twitched and the shiny golden egg moved slowly towards its owner, disappearing in the purple chest again. "On-going series can collect many Sunhearts over time and use them to boost their character's charm and power when it fits the story telling the best. Remember Act-Age? Its main characters and even many side characters were chock-full of Sunhearts which is probably why they weren't quite as sad that they suddenly ended as you would suspect. Because they knew they were loved till the end. They had nothing to feel ashamed of."

Jackman touched his chest, perplexed by this explanation about attention. He had always thought it was just a easy way of eating and getting stuff, not something so fundamental important to characters.
"How come I didn't knew all that?", he asked perturbed of his own ignorance.
"Because that is just how the system works.", answered Hajime. "Series that end early can often hardly produce any Sunhearts. Noah here is an exception though he also has hardly any left after that battle. But me, Momiji and Tamashiro? Getting Argentberries in our running time was already a treat. I didn't knew about Sunhearts either until I got here. Since everyone is busy surviving in their early series stages and the older series don't know if you will be around for long, relationships build themselves only slowly between the different series characters thus the knowledge of our popular Senpais never reaches our ears. That's why you never heard of that stuff before. You simply didn't needed to know about something you never will have. Same goes for all the other labels. Until you reached a certain breaking point past twenty chapters, you start to care what attention actually is and then find out with the help of others to make more use of it then you had done before."
"Not that any of us got into that situation in the first place. Well, except Mr. Commentary of course.", added Momiji with a sad smile.
"What does it feel like to eat a Sunheart?" Jackman needed to know, a pure Argentberry was already incredible good, just how insanely tasty must a Sunheart be then. Noah laughed, his childish face showing happiness about being the one to give an explanation.
"It tastes like your parent cooking for you and asking how your day was. It feels like a hug of your dad and a kiss on your cheek from your mother as she tugs you into bed. It makes you believe that everything is possible tomorrow, that yesterday wasn't so bad and that today is the second best day of your life, because the best might still be ahead of you. It gives you strength and happiness and a desire to better yourself. I think it is the most amazing attention you could ask for!"

"Man, it does sound amazing. A shame I never got such an attention myself..." Jackman felt slightly down but then Momji and Tamashiro both put their hands on his shoulders.
"Welcome to the Club of the Unloved."
"That doesn't make me happy at all!"
"I can give you one of my Sunhearts if you want to, Jackman-niichan.", offered Noah, his large smile making up half his face. Jackman blinked a couple times before answering while Tamashiro facepalmed himself and Momiji had a good laugh.
"Wait, what do you mean; Noah-kun? How can you give me one of your golden eggs? I...I hope they don't leave your body the way I think it leaves, does it?" Now Momiji was wheezing on the table and even Tamashiro had to cover his mouth to suppress a chuckle. It was Hajime who did the explanation after rolling his eyes at the childishness of the others.
"Anyone can take out any kind of attention they have taken in whenever it was eaten or absorbed during screen time. Just hold your hand before your chest, concentrate on your stomach like you wanna burp and then plop it comes out into your hand. You just don't do that usually because it costs attention to get attention out of your body, so why waste valuable fuel if you would just eat it again? Since Sunhearts are so powerful they make the best attention reserve you can keep in your body basically forever. That is also the reason why taking in many Tarbatz or Clodulichs sucks because getting them all out of your character system eats up a lot of useful attention while you gain nothing for it."

"Can I see?", asked the doberman puppy mascot curiously. It was one thing to watch a ghost take something out of his immaterial form but to see a solid body do the same was something else. Noah nodded, then closed his eyes and concentrated really hard. You could tell because part of his tongue slipped out of his mouth, giving him an even more childish look than he already got. Jackman looked really hard at the chest to witness this moment yet it was over so quickly he could hardly tell if the egg in Noah's hand has really left the chest of if it suddenly popped into existence just like that. It looked the exact same as Mr. Commentary's egg, maybe a little smaller but just as impressive to look at.
"And you would give me one of those precious Sunhearts, Noah-kun? Are you for real?" Jackman was torn between taking up on that offer and declining it considering how rare those are and how nice the boy sitting in front of him was.
"Yeah, of course. We're friends after all, friends share things together to multiply their happiness!" Everyone on the table sans Noah were driven to tears.
"Then I'll-"
"Horrible idea, dude.", interject Tamashiro dryly. "All you get from it is a really bad trip. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience."

"Tamashiro-kun is right. The nature of Sunhearts makes it that only those meant for it can take it in safely and make use of it without any drawbacks. But taking in the deep affection of a reader from someone else means your body will try to reject it. That can be...very painfully, even for a ghost like me. Others describe it differently, like a burning rage, deep despair, endless sadness, terrifying fear and in Tamashiro's case madding loneliness, drowning in blackness with nobody answering your cries for help. However, once you got it under control, the Sunheart remains within you just like a regular Sunheart and can be used as you see fit. Just expect a lot of muscle pain after it is done. Still in our current situation getting Sunhearts and even Argentberries is only possible by getting into the Studio itself and get the attention when it got freshly made. But that is really risky because you have to do this under the eyes of the series cast from which you are stealing its attention as well as the director and his cameras. It is best to be content with what we find in the dumpsters, mostly Copperbugs but sometimes we even do find some Argentberries in there, though I don't think we ever found a Sunheart in all the Tarbatz and Cloudlichs."
Jackman listened to Mr. Commentary's explanation carefully, pulling his hand away which had reached out for the glowing Sunheart in Noah's hand.
"In that case, I think I'll pass. Thank you very much, Noah-kun, but I think it should stay with you."
"Okay.", replied Noah with a shrug and flicked it back into his chest which just absorbed the egg like it was nothing. Jack looked pensively at the little boy's chest.

"Come to think of it, why do we eat our attention and not just put it into our chests like you and Noah-kun just did?"
"Because it tastes better.", exclaimed Hajime from Noah's lap.
"Same reason humans cook their food, it is easier to digest.", stated Momiji.
"Isn't it more normal to eat stuff than absorb it into your chest?", mused Tamashiro.
"I am fine either way!", announced Noah, rising struggling Hajime as high as his arms could stretch into the air.
"Hey, put me down, kid!"

"The boys are right. It is also why you eat attention despite having not a "real human body", because it feels natural to you. You never thought twice so far why you were putting down food into your suit despite not having any organs or why I am eating despite already being "dead", did you?" Mr. Commentary's voice sounded like he was smiling which was hard to tell given his expression never changes.
"Yeah, right, I never thought about that..."
"You're really different from Koshiro-san.", grinned Momiji. "That guy was wondering about that since the first day before I explained it to him. Opened his eyes for how ignorant he had lived while his series had still been running. But that is something we all are guilty of, taking things for granted and not realizing how quickly our worlds could just end at the swing of an axe." Momiji's sentence brought over an awkward silence into the kitchen as all the characters were thinking back to the times their series had been running, of family and friends no longer with them and when attention was given to them willingly.

"Well, in any case, we shouldn't linger any longer." Tamashiro clapped his hands together and stood up, breaking the silence. "We can't stay behind the haul Eiji, Banda and White-san gonna bring home." With that said the redhead left the room first.
"Right, we have to grab our gear and get moving.", agreed Hajime as he hopped of Noah's lap and splatted onto the ground, rushing after the quick athlete.
"I gonna find the most Argentberries of us all!", rejoiced Noah following Hajime's slithering out of the room, jumping up and down as he couldn't hold his excitement in.
"Oh boy, we only got like 3 suits and none of them gonna fit that kiddo. That will be something to talk this idea out of his head, again.", sighed Momiji with a sorrowful smile turned into a half grin as he strolled towards the door.
"Will any of the suits fit me, Mr. Commentary?", asked Jackman, worried he won't be able to be of much help after receiving all this knowledge and care from everyone over the past months. He really wanted to repay them all for everything.
Mr. Commentary being aware that all 6 suits were still there, just three had been hidden away in a closet rarely used, nodded generously. "I am sure we gonna find something for you, my boy. It's your first day to become a dumpster diver, can't have that with a suit not fitting you, can we?" Laughing loudly the two were the last to leave the kitchen. They could clean up later when they returned with all the treasure they will find the black and white seas of trash they gonna dive in today. Mr. Commentary's thoughts were with the three comrades not with them today. He hoped they were safe and successful in their endeavor, but he feared for the worst. And most of all he felt guilty lying to his friends like this when all they wanted to do was to give a hand to those three they all admired. They wished to share part of the burden to stay alive in a world uncaring for those discarded from the minds of the readership.

He wasn't wrong in wanting to keep the others safe even if it meant betraying their trust. It was the right thing to do and to leave the most dangerous parts to those he knew could handle it. Their choice has been the correct one.

Word of the Author:

Above 5k again, 5211 words without any of the three "main" main characters in it. Originally this wasn't planned to be its own chapter, it was supposed to give a short explanation to the kinds of attention which Eiji, Banda and White are stealing from One Piece, but the longer I wrote it, the more I wanted to give Mr. Commentary, Jackman, Tamashiro, Momiji, Noah and Hajime some time to shine. With the other three there that is usually hard, so writing a chapter entirely with the others was very nice for a change.

I liked the idea of Jackman being the inexperienced one and the others living longer in the U19 Club telling him how it is. I also liked that by making this an entire chapter rising it from 1k to 5k words I could explain much more about attention, what it means for characters and how stuff works. It basically was a "world-building/lore chapter" in a series. I felt like without this explanation the stuff that happens next chapter might be more confusing.

At the same time I was worried this chapter could feel boring so I tried to keep the conversation "lively" and dropped a few hints of what might happen next chapter. I hope you weren't bored reading this chapter and that you stay tuned for the next chapter called "Nameless in One Piece". It will be about last week's OP chapter 991, not this week's magazine release, basically I wrote two chapters for one release, taking it a bit slower because otherwise this would become a 10k+ chapter.^^

See you next next week.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 6 - Nameless in One Piece

Eiji, Banda and White looked from the corner of a large tower at the entrance of the WSJ tower where a large crowd of old-fashioned samurai and pirates clothed like a bad S&M AV had gathered, waiting for entrance. Even now small groups from all over the town arrived at the gate. Eiji looked at his two comrades, Banda clothed in a similar matter in black leather, caps and masks and White the same but in white. Their costumes had cost quite a bit of Argentberries to be created and they were made after the looks of the evil side Luffy and his crew are currently fighting: The Beast Pirates led by Kaido of the Beasts. Since the evil guys showed a lot of skin White wore a white sexy leather outfit showing off her stomach with a miniskirt barely counting as one, white knee-socks and highheels coupled with her usual summer hat, all of course white. When asked why she refused to dress black, White answered that white is the new black plus nobody gonna bother too much with the looks of a Nameless anyway, considering their outlandish looks anyway in the Wano Arc of One Piece.

"Alright, here is the plan: We're going to mix in with the crowd in front. The Gate should open in five minutes. We stick together, don't act suspicious, grab as much Attention as we can inside and stay alive, avoiding the spotlight as well as we can. We should be done in an hour and arrive home safe and sound with lots of Attention for dinner.", recapped Eiji the plan for his two friends who nodded at his explanation. Eiji's costume was born out of necessary to fit with his power of the needle and string, He had a whole face-mask on with several red eyes on it, big and small, ordered like a spider's face which ended in opened mandibles, the leather strips around his body was formed in patterns of a net, making Eiji feel like a pervert in shorts and boots. But this way nobody would question him not being part of the Beast Pirates.
"Ain't my first rodeo, bro. I got this. I gonna be a great Pleasure.", replied Banda, cracking his knuckles and showing Eiji a large smile to prove he can be a Pleasure pirate, a Waiter who failed to become a Gifter with the artificial Devil fruit Smile. He wore his chest bare with a black leather jeans and a delinquent jacket thrown over his shoulder which had the words MUSCLE POWER written in white Kanji on it. His half-mask covered his eyes and nose and had a large Oni horn on the forehead as ornament.
"You always say the same stuff whenever we do such a mission. At some point you gonna have to eat your words when something goes wrong.", remarked White unimpressed. Her pure white costume had a shoulder-long feathery cape on and the lower half of her face was covered with a small silver beak mask, all symbols of the Zapadon, a bird who shots electrical waves, to mark her as another nameless Gifter. Both her and Eiji's costumes are there to act as covers for their powers and not break immersion if witnessed.

To the Monster Commander Eiji's plan were words of a worrywart who was too careful for his own good, a far cry from the hot-blooded short-term thinking hero he had been in his own series. There were here to get rich in Attention, half-baking it won't cut it.
"IF something goes wrong, you mean! And that won't happen if we cover each other and protect our backs. This ain't a city scene or school scene were we can just hide away in the background, this time the Nameless will come at us with all their might. Even some Named might try us on and we cannot use too much of our Focus here or else our cover blows if someone watches us taking in Attention. I know you yearn for a good fight, White, but try not to attract too much attention.", warned Eiji the girl in white.
"Yeah, yeah, just stay close to me and I protect you two boys.", laughed White dryly, mischief twinkling in her bloodred eyes. She was enjoying herself and couldn't wait to enter a full blown battle.
"Don't mind if I take up on that offer, sharkface.", smiled Banda his large fake smile. Since he was the only normal human of the trio, he was nervous before this large battle, but no way he would cop out now.
"Let's just shut up and move in.", sighed Eiji, calming himself with a deep breath before he stepped onto the street and walked towards the WSJ tower with his friends in tow. Normally they avoided such battles due the high risks they involved but with the lack-luster line-up of Jump, the dry of good Attention in trash dumpsters and their food storage emptying, they couldn't wait no longer. They needed a big coup and they needed it now.

All three left their corner and moved into the large still standing crowd. Other Nameless from other streets arrived as the minutes passed, making the crowd bigger and bigger. Mingling in with the Nameless Eiji once again saw the disturbing state each of the Samurai, Pirates and other weirdo looking characters were in - unnerving emptiness. Nameless are as the name implies without name, swappable characters who's sole purpose is to fill the world the Named act their story out with life and noise. They are the cannon fodder meant to die in horrible ways like it happened to the shamans in Bone Collector or the faceless students in romcoms like Nisekoi or just the passerby in the streets and audiences of Act-Age. Because nearly every series needed a lot of Nameless and the numbers would be way too high for any apartment to take care of, only the Named lived in the towers, the Nameless lived in the Motels jammed together like sardines. Eiji did his best to empty his expression as good as he could. He remembered when he had first wanted to break those unfair chains of popularity and sudden elimination, how he had believed to have found the perfect pool to recruit people for his cause. Who else but the Nameless would be the best to overthrow a system which favors Main Characters and Named while treating them like an afterthought?
But he had been wrong.
Because the people around him weren't even "alive".
They were like Golems, empty husks without a goal or desire who's appearances chance according to whatever the series in the studio needed for its chapter to be aired to the readers world. Noah had been the one who had found that out after he joined U19 and Eiji told him of his trouble and failure to recruit any Nameless for their cause. To hear that all the students and teachers and evil goons in his own series who had all felt so alive and driven were just things meant to be used and ignored was deeply unsettling to the pink-haired rebel who realized he had never paid any attention to the nameless while his series had been running. He always assumed they would be professionals, not wasting any time and concentrating on their role. But even if they could not be used as fellow freedom fighters, they were a great way of entering the levels of the towers and to get close to the source of Attention. Like now.

The Gate before them opened and like one man the Nameless started to pour in. In trance they entered the entrance, over the red carpet, ignoring the posters of the series they are supposed to star in, walking straight to the studio in the ground-floor. There were no guards or anything controlling the Nameless and why would there be a need to do so? Until the foundation of U19 there was no one brazen enough to use Nameless as cover to waltz into a Tower to steal Attention from the series themselves. No, the real danger was not getting into the tower, the danger was inside the studio and he was walking alongside hundreds sources of dangers. The doors to the studio opened and the flood of Nameless flowed through it.
The Studio was large, a world in itself, capable to change its size and looks in any way it needed to. It was a dimension of its own, serving the series as the stage for their adventures to become "real", to be the joy of the readers in the other world. It was the place where dreams could come true and were despair was thick when you knew your time had come. It was a nostalgic place for Eiji, Banda and White as once each of them had commanded their own series in this studio and witnessed their ends in it. But no more. Now they were thieves in a place strange to them, the Wano Country, the latest of the One Piece Arcs. In their own series they had been in schools, cities and even remote islands but now they stood before a gigantic Japanese castle and in the horizon they saw the horned skull mountain to which some pirates and Minks moved towards to to die there. This was the world of One Piece and they were here to get a piece of it.

"AAAAAAATTENION! NAMELESS!" A loud voice came from a flying speaker acoompanied by several flying cameras. All heads rose to the voice, looking blankly forward. Eiji and his friends copied the behavior perfectly, used to dozens of times they had mixed in with the crowd.
"Today we will perform the 991th chapter of One Piece titled "Please let us die!". Go to your designated places, while the Named and the Main Cast gets ready for their act!" The Nameless started to move without a word, separating into groups and getting into position like robots waiting for someone to press the start button. Eiji, Banda and White sticked close together, Banda as a Pleasure and Eiji and White as Gifters with powers. They hold still, waiting for the real stars to arrive and get the show rolling.
Minutes passed and the One Piece Named started to pour in, Kaido, the big evil guy this arc, Drake the Marine Undercover agent turned traitor due his cover being blown, Scratchmen Apoo, Jack the Drought, Queen the Plague and many more named villains made their entrance alongside the Wano good guys who are the allies of the Strawhats in this storyline, Kin'emon and his fellow Nine Red Scabbards samurai. Without speaking a word they moved together with Kaido and Jack to the large mountain in the distance, each step taking them a mile as the Studio fast-forwards them to their destination. Only the Strawhats themselves were missing while the Numbers Juki, Goki and Jaki laid themselves down in the places they had been beaten to last time, their role was easy, just lay there, look totally beaten up and stay uncounscious. Eiji felt an itch on his chin but he didn't dare move his hand, not with Named around him, joking and talking. Nameless did not came to "life" until every Named was present and ready to go. Moving on your own was something a Nameless wouldn't do until it had to.

"Damn it, Luffy! You overslept again! You promised to behave yourself in the ten chapters lying up to the 1000th one and look what you did!" A female voice came from behind the door screaming angrily. The door was slammed wide open and the main protagonist was thrown through it like a wet towel into the clothes basket. Luffy made a little mound as his face meet the earth and slides alongside it for a couple meters. Out of breath and sweating all the members of the Strawhat Crew rushed through the door and shut it behind them. They didn't looked like they had taken the elevator and instead ran down the 18 stair levels to the ground level, which they probably had done just so.
"Did we make it in time? I swear, if Luffy made Nami-san and Robin-chan late for their appearance, I will cook him as his last meal!", cursed Sanji his captain. Robin followed relaxed, seemingly having been carried by Frankie. She looked at a watch before interjecting Sanji's steaming tirade of what menus he gonna made out of Luffy's rubbermeat.
"It seems we still got some time before it starts. Also, Sanji-san, I have no part in this chapter. I am merely here as morale support."
"Robin-chan!!! So sweet and lovely of you, my dear angel~~~" Sanji's eyes turned into beating hearts and he started to twirl on his legs as he danced around the friendly smiling Robin. Then he got kicked away by a green-haired Samurai.
"Shut it, shitty cook! Get a grip of your role so we can get this started and go back to the drinking party!", remarked Zoro harshly.
"You wanna have a go now, Mosshair?!", snapped the blonde lover of all women worldwide back.
"Yohohoho! That would be bad if you were to waste your power now, guys! Keep it for the brawl after the drinking party, shall we? Else you rattle my bones, hohoho~", laughed a Skeleton with a hair style quite similar to Banda's although far more impressive looking.

"Brook, you're not supposed to be here either.", reminded him the Fishman Jinbei.
"Yohoho, it is fine, I'll stay outta the spotlight like a ghost, dohohoh~"
"Brook's right, we three just stay outta your way and watch you guys kick ass.", smiled a cute reindeer boy as he walked up to the still lying Luffy to check on him. "OHMIGOSH! LUFFY IS DEAD!!!!"
, screamed nearly everyone from the Strawhat Crew to Chopper's diagnosis of their captain.
"Oh wait, he's just deeply sleeping, tehe~", chuckled the ship doctor as he gave his head a little knock with his hoof.
"Then it is time to wake him up the hard way.", muttered Nami darkly, activating her Clima-tact and firing off a large lighting bolt at her captain which Chopper could dodge just by a hair.

"WUAAAARGLG-GLG-GLG-huh? Oh, are we already starting? Hey, guys, get ready to rock! We're here to make this chapter amazing!" Luffy jumped up and down with a huge grin on his face.
"You wouldn't think that it was his fault that we nearly got too late again, given the way he acts.", sighed Frankie who was in his large robot suit, General Frankie, to join the fight.
"Shishishi.", laughed the Captain his trademark laugh before he screamed his lungs outta his body: "HEY EVERYBODY! IT IS AWESOME TO BE HERE AGAIN! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR HARD WORK! AND A BIG THANKS TO THE NAMELESS AS WELL! THANKS GUYS!"
"I don't get how he still thanks those Nameless despite that meaning nothing to them.", wondered Usopp, scratching his long nose.
"What do you expect. It's Luffy, that's just how he is.", stated Zoro, adjusting his swords as time of living up the chapter drew closer.

All the Strawhats who had a scene this chapter, used their Focus and their looks changed to appear just as roughed up as they had been in the chapter before. Some like Nami or Usopp didn't looked much different from before, but since both were ones to usually avoid combat and attack from afar, that was to be expected. Robin, Brook and Chopper moved back to the door to watch the spectacle from a safe distance. The other Strawhats got to their positions, exchanging a few light-hearted jokes and stretching a bit before the real deal was to start.
"Good luck, everyone! Don't worry about your injuries, I patch you up just fine when the chapter is over!", shouted Chooper his best wishes to his friends as his tiny figure waved from the large door. Luffy laughed and waved back, then he turned around and Eiji got a good look at his expression. It was dead-serious, the face of someone who wanted to beat the living daylights outta the big evil guy but still had to wait before he got his turn and who wasn't too happy about it.

Eiji felt a sweat bead run down his forehead, White tensed up and Banda braced himself for the battle as all three stared at the Samurai Katanas drawn in front of them. The moment those Nameless Samurai came to life was the moment the undercover main characters needed to anticipate or it might be their last one as they get cut to pieces. Battle mist started to pour in from the ground, forming large white clouds, hiding friend and foe alike as if the battle had gone for a long while already. The air grew thick with dust and the salty smell of blood and sweat. The Nameless bodies had started already to spring to life, even with the eyes still dead. The Nameless Pirates breathing next to the three friends were heavy, their skin glistered with sweat and blood gushed from their now open wounds. It was then that Eiji realized the group he and his friends had chosen to hide in had been destined to die this chapter.
It was time.

Right after the director finished, all hell broke loose. Nameless and Named Characters screamed their hate and fear at each other, swords were swung and guns unloaded, the sounds of sliced flesh and broken bones echoed through the mist.
Eiji ducked under the katana swing of a brown-haired samurai, aimed to decapitate him. Seeing his expression was frightening, the once empty expression had become a teeth-gnashingly grimace with burning eyes and cheeks flushed of anger. This man was fighting to free his country, family and friends from the oppressors, ready to lay down his life as long as he could take a pirate with him to the after life. You would never believe this man to be a „thing“.

Eiji took a step to his left, turning his upper body to the right and pulled his sword from its scabbard, blocking a hit to his waist just in time as a spear broke through a cloud of battle mist. Eiji had fought with swords before in his series but he wasn’t a trained sword fighter. Against those Nameless who acted like trained professionals he stood no chance. Around him Nameless Pirates fell to the blows and stabs from their opponents, leaving Eiji and his friends exposed to more freed up Samurai.
Eiji used his Focus and in a split second a red needle broke through the skin of his right hand’s pinkie. With honed control his needle flew on its own through the air, piercing the skin of the samurai arms and binding the two together as if they were hugging each other.

„Puh.“, Eiji left out a breath of relief, he was safe for the moment to access the situation and check on Banda and White if they were still okay. Suddenly both Samurai lunged like one man at Eiji, the sword and spear aimed at him even with their arms tied to each other in a morbid dance of death. Eiji’s eyes grew big as his brain froze, soon the steel tips would rip through his chest, rupture his lungs and he would fall the ground drowning in his own blood.
„Typical of you.“
A cold female voice said. From the side two blades arrived in an up and down movement, cutting both arms off like a pair of scissors. The Samurais cried out in pain as both blades followed their arms in a blood trail, slicing through their necks, silencing them forever.

„I told you over and over again those things aren’t alive. So stop being easy on them.“, ranted White getting rid of the blood on her stained twin Wakizashis with an movement through the air, abrupt stopping it and showering Eiji’s masks with blood drops.
She had already killed three guys before seeing Eiji being in danger, losing their leader so soon in battle would reflect badly on her own ability, so she came to his aid.
Banda had knocked out two guys by himself, easily dodging their attacks, breaking their jaws and hitting their stomachs, leaving them wheezing and crying on the ground. He wasn’t one oft he most talented Martial Art fighters of his series for nothing, even if it was mostly about soccer. His nervousness from the beginning had evaporated.

„Hahaha! You okay, Bossman?“, asked the afro warrior with a wide grin pasted on his face.
„I am, yeah. Thanks for saving me, White.“, thanked the spider-masked pirate imposter his white clothed comrade in arms.
„Told you, I’d kept you boys safe. I expected to save Gorillafro's butt, not gonna lie.“
„Less talking, more fighting, Sharkface! Heyheyhey! New wave inbound!“, announced Banda with a huge smile a fresh group of battle ready soldiers rushing at their position.
„Let’s fight this and once the Eyes leave us alone we collect what we came from!“, told Eiji his two friends.
„Of course.“
„Roger roger.“

A reader wouldn’t be able to see but the surroundings were already full with many Attention bubbles, clusters ready to be plucked or avoided. Sticky puddles on Tarbatz, thick mists of Cloudlichs, buzzing balls of Copperbugs and sparkling flocks of Argentberries with a few solo Sunhearts chilling in between. All Named Characters could see this attention and while they did their part of the play, their bodies collected them, sucking them in like a vacuum or attracting them like a magnet.
Eiji, White and Banda couldn’t do that yet because Nameless were unable of doing so because they had no need for attention and were blind to it. But Named would notice if some Imposters with no names would suddenly rake in Attention on mass. Sure, One Piece had a large line of Named so they might be able to blend in and fool some, but it was better to not risk getting found out in the first place.

A couple Eyes looking like flying cameras had watched their battle with great interest. This didn’t meant that those scenes would make it to the version that the readers read on the other side. It was there to create life force for this world, screentime did not equal actual readtime.
"NO, HE CAN'T!!"
The shouts from Zoro, Jinbei and Franky carried through the wind. Seems like the Main Characters were doing their job and had done a comedy scene, most likely something involving Luffy and his carefree personality.

Eiji redirected a slash past his body with his own sword as his needle wrapped around the attacker's neck, strangulating him until he fell unconscious to the ground. Banda stepped into the path of two attackers, stopping their blows by grabbing their hands holding their weapons. Then with the sheer force of his amazing strength he pulled the two samurai forward, their heads crushed together as they lost their footing. His Oni horn on his mask came down like a hammer, knocking one Wano Warrior out, his now freed left hand landed a hook in the samurai still hold in place by his right side.
White was smiling beneath her beak mask. Her swords were guiding the lighting bolts she unleashed into the groups of Samurai, shocking them or blasting them apart as the bolts exploded. They needed to be sure to get rid of the Nameless attackers soon, so they could avoid the Eyes and other Named to go grab the Attention they had come for.

Then right in the middle of the fight, the earth below them started to crack and glow. Before any of the three imposters or Nameless fighters could react, the ground exploded, throwing everybody through the air.
A Beast Pirate with a mole face emerged from the ground, snickering while holding two glowing bombs in his claw-hands.
„Nyhehehe, suffer my surprise attack, idiots! Fear the name Maltasar the Earthshak-„
„SPECIAL ATTACK, GREEN STAR!!! SKULL BLASTGRASS!!!“ An explosion could be heard from afar as Nami announced her attack to take on a Dinosaur beast Pirate.

„We can’t have too many explosions in this chapter, else Nami’s feel too ordinary. Concentrate on Nami and Usopp.“ The voice from the director could be heard from somewhere as the pair of Eyes rotated around and flew to the source of the green explosion.
„Awww, man~“, sighed the little Moleman sadly, staring after the cameras disappearing into the mist. „I really wanted to make an entrance this chapter. Maybe next one the creator can give me some actual readtime~“
The pirate left his hole and dusted down the earth on his costume before walking over to some Argentberries and a Sunheart.
„Oh well, if that is all the screentime I can get this chapter, might as well take some juicy reward with me. Nyheheeeergh?“

The Moleman’s laugh was interrupted with a small blade cutting through his throat. Shocked the Named Character eyes darted backwards, seeing a girl in white staring angrily at him. White rose her blade in her right hand as the confused Beast Pirate tried to make sense of a fellow comrade attacking him in the making of a new chapter. If it was about the Attention, they could have shared it after all!
„This was the last time you blew anything up, rat.“, whispered White her voice bare of the wrath in her eyes. Her sword came down, stabbing through the tiny Miner Helmet made of leather into the skull of the Beast Pirate ending his unspoken questions forever.

With a kick she freed her blades from the tiny body falling to the ground. White was pissed. Everything had gone well until this Named Idiot went overboard with his powers to impress the readers. At least the Eyes were gone and he had been the only Named around here, but White had lost sight of Eiji and Banda who might have been blown to anywhere on this battlefield.
„Ugh.“ White let out a small sound of pain as her side throbbed with the broken part of a spear that she had landed on after her fall. She ripped it out and threw it away, her skin crawling like bugs over the wound to close it.
White didn’t felt too good. She has used a lot of her power in the previous bolt attacks and the wound didn’t help managing her remaining Attention fuel better. Slowly she walked to the many Argentberries hanging in the air. With a single thought all of them flew towards her, entering her body without any problem. She took hold of the Sunheart with her right hand after putting the Wakizashis away.

White stopped looking to the far right watching two of the Strawhat main cast run away from two evil guys. It was like day and night. You could almost see the light that Usopp and Nami were emitting in their roles as beloved characters while the two pursuing them felt much darker, hardly recognized by the readers. As the Eyes followed them the girl with the Sunheart had a choice to make - leave the Sunheart alone and find the others or take the Sunheart and use it partly to heal herself while looking for more Argentberries. White knew of the risks of taking a foreign Sunheart for yourself. But she had no idea where the others had gone and who knew when the Eyes would look her way again.
She pressed the Sunheart into her chest.

White kneeled over. A burning sensation like a hot rod put into her heart took her breath away as she pressed her face into the ground. The thoughts and emotions of the readers were torture to her, making her feel so insignificant, disgust crawled like hungry maggots beneath her skin, tearing her soul apart as her sanity vanishes in a sea of acid. To take the love and adoration meant for someone else was like stabbing yourself over and over until your body goes numb. After a few more moments White could feel the thoughts quieten down and the emotions to sink away.
Heavily breathing she stood up, her wound fully closed without a scar and still she could feel so much power running through her veins like lava. Her whole body felt hot and White knew this would not be the last Sunheart she gonna take today.
Screw the One Piece Characters! They don’t need so much Attention anyway! She is going to bring a bunch of Sunhearts home for the others as well! With a mad laugh White turned away from the murder scene to look elsewhere for more Attention to gather.

Meanwhile Banda had taken a flight over the battlefield and had landed rather softly on one of the fallen Numbers though he had no clue which one exactly. Below him the battle raged on with samurai and pirates busy killing each other.
Banda swiped the sweat of his forehead as he noticed his cool Oni horn mask was missing. Before he could lament over his loss, the body of the giant‘s body started to rumble under his butt.
„Woha, woha, woha! Wait a minute, slow down!“ Banda muttered to himself as he felt the huge body rising high to the air. Nobody told him those things could fly!

„HEY, HACCHA!!! HAVE YOU SOBERED UP YET?!“ A voice was screaming from below and someone much closer to Banda’s position answered in a voice so deep as the ocean.
„Hachaaaaa!! Ha cha cha!!“
„Oh, fuck me…“, sighed the young Martial Artist as he realized he was on top of a giant made to become a thrown weapon. Plus this was was a main scene with tons of Eyes on it as the Main Character Luffy and his friend Sanji rushed at Scratchmen Apoo. Banda pressed himself into the most likely never washed skin of the giant, hoping he appeared invisible to the Eyes because there was no way some reader would not wonder why someone was on that giant. Thankfully some smoke hid the body parts where he was clinging to, so the chances of him being seen were very low.

Banda got ready to be thrown together with the giant at the forces of good and to somehow hid and get away before hundreds of Samurai cut him down. If he survived the crash in the first place.
The giant below him let his friend suddenly drop and ran off following a shiny large mech as if it was the best thing ever. If Banda wasn’t too busy praying for his life, he would have recognized Frankie in his General Frankie mech, but right now the incoming ground was far more important.
„OH, FUCK ME!!!“

With a loud crash and much smoke the giant Jaki landed on the ground, Banda had jumped off just a second before making contact with the ground to avoid being crushed. Now he was rolling over the rubble as thick dust rushed past him in shock waves of the impact. He landed face first onto a insanely large door which was the entrance to the castle. As he wiped his blood from his broken nose and tried to suppress his tears he looked around himself.
Nobody was close to him. Seems every evil guy was at the front with the giant blocking Banda's view of what was going on there. This large door probably will become some sort of last stand battle before the good guys break into the castle for good. Since nobody was nearby, Banda decided this was as good as any time to collect the Attention which had gathered here in peace. Taking a deep breath, he concentrated and let the dozens of Argentberries come his way. A good haul worth a hundred dumpster dives. But then Banda's eyes fell on the single Sunheart hovering just above him near the large door.
He hesitated.
He knew taking this would be painful and drive him mad.
But without Eiji and White and no idea where they had landed Banda needed all the power he could get to get through this battle alive. He reached out to the Sunheart, calling for it with his Focus and it followed his call, slowly descending and settling on his right hand. Looking at it closely, it was so warm, soft and bright that the mere thought of this being any kind of harmful Attention was laughable. But Banda knew better. He did and yet he still pushed it into his chest.

Banda was icecold, he was blind in a sea of darkness, gasping for air, slashing around, his strength meaningless with nothing to hold onto, sinking into endless despair. His heartbeat slowed down, the tips of his fingers and toes freezed up, his nosehair became ice. He crawled up into a ball, trying to gather as much warmth in his chest as he could find as the cold drowned him, sweeping away his power and confidence bit by bit. What was he doing here anyway? He was nothing but a wash-up. A loser who needed help to simply survive. Someone who couldn't come up with a plan to save his life. He was always a follower, never a leader, he was unworthy of being a main character, even of his own series which only failed because of him!
Banda's gasp was like a scream, one of thousands among the battlefield, lonely and scared. His face was wet of his tears as he felt the cold fade away and the darkness make way for light and colors once again. Trembling he looked at his blueish fingers, blowing on them with his wheezes as he tried to warm them up. And they warmed up alright but not due his uneven blows of hot air but his heart beating stronger and new strength and warmth flooding through his veins. Taking in a Sunheart even for the scene of the evil guys was so much more powerful than he had imagined. Banda knew he could just whoop anyone's ass right now with his skills and the power behind his fists and feet.
For now though, he only drew power which was necessary to get himself up and going. He had to look for the others first and now he could do so without fear of being unable to protect himself against dozens of attackers.
"I'm Banda the man! I'm going to kick anyone's ass who gets in my way!" Time to find the others.

Eiji woke up and groaned as pain banged in his head. Where was he? How long had he been out? The hell was he wearing?
"At the very least!! Your victory!! Serves my purposes!!!" The sound of steel clashing against each other sounded through the air, drawing in Eiji's attention. He saw Sanji and Drake fighting it out to his left in the distance. He remembered, the mission, this chapter, their goal. The ground breaking apart below him and then darkness.
"Damn... am way too close.", cursed Eiji his bad luck. His mask lay broken in half next to him, probably kept him safe from worse injury. He had to get away from this scene which considering the amount of Eyes around it would become real readertime and find a spot where he could gather some Attention without anyone watching him. As he turned away from the battle his hand landed in something stick, something black... As if stung by an adder Eiji pulled his hand away from the Tarbatz puddle he had sunk it in. It stuck to it like hot glue, sipping into his body and Eiji had to feel the dislike of the readers for a series not his own.

Eiji quickly closed his eyes and concentrated on his hand rejecting the Tarbatz which had invaded his body bit by bit. With each drop of sticky blackness Eiji's soul felt clearer and his body lighter. Exhausted he breathed out laying back into the rubble. His rips were hurting from the fall as was his head and cleaning himself of those negative feelings had taken another bite of his power reserves.
"Don't do anything stupid!!!"
The battle still raged on, only a few seconds had passed when Eiji was invaded by the Tarbatz and pushed it out of his system. A Sunheart formed itself and Eiji feeling weak whispered to it: "To me."

Like a little golden angel the Sunheart flew to still laying Eiji, passing through a couple Nameless who paid it no attention while the Named were too busy with their script to care about a tiny attention doing its thing. It landed on Eiji's lips, like a mochiball dipped in warm honey. The touch alone made Eiji shed a tear. Taking it now was too risky but he needed it, if only there was a large distraction for everybody so he could take it with less danger of being found out. In this moment a storm of bullets ripped through the battle mist, forcing Zoro and Drake to dodge alongside all the Nameless and Named Character. Eiji didn't hesitated for a second and accepted this gift of fate by sucking in the Sunheart in his mouth and gulping it down like it was candy. Strangely enough he felt fine compared to past times when he had taken in Sunhearts not meant for him. Maybe it was due its size or...

He was back home. Sitting in a chair. The room was empty. No sound from the rooms next to his. So strangely quiet.
"Guys?", asked Eiji, standing up, looking around in the lit room. He walked to the kitchen and opened it. Nobody sat at the table.
"Everyone? Where are you?" Nobody was in the bedrooms.
"White? Banda? Answer me!" Nobody was in the bathroom.
"Noah? Jackman? Mr. Commentary? Are you there?" Nobody was in the storage-room.
"Momiji? Hajime? Tamashiro? Come on, show yourselves!" Nobody was in the hallway. Eiji started to run the hallway down. Surely he would reach the door leading to the outside soon and everyone was just waiting for him in the sunlight. He ran and ran and ran but the hallway found no end, neither in front nor in his back, just an endless straight line in which he ran and ran and ran.
Eiji's eyes widened instantly as he awoke from his nightmare, looking straight at the grim Samurai raising his Katana to give him the finishing blow. Eiji reacted faster than he could think. His needle shot outta his pinkie like a bullet, piercing the chest and heart of the samurai and lifting his body skywise like a rocket on a red trail. Eiji wheezed as he watched the blood drip down his red thin thread, forming a puddle to his feet.

The intense feelings from the readers for Zoro had overwhelmed Eiji and pushed him to scary place he hoped he would never return to again. He let the corpse of the Nameless fall down on some empty hill of rubble. Nobody seemed to pay him any attention. Everyone was too busy fighting for their life or their cause. Who cared about some random samurai dying to a Gifter? Nobody, that's who. He concentrated his focus on his rips, healing the cracked parts and breathed in relief as the pain ebbed away and he felt like reborn. Slowly he sat up, careful if anyone would try to attack him from his vulnerable position. Then a large body jumped towards him, Eiji got his needle ready to attack but when he saw that bouncing Afro on the head of his attacker, he knew the only thing he had to fear for was his rips breaking again in Banda's bearhug.
"Eiji! Man, I'm so glad I found you!"
"NO HUuuuuuurghs!" Eiji wasn't able to prevent the hug from happening and he was certain he had more broken rips due that hug then the fall from before.
"Dude, without that Samurai going up in the sky I would have never found you. This battlefield is a bloody mess, now that the Eyes are gone to the Skull mountain. We are already in the Aftermath and it's not a good one, man."

Eiji sighed, hearing Banda's words, confirming his worst worries. A chapter didn't end when readers finished reading it. The Nameless were still "alive" and the Named still in their element of being loved and receiving Attention. Thus when the Eyes are gone the Nameless didn't stop doing what they were doing as they were unaware of their story not being real and the Named could do whatever they wanted without being watched. Usually the Named used that time to collect Attention and talk about the development of their story but in a heated battle like this, it was not unlikely that the good and evil Named continued to try to kill another or that some went on a murder spree among the Nameless since they were just things to be slaughtered anyway. Especially in a series like One Piece with plenty of evil characters with no regards to the lives of anyone but their own, the Aftermath was the fun time where they could go nuts, often just hindered by the good guys who think they are going to far.
A bullet-storm from Queen was fired blindly over the battlefield again, striking down foe and friend alike. Eiji grabbed Banda's shoulder and pushed the large man onto the ground as bullets flew past and between them. One hit Eiji square in the left shoulder, the force behind this bullet was so great Eiji could feel it break through his shoulder bone and past his back into the ground shattering the stone behind him, forcing tiny shrapnel to be buried in his back like glowing embers. His screams were joined by countless others as Queen the Plague laughed from his high position on the balcony of the castle.

"Oi, cut it out, Fatso!", shouted Zoro from below as he used his swords to swat away the bullets like a windmill. "The chapter is done! Stop shooting!"
"Who the bloody fuck cares, idiot? Now we can say and do whatever we want, no creator script to tie us down, so let's FUNK! I can never die, so I kill! FUNK! And when I die, I return to kill some more! FUNK! Funk time, baby, funk time!", sang and danced Queen his funk dance with his huge Gatling gun in his hands.
"Damn fucker...!"
"Forget it, Zoro. He's a junkie, the whole lot of them are addicted to death whenever it is their own or others. As long as they don't die in the story, the creator will always revive them for their appearance in future chapters. Killing him is just another kick for him. Let's go and get Attention before the lower ranked Named grab them all.", suggested Drake, already walking away to go someplace quiet to pick up some Argentberries or Sunhearts before some greedy no-name Named put their hands on them.
"Are you telling me to just watch this lunatic mow down hundreds of characters? Aren't you supposed to be an Undercover Marine, Drake? How can you just walk away?", snapped Zoro angrily at the false Beast Pirate who just shrugged his shoulders in response.
"Tell me, how many hundreds of times have you cut down people like Queen and did it change anything in the end? Even people like your adored Dracule Mihawk can't get enough of the feeling of cutting and being cut to death with no consequences whatsoever. Best to steer clear of people like that and look after yourself so you're not one of the killed ones."
"No consequences, huh? Wrong! Anyone killing for fun in front of me, my captain and my friends has to face us and we gonna put a end to this mindless killing." With that Zoro ran into the battle mist on his way to look for Luffy and Sanji while Drake disappeared in the opposite direction.

Banda and Eiji raised their heads from the rubble and corpses around them to check if the situation was clear to move again.
"Damn, Zoro really is a cool character!", marveled Banda impressed.
"Tell me about it! I ate a Sunheart full with all the obsession of Zoro fanboys and fangirls. Owowow~", winced Eiji as he tried to stand up.
"You okay, bro? Is it the bullet wound? You wanna use your Sunheart to heal yourself?", asked Banda worried for his friend who had taken him out of the bullet zone but instead taken one himself. Eiji shook his head.
"Nah, I do it the cheaper way." His right pinkie let the needle out once more and without batting an eye Eiji let it seal his gun wounds and let the threads heal it instantly, even the shot through bone inside. "Cost me not as much and we can pick the stone shards out when we are back home."
"Alright, let's go then.", said Banda and pulled Eiji from the ground up who groaned in pain. "Still bad?"
"No, those are just my bones you rearranged as a puzzle inside me due your hug, Banda!"
"Eh, what I can say? Love hurts, bro."
"Ugh, just support me for now..."
"Sure thing, Bossman, sure thing. By the way I found a great spot to collect a lot of Attention, man! Remember that huge giant who got dropped by that other giant a while ago?"
"I must have missed that one..."

White was in a trance of heat and joy. Two more Sunhearts she had taken and each time succeeded in making this love her own. The world was wonderful, a bloodbath of gore and murder. And she was its priest and dancer. She jumped over Tarbatz puddles, swirled through Cloudlich mist, swatted away annoying Cooperbugs, attracted swarms of Argentberries to her character. And all while doing so she beheaded Nameless Samurai and Beast Pirates alike and any Named who dare tried to get some attention for himself got electrocuted to death. White laughed manically. Her beak mask had been beaten down by the swing of a mace and her costume was full of red splatter of her many opponents she had slain. All the energy in her body pulsed through every cell, empowering her to heights she didn't even had at the time of her series running. Her steps were so light, her swings so effortless, her body moved like a well oiled machine. It was a blast to feel so much life and death!
"There is that bitch I told you about! I saw her sucking up a Sunheart and dozens of Argentberries!"
"Sneaky witch! Think you can get some freebies and just get fat on attention yourself?"
"Turn around and tell us who you are! Speak up, whore!"
White turned around and saw three named, a Ninja, a Samurai and a Beast Pirate, all with drawn weapons, anger and greed clearly written on their face. She smiled at so much honesty. And attacked them at once.

Fighting Named was different from fighting Nameless. A Named prepared for a fight was able to hold his own against Nameless or low ranking Named but not against a main villain from another series in disguise. The Samurai brought down his Katana ready to intercept White's small blade attack but her right hand hit was as strong as a sledgehammer, throwing his weapon and arms up high and his body off balance. With her left blade she carved the stomach of her opponent open, letting his steaming guts hit the ground. But instead of dying loudly the Samurai quickly grabbed White's left hand, smirking in ecstasy as he felt his life leave his body. White eyes widened as it got obvious she was fighting Death Junkies. The Ninja and Beast Pirate attacked immediately, taking advantage of their foe's staggering.
White turned around, blocking the Axe attack of the Beast Pirate with her free sword, while sending in a shockwave of electicity into the Samurai holding her hand to finish him off. But the Ninja used his Jutsu to suddenly appear behind her and his Ninja blade thrusted forward, through her tattered feather-cape and her chest where her heart was located.
"Don't think this is over, wench! We're going to defile your body while you're dying!", smiled the pirate in front of her wolfish, befitting of his wolf-like looks.
"Yeah! We're not going to leave a single hole untouched, bitch! Hahahaargh?" The Ninja's laugh was caught dead in White's grip of her left hand which she had let go of the blade still stuck in the fallen Samurai. In an unnatural move her arm had taken hold of the Ninja's throat which would have dislocated her shoulder and strained her muscles to the breaking point, yet she was holding so firmly that the Ninja couldn't move without hurting himself.

"Tell me more about it?", asked White friendly, her head turning around like an Owl looking directly at the scared Ninja who couldn't believe his eyes.
"I got your heart, how...?!", squeezed the black clothed Ninja out of his constricted throat. White laughed.
"I can move around my organs, wretch." And with that answer her fingernails turned to claws and she ripped half his neck out in one swift movement throwing the bloody remains at the Beast Pirate still in shock of what had just happened. Thus he reacted too late and got hit square in the face. As he stumbled back, blood blinding his eyes, White moved forward ignoring the sword stuck in her chest and hacked off the right hand of her last remaining victim. The axe fell with a clatter to the ground. The Beast Pirate howled in pain, holding onto his right hand as if that could stop the bleeding.
"Come on, give me a hug, Wolfie~", chanted White seductively, walking closer to the backwards retreating Wolfman.
"No! Wait! I give up! I yield! I surrender! IARGH!!!" White ignored the pleas as her left arm went around the back of the Pirate, pressing him tightly to her body, pushing the blade still stuck in her chest into his. Then savoring the moment, with a strength that would have been the envy of a Gorillafro, she broke that guy's lower spin. Yipping the pirate fell, pushed away by White who now took out the Ninja's blade from her back. Panting heavily, lying in his own blood, the fear in his eyes turned into intoxication, a rapture of adoration and joy in finding his own death.

"Who...the hell...are you? How come.... I never.... heard of you...?" The words left his long jaws in spurts. White did not answer and put her high heel on the pirate's remaining hand and put her whole weight on it. She enjoyed his groans of pain, barely able to breath through the shudders of his body convulsing in desperate attempt to stay alive while its owner has already signed off his life.
"Gahaha-cough-ha-cough-cough-haha!!!", laughed the pirate as White rammed the Ninja blade through his stomach into the ground. "Never been...more glad...of dying!"
White honored his exclamation by putting her red painted heel on his face, aimed for the eye without an eyepatch and stepped hard.

White moved her feet left and right to free it from the skull of the man she had just killed. Not that he will stay dead forever. Named always found a way back to life until their creator drops them off their story. But it felt more worthy killing Named than Nameless, at least in White's opinion. After all, Named have loot unlike Nameless. Just like this one.
"Come to me, little me~" With those sweet words White beckoned the Sunheart hidden in the Wolfman's chest. He must have taken this during the battle and kept it a secret from his comrades, else they might have just cut him up themselves and fought over the precious Attention if they had known. This will be her fourth Sunheart, never had she taken so many at once. But she felt no fear, enthralled and drunken of her own powers, she moved the Sunheart gently into her chest and froze.

One Piece is the best manga ever!
"Ah?" White grip of her right blade loosened and she let it fall on the ground.
I have never read a better series than One Piece!
Something was wrong.
One Piece wrote Manga History!
This wasn't like usual!
One Piece's world is just so rich and colorful, I love it!
The Sunheart was stuck in her chest, halfway in and like a real sun burned off her skin and cooked her organs.
There will never be a better series than One Piece!
A mix of fear and despair took hold of White's mind as she clawed at the Sunheart with all her might but it didn't moved an inch.

All her elation and joy got replaced with dark feelings and grim thoughts, putting her own axed series with only 14 chapters against the love the readers felt for the long-running One Piece close to its 1000th chapter was impossible for White to fathom. It was just too much! She was bursting with love she couldn't find place to store. How? How could she be this unworthy? Wasn't she the Main Villain of her series? Wasn't she on the same level as Ko, the boy who's the monster Ziga? Didn't she moved the hearts of her readers, touched the imagination of artists and inspired fear and awe with her dedication and power to get rid of humanity? Was she already forgotten? Nothing but an edited meme used for laughs? Were only series running for much longer than 14 chapters deserving of such devotion of its readers? If her series belongs to the shelf of a shitty manga enthusiast, doesn't that make her shitty as well? Wasn't it also her fault for not capturing the love or the readers with her appearances? Should she have done more? What could she have done? Their end had been decided since chapter 8! There was no way for her to reach the readers eyes once more, to bath in their adoration and tickle their wonder. She was just a dumpster diving trash character clinging to her powers like a drowning person to a straw. Nothing she does will ever have any meaning. There was no value in her existence. She was a worthless one pun character about her looks matching her name. A survivor too scared to follow the others and too scared to die on her own.
Those were not her thoughts! This is not like her! At all! She is White! The White Commander! Destroyer of humanity! Beauty and Terror in one character! She is loved! She was loved! She deserved to be loved as well! There was no way her entire existence had been meaningless!


The girl in bloodied white turned around to face the one who had called out her name. Her hazy eyes saw Eiji and Banda, staring at her, Banda hold onto Eiji being his support. They must have been through a lot to get here.
Eiji was the first to speak up, looking fearful at the visible Sunheart buried in his friend's chest.

"What have you done, White?"
"Hahaha, can you not see? I am chock-full with Argentberries and Sunhearts from all over the world! I gonna get this fourth one be mine as well! GAK! I could bring this whole palace down if I were to use it all up in one powerful attack! Haargh, but of course I won't do that. This is for everyone at home, can you imagine their faces when we bring so many Sunhearts to the table? Hrgh... I just need a few more and everyone can have at least one!" The girl eyes darted between the two boys, swimming in tears, as her smile ripped her face in half, bearing her sharktooth into a grotesque grin of warm insanity and painful madness. Eiji felt his heart sting at this sight. White had gone so far, almost too far, to the breaking point of her character to collect all those Sunhearts for their club, their comrades, their friends. And she was about to lose herself to the stranger feelings running amok in her soul.
"Damn. White-chan, you need to calm dow-" Banda's attempt to talk White down backfired as her emotions ran wild, rattling on her mind to break free of her control.

"DON'T CALL ME CHAN, WORM! I'm not even just White...hehehaha, I am White Commander, THE WHITE COMMANDER! I was supposed to rule them all, urgh, all of them monsters, the other commanders, EVERYTHING! Humanity would have crawled in fear before me! Hrrhrrhhrr!!! I'm more than a cute looking girl, I'm the End game of the WORLD! At least....haaaaaaaaah- I was supposed to...I....aaaaaah...I...I..." White's cheeks were painted dark by her tears running down, her make-up faded by the salty wetness she used to call weakness of foolish humans. She hated her own sight so much. This wasn't what she wanted to show them, what she wanted to say, what she wanted to feel. If only she could disappear right away, erase this awfulness that was punching inside her guts beneath her skin, no longer wreathe under the worried eyes of humans calling themselves her friends, scared for her! She should just burn up, she could burn up, she will burn up, all she had to do was tap into this endless stream of power churning in her body. Just a tap and it was all over, no more pain, no more hate, no more fear, no more desire, no more thoughts, just endless peace, finally...

"Oh shit! She's going nuclear!", screamed Banda as the air grew hot around the girl in front of them. Soon she would lose control of the Attention inside her, burn away in a Nova of light and heat and with no series to call her own, no creator to write her story, she would disappear forever from this world.
Eiji thrusted forward, scattering away from his large friend's hold, towards the tiny figure of White who's fiery red eyes had turned into a lonely dark crimson. He was aware of the danger to get so close to a character about to lose itself in a destructive vortex of emotions, but he knew he could never forgive himself if he didn't threw his life as a buoy at her hands grasping for something to hold onto in the storm at sea that was her own breaking mind. He closed the distance instantly. His hands, dirty from battle, grabbed her shoulder and back. He felt the tattered cape with its broken, bloodied feathers, the uncontrolled shivers of her back, her breath so icecold in the heat all around them. With all his might he pushed her shivering body into his chest, ignoring the pain as the Sunheart burned his flesh, spreading its fire over his skin.
White's skin felt so hot on his own. Eiji saw the steam rising from her body. An unholy sound escaped White's dry lips, a whimper so high and hollow, better fitting an empty cave than the throat of a woman known for her strength and pride. He pressed her even closer, scared of this sight being the last memory he would keep of White if she surrendered to the hateful heat inside her, if she wouldn't kill them all by going out with a bang. His left hand started to stroke her back, feeling the cloth soaked with her blood and the hole it had come from. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the strength of his voice to stay steady and calm, hoping to the gods it will reach her.
"Listen to me, White! You need to give me your Sunheart! You need to let go!"
"I caaaaaaaan't! It's stuck! It buuuuuuurns!"
"Are you telling me there is something White Commander cannot do? Just wait till I tell the guys at home about this!"
"Fuuuuuuck yooouuuu! ARGH!"
"Please, White. Concentrate. Use all your Focus on me and I use all mine on you. We can do this. I believe in you."
"This Shounen shit?! Gods help me..."

Banda watched in awe as he felt the air move and circle around the two as the Sunheart struggled to be set free and stay where it is supposed to be. For all his years after his series had ended this sight of two characters trying at once to make a golden attention their own was a first.
Eiji pressed his eyelids tight as his Focus wandered to the girl in his arms. Her small stature. Her soft chest. The burning Sun stuck in it. He could feel it vibrate as Eiji called out for it in his mind to move into his character. White also closed her eyes, her Focus aimed at the pink-haired boy embracing her. His warm voice. His strong grip onto her body. The Sun searing his flesh. Slowly the Sunheart started to move as one Character's Focus pulled and another pushed onto it.
"You're doing great, White.", whispered Eiji encouraging.
"Just! Take! It!", panted White angrily as the screaming voices in her head calmed down and her guts stopped squirming like snakes on fire. Then in one moment to the other the Sunheart entered Eiji's body.

Eiji opened his eyes. He was back at home in the club once more. But this time he wasn't alone.
"Finally snapped out of it, Kudou?"
A voice he hadn't heard in a long while called out to him from the table. It was Namai, the four-eyes class president and teacher pet who in truth had been working for Garage Kids and who was the one who recruited Eiji into their rebellious group. Next to the young man sat another boy Eiji had grown up with, a buzzcut who could only play Baseball and nothing else.
"Had a nice dream? Lemme guess it was about Tsukino-san, wasn't it?", laughed Suzuki his cocky laugh tinted with a twinge of jealousy at the romantic relationship his best buddy had with the most beloved girl of their class, nah, the whole school. Eiji's eyes scanned the chairs on the table, the cowardly Amuro Ken, looking so similar to Banda albeit a bit smaller, less sturdy build and his afro wasn't as cool.
"Why do I feel like you are dissing me in your thoughts, man?!"
Nemunoki Minku, her eyes covered by her sleep mask, her head snuggling in her crossed arms on the table. A girl who's very dreams were her weapons.
"Zzzz zzzz zzzz~"
And next to her sat Akari Tsukino, her golden eyes shining with the kindness and optimisim he had so fall in love with. Smaller than White, her shoulder-long hair shining like the sun rays, her smile beaming happiness and telling him to come closer.
"Come on, Eiji! How can we plan our next move if the leader is daydreaming?" Eiji felt his lips turn into a smile as those words and sights touched his soul, spreading warmth and longing throughout his body.
"She's right, you know?"

A voice far too harsh for the youth in it came from a normal looking boy sitting at the end of the table. It was Ko Hachigane or Ziga, the monster awakened by White. He had been strong both in will and ability and his power to turn into a monster had been helpful in more than one battle to turn the tides in their favor. He had always been for more radical, bold moves and often clashed with Eiji's more nuanced and careful approach. And he had left just a few months ago. Just like everyone else before him. Even her...
"You know, this ain't real, right?" The cold, uncaring words behind made Eiji stop in his tracks as he had taken unconsciously a step forward to the table to take his place among his friends. Behind him stood White her eyes betraying the coldness in her voice as pity shined in those large rubies directed at him.
"White." Ko stood up, his face painted thick with hate. "I will kill you one day."
The spoken to looked past Eiji to the boy she had raised to be her weapon and who had defied her will and in the cut off end became a defender of humanity instead of its calamity. Eiji waited with nostalgia for the tease White would usually use to make fun of those daily threats of Ko which he never pulled through with in the end. Ko had never told EIji why he wouldn't kill White despite her being responsible for him becoming a monster and killing hundreds of humans, but he always believed this angry boy just didn't wanted to be alone with all those happy people like him, Banda and the others. White's answer surprised him.
"Of course you will." The sadness in her voice was palpable. It was an emotion Eiji had not expected her to feel for her former weapon turned enemy.

"Eiji, is something up?" Akari's sweet voice carried to Eiji, pulling his heartstring painfully. Once more he felt his body turning to reach that table, to be with the people he loved.
"I will not stop you a second time, but know this, Eiji: If you sit at this table you will not be able to rise again."
"...I know." He tore himself away from that sight, faced White and with those pained words leaving his lips he walked away from the table.

"Kudou! Where are you going? What about the meeting?"
"Eeeeh?! What's going on? Why do Kudou-kun and White-san talk like this? Scary!"
"Zzzzz chrrrrr zzzz~"
"Woha! Don't tell me you are betraying your wife with a new girl, Eiji-kun? Seriously, why do Main Characters get all the girls?!"
"I'm his girlfriend, idiot! And I trust Eiji and White-chan. If they need to speak with another then surely it is something important."

Eiji steps were so heavy, the words of the gone followed him like rusty chains, binding him to a past out of his reach, a memory used to by the golden Attention to torture and break him. He wasn't sure how this would have ended if White hadn't been there as well.
"Funny, how we both ended up in here.", he said quietly, trying his hardest to hold back his tears but failing to do so.
"Probably because I had already conquered the Sunheart half-way, it sucked both our minds into the same scenario.", replied White her insensitive tone returning to her voice, her eyes turning callous as well. They walked side at side to the door leading out of the room, ignoring the cries and pleas to stay and return to the table. It was a cruel nightmare to be in, even the lonely hallways and empty rooms hadn't hurt Eiji as much as this scenario did.
"How are you able to walk away so easily, White?"
"Because this is fake, the others are missing, only the ones who left are here."
"You see, I really longed for those old days to return even if only fake..."
"...I know."
They stepped through the light.

Eiji's eyes snapped open, his lips shut tight to silence the cry wailing in his lungs. His embrace of White had gotten even tighter as if he could press part of his pain into her to ease the crushing burden his heart felt at the moment.
"Are... you okay?"
White forced those muffled words into his heavy breathing chest. She could taste the saltiness of his cold sweat wetting her lips and feel the vibration of his heart hammering in its chamber, unisono to her own. Eiji could not answer, doing his best to listen to her voice, the obvious worry and the hidden sorrow in it, to ignore the distant voices of faint memories echoing in his head. White's arms jerked through the air, unsure what was the best to do in this situation, her hands opened and closed in a frantic matter, desperate for an idea what to do. But just when her arms were about to reach Eiji's back, they stopped, abruptly forced back to her white dress grabbing the seam, nearly ripping it in pieces in her strong grip. Even now in her most dire moment White's pride would not allow her to seek refuge in a human's hug and comfort in the touch of a friend nor did she had the confidence to provide the same to someone in need of it. This pride of hers had been her guiding light ever since the end of her series and now it shined so strong in her mind, demanding to be heed calming the waves wrecking havoc on the walls of her sanity. She breathed quietly as she tried to control her shivering. She focused on the warmth of Eiji's skin to cool her own heated one. She felt the hurried breaths of his on her ear, silencing the howling winds in her head. Her shoulders relaxed and she went limp in Eiji's hold, allowing herself to be kept up standing by the strength of her friend and leader, hoping that her mere presence might be enough to keep Eiji steady in the reality they could not escape from, no matter how much they wished for it to be differently.

"Why does Love hurt so much, Eiji?", she asked, exhausted of staying alive in the wrath of madness that had imprisoned her since the inserting of the first Sunheart.
"Because it isn't meant for us.", he whispered back to her, knowing how cruel of an answer the truth of being unloved by the world beyond theirs was.

White closed her eyes and let out a long breath, then she used her forehead on Eiji's shoulder to push herself away from him. Her Summerhat fell to the ground. Her hands free of her own dress were put on his chest and gently she increased the distance between them, her face downcast, mortified of what had happened due her own overconfidence but even more ashamed of the happiness she felt of being pulled back to the surface by someone else reaching out to her. Eiji stared past her, his inner eye still seeing the faces of people long gone.
"Guys, I really don't wanna interrupt your moment of friendship here, but we gotta go asap. I hear no more battle sounds, I think everyone is packing it up. We gotta slip in with the Nameless before they all leave the Studio." Banda's words were spoken sincerely, deeply relieved of the survival of his friends and the worry of what they might have seen in their minds trying to break them. But the urgency of the situation demanded that they moved swiftly. People would notice if some Nameless stayed behind. The corpses of the Named slain by White dissolved in ink sickering into the ground, mixing with the blood their bodies had spilled. The corpses of the Nameless rose like zombies, grabbing their limbs and weapons and walked, stumbled or crawled towards the exist. Even in death their work did not end.
White reached down to her hat, putting it back on her head, feeling comfort in its heaviness.
"Thank you."

Eiji nearly missed those words spoken in a hurry as White sped past him, following the trail of moving corpses. The pain in his rips and the burned wound in his chest returned like an unexpected blow. Quickly Banda jumped to aid his friend tripping over his own feet. Until they got to the open, he could carry him but once the Named still in the Studio looking for attention or on their way home saw them, Eiji would have to walk on his own. Compassion among Nameless was unheard of and rightly suspicious behavior.
"Can you walk?"
"If I have to, I crawl the whole way back to the entrance."
"Heh, that's good to hear. Oi, Sharkface! Slow down!"

Back in their club, Mr. Commentary looked at the impressive haul he and the others had brought home. A hundred Copperbugs buzzed on the table, on top of them nearly ten Argenberries hovered in honorable silence. The boys were really happy with their catch of a day work's worth and talked about what had happened today.
"Man, I swear when Noah's dumpster got taken by the garbage collection, I thought we would lose him to the disposal oven. You were awesome in saving Noah, Mr. Commentary!", praised Hajime the purple Ghost.
"I just did what I had to. I really liked your quick-thinking of scaring away those thugs loitering at the Big Comic Original Tower by turning into a large scary Alien."
"Eh, they were just bored. Being a side character with nothing to do gives you a lot of free time to waste. Noah could have blasted them away easily."

Noah nodded, knowing his unusal strength in his tiny artifical body.
"I wasn't able to find much attention in that dumpster though.", he added sadly to the story. Tamashiro laughed.
"I am still surpised you were even able to move at all in that large diving suit I gave you. I thought for sure you would give up before getting into a dumpster." Mr. Commentary looked disapproving of the redhead's action at the table tennis player.
"Noah-kun wasn't supposed to be diving at all. I was really shocked when I returned to our bag just to see its caretaker gone! I thought somebody had stolen our sweet boy!"
"The kidnappers would regret taking a kid hostage who eat out their hair off their heads.", joked Momiji to which Noah's grin tripled in size. "The real hero today was Jackman when he found that half a dozen Argentberry cluster in the Weekly Young Jump dumpsters."

The praised one shook his head so fierce his puppy ears flapped all over his sides.
"No-uh, I just got lucky and it was pretty much the only thing I found. You and Tamashiro brought in so many Copperbugs we won't have to worry about food for a couple weeks now. I'm sure Eiji, Banda and White will also be impressed with this outcome coupled with their own findings." Tamashiro rubbed his nose, slightly embarassed to be praised for mere Copperbugs while Momiji looked suspicious at Mr. Commentary. He hadn't said a word when seeing Jackman in the diving suit meant for Banda but Mr. Commentary assumed he already had a hunch that their friends were not just dumpster diving. The ghost thought highly of the Shogi player not speaking up about it, it had made his work of keeping the boys busy with work much easier. But now that there were home it seemed Momiji's patience was up.
"Speaking of, when are they due to return, Mr. Commentary?" If ghosts could sweat this purple one would sweat plum juice right now.
"Who knows? Maybe they have a hard time and are doing some extra dives to find some more Attention."
"Wouldn't it be funny if we found more than them?", asked Hajime mischivously.
"Well, we are double their number and we got the better towers outta the city as well, so delievering good results should be expected of us.", reminded Jackman the tiny slime alien of the distribution of work forces and places today.
"Lighten up a bit. It is not so often we can outshine those three.", interjected Tamashiro, an evil smile forming on his lips.
"If you tease White too much, I will not put your head back together.", sighed Momiji, letting the issue with the missing three members rest for now. Mr. Commentary felt really bad for not telling the truth to those honest kids and looking at the clock telling that eve was approaching, he wondered when he had to tell them that something bad might have had happen. And he had no idea what they could do then if that was the case. Then Noah's sleepy head perked up and his eyes brimmed with Joy as he heard the creaks of old stairs giving in to the weight of healthy young teenagers.

"They're back!"

In the apartment in the highest level of the WSJ Tower, Zoro drank from his beer keg before repeating his tale to the nonbelievers who were his friends and crewmates.
"I'm telling you, I saw it with my own eyes! A Nameless taking in a Sunheart! I'm not kidding nor am I drunk from this booze!"
"Then you have fallen on your heart, Marimo, and shaken what little brain was left in it.", slurred Sanji in a drunk stupor. It was never a wise idea to take part in Zoro's and Nami's drinking contests but he would do anything to stay close to the beautiful Nami even if it meant a terrible hangover the next day.
"Suit yourself, Eyebrown. But I saw what I saw. Couldn't react to it because of all the bullets flying around me, but I'm sure this happened."
"Didn't you tell me some old story about something like that involving Nameless?", asked Nami her friend Robin, downing another keg of beer and threw it to her pile to which Zoro snorted and followed suit with his own keg.
"You mean the old tale of a defect Nameless gathering Attention for itself? That is just something older series from other towers have told me outside in the park when our series was younger than it is now. I don't think that is possible since Nameless cannot take Attention in. Probably just a story to scare other series with.", laughed the mature woman drinking a sweet red wine in an elegant glass.
"Shishishi! A Nameless using Attention sounds so interesting! I hope I see something like that someday as well!"
"You better not react to it and break immersion, idiot! I just know you would abandon the story and rush to that Nameless to see for yourself what happened there! The chapter would SUCK!", screamed Nami angrily at the laughing Captain who had grown twice his size and was round like a giant ball, crammed to the brim with food, food and more food.
"Well, maybe I did saw it wrong. It was a crazy battle after all.", pacified the green-haired swordman the waves. But deep inside he knew what he had seen was real and it scared him like nothing had before.

In a Motel inside a large room stood a hundred white Golems with bare heads void of any features, their skin was pristine and flawless, their limbs even and their stand perfect. It was an unmoving phalanx of Nameless ready to move out once the Call to appear in a chapter had reached them. In one of those lines one Golem broke the still picture. His hand moved to his chest and persisted before it. Soon a golden tiny sun appeared from the chest, leaving it and moving onto the hand, settling in like a tiny kitten curl itself up in its cup. The eyeless face of the golem stared at the sun for a while before moving it back to its chest and returning to his motionless stance once more.
One more perfectly harmless Golem among thousands of others.

Word of the Author:

Holy crap! This took forever! Thank god I parted the previous chapter from this one...
In total 13337 words, just a bit shorter than the first chapter which had over 15k words. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and that it was not too confusing or disturbing for you to read. I also hope this way I try to make sense of this world our characters live in is believeable to you guys. I tried hard to think what undying people might do and considering how many adrenaline junkies we humans already got with our one life or how many people die every year for cool selfies hanging from a skyscraper, it was pretty obvious that some character would want to kill others and had no problem dying on their own while doing so. Maybe there was a bit much going on in this chapter, it could have been the first mini arc in a fresh manga series with all that happened in there, lol. xD

I see you all next week.^^
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 7 - Truth on the Pitch

Banda woke up with a terrible muscle-ache. Running around and fighting for your life isn't exactly what he would call a work-out considering his background as a sport character with martial arts and soccer. However his body crashing into walls and thrown into rubble had done his fair share of bruises which now were hurting like mad as he rolled out of bed. The whole adventure had left him so exhausted he had gone straight to bed without dinner, same for White and Eiji although White demanded that their leader needed the shards in his back removed before laying down, a task she took upon herself despite also being tired. They left the others to store the Attention and make a nice dinner for themselves. Banda smiled when he remembered the surprised faces of the others when they had dropped their more than 200 Argentberries and the half dozen Sunhearts they had "borrowed" from One Piece and their 991th chapter.
"Ooowww~" Smiling hurts when your jaw had an intimate moment with a Japanese Palace wall. Looking at Eiji still snoring in his bed, his body covered in bandages and band-aids. White was in the other room meant for female characters which just meant she had a huge room all to herself though nobody was this weary of life to complain about the boys having to make do with one large room and White with another. Especially since 20 beds could easily fit into the boys room and like 10 in the girls one. As Banda moved his head left and right he noticed everyone had already left their beds. He was a bit surprised, usually he wasn't that heavy of a sleeper to not catch on the others waking up and making their beds. He must have been more tired than he thought. Or maybe the others had sneaked out to prepare an amazing breakfast for their heroic attention robbers as they must have missed a grand dinner last eve.

Quietly humming Banda put on his clothes and got ready to be the first to get a tasty surprise of a good morning. However no mouth-watering smell entered his nose and the sight of the kitchen as he stepped in was hardly a merry one. Instead of warm buns, sausages, eggs and omelette, all kinds of cheese and meat, bacon, honey, jam, orange juice his friends were crunching cereal and milk between their teeth.
"Good morning, everyone! Did you go overboard last evening with dinner or why is breakfast so simple this morning?" Banda's joke seems to have fallen flat, the eyes turning and looking at him were not quite friendly. Not really hostile but the large young man could feel that his friends were annoyed to hell and unsatisfied.
"Well, sorry for only being able to provide a simple breakfast.", said Momiji, rolling his eyes behind his glasses.
"We made this with our findings from yesterday. It ain't much, but it's filling.", replied Tamashiro, cramming another spoon full into his mouth.
"Not everyone can be a "man" like you, Banda, and bring home dozens of Argentberries and even Sunhearts." Jackman looked away from the sporty man in the entrance, his eyes staring angrily into his bowl.
"Last night we put the Attention you got from One Piece into the storage room while you lot were busy snoozing. Mr. Commentary told us everything about your plan.", explained Hajime, holding several spoons in his slim tentacles to pour their contents in his mouth.
"Sorry, Banda-niichan.", added Noah, looking both disappointed and sad.

"The heck?", muttered Banda blinking twice, this was a surprise indeed but not a welcome one. A purple ghost with a large belly hovered closely to Banda, an apologetic look in his three dots face.
"Apologies, Banda-kun. I explained them everything yesterday while you three changed your clothes and went to bed, but it seems my explanation wasn't quite able to deliver the news in a satisfying way. I believe our dear friends are hurt they have been left out, even if it was for their own good. Do you think I should wake Eiji-kun and White-san to hold a meeting for everyone?"
Banda listened to the ghost attentively. He got what happened. In other words the pride and Main Character ego of his friends had been hurt having not only to witness the difference of the outcome of one day's work but also feel humiliated that Banda and the others had felt a need to "protect" them, even if it was from themselves. He actually understood them quite well. His own inferiority when comparing himself to Eiji and White with their powers was painful. Painful, but real. Banda didn't even wanted to imagine how he would have gotten through this hellscape of adventure if he didn't had his two friends at his side; Eiji, the ever valiant leader who tries to even let the Nameless survive his blows and White, the small girl blooming into a monster of carnage in the battlefield. It was bitter, but after years after the end of his sport series Banda knew better than to dwell on stuff he couldn't change. No matter how amazing his Martial Arts skill are and how tough and strong he was, a single bullet or a stab from behind from some Nameless could end his life for good. He still feared to go into such battles, yet he knew he could do this because he could trust the others will do their best to keep his back safe and he will do the same for them.

Banda got ripped out of his thoughts as Mr. Commentary tried again to regain the attention of the Afrohead in front of him. The dead silence in the kitchen was a deafening challenge, Banda could hear the blood rushing through his veins with each pump of his heart. The others had stopped their breakfast in anticipation how the rest of the day will continue. The thought of the tightly wrapped up Eiji and the thinly nerves of White having to deal with this annoyed Banda. They shouldn't have to handle complains now, they should heal! This was his task to manage!
"No? But I thought...", spluttered Mr. Commentary in surprise.
"They should rest. If you all wanna get rid of your bad feelings and complain, then throw it at me, guys, because I am Banda the man and I won't be crushed even when I get crushed.", announced Banda calmly, putting his bear-like hands at his waist. Eyes narrowed and lips tightened as the challenge of the left-behind was accepted readily, but before they could get a word in, Banda continued with his announcement.
"However, we will not do this here. I have a better spot in mind for this discussion."
"Which is?", asked Tamashiro warily. Banda grinned widely.
"The pitch."

"Remind me again, why are we here, playing a soccer match against a guy who was written to be a super talent in said sport and who would play in the big leagues at his series end?", asked Hajime with a deadpan expression on his silver face. He and the others were watching Banda on the soccer field doing tricks with the soccer ball like a pro who had played for several years despite being a teen and being a Taekwondo fighter for most his life. Tamashiro looked amused and a bit worried at the skillful display of Banda's soccer repertoire. Even if his series had been short, his creator had made him to be a star in this sport and after the series finished Banda retained all those skills in his character.
"Well, it is because those two here were so easily baited with a little "are you scared of a little ballgame" lure.", gave the redhead half-german half-japanese kid the slime alien the rhetoric answer.
"I didn't know he could play this well!", defended Jackman himself.
"And I thought we could defeat him with numbers but now, I am not so sure anymore...", tried Momiji to excuse his hot-blooded acceptance of this match.

"Alright, folks, stop admiring my sight. Banda the man is here to take you and your frustration head on!" Banda kept the ball bouncing on his afro while teasing his friends watching him uneasily. Banda had his old sport uniform and soccer shoes on. He felt energy return to his body, just taking on this uniform was energizing. It been ages since he had last felt this cloth on his skin, when he believed to be on his way to greatness and how sticky it was when he was the last time on the pitch under the eyes of the world beyond their reach. Here in the city was a large area with all fields for every sport imaginable, all the characters in the city just called it "the dome" because from the outside it looked like a regular arena but once you stepped through the gate you had miles and miles of sport and racing fields. Right now there weren't many people besides them in the dome. Banda enjoyed the silence, the smell of the grass and the bounciness of the ball on his head. Here he was at home.
"Okay, everyone. Please listen to me!", called Mr. Commentary the U19 members for a briefing. "I will be your ref. We play with two teams of which one is compromised of only Banda - the man; the other is the rest of you. We play on a whole soccer field with two goals. Since Banda plays alone you are not allowed to shoot onto his goal from your half, you have to pass the centerline at least. You also need to have a goal keeper, however you can switch him out whenever you want. Said goalie is also the one who will kick the ball in in case Banda gets a goal on you, whereas Banda starts from the middle point if you were to get a goal on his. After each goal you can call for a short pause if you want to because we do not play no time, we play on goals. The team which reaches ten goals first wins the match. I want you all to play fairly according to the soccer rules. Any questions?"

"Does this mean we can kick the ball as soon as Banda scored a goal on us but if we score a goal on him he has to kick-off at the center point`". questioned Momiji with a raised hand, astonished at the advantage they had in both numbers and rule-set. The ghost nodded approvingly. Hope rose among the five kids as they realized that this game might be quite easily winnable for them.
"So we really play against Banda, all five of us?", asked Noah excited about playing soccer in such an interesting way.
"Yeppers. Don't worry, kid. I'm not going to be too hard on you all." Banda's gracious words ticked off Jackman and Momiji and even Tamashiro felt his blood boil, while Noah only laughed at the confidence of Banda and Hajime sighed, knowing how strong Banda truly was in this sport. His height and weight made him a great wrecker and striker, his stamina was top-notch, with his ball-handling and dribbling he could run around all day without getting tired at all. And to think he had first sucked at this sport. Now he was a beast at it, though he had only been able to show a small part of it to the readership. Maybe Banda wasn't holding this game just for them to vent but also for himself to go back to his roots, not as some garbage diver or One Piece Pirate but as a soccer player who's career was over after just a dozen chapters.

A coin toss later it was decided that Banda would start. While he waited impatiently at the middle point to start the game, the others were arguing who should be the unlucky one to stand in the goal. As nobody was insane enough to volunteer, they made the decision to change turns whenever a goal was scored by Banda and the first one to start would be the one losing rock-paper-scissors. Momiji lost with his sole rock vs four papers.
"Dude, seriously..." Tamashiro shook his head while Momiji went to the goal throwing wild curses around. He, Jackman, Noah and Hajime who changed into his regular human teen self spread out in the middle field, waiting for Banda's first move, would he get through the middle or one of the sides? Mr. Commentary stood in his old school ref outfit waiting for everyone to get ready and with a blow of a whistle the game started and Banda just straight up kicked the ball with all his might without even one step of a run-up. The four kids watched with agape mouths how the ball passed them in a high arch and started to set towards their goal.
"Well, this is going to be easy, even for a not so sporty guy like me.", grinned Momiji as he saw the speed of the ball drop along with its height. All he had to do was catch it and they would be on the attack. No way even a pro player like Banda would be able to defend against 4 players. As the ball came towards him, Momiji raised an eyebrow as he noticed that the ball behaved strangely. It wavered? He reached out his hand above his head to catch it at the far left of the goal's side Banda had aimed at. The shogi player had to admit that it took great skill and power to shoot a ball this accurate over half a football field onto such a small part of the goal. But just when the ball entered his goal area it suddenly changed course and moved to the right side of the goal like a drone. Caught cold Momiji felt time slow down as he moved his feet with raised arms to just get a bit closer, but before he made the first step he already knew it was a hopeless endeavor. The ball landed exactly on the white goal line and crossed it with a cheeky hop, rolling into the net.

"TWEEEEEEEET! Goal for Banda! Ball for the disgruntled challengers!"
"Hey, don't give our team a name on your own!", shouted Jackman at Mr. Commentary, angry that Banda had already scored a goal on them in less than a minute without taking one step.
"Pause!", called Momiji loudly, gesturing the others to come to him. While they made a small circle, Banda started to do some stretching and push-ups as if this was his old training days. Another provocation that didn't go unnoticed by the others.
"Damn, I knew he was good but I didn't knew he was so OP; that's broken...", muttered Hajime still in shock.
"Guys, we need to change our plan. We need some one standing close to the center circle or Banda will end this game in under ten minutes.", tried Momiji to get the alien boy to focus at the matter at hand.
"Big deal, you were the one letting the ball in!", reminded Jackman the glasses wearing boy of his failure.
"Yes and I am sorry for that, but there was no way I could have seen this coming, right? That's like changing a static rock to a raging rock, who would expect that?", defended Momiji himself using his shogi moves as explanation.
"What is a raging rock?", asked Noah confused. Tamashiro put his hand on the little boy's right shoulder to get his attention.
"Momiji can explain that to you after the game, Noah. I gather you got a plan, Momiji?"
"Yes, this is what we will do..."

"So hey, do you wanna talk all day or play, hm? Are you curious how I did this amazing shoot? I call it the "great Banda Banana surprise", a strong curveball who changes course as it slows down at the end of its journey. My creator would had made me learn this in a month long hard training for my free kicks and we would have caught our opponents on their wrong foot. Well, we never got to that part, but it is still in my character core. Have to admit I never scored from the center spot, but I figured with amateurs I could take this risk because there is no way you guys ever heard about the three goalkeeper zones for standing, tilting and jumping. See, I made you move to the left standing zone when you should have been in the middle jumping zone thus you were out of reach when you would notice the true course of the ball. Incredible, am I right or am I right? Oh? Finally ready to go on?" Banda jumped up and down during his taunting speech as Noah took the ball and ran to the goal, ready to do a kick. Banda licked his lips, now the fun times were about to start. Noah created a big golem shoe on his foot to power his kick up as he took his steps forward towards the resting ball.
"GOOOOOOOOOOO~" Noah screamed with all his might he could muster with his young lungs as he gave the ball a kick and send it up flying up sky-high. And higher. And higher. And it disappeared in the clouds.
"Do you think this ball could actually reach the ceiling of the dome?", asked Tamashiro the strategist of their team. Momiji pushed his glasses up his nose with a confident grin.
"Heh. I have no idea.", he admitted out flat. "Who knows how those interdimensional rooms work. It might just increase its ceiling height as the ball gets closer to it, never fully reaching it, would be my best guess."
"Well, the ball is gone and Banda is lying on the ground dying due laughter. What now?", sighed Jackman looking at Noah trying his best to whistle but only dry sounds and spit left his mouth. Mr. Commentary pulled a second ball from under his shirt.
"I figured this would happen sooner or later so I brought a spare but it is the only one I have, so please be careful with it, everyone."
"Okay!", answered everyone unisono while Banda wiped the tears from his eyes.

Noah gave the ball another kick this time much weaker and towards Jackman who stood close to the goal. Then the puppy mascot suit started to run up towards the middle line as Tamashiro and Hajime passed Banda on the left and right side of the field with Momiji marking Banda to keep part of his attention. Banda nodded approvingly. The kids already made wise usage of their numbers and the width of the field. But they had yet to understand the instinct of a pro player. Banda got into position, tensing his muscles as Jackman closed the distance towards the middle. Banda noticed the slight sway to the right, the glance-up of Jackman's big puppy eyes and he leaped into action as Jackman brought down his left feet as standing leg, readying for the shoot. Momiji needed less than a second to understand that Banda was on his way to intercept the ball but the large afro-boy was so fast Momiji couldn't catch up with his legs used to sitting all day. And Jackman was so focused on the ball and the shoot towards Hajime, he couldn't have stopped his movement even if he had wanted to. The ball was hit perfectly and crossed the field with power, yet the feet it reached was a neongreen soccer shoe and not the silver one from the alien boy.
Banda took the energy out of the ball with his trap, moving his body on his axis like his old friend Ichino could do so easily, moving the ball alongside him. Then he sprinted down the right side of the field from his opponents perspective. He only had to worry about Jackman now who quickly rushed towards Banda to stop him with a wheezing Momiji lost on his trail and the other two being too far in his half to even bother taking up the hunt on him.

Jackman basically threw himself at the player and not the ball, hoping his strong press would either unstable or at least hinder Banda to take a shot. However Banda took up on the challenge and pushed back. Both players were still moving towards the goal where Noah got ready by summoning two giant golem gloves on his hands, covering nearly half the goal due sheer size. Jackman got nervous, feeling like a little boy trying to get the ball from his much bigger father or brother. No matter how much strength he put in his upper body, Banda's own would just push through it, nearly carrying the mascot while he tried his best to keep up with the speed of the striker who once started as a wrecker. Jackman now realized the might that stood behind the word wrecker, even with three clone of him he could not imagine stopping this train.
They reached the penalty area around the goal. They were too close now, limiting Banda's options for a shoot. Jackman's morale rose as he saw that his pressure did had an effect and prevented at least a long-range shot which Banda is so strong at. Noah widen his stance, ready to catch the ball as Jackman stuck to Banda like an oversized leech. Then Banda suddenly stopped and passed the ball through Noah's wide open legs. The little boys eyes grew wide as Mr. Commentary announced the second goal of Banda the man and Jackman's jaw hit the ground. Banda walked back slowly raising both arms like a winner, he was on top of his game, a real shame the readers never got to see this display of glory of his in his series. He wondered what his creator was doing nowadays in his world...

"I-I'm so-", gulped Noah scared how angry Jackman might be at how this goal had been made, a shoot through his legs. Even the golem boy knew this was a humiliation in soccer. But Jackman raised a hand not to reprimand the little boy but for a high-five.
"You did good, kid. Quick, change!" Noah gave him the high-five and Jackman quickly grabbed the ball, run up three steps holding onto it and then kicked it, hoping it would reach its destination.
"GET THE BALL, GUYS! BANDA IS STILL IN OUR HALF! GOOOOO!" Jackman's cry followed the ball as it traveled past the field high mid-air. Banda took up pursuit and rushed past a wheezing four-eyes who promised himself to do more sports from now on. Seeing how quickly Banda was able to cross the distance from their goal towards his, Hajime knew he needed to slow their opponent down or he might really reach them before they got the ball to shoot at his goal. He couldn't just stand in his way that was against the rule but he could press him from the sides and slow him down like Jackman had done. As the distance of the two closed, Banda took a step to the right to get past Hajime who followed suit just to watch Banda take a side-step to the left bouncing off his right feet and bolting past the blinking alien who couldn't process how a giant like Banda had just disappeared from his sight in a second.

Tamashiro's eyes were glued on the ball, his training as table tennis player allowed him to know where the ball would definitely land, only ten meter away from Banda's goal, all he had to do was push the ball into the goal once it made contact with the ground. The redhead felt his body warm up as the tension rose, he would be the first to score a goal for his team and they would catch up to Banda's two goals. This was were they would take the fight back and then everything was looking Afro as Banda's head and hair made the in-coming ball disappear from Tamashiro's sight. Banda had jumped in anticipation which way the ball would come down. Turning his body mid-air he repelled the ball with a header making it fly back to the centerline. Tamashiro felt dread as he rushed back only to be matched in speed by Banda. Tamashiro was proud of his own speed which you needed at his sport but there was a difference of being a fast table runner and a fast field runner. Slowly but surely Banda got ahead of the fast Tamashiro.
"Hajime! Get the ball!", called Tamashiro out to his alien comrade who was already close to the bouncing ball. Hajime ran up and stopped the ball with his left feet, wondering if he should try to shoot past Banda who was ahead of Tamashiro and in front of him or if he should shoot backwards to the loudly gasping Momiji who tried to catch his breath at the center circle.
"I got it, what-" Before Hajime could finish his sentence of who he could pass the ball to his vision was filled with a wall of muscle and flesh. Banda had reached him, still full speed and his mass was overwhelming to the in reality tiny alien boy.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Hajime screamed and disappeared. Banda had no idea what happened but he couldn't care less. Intimating opponents was a valid tactic in soccer, making them hesitate or even give up the ball were the results you wanted from a strategy like this. He took the ball and kicked it above Momiji who watched the ball fly above his head as Banda basically danced around him in a cool body spin, catching the ball with his chest and running towards their goal. Momiji sighed out of breath and jogged after Banda, feeling his lungs already sting like mad and it hadn't even been five mintues since the game started.

"Dude...", said Tamashiro looking at the silver puddle on the ground that was his teammate.
"What?", came the reply from the puddle as it formed a mouth and eyes. "I wanna see how you would bravely stand in the way of this Gorilla!"
Banda got closer to the goal readying himself for a strong long-shot into the upper right corner of the goal, knowing that Jackman's stubby stature would not reach up there even if he jumped. Then Noah who took his job as sweeper dead seriously and who tried to redeem himself after his failure as goalkeeper began to raise earth walls in quick succession. Banda changed his mind. Playing against Noah in defense was like playing against a whole defense wall, in this case quite literally so. His eyes narrowed as he rushed towards the goal, past the walls. Noah knowing he stood no chance Mano-o-Mano against his big afro-niichan, clapped his hands together and the goal was encircled by a fort of a wall. Banda grinned, knowing that while he couldn't see the goal, neither could they see him. He kicked the ball up, right above the wall, ran up one of the former conjured walls, jumped off it like a Monkey and landed on the fort wall like a boss. Before Noah could react to the sudden appearance of Banda, he jumped again doing a bicycle kick, his specialty with which he had defeated his captain in their first 3 vs 3 match, to aim the ball downwards. While his kick was perfect he could not aim it like with a regular shot and could only hope he took Jackman either by surprise or it landed in a spot where he was not standing.

"I got it! I go-OOUUFF!" Jackman's triumphant cries were cut short as the mascot was thrown backwards into his goal with the ball in his hands and stomach. The strength behind the kick was too much for his stance and he slithered backwards into the net, still holding onto the ball. Noah blinked before looking upwards to Banda who had landed on his butt on the wall, shiny admiration glittered in the little boy eyes.
"That was SO cool, Banda-niichan!"
"Haha, if you want me to, then this great Banda the man will teach you this trick after the game!"
"Uh, ref? Pause please?", came the desperate beg from the fallen suit character still on his back in the net. Mr. Commentary's head which looked through the wall, whistled and called for a pause after announcing the third goal of Banda.

And like this it continued for a while.
"4-0 for Banda!"
"Banda scored his fifth goal, half-way there, folks!"
"You heard the ref right, it stands s-s-s-s-s-SIX vs z-z-z-z-z-ZERO!"
"Banda takes it up to 7-0, yawn."
"Aaaaaand eight...."
"As expected, nine to zero, man, this is actually sad..." Mr. Commentary started to feel bad for the kids, getting so trashed by Banda. Even Banda himself didn't felt so great anymore. Noah was sweating like never before in his life, Hajime had a thousand-yard stare in his eyes as he clutches to his legs after Banda's shot had left a hole in his chest when he had been goalkeeper, and Momiji was dying. At least you would think so if you were listening to his lungs trying to catch breath as the Shogi player laid flat on his back on the ground, having called for another pause. Only Tamashiro and Jackman looked still fit though Tamashiro's shirt was drenched in sweat and Jackman was unable to sweat so he couldn't really exhaust anyway.

Banda scratched his chin, maybe he had underestimated his own soccer skills and overestimated his friends ability to take the fight up to him. He might have also overdone it just a tinsy-weensy bit because it had been so long since he last played soccer seriously. But his plan had not been for the others to get done in so badly by him that their spirits got destroyed but to have fun and be able to stand on their own, making this a much closer game than it had become in the end. Like nine goals to zero ain't even close, that's worse than the seven to one game between Germany and Brazil.
"So, guys, uhm. Wha-what do you say, shall we make this game even more interesting? How about the next goal wins? Hm?", smiled Banda nervously at his friends, really hoping he didn't trigger anyone with his kindly meant offer which must sound like an ultra provocation. And indeed the eyes of Tamashiro and Jackman were lit with fire and even Hajime's eyes returning from his thousand-yard stare to a determined glare. Noah's shiny eyes seems to double in size while life returned to Momiji's dying body.
"Really? You mean it? We can win with one goal? No backsies?" Momiji was hard to understand with his countless gasps and wheezes he did in his questions but Banda was just glad no one had shouted at him yet. He really hoped some big helping of icecream could help after the game to calm the waves he had rose during the game with his incredible soccer skills.

"Noah!", gasped Momiji.
"You heard the man!", shouted Tamashiro.
"Do it, kid!", spurred Jackman the little boy on.
"Finish it, Noah!", cried Hajime out.
"Eh?", blinked Banda not quite sure what was going on right now.
"You got it everyone! Golazo-chan! Show everyone what you are made of!", spoke the little boy loudly with grandeur. Banda was totally lost at the display of madness from his friends.
"GOAL! FOR! THE! CHALLENGERS! GOOOOOOOOOOOOLAZO-CHAN SHOT A DREAM GOAL!!! WE GOT A WIIIIIIIIIINNEEEEEEEEEEEEER!!!", commented Mr. Commentary at the full capacity of his undead voice, making the confusion of Banda complete.

He turned around, looking back at his own goal which had remained pure and untouched by any ball so far this game. In front of it stood a little golem with a braid as here, looking like a mix of a kettle with legs and a puppet made by a blind doll maker. And this little thing was waving its tiny arm back to the cheering squad who were celebrating their victory because it had kicked the ball into Banda's goal. The ball! Banda nearly snapped as he turned his head back to the ball still in the goal of his opponents.
"Hm? HM?! HMMMMMMMMM??? Can somebody please enlighten me of what happened exactly?!" The others laughed at Banda's shock who had not expected the game to end right after he had made his offer.
"Remember the ball Noah had shot into the stratosphere at the beginning of the game?", wheezed Momiji exhausted but happily at the big soccer star.
"Wait, you don't mean... that ball in my goal was that ball?!" Momiji nodded at Banda's assessment.
"After your first goal, we knew we were outmatched so Momiji proposed we trick you using Noah's golem power.", explained Tamashiro, stroking the blonde hair of the little boy who was a beam of pride.
"The large golem shoe I made was to hide Golazo-chan when I put her onto the ball with the kick. Her braid can unfold into rotor blades, that's how she kept the ball up in the clouds while we continued our game with the other ball.", smiled Noah jovial.
"Mr. Commentary never explicit said we would had to announce the change of a ball. All we had to do was make you forget about the first ball while we get our asses kicked by you.", added Hajime, grinning satisfied with the outcome.
"In other words: Got'cha, bro!", finished Jackman, playfully hitting Banda onto his arm.

"Wow, guys, that was awesome!", admitted Banda, rubbing his arm where Jackman had hit him before spreading his arms wide for a big bear hug. "Come here, fellas! Give a sad loser a hug!" The winners of the match followed the offer suit and embraced Banda one by another. Then Banda felt an icy presence on his back.
"BRRRRRR! Cold, cold, cold! What did I told you about group hugs, Mr. Commentary?"
"I deserve a reward as well, Banda-kun.", sulked the chubby ghost. Banda could hardly go against that and allowed the purple fridge to cling to his back. Then he turned to his friends, still gleaming in the glory of their victory.
"So you guys played so pathetically to give me a change of heart? Incredible! I really thought you had the stamina of a 89 year old man, Momiji."
"And you, Noah, you let me shoot through your legs by making them so wide on purpose? Damn, son, nice one!"
"Jackman! I should have known my shot was not that strong to shoot somebody into the goal. You just acted like that."
"Sure, sure, sure..."
"When you disappeared as a puddle, Hajime, I thought you had given up on winning this game, but you were only leading me on so I would score another goal."
"You, Tamashiro-"
"Banda, shut up and enjoy the group hug, will you?"
Banda grinned and put some more strength in his embrace, ignoring the gasps and pleas for air. This was far more like the crew he came to know and love. He was so glad his plan with the soccer match had worked so well, even though he had not planned on losing.

Everyone sat in the Japanese Park area of the Park quarter and enjoyed the picnic they had made before leaving for the game. Needless to say the mood was much better now than it had been in the kitchen this morning when they prepared said food. Jackman was taking huge bites of his beef and mayo sandwich when he asked a question that had bothered him for a while now.
"Say, how big is this city of towers exactly? I only ever saw the towers in our district but there like hundreds of them if not more." Mr. Commentary who was just watching everyone eat was pleased to have a topic to talk about.
"The towers in our district are all about mangas, Japanese comics so to say. All the currently running series that receive attention live there and help their creator to not run out of creativity and imagination. But there are many other districts as well like one for Western comics or for books, for movies, series, folktales, pretty much any story a human invented will be found in this city. You see that giant tower in the distance there going all the way up to the clouds? That's the Fanfiction tower for example, a building that keeps on growing every year. Who knows, maybe they might even have a fanfiction about us as well. As far as I know all the people in this city go the same way as we usually do when their time has come and go through the gate. They all got their own stories for what lays beyond. Yet there are also characters who will probably never leave this city until mankind dies out and with it its stories and Attention it gives them. It's how Kitsune from Bone Collection got his power up, by stealing the Attention from the original Kitsune in the old Japanese Fairytale/Folktale Tower. Some characters are just meant to be there for a long long time and we, we are just a fad of modern times, coming and going like waves. Just that this time we decided on our own to stay, no matter what our creator or the readers think of us."
"Have you met anyone from the other districts?", asked Noah who usually wasn't allowed to run around on his own in the city and had hardly left their tower district.

"I met Spiderman once in the Dome.", said Banda proudly. Noah looked at his Nii-chan with blank eyes not understanding who that guy is supposed to be. "Uhm, he is a really big thing in the Western Comic district and the Movie district and obviously fanfiction and such. He got like dozens of versions of himself! Really cool guy with Spiderpowers and everything." Noah looked much more impressed now by what kind of important people his Nii-chan with an Afro knew.
"Did you saw him or do you know him?", grinned Tamashiro already knowing the answer as he had been there as well.
"Look, that's not important, what's important is that we are not alone in this giant city. There are tons of characters struggling everyday for some attention, worrying when their series will be over or following the call to leave this city to make space. We already have it hard enough without a creator and a loyal fanbase providing for us, we shouldn't fight among each other. I know how much you guys must have hated it that we left you in the dark. To tell you the truth, it had been my idea to let you do garbage diving. I hoped you wouldn't felt left out by helping to fill our fridge and storage room again. I didn't intended this to be a competition, that ain't a man's way. And you all know what kinda man I am."
"Banda the man.", replied Hajime the obvious answer.
"Exactly, Hajime, buddy! Point is we should have trusted you and tell you what we intended to do instead of lying to you, especially after it turned out to be way more dangerous than we had thought. If things had gone just a bit worse, we might have never returned and what kinda man leaves without a last word to his friends?" Banda stared into his cup of juice, thinking back to the battle and its mayhem, feeling his throat getting tighter. No way he would cry now! He drowned his tears with a big gulp of orange juice.

"No, I understand why you did that, Banda.", contradicted Momiji his big friend. He put an eggroll into his mouth and chewed on it before continuing. "If you had told us we would have either tried to stop you or would have wanted to share the danger with you, both outcomes were no options considering our situation. What we found in the dumpster could have brought us a few weeks, your guys haul got us months. If we had come with you, then the risk of either being found out or getting hurt or killed would have risen dramatically. You, Eiji and White returned with bad injuries, I don't even wanna imagine how I would have hold on my own in a real battle to the death."
"Yeah, I did the same with my brother, I mean, my Original kept his brother in the dark and let him believe he had died to protect him from danger. That's worse in a way then letting us dive into garbage. At least we had something to do and weren't worried about you guys in the Tower fighting for your lives.", muttered Jackman, finishing his sandwich.
"We did some runs as background school boys, but as soldiers or warriors it is a totally different theme. You guys put yourselves at great risks, I would have just liked to know about it even if it had me worried to no end.", added Tamashiro to the statements of the other two.
"The injuries you had were pretty bad. I don't mind you guys taking on the risks, I know how weak I am, how weak we all are compared to you three. But we are still a team and a team shouldn't lie to one another even if they meant it in good faith. If any of you had died out there... I don't think I would have been able to resist the Call anymore...", whispered Hajime, shuddering at the thought of his old friends suddenly disappearing from one day to the other. His own series character had all left this world on the same day their series found its end, even his childhood friend and the main heroine had walked through the Gate with no hesitation. But who knows what dying outside the Gate meant for a character.
"I'm just glad you are all okay!", cheered Noah, hugging his large Nii-chan with all his might which even brought a Gorilla build guy like Banda into some breathing trouble. He smiled and pat the little boy's head.

"Guys... I'm sorry. And I'm sure Eiji and White feel the same. Well, White probably less so but considering what risks she put on herself to get those Sunhearts for you. Oh, that's right! I nearly forgot!" With that said Banda started to rummage in his bag before he pulled six Sunhearts out of it. Everyone looked at them. At the point of the return of the three yesterday those Sunhearts had been the source of shock and envy for the others, of which many had never received such a deep admiration from the readers during the time their series had been running. Taking six our of the hundreds or thousands or ten thousands Sunhearts One Piece got each chapter meant barely a dent to the characters living in the tower but to the kids in the cellar it was a mountain of Attention.
"Those six Sunhearts are meant for you guys. One is from me, two from EIji and White got three and even was so crazy to try her character core to handle a 4th when Eiji stepped in to save her. We actually hadn't planned to get any Sunhearts at all, but with the way things were going, we had to take some to make it through. And once we did and saw what number it was we all agreed that those should belong to you."

"Eh? Even me?", came the surprised question from Mr. Commentary who had not expected to ever get another Sunheart after his series ended. Banda nodded.
"Can't you guys make more use of it?", asked Momiji cautiously. Banda shook his head.
"This ain't about who could make best usage of it, but about appreciation. We appreciate that you guys stick with us even when things look dire. I believe that's more than worthy of receiving a Sunheart, right?"
"Forget it, Momiji. Banda won't change his mind, stubborn he is. And if Eiji and even White are behind it as well then there is no way we can refuse this kindness of them.", sighed Tamashiro playfully. Hajime was the first to walk up to Banda, transforming back to his silver slime self and taking one of the Sunhearts in his tentacles.
"Thanks, man."
"Anytime, man, anytime."

Everyone got one of the remaining Sunhearts. Jackman looked at his nervously. Holding a Sunheart was different from holding a Argentberry, it was warm and smooth, it felt alive. And yet this was Attention meant for someone or something else that he would take in as his own. Remember the words of Tamashiro of how badly a trip taking a Sunheart could be he hesitated to insert it in his body. It was Noah who tapped his shoulder to get his attention.
"Hm, what is it, Noah?"
"You know, you can make the Sunheart smaller. It takes some time and Focus but it makes it easier to digest it. See? You do it like this. HRRRRMMH!!!" Noah demonstrated his explanation by pulling at his Sunheart strongly with both hands, his eyes shut tight and his head going red as he stretched the Sunheart like it was a yellow mochi, refusing to part from another. Then with a blop sound it broke apart and the proudly grinning Noah hold two smaller Sunhearts in his hands.
"Those Sunhearts have already been largely defused by us when we first took them, Jackman. Unlike you we had no time to turn them into more convenient portions in the tower but here outside? You can take all the time and Focus you need. Those Sunhearts will still feel well, "niffy" so to say. Some might even make you feel real bad or upset, but I don't think you should have a vision with any of them."
Jackman rose one of his puppy eyebrow but didn't questioned it any further, seeing the look in Banda's eyes which were remembering something they would rather forget sooner than later, but probably will always keep the memory with them. He closed his eyes and aimed his Focus at the Attention ball in his large hands. He could feel his energy moving from his core to the ball, like blue energy mixing with yellow, slowly separating it into two chucks of yellow coated in blue. With a deep breath he opend his eyes and looked at the result in both his hands. Two smaller Sunhearts greeted him as his effort had bore fruits. Looking around Jackman saw all the others already being busy separating their Sunhearts into several smaller parts. Tamashiro shuddered after putting one of his smaller Sunhearts in before a afterglow appeared on his face as his core conquered the Attention and made its power its own.
"Brrr, should make it one more time smaller. This was so cold at first."
"I prefere to make them really small myself. Makes me feel like I am just eating bad-tasting snacks.", commented Hajime as his many tentacles had parted his Sunheart into eight tiny balls.

Banda watched his friends, some for the first time, gain the Sunheart's power, enhancing their own. Sure, a stolen Sunheart was far from a genuine one that had been created just for you. But it was not like anyone out there were still wasting a thought about any of them. He knew that White still received some attention even years after her series was gone due the fanart people made about her to this day. However those fleeting kinds of attention were so different in power and even taste when used as food that Banda didn't really bother for the attention he got due the U19 club memes. Right now, he felt like he had gained something today no reader could ever give him and it made him feel like he had rip out the Sakura trees they had used as cover for the Sun. Just like the others he had been made as a character to grow stronger due rivalry and friendship and with today's events he felt closer to the others than he had before. He averted his gaze and stood up so the others couldn't see the emotion welling up in his eyes.
"Let's go home, guys. I wanna see if those two sloths are still sleeping and if not what they want for a late lunch because they must be hungry like an armanda of Jackmans."
Laughing everyone packed their stuff and moved to leave the Park and return to their home in the cellar of the most popular Manga Magazine Tower of their district. Everyone felt stronger than they had been this morning and it wasn't just the Sunheart in them speaking for this newly gained strength. A strength each of them would rather wanted to use for the ones next to them than for themselves.

Word of the Author

First off, sorry that I didn't uploaded this two days ago. I had a chapter for that weekend, but I really really disliked it. It basically continued from the meeting yesterday and everyone getting into a fight and postponing it till tomorrow where it just continued. Reading that chapter made me feel really bad and so I just deleted it on friday and sulked for like two days before writing this chapter on monday and tuesday. This felt far more what I wanted to read after the adventure in One Piece. Like it is obvious the others wouldn't be happy about it for various reasons but I didn't wanted it to be such a harsh chapter and more of a playful and good feeling one.
I hope I achieved that with this chapter.

Just to make it clear as it seems I forgot it in the WotA last time: Focus is the mental stamina of a character with which he can change himself and the world around him to a certain extend. Basically energy to create what you need or to power up, etc. Without Focus the characters would have a hard time to make food out of Attention after all. You can see it this way that taking an Attention ball "raw" would be like a cup of Ramen but said ball can also be turned into a bigger amount of vegetables, meat or bread and other stuff meaning you can cook larger meals with one ball if you are ready to spend time on cooking it. Or you just get a smaller already cooked meal with one Attention if you wanna save the time and don't need to cook so much.

The City grew in this chapter. Now it is the City of Creativity and Imagination, where all of mankinds thoughts take on shape, this city will never stop growing until man stops creating stories or telling them or listening to them or reading them or watching them or experiencing them in ways we have yet to imagine. Something like the Dome or the Park would be pretty awesome in our own world, I think. It certainly would save up a lot of space, that's for sure.

Next chapter will be about about Eiji and White at home (I think of calling it Tête-à-couch) while the others are out playing soccer and eating their picnic. I wonder if I can write it this week till sunday. After that next week we will get the 19th chapter celebration of Ayakashi Triangle (followed by Magu-chan, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin and lastly Me & Roboco), so the next weeks already got their chapter themes to write about so to say. I just need to get it done. Hopefully in time then.^^

Ah yeah, this chapter had 8293 words this time, more than the chapter I threw away after five days, lol. Hope you had fun with it and weren't too sad there was no update this weekend. I try to not repeat that from happening again.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 8 - Tête-à-couch

He was running again. From something or towards something he could not tell. He ran in complete darkness, dread in every hasty step taken and fright filling his lungs with each icy breath-take. He tried to scream, to call for help, for someone to come and lead him out of this darkness, to shine him a light, if only a tiny one. Nothing but a hoarse whimper left his throat. He wished he could find anything to hold onto, to run into a wall face-first and hug it with his whole body. He had tried to lay down onto the ground and not move, hoping it would give him comfort or at least relief, but an uncertain fear and an unknown desire kept him shaking, made him crawl, scuttle and then stand up to run again. He just wished for it to stop, someway, anyway was fine as long as it was finally over.
His heart fell to his stomach. His feet had found no ground to walk on with their next step. He fell head-first into never-ending darkness, his mouth and eyes wide open, he fell silent and helplessly.

With a deep gasp Eiji woke up. His back was bent like a bridge, his body bathed in cold sweat, his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Light greeted his thirsty eyes, warm air comforted his dry lungs and a sweet smell filled his flaring nose, calming the quick beat of his heart. It smelled like coca with marshmallow. The young man fell back to his soft bed, his hands still gripping onto his sheets like a dead man's hold. Slowly he turned around, following his nose like a hound its prey's scent. Next to his bed sat White, drinking hot coca and reading a book. She looked up.
"Finally awake, hm? Must have been one hell of a nightmare. No wonder taking in two Sunhearts like that." Her indifferent speech ended in another sip of her coca and her putting away her book, not before marking the last page she had read with a bookmark. Her slender porcelain-white hand reached for a second steaming cup, filled with the same promising dream of sweet taste and hot temperature as hers. Eiji rose from his lying position to a sitting one. His hands reached out, still shaking violently. White pulled the cup back from those desperate claws, the coldness in her eyes cracked both with worry and disapproval.

"Calm yourself, Eiji. I used an entire Argentberry for those cups. I will not have you stain your bed-sheets with it." Eiji closed his eyes and forced his fingers to crawl into his palms like spider legs, closing them so tightly he thought he would bleed. He took a deep breath and started to count backwards from ten, then he breathed out and opened his eyes. He was still shivering but hardly as bad as before. White nodded in approval and carefully handed the cup into his waiting hands. Eiji had to control himself to not burn his tongue, to breath into the cup a couple times before taking a small sip. It was the best sip of fluid he had ever taken in his life.
"Much better, just what I would expect from the man I allow to be the leader of our group.", said White with a little pretentious smile. Eiji didn't reacted to her tease and enjoyed the heat he felt pour down his throat, reach his stomach and seemingly rush through his every vein until it reaches his frighten heart, igniting it into a powerful beat to drum out all the fear he had felt in that dream. He looked at the petite girl waiting for his answer, any sign that he was back in the reality they live in.

"Thank you."
"Yeah, yeah, welcome back to you too." White rolled her eyes in playful exhaustion, yet she couldn't hide from Eiji the signs that she as well was raddled from their adventure in the One Piece chapter. Unusual dark rings under her eyes, unkempt hair and her hand clenched onto her arm told him she too had a nightmare as bad if not worse than his. And she had to wake up in her room all alone, without a thing to comfort her breached soul. Then she had to get up, walk to the kitchen and concentrate enough of her focus to create this steamy wonder as a means to comfort him when he was to wake from his nightmare. Eiji felt deep gratitude to the so-called monster in front of him.
"Truly, White, thank you. This really helped me to settle down."
"Don't get too comfortable, Romeo. See it as my thanks for helping me with that last pesky Sunheart from One Piece.", replied White offhand, using her old nickname for him from days past when she had refused to call any human character by their given name. After another sip, she sighed in bliss and leaned back in her chair, her head facing the ceiling.

"Taking Sunhearts so abruptly in their entirety really sucks, huh?", scoffed the girl in white pajamas their heroic or stupid deed. What really was the difference between heroism and stupidity?
"We already knew that though, we still did it, we healed ourselves with the deep Attention of another series. It gonna take some time till our Character Cores will be restored to their old selves." Eiji's matter of fact explanation felt annoying even to his own ears, but he had to reassure himself that, hopefully soon, those nightmares will be gone and he can sleep undisturbed again. White didn't reply, chewing on a marshmallow with her eyes closed. After she gulped it down she opened her eyes wrinkle up her nose at the sweaty boy in his bed.
"Go take a shower, I prepared new pajamas for you with the Copperbugs from the others." White pointed at the set of pink pajamas with cute bunnies playing on it at the end of his bed. Eiji looked back from it to her with a raised eyebrow, her smirk told him that she was enjoying herself very much right now. She stood up and took her leave, book and cup in her hands, leaving it to Eiji to get himself cleaned from his nightly event and get out of his deepblue sweat-soaked pajama. He stared at the pink prank before snorting and getting to it.

When Eiji arrived in the living room, White sat on the couch and had nearly finished her cup. She had started her book again, it didn't seemed she had gotten far though.
"You know, you could have told me you would go to the living room and were waiting for me. I would have finished faster with my shower.", scolded Eiji the reading girl jocular. White looked up, her facial expression under her full indifferent control again.
"I'm sorry. Did you wanted to invite me to the shower to hold your hand? I must have missed the signs. Blame my anti-social side not understanding human cues."
"You don't need to take it that far...", muttered Eiji slightly embarrassed. He sat down next to White, taking a huge gulp from his cooled down coca and some soaky marshmallow with it.
"You look great by the way.", sneered White her friend who took her teasing compliment boastfully.
"I know, I really rock the look, right?"
"Yeah, we should make that your standard pajama from now on."
Both U19 members laughed quietly and shortly, still hunted by their nightly experience. They fell into a jaded silence, sipping their coca and caught in their thoughts.

"Were are the others?", asked Eiji.
"Were do you think they are?", returning White the question, basically telling him she had no idea and that he should take a guess. Eiji rested his head on the backrest, enjoying the cool softness on his from the shower heated up skin.
"Probably outside with Banda, I'd assume."
"Hm.", agreed White stoic. The silence returned to be broken after a minute by a question of hers.

"You think the others were... peeved about our little secret adventure?"
"Peeved? Naaaaaah! They are downright pissed, I am sure of that.", groaned Eiji, remembering parts of the last evening when they had returned with their haul to the kitchen. His eyes had noticed, but his soul was too hurt to care, he was in need of healing and really couldn't deal with what he had registered but ignored for his own well-being. Not really mature, but then again he was eternal 16, he should be allowed some childish antic now and then even as the group's leader. Again, White agreed this time with a nod.
"I don't like the thought, but we might have to do something to thank Gorillafro for taking care of it."
"You think so?", grinned Eiji in jest. White noticed with relief the shine return to his magenta eyes, which before had looked so tormented in his bed that for a brief moment she had worried that he was permanently traumatized. Humans were always so fragile yet also surprisingly tough creatures. Not that she would tell him of either her worry nor her relief.
"Maybe a bunch of bananas should do the trick.", suggested White seriously causing Eiji to laugh loudly for the first time of the day, another deed that told the girl that her leader was returning to his old self.

"I think he would be happier about some good burgers with big fries on its side.", proposed the pink-haired rebel character his food idea as thanks for their large friend who was as big as his appetite.
"We do that and he might just eat up the entire fridge by himself and move onto the storage room. Then we can do this Attention raid yet again.", sighed the white-haired villain character in mocked desperation. Both snorted and shook their heads wildly at the thought to do another Attention run like this. They had their fill of adrenaline and dopamine for a while. The pain returned to the healed wounds still sore from the rapid healing and their muscles notified their owners that they were also hurting. Needless to say, neither was too keen to do much moving or fighting anytime soon.
"We'll find something to thank him with."

"Yesterday was pretty crazy, wasn't it?", chatted Eiji easily, happy White was less withdrawn than usual. Compared to a couple years ago she had really grown as a not-person.
"Yeah, it was pretty enjoyable.", admitted White which made Eiji take everything back he had just thought of her development.
"You and I really got different definitions about the term joy.", he said remembering her sight spilled with the blood of her enemies and her own. He still couldn't get used to the idea of killing characters even if they couldn't die as long as their series ran or weren't even alive to begin with like the Nameless.
"Indeed, mine is clearly superior.", teased White her group's leader with a little smug smile.
"Well, at least we share the commonality that we both miss our friends from our old series.", sighed Eiji with a deep nostalgic remembering the scenario he and her had found themselves in with White's attempt of taking in a 4th Sunheart.

White's head snapped back at Eiji and the look in her eyes was burning ice. He knew he had just stepped on a big bomb, but there was no taking back those words just spoken.
"Ko is not my friend.", emphasized White with every word in a chilly voice.
"Right, my bad, my bad.", tried Eiji to quickly surrender and move on from that topic, but it seemed White was having none of that peace offering.
"In fact, he is, WAS, my nemesis. He is the damn reason our series ended too early to give me the opportunity to show the readers everything I could have done. His Gary Stu character of being awesome in everything while being an edgy emo-kid who's also a god-damn goody-goody hero was fucked up; that one is on our creator though. That he was able to overwrite the commands I gave him when he was genetically designed to follow my every word was dumb but the reason he was able to do so is incredible idiotic! Just because his wannabe-girlfriend told him to try his hardest he is suddenly good at EVERYTHING?! Even at opposing my mind-control powers? What the actual flying FUCK?!?" Eiji leaned back as White crawled on all fours onto the couch and towards him, her angry distorted face getting closer with every venom-dripping word she spat out. White hated Ko and Ko hated White, that never was a secret in the club since they both entered it. Eiji knew from Ko that he despised White for making him kill his girlfriend Amagi together all the city people and that he never was a human but a disguised weapon. White never spoke of her reasons why she hated the Main Character with the same passion he had for her, but everyone assumed it was just written into her Character Core.

Hearing her rant now, Eiji could feel that White had bottled up those feelings of unfair treatment and stupid powerplay decisions from her series for a long time. Well, it was not like he didn't knew where she came from. They all had those what-if thoughts about their creators scripts for them to act out in the studio just to feel the sparse attention, indifference and worse dislike and even hate for their story. Nobody liked that but it was not like they could just jump into their creators mind and tell them to get their shit together. In a sense Eiji was glad that his series at least had an optimistic open ending, White one's for example was so open with her just being gone from the story that it would have probably infuriated the nicest character ever written and White was far from being that kind of character. And he could tell. There wasn't just hate and wrath, but also pain in her expression.
"That ain't all.", continued White her rant. " That dumb super-power "Flash Waves" that some human got and others don't and of course Ko got it in spades. That small-arms weaponry that is supposed to take on Godzilla-type monsters. All the unknown stuff about the monsters just thrown at the readers eyes. All those Named with less character than even the Nameless, just being there for tropes and making Ko look good. Every time doing his perfect best in everything he attempted and acting like he is saving the world and our series despite only being a monster just like me! He gets all the screentime but all I get are less than 5 panels and a few mysterious words before I am gone for several chapters until I finally make a real appearance again? The hell was my creator thinking! I was the best thing about this series, not Ko! Even now I still get fanarts drawn by my fans while Ko is forgotten in the ashes of manga history! And he dares despises me for doing what I had to do?"
Eiji didn't interrupt her, hoping this would clear her mind getting rid of all the ballast she had carried with her. But considering a certain action of hers in regards to Ko in the past he wasn't so sure if she was fully honest with him.

"Oh, and don't get me started of the BULLSHIT reason they were unable to contact Ko's father for several months while he trains as a child soldier to kill giant monsters and how he NEVER makes an appearance in the story, but his supposedly dead-ass MOTHER makes a return as the final boss? Like hello? How the hell should she and I have gotten away from a "biomatter disintegration beam" that is as fast as light and kills every human in a 20 km radius? Even using my teleport powers as explanation is just headbanging daft! Just tell the readers that her and I could not be destroyed by the beam because it only hurt humans or some shit like that! Or how he suddenly didn't killed a single human from A.D.R.A despite his entire purpose as a designed weapon to wipe out humans! Then the overly complicated weapon designs and the dumb way of how Ko transforms into a monster! UGH! There was so much going wrong with the series I was born into and there was nothing could do to stop its demise. They even only translated our first three chapters so not even the Attention from the Internet could save us! It was just a shitshow from A to Z..."
Eiji gulped, watching White slowly calm down after she listed all that was wrong with her series though there was probably more and she just was too tired to be angry anymore. But now was the best time to get his words in.
"Then why did you go with Ko when he was leaving us through the gate?" White's eyes grew wide with shock, but Eiji continued with the taboo topic none has spoken of since that fateful day. "He suddenly told us his good-byes that morning in the kitchen after a cereal being his last meal and left, only you accompanying him, then you came back alone. Why do that if you hated him?"

White moved away from Eiji's face and sat on her legs, then she rearranged her seating posture by rolling backwards, clutching her legs as if she was an Armadillo. For several seconds she stared at the ceiling, leaving Eiji to listen to his quickened heartbeat. Then she spoke.
"I won't tell you what happened that day, but... but you are right. I didn't hate him, I hated the way he was written in our story. I knew he wasn't at fault for that, he cannot be blamed for the way his Core was made. Just like how I couldn't chose the Character Core I was born with either. Yet it was our hate for each other that kept us burning with life for the first time after we were abandoned by the readers and our own creator, hating... kept us warm." White turned quiet. Eiji waited as it seemed his friend was pondering whenever or not to continue saying anything more. Then she decided against it, turning her body to face the couch, hiding her expression with the soft leather and her white hair from his gaze.

"I-uhm, I know hate very well myself.", began Eiji, unsure if she wanted to listen to his story after her rant. But White hadn't gotten up to leave the room, so maybe she wanted someone to talk to, to confide to. And what kinda leader and friend would he be if he wasn't there for her? All he had now was his own history he didn't wished to be reminded of though now it was maybe the only thing left he could lay bare to her to show his sincerity after her open words about her buried feelings.
"I hated my teachers so much. I hated most adults in my series. They were egoistic, crude, unreasonably harsh, hypocrites, just bad people you could not look up to, only away out of fear to be the next victim of their unbridled desire to shape us into "respectable adults" no matter which way or what it would cost us children. That hate is part of my Character Core. Even now when I meet adult characters of other series, I feel it flare up inside me though I have gotten quite good at suppressing it. I just changed my hate from the adults to the world beyond that judged us not by our own merits but by the shoddy works of our creators we are forced to act out and fill with live. It kept me going for a long time. Even after... my girlfriend and my friends left us..."
Eiji stopped, the sting of anguish in his heart revisiting those memories broke off his voice. White had turned her head towards him, observing him. At least he knew he had her attention and that she cared enough to listen to him.

"I never understood why they left me, us.", he continued, feeling the dam broken and words flushing out, carrying the feelings he closed away for so long. "I thought they were able to withstand the Call and refuse the Gate's demand to enter just like I do everyday, but when they left they were smiling, they were happy... happy to move on and to leave me here. I could feel my hate turn to them for betraying me like this. I hated myself for wanting to hate them. It was so hard to watch them go. So tempting to give up what defines me and follow them, their kind eyes telling me to walk with them. I didn't. Part of me still regrets not doing it. Another part still cannot believe they are no longer with me. I am just glad I was able to force myself to wish them well. But...I miss them... I miss them so much..."
White sat up, putting her feet back to the ground, her hands on the couch. She could feel her right hand twitching to move on EIji's, give him a squeeze to let him know he was not alone. She fought against that feeling and won. It was in her Core after all.
"Why do you think she left me?" White was taken aback by his question. She noted that he had not asked for his friends, only a specific one, a girl White had found incredible lame and annoying. Just what answer was she supposed to give to someone looking so hurt and lonely? Could he really believe she had an insight in her that he had not? Would he even accept the answer she would give him? Another twinge in her guts, telling her to soften her approach. She wrung it down. Her unchosen Core made it easy.

"I think, she had no choice. She had to leave.", began White her honest answer she knew would hurt Eiji. Hurt him after he had listened to her venting off her soul's miasma. But that was the kind side in him, in his Core demanded to be heed. Just like hers saw no reason why to give a human comfort. Or why she should receive any. "Bride, I mean Tukino-san, was all about you. You know how much I dislike this kind of female character. Just existing to be the main character's love interest. A fantasy for the readers to enjoy with no depth nor reason to seek anything else. But she knew. She knew what she was and that it meant nothing out here. You will never grow up. Never have the life you fought for in your series. Never have children. It must have been a great strife to her, knowing what she meant to you, being your emotional mainstay, yet her Core feeling so empty because all in it is you. Her classmates and parents already left. Every day she would wake to the feeling of no purpose beyond being your heart's crutch and she would cling to you, trying to find purpose in you, but you... you already had your purpose and it wasn't her. She could feel it. She knew. She gave up. She left you. She probably made this decision of leaving with the others to see if you will follow her. If you are willing to chose her over.... this. And when you wouldn't, she could smile, knowing you will be okay, even without her. And she no longer had to fight to keep on going for a promise which can never be fulfilled. Hmpf! But what do I know about human teenagers and their feelings?"

White felt silly for going on such a long rambling, taking his question so seriously. When she took notice how much her answer sounded like she cared, she tried to save face by ending with a brash sentence, but considering Eiji's empathic side, she doubted she had fooled him. Unable to face him, she turned away and waited for his reply, hoping he won't thank her yet knew he will. A jolt ran through her spine as suddenly she felt the heaviness of Eiji's head resting on her right shoulder.
A soft snoring greeted her alert ears and the sight of the sleeping Eiji was a gift to her worried eyes. For a second she had feared he had come to her for physical comfort, something she shouldn't give him considering what he and she were. But him being asleep might mean he hadn't heard everything of her embarrassing speech, maybe he didn't heard it at all. White felt her heart calm down, now wondering how she should get out of this situation with her dignity intact as in Eiji not waking up and realizing he was using her as a pillow and she allowed him to do so. A wet feeling on her shoulder made her throw a glimpse at it, knowing it could only be two fluids with a sleeping human.

Some tears from Eiji had reached her thin pajama and soaked right through. White felt an unusual feeling she could hardly describe. As if the sorry sight Eiji was in made her sad, which it shouldn't. A short pang in her head told her to leave Eiji on the couch and go to bed herself. If he was so tired and still hurting from their battle yesterday he shouldn't have left bed in the first place. What was this foolish human thinking following her to the living room instead of looking after himself? White's best guess was that it probably was something stupid, like wanting to keep company with her, believing she had suffered a similar nightmare like he had. Which she had, but it's not like the presence of a mere human would have a calming effect on the turmoil in her soul. Quite opposite, his touch made something unpleasant stir in her guts and she couldn't name what this feeling was.
Eiji's mutter of his girlfriend's name reminded White how easy it was to wound a human's heart. Did the chipper Airhead thought of the consequences to her boyfriend when she left him? Did she not care or did she believe he would heal with time? She really didn't understood humans. She did understand though that if the others were to come back from whatever little trip they were on, she would never be able to live down them seeing her like this.

White sighed ruefully. Her life as a Villain character really was one long never-ending joke. Carefully she moved her right arm behind his back, holding his neck and head in her hand, then turned her body slightly towards him to lift his legs up with her left hand. Turning front while standing up she lifted the young teen effortlessly as if he was a baby, light as a feather. Her inhumane strength made this task easy. With careful steps she walked towards the boys bedroom to tuck their silly leader back to bed. He still needed to heal, even with the Sunheart power used as aid to heal his wounds, Eiji was still human and his body needed time to adjust to the strange feeling of mended skin and grown flesh of a foreign power. White knew what it felt like, like wax as skin and cotton as flesh, a strange object embedded where your wounds were until your body accepted those new parts as its own.
To her it was a bit different though. Her body had self-healing abilities implanted by her creator. Enhanced by the Sunheart's power, she didn't felt sore or weak anymore after the uneasy night sleep she had. Eiji would take more time though before he returned to his usual self. Reaching Eiji's bed she put him down with utmost care, not to wake him up to let him continue his sleep but because she would feel worse if he saw her carrying him then when her chest had gotten stabbed.

After pulling the blanket over his body, a tug in her heart told her to leave. There was nothing to be gained from standing here, watching him, risking he'd wake and would question her presence by his bed. Her Core demanded it and she did not follow. Slowly she reached out her right forefinger, placing it like a falling snowflake on Eiji's scar on his forehead. Graceful like an Ice fairy her finger moved down gently from the hairline to his split eyebrow, counting the ten stitches that were used to sew his wound caused by the fury of a teacher in elementary school. White could feel the bitterness in this rough injury, the lost trust buried in it, the rage contained by it. The wound was lighter-colored than his skin yet under her finger's pure white skin it looked like a dark canyon surrounded by tanned cliffs. Eiji moved slightly, if it was due her touch or his dream, White could not tell.
Silently her finger moved away from his scar, his skin's warmth lingering on her fingertip for a bit before fading away. The girl clutched her right hand, feeling the Core inside her revolting and blasting against her "Out of Character" action. She left the room to make another cup of hot coca for herself. Inside her eyes glowed determination to no longer listen to a Core defining her Character created and read by people who most had forgotten about her. Her series was over, her story wasn't.

From now on, she would carve her own rules into her Core.

Word of the Author

5022 words, man, this two had a lot to talk about. And yes, White's nickname for Akari Tukino was Bride, because of the obvious loving relationship she had with Eiji Koudo.

Character Core, the defining traits of a character given by the Creator of the respective series. Can be looks, personalities, goals, dreams or quirks. Like for example Zoro always getting lost or Luffy eating so much. This Core usually prevents you from doing something OOC, Out of Character, while the series runs. It is basically a guideline and always a starting point for your Character development.
Now with no creators to write their stories and no readers to witness them, the Core functions more like a chain to our U19 members, reminding them what they are supposed to be and have them struggle when they act against their "Character". Imagine Sanji suddenly no longer being all crazy over women or even going all hot and bothered over bulky, hairy men. The readers would probably be like "What the f..." when reading that in OP until Oda tells them that this behavior is due someone's Devilfruit, so it's okay.^^

As for their ages, only Banda got a real age mentioned, he is 15. I made Eiji a year older than Banda because I imagine him being put into school later because of his birthday and him being a bit dumb on schoolstuff so his kindergarten teachers wanted that extra year to prepare him better. Considering the scar he received I guess it wasn't enough. As for White, she could be anything from 14 to 17 to several hundred years old from what I know, lol. I imagine her to be 17 years old and just be very small for her age.

I also forgot to mentioned last chapter that apparently I made a mistake with Banda's name. It is Banba Masami and now I dunno if I should fix all the times I mentioned Banba by his wrong name Banda or if I should keep going the way I have called him. What do you guys think? Should I change the name or keep it? For one I think Banda sounds tougher but Banba sounds way more like a Gorilla-name in a Zoo which fits White's nickname for him.
You are allowed to write a comment in here if you wanna tell me your thoughts regarding this matter.

Thanks for reading, guys. Next week, the coming of U19 party for Ayakashi Triangle for avoiding the U19 fate and going strong into the future. I might name it Ayakashi (Medium) Thighs or something like that. XD

Chapter 9 - Ayakashi (Medium) Thighs

"Well, guys, you know what we gonna celebrate today and how." Eiji smiled cheery looking at a variety of annoyed, joyful, bored, giddy expressions of his U19 members. "Today is the first of a month long celebration of several series coming out of the U19 phase, starting with Ayakashi Triangle, followed by Magu-chan, Hard Cop and Roboco. Anyone wanna start with the gratulations?"
Noah raised his hand high in the air, jumping up and down to get noticed. "Pick me, Eiji-niichan! I was taken last last time!" Eiji arched eyebrows were directed at everyone questioning who gave the little boy access to the AT chapters at the Grand Library. Everyone looked as innocent as freshly fallen snow. It was White who spoke up, only a little angry because she had already anticipated this from her peers.
"If nobody speaks up, I will afterwards call for a game: Tag. And I will be It."
"Oh yeah!", cheered Noah because it had been ages since their last intense Tag game. For good reasons.
"Oh no!", cried out everyone else except Mr.Commentary who just had a slight chuckle. Mostly because White tended to go all out and she was terrifying when trying to win the game at all cost, usually at the cost of the others running away from her and her incredible strength. Since she never "touched" Noah with her full power he never got into the indulgence of being thrown ten meter far with a single slap to the back or still seeing the little handprint of White on their bodies even weeks later. Needless to say since Mr.Commentary is a ghost, White's strength is pretty meaningless when touching him.

"FIne, I did it. A man gotta own up his mistakes."
"Okay, I'll admit I helped him get the stuff."
"Yeah, it was me. It was all me..."
"I'm the guilty one, guys, I'm sorry."
White's little anger rose listening to the simultaneous confession of the four rule-breakers who all stared at each other unaware that they also had aided Noah in his task of obtaining inappropriate reading material for his age.
"Wait, you guys as well?"
"I never expected that from you!"
"Oh, as if you are any better!"
"Well, this explains why he already knew what would happen next..."
White crossed her arms, her right index finger drumming on her left arm. She looked straight at Banda, Tamashiro, Momiji and Jackman and if she had been Medusa their look would have frozen them to chunks of ice. "You imbeciles! What were you thinking? Didn't we agreed that this series is not good for Noah in his child version?"

Hajime resting in his slime form on the table leaned over to Mr.Commentary looking relieved. "I am so glad that I didn't brought Noah over to the Grand Library when he asked me to help him read the next AT chapter."
"Not your thing, Hajime-kun?", asked Mr.Commentary watching how the 4 boys were sitting on their knees while White berated them with Eiji joining her.
"I am not so much into ecchi. I find the Yokai nice and the Ninja stuff cool, but the ecchi scenes are usually a turn-off for me."

"Objection, your honors!", interjected Tamashiro just when White and Eiji had forbid them from giving Noah anymore access to Ayakashi Triangle chapters.
"Who said you can speak-" Eiji interrupted White's rant by putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Let's hear him out, we can wash his head later if need be. What is it, Tamashiro?" The interviewee pointed at Momiji.
"Momiji got something to say.", threw the redhead the glasses guy to the wolves.
White turned her glare at the unfortunate Shogi player. Eiji gave him an encouraging nod, knowing that Momij might have something that could calm the storm before it went haywire. Momiji sweatdropped, scratched his chin, then had an epiphany how to save his hide.

"You two are worried that Ayakashi Triangle might be inappropriate for Noah due his age, but if you take his naive character into account who says he is reading or getting what he reads there. Ask him yourself and if it is innocent, then we can continue to show him the series in the Grand Library." Momiji looked very complacent with his quickly thought up argument. But White was having none of that.
"And if not? What will you do, if it isn't innocent, Four-eyes?"
"Then Tamashiro will do all the bathroom and garbage jobs for a week."
"Two weeks.", bargained White, not caring who does the dirty deeds as long as it was not her.
"Deal!", agreed Momiji, glad she took the sacrifice that was not him.
"I will never forgive you if this goes wrong, Momiji.", threatened Tamashiro his upper bed-comrade.
"Should have though about that before putting me into the spotlight.", came the dry reply from the kneeling Momiji as he pushed up his glasses in an attempt to look cool.

"Well, I guess, this means we can start with the congratulations then? You get to have the first turn today, Noah." Noah started clapping his hands as soon as Eiji gave him the approval.
"Sweet!" The little boy started to clap into his hands enthusiastically to start the ritual.
"Congratulations, Ayakashi Triangle! You got supercute Ayakashis and I love Shirogane who looks so cool in his King form and so adorable in his chonker form. Matsuri's and Suzu's interactions are very funny and I like what good friends they are. I hope we get to see more Ayakashis in future chapters, their looks are my favorite thing about the series."
"See? Told you that Noah had no problem reading this series.", triumphed Tamashiro. White gave him the evil eye in response. "Is what Momiji said."
"Dude!" Everyone stopped clapping as the two started to argue who keeps using who as meatshield.

White ignored the two idiots bickering and stopped her clapping walking up to a hard thinking Noah who was pondering who should be the second in line. He looked up as White kneeled down to be on the same head level as he was. With the sweetest smile she could muster and which she made sure to only show Noah, she started her inquiry.
"Noah, was the series not dirty to you with what the girls were wearing or how they were acting with each other?" Noah blinked in surprise at that weird question.
"No? They are pretty clean, they bath often, sometimes even together." White heard a clap as if two friends gave each other a high five as the dawn of victory washed over their differences in treating each other as sacrificial pawns.
"And the Ayakashis? Not all of them were cute, were they? Did you find some scary, like the one devouring that cute fuzzy Ayakshi?" Noah looked really sad, remembering the poor little fluffball that got eaten by that human-looking Ayakashi.
"Yeah, they are scary and I tend to skip those pages if I can, the human one I didn't because I didn't thought he was an Ayakashi as well, I thought he was like Suzu-chan. But they are not as scary as the Phantoms in Phantom Seer!", explained Noah bravely. The two culprits cheers behind White's back became silent.
"Oh?", faked White a surprised sound pretty badly. "And which one of the Nii-chans allowed you to read that series?"
"Banda-niichan, Jackman-niichan, Momiji-niichan and Tamashiro-niichan."

Slowly White turned out, her smile an evil grin now as her prey were on her hook. Tamashiro and Momiji were chalk-white as White came closer to them. Banda had already accepted his fate and Jackman was sweating despite being a suit. Those two knew White would not show mercy to them either. All four hold their breaths as White started to deliver her sentence to them.
"One week of kitchen, bathroom and garbage duty each of you. Same for Banda and Jackman. And no more Phantom Seer from now on. Any objections?" All four shook their head, actually being glad it was only doing chores as punishment and not even two weeks at that.
"White-neechan, can I still read Ayakashi Triangle though, please?"
"Yes, of course you can.", she replied, stroking the blonde boy's head. When she took her place next to Eiji in the circle, he had to ask her out of curiosity.
"Why only one weeks and not the two from Momiji's proposal?"
"Because they were right about Noah reading Ayakashi Triangle not being quite the way as it was intended to as we will no doubt soon hear from others who read it for those very reasons. So the deal for the ecchi series was void and four weeks of not doing chores is better than two anyway."
"Makes sense. Okay, everyone, let's start clapping again so that Noah may choose!"

Noah didn't wasted a second and chooses Hajime as soon as the clapping begang. The little alien sighed but threw out his opinion to the beat of his silver tentacles transformed into human hands:
"Congratulations, Ayakashi Triangle. What interests me the most is the Ninja Exorcist aspect and so far we only got Matsuri, Ninokuro, Korogi and Matsuri's grandpa in that faction as examples. I'd like to see more of their history, clans, organization in the story than the ecchi scenes. The yokai are okay but most of them seem to just fill the role of monster of the week or just background character with no real meaning besides being a danger or nuisance for humans. I'd like to see a deeper world building around Ayakashi to fully implement them into this story besides being cute or ugly monsters. I think I chose you next, Banda."

"Yosh! Congrats AT! After Yuuna ended I thought we wouldn't get a good Ecchi series with great art anymore but along comes Ayakashi Triangle and I am loving it! It got everything a real man's heart desires, cool outfits, awesome battles with monsters and hot cute girls! I really like that Ninokuru is such a cool dude who really got skills and ain't just for show. Usually those kinda characters often job too much very quickly or get pushed aside, not so here. Matsuri is a great fanservice provider who has a long future of many ecchi scenes ahead of himself. I am not sure if this series has the right mix of action and ecchi yet but I am sure the creator will get the hang on it in no time. Mr. Commentary, you are up next!" Mr. Commentary who was only imitating the clapping movement because he had no real hands to make sounds with, took a bow before speaking his piece:
"My congratulations to making it past 19 chapters and have such tremendous success at it. I think what is most surprising is the large success behind this series who is already selling well above 50k volumes with its first one. You could argue that it is due the creator's former successes and well known name, but we had plenty of other famous creators fail to connect with the readers with their series after their former success. I think the reason for that is not only the art which is obviously top-notch but also the theme itself which is a mix of two topics which the readers enjoy greatly, Exorcists dressed as Ninjas using Jutsus to fight demons. If Kimetsu no Yaiba was Exorcists coupled with Samurai then Ayakashi is using the similar path of success by having Exorcists coupled with Ninjas. Personally I find the story a bit slow and would have preferred a faster story-telling type to get to the good stuff quickly however the ecchi part in this series which Kimetsu did not had nor needed allowed it to slow down the pace without turning readers off or away. I think the series greatest weakness right now is its own Main Character as it might annoy some readers if Matsuri keeps losing in future battles. You can use him only so much for fanservice before the respect before him as a male fighter diminishes. Another weakness is that it is not clear yet in which direction this story will develop as it seems pretty contradictory with Matsuri wanting to protect Suzu first most and Suzu first priority being to return Matsuri to his original gender to have se-"

"NOPE! I am taking the helm now, thank you very much, Mr.Commentary!", interrupted Eiji the spirit monologue. "Many gratulations, Ayakashi Triangle. I enjoy how a series found success with a genre that usually fails to gather much interest in Jump by having its Main Character change his gender. It is a pretty bold decision considering the many failings previous genderbender attempts had but it seems the Creator has done everything right to take many of his old readers with his new story as well as fix new readers to give his series a try. Personally I'd like to see more choreographed fights but I am sure we will get into those the longer the series run. I also hope that Matsuri's newfound situation will not be played just for fanservice purposes but also to highlight the differences a boy and girl experience growing up. It is a delicate issue but nonetheless an interesting one. Hmm, I think I pick Momiji next."

Momiji nodded as he collected his thought as his clapping continued.
"Congratulations to arriving at 19 chapters, Ayakashi Triangle. I am mostly okay with everything in this series, but I really enjoy Matsuri's character for uhm, his chances to grow as a character from now on. I just wish there were more... scenes with him. You're up, Tamashiro."
"Just admit you like his new body, dude.", teased Tamashiro his friend who glared at him in response.
"Grats grats grats! I care little for this series but I know that Suzu's best girl! I wish we had even more scenes of her thighs! Probably the best thing this series has to offer to the readers!"
"As if you are any better with your poor attempts of hiding!"
"Enough, chose between Jackman and White, Tamashiro!", said Eiji getting tired of their cat and dog play. Tamashiro threw a look at White's direction and her Snowqueen expression made him look away quickly to not strain his luck any further than he already had today.
"Jackman, say something!"

Jackman wasn't too happy with that decision as it meant he was forced to chose White as last person for this ritual. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, he opened his puppy mouth.
"Congratulation, Ayakashi. I agree with Hajime and Banda that the Ninja outfits are really cool and I like the dynamic of Matsuri's and Suzu's relationship, but I'd like a clear goal to be defined soon. Something they all work towards. Right now we got no real Ayakashi group that like tries to invade the human world and the attempts of taking away Matsuri's curse are going nowhere. I'd like to see a road this series wants to tread on instead of distracting us with boobs and butts every now and then. Uhm.... White-san, y-your turn please?"
White smiled benevolent causing the four mischievous boys to shudder lightly fearing what rage might lay behind that mask. White kept clapping, slowing it down until she made only a single loud clap every now and then, causing confusion and frantic rhythm among the others clapping. White calmly began her speech.

"I like how Suzu's thirst for Matsuri is shown in a way I can believe a teenager to think and behave. She feels very real with her worldly desires."
"I dislike how she is mostly a damsel in distress but considering her position I wouldn't wonder if she grows out of that role in some time."
"I really do not think that you can get away with that explicit kind of fanservice with Matsuri just because he is a guy in a girl's body. It's annoying."
"I enjoy Shirogane being a selfish and calculating demon who looks out for himself and his position as King of all Ayakashi. I hope he stays that way and fear he will soon change into a partner or mascot character for Matsuri and Suzu."
"Matsuri is an empty Main Character who is all about Suzu as if he can't live for himself. He has no purpose beyond serving as Suzu's knight and even failing at that. I pray he changes his ways after the latest chapter but I doubt he will."
"I wish the Ayakashi played a bigger part in this series, like the Jinyo right now who is delightfully evil, but it is still young and might grow into that direction. Or it stays as a stupid fanservice series that gets vote and attention with nude scenes."

"Uh, thanks for that finish and thanks to everyone for telling us their opinion.", thanked Eiji everyone after White stopped speaking and clapping. He knew of White's dislike of female characters being used as fanservice material or as mere love interests, so he knew she would be harsh on this series in particular. He was actually surprised she had something positive to say about the main female heroine, who in Eiji's mind was Suzu and not Matsuri even with the genderbender change.
"So guys, I noticed everyone was much nicer to Ayakashi Triangle than we were to Moriking a couple weeks ago. Why is that so?"
"Because it plays in a totally different league than us whereas Moriking got lucky Jump's line-up sucks so much that it got to live for so long.", replied Momiji with plenty of the others nodding.
"It should be over 70k sales by now, if you were to count all our series sales together, I don't think we would get past that number...", muttered Hajime depressed.
"It's hard to make fun of a successful series whereas with other less successful series we can imagine that we might have been in their place as well if our circumstances had been different. Like with Guardians of the Witch.", explained Mr. Commentary.
"Ugh! Don't remind me! Those were the luckiest SoBs ever!", complained Tamashiro rubbing his red hair furiously.
"Tell me about it.", sighed Jackman remembering the time both series had run in Jump yet his series ended so much earlier than the Guardian one.
"I don't get why we have to make fun of them anyway. I am just happy they got so far to tell their story.", smiled Noah widely.
"You're such a good kiddo, Noah~", sobbed Banda cleaning his nose on his rolled up sleeve.
"There you have it. Happy, leader?", asked White, looking like she really wanted this to be over with.

"Yes, just one last thing. How far do you think this series will go? I think, it will run for 250 chapters and become a big seller with around 300k per volume once it gets an anime."
"That is very generous, Eiji-san.", exclaimed Mr. Commentary. "Personally I see it reach 150 chapters and 100k sales per volume. I am not sure the ecchi part is exactly what the ecchi community wants from it if you compare it to the likes of Yuuna."
"It's gonna run forever and sell tons of stuff!", laughed Noah with the obvious answer.
"Probably 400 chapters and 500k sales per volume. A man gotta dream big and I bet so does the creator of this series.", mused Banda seriously, rubbing his chin in an attempt to look intellectual.
"Somewhere between 200 and 300 chapters and it will peak at 150k sales is my prediction!", announced Jackman, folding his arms before his puffed out chest.
"300 chapters with 200k sales.", said Tamashiro and Momiji unisono, setting aside their difference of who is best girl in Ayakashi triangle.
"It might reach 350 chapters in total with the cast growing and other worldbuilding aspects being explored. There might be an Ayakashi only world aside from the human realm for all we know, for example. As for sales, I don't care what it sells it will be more than us thousand-folds anyway.", predicted Hajime in a serious-minded tone.
"I am on the same page as Hajime. Who cares what it sells or how long it runs? It won't affect our lives much except if we go in there someday to steal their Attention.", deflected the recusant girl in white summer dress.

"I guess that's the end of our discussion then. Go off and have fun for the rest of the day, everyone. Momiji and Hajime have cooking turn for today, make sure you prepare your Ingredients in time. I don't wanna see our stored up Attention used up in quick food making." Hajime and Momiji gave their leader orders a nod of acknowledgement while Banda led a large group outside to hold a dodgeball game and already plans were made to go for swimming in the Dome when lunch was over. White also made her attempt to leave and find a book for herself to bury in it. A soft hand with rough fingertips taking her wrist hold her back. Turning around White saw Eiji looking lost at words, unsure if he should speak what was on his mind or let it rest. But White's mention of stealing the Attention from other series had the issue he wondered about brought back to his mind and he needed clarity.
"Is something the matter or do you simply enjoy touching my body, Romeo?", teased White the silent boy the corners of her mouth slightly going up in jeer. Quickly Eiji released her wrist, slightly embarrassed about the few seconds he had hold it without saying anything.

"It's about the matter from some time ago when we were talking on the couch.", explained the teenager ignoring her playful question. "I must have been really tired back then and wasn't thinking quite straight. I remember talking with you about Ko and the others from my series and then I... Did I ask you about Akari?" White raised an eyebrow listening to the worried undertone of his voice. Briefly she pondered making more fun of him, then decided to drop the matter all together. It wasn't worth dwelling over plus he might ask what her answer had been or would be.
"Your Bride? Not that I remember, no. You were asleep quite soundly on my shoulder, maybe you were just dreaming."
"Oh, that's...good?", replied Eiji unsure why his head was still on his shoulders if he had done this to the withdrawn girl. Then again she was nicer than she acted all the time around everyone. "Anyway, I wanted to thank you for bringing me to bed, I just hadn't found the opportunity to do so the last days. Thanks, White."
"You're welcome although I only did that because it would be unfavorable for the group if its leader stayed longer sick than he had need to be."
"You could just accept the thanks and leave it at that, you know..."
"If you don't like my way of accepting thanks then next time just go to bed when you are tired. You're still human after all. Now, off with you, the others are waiting for their 8th men to begin their game upstairs."
"If Mr. Commentary and Hajime and Banda are on one team, the game is decided anyway. So I hope I will be their 4th man.", laughed Eiji as he left White to go meet the others in the streets.

White looked after him until he walked through the door to the hallway. She noticed her core acting up again and put it on hold, not wanting to be bothered by it. She was too busy wondering if one day Eiji will remember her like he was remembering Akari, his friends from his series. With a shake of her head making her long white hair flow around her shoulders she shooed that thought away. It was meaningless anyway. She had no plans to go anywhere anytime soon and she knew he would not leave the U19 club either. Her time was better spend to see what book in the library shelves she hasn't read yet.

Word of the Author

Since nobody said anything I gonna keep naming Banba Banda. Maybe I change it on my own later if I find the time for it.^^

Sorry for the delay, this time it was not me deleting an entire chapter because I didn't liked it but simply real life getting in my way over and over again. Whole chapter got 4064 words, I try to post this week's chapter in time on Sunday. I made it happen once I can make that happen twice. :P
This week it will be about Magu-chan, God of Dumpster-diving!

I really hope I get a new post soon, this one has gotten so big it is annoying to scroll down all the time......
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 10 - Magu-chan: God of Dumpster diving

"Here we are, folks, the second fresh series making it to chapter 19. I present to you Magu-chan: God of Destruction!" Eiji rubbed his hands, very pleasant with his luck this year. Even when their Attention supplies had ran dangerously low, they still pulled through with their little adventure in the One Piece chapter. Now all those fresh series either failing to make it past 19 chapters or getting past that red line, gave the Club plenty opportunity to debate and spend time on the medium they were born to love yet could only live that love out in the WSJ tower cellar. Still it is the little things that count.
"More like God of Dumpster diving! Right?", laughed Tamashiro but this time unlike with Moriking, only Jackman and Mr.Commentary laughed with him, the others either ignored his throw-in or shook their head.
"Actually, it is Naputaaku who does most of the garbage swimming.", mentioned Momiji like a smart-aleck in class. Reminded Eiji of the good old times of Nanami playing the role of teacher pet in his own series.
"Acktually, ith ish Mapufaaku wh' duhs moscht uf thä garblagsh swämming.", fooled Tamashiro exaggerated after Momiji, even mimicking pushing his non-existing glasses up.
"Good to see where your mental age got stuck. Also I hadn't pushed my glasses up.", correct Momiji his red-haired friend while pushing up his glasses.
"You are doing it right now."
"Really? Must be a reflex, I didn't noticed."
"Besides, that name was your idea, remember?"
"Doesn't mean I'm not wrong about calling out who is the true dumpster diving god."

"Bros, bros, bros.", Banda came in between the two putting his large hands on their shoulders. "There is plenty of time afterwards for your tweaks, but let's get this discussion outta the way first." Both of the boys agreed with a nod and returned their eyes to their leader who had waited patiently for his cue to get this meeting started.
"Thanks, Banda."
"Anytime, Bossman."
"White, do you wanna start off since last week you were the one who finished our session?", offered Eiji to the sole girl in the room. White rolled her eyes at that suggestion but started to clap into her hands.

"If I must." Eiji wanted to add that she didn't had to if she didn't wanted to, but since she started the ritual already she couldn't be that much against it.
"Congratulations, Magu-chan for reaching and passing the 19th chapter mark. While I found the premise of your story of destroying humankind very appealing to me, so far it had been quite a bummer due that damn traitor Uneras aiding the enemy! I hope you find a way to free yourself from your shackles and bring the end times on mankind in your series. Then again you will most likely love some humans too much to make them sad over killing a couple billion people, so that won't happen anyway. For a mere SoL series you are pleasant to read and I hope to see many more chapters from you. I pick Four-eyes as next speaker."

Momiji cleared his throat while continuing his clapping. White's speech had been surprisingly positive for a series that he had expected her to dislike with a demon god being the adorable pet of a normal human girl. Then again her liking the story for wanting to destroy all humans on earth was really like her.
"Many congratulations, Magu-chan. You got a very heart-warming story which seems to reach many readers so I doubt you will disappear anytime soon. While your pacing is pretty slow you could also call it steady and it fits the way you want to tell your theme of an everyday life with a demon god who can only destroy but who actually tries, in his own way, to live in the human world in a peaceful way. I think your character cast could use some more work because to me it is so-so with half the cast likeable and the other one I just wanna drop into the ocean and never see them again. But you might find the time to grow their characters into ones I like to read about in the coming months. Your turn, Eiji."

Eiji nodded, taking a moment to put the words on his tongue he wanted to say about another Jump series getting past them all, except of course Mr. Commentary's one which had gone way past what most of them had expected Mitama to reach.
"I congratulate you, Magu-chan: God of Destruction for coming so far. I enjoy the relationship between your two main characters, they are more like family than master and servant or owner and pet and I find all the ways Magu-chan tries to be useful with his destructive power and many misunderstandings very funny. Right now you are very episodic but I hope to see a real arc of you soon and giving us a clear goal this series wants to reach besides keeping Magu-chan from destroying mankind and finding his old powers. I also hope to see more of the relationship of Magu-chan and the other demon gods Uneras and Naputaaku and that those won't be the last tiny demon gods we see in this series. You wanna go next, Jackman?"

"On it." Jackman breathed in, out and let go. "Grats, I guess, for being one of the most boring series I have read, Mayawn-chan. While I get that you are a comedy series with SoL aspect, for me there has been too little happening in 19 chapters. Others had impressive arcs or upped their cast with remarkable characters readers want to read more about, you had neither of those. While it seems you managed to grab enough attention for now to get much Attention from the readers, I don't think you will to see 100 chapters if you keep this up. Then again, I am from a series with only 12 chapters, no need to take my advice on this." Jackman felt bad, it was still bitter to be reminded with each passing series that your own failure to reach the same heights, the bare minimum, were still a fresh wound in your heart and pride. He wondered when he will stop feeling that way. Even with Ayakashi Triangle last week he had felt the same bitterness albeit it was drowned in his fear of having to address White about a series she was not pleasant with. He gave a nod to Banda. Only two more weeks.

Banda smiled as his turn came. His claps got louder as did his voice to outdo his clap sounds.
"Well, big congrats coming from my way. I like how we got a demon god "get servants and believers" by making friends with his friendship book. It reminds me of all the characters from my old series that didn't had the chance to see the Studio light, people who were supposed to becomes friends, my teammates and my rivals. In a way reading you puts both a smile on my face and makes me sad. But I'm glad you could get so far with a story many might deem too childish for the majority of the readers taste. Still, I'd prefer to see more action, like in Hardcore Dolphins next week, that gonna be my jam right up my alley! Tamashiro, let it rip, get it out of your system!"

Tamashiro grinned being called out like that.
"I gotta remember that name for next week. Congratulations, Magu-chan the Dumpster-god. Now that that is outta the way: You are so goddamn boring. Uneras the troll god is the only interesting thing you got going for you. You should up your game, man, or you will be left to the dust. Reaching 19 chapters is just the first step, now you gotta survive for real. Work on your human characters to make them more interesting and appealing, and if you can't, bring in more plush demons because those three are more growing and developing than the rest of the cast, though that one is setting a really low bar. Noah, you keep jumping up and down, wanna go after me?", asked Tamashiro with a honest smile, glad he could voice his irritations about this lame cast of a series getting past his.

Noah stopped jumping up and down while clapping to be noticed and whooped out his endorsement for Magu-chan's series.
"Love you, Magu-chan! Even when you look scary you are funny and adorable, one of the best main characters of the fresh bunch of series we got! I love how kind and patient Ruru-chan is, she makes for a great sister! My fav character however is Naputaaku, because of how caring he is for his minions and how he has shown to be hard-working and ready to better himself for the future. The situations with the tiny demons are already very entertaining and I hope your creator comes up with many more such situations that make laugh so much. Uhm, Uncle, you wanna go next?"

Mr.Commentary felt like he grew ten centimeters. He loved being called Uncle by little Noah, even in death the disarming honesty and love of a child could send your soul sky-high. Not in the literal word as the purple ghost was not interested in reaching heaven nor had any intentions of walking through the Gate anytime soon. Intensifying his fake clapping not producing a single sound, he began his speech.
"My congratulations. Your endearing characters and simple but easy to read artwork has captured quite some hearts out there, according to the chatter we pick up over the internet. However, your world is still "empty", many of your characters without purpose, you are hanging yourself from chapter to chapter with no red string attached. While it might seem fine to take it easy in your first twenty chapters, it could tire out your readers if the formula stays the same over a longer course of chapters. The idea to introduce the "world inside Magu-chan" was a nice idea, but it is a pretty stale world so far. While your charm as a not hyper series is your steady pace and not over-the-moon-overreacting characters, it will not help your growth, if you content yourself with what you got right now. Your biggest strength right now are Magu-chan and Ruru-chan, but Ruru-chan is getting outdone by the randomness and creative style of Magu-chan. Making her a real magical girl could help add some unexpected side to her, that the readers wanna read about it. Also a flashback to the terrifying self Magu-chan has originally been or still is for all we know, would be good to liven things up, show the difference from back then and now. Other demon gods or more heroes trying to deal with the demons are also a good idea, to further build on already existing fundamentals which enriches the world for the readers to immerse themselves in. I expect that the editor has a hand in the creation of this series, probably with something like "never change a working system", but that is exactly what you do not have yet! You are only about to reach twenty chapters! This is the time to experiment, read fan letters, check the surveys, see what sticks and what does not! Do not be afraid to take some bold risks and daring plays! Like the not-so-much-love triangle idea is not a bad one but it ain't really has high stakes put on it. An arc inside Magu-chan's mind where everyone of Ruru-chan's friends has magical powers or has a "RPG role" might hold more merit than the Virus defeating episode. Furthermore, I want to add..."

Hajime sighed, his silver tentacles barely clapping anymore.
"Why is he doing this every time we hold one of those sessions?", he asked nobody in particular, already aware of the answer.
"...characters need more than just a quirk to be a character. Take a look at me for example, my quirk was commenting but over the series I showed many more side of me than just that..."
"It's his thing, can't go against the coding in your core.", explained Eiji with a shrug of his shoulders, eyeing White nervously for any enraging outbreak of hers. But for some reason she seemed withdrawn and less attentive than usual. He wondered what she was thinking about.
"...stories are more than just episodes, even for a comedy series, making a reader remember a past chapter's happening for the current one is an important task which cannot be taken easily..."
"Cut the chase, please, Mr.Commentary!", begged Momiji who's head started to spin, trying to follow all the critic categories and examples to follow.
"...and with that I rest my case of Magu-chan being a series with potential if it can tap into it for real in future chapters. Hajime-kun, if you'd be so kind to take the torch next?"

"Yay~", celebrated Hajime sarcastically. "Congratulations, Magu-chan. Yeah, as for me, I'm pretty shocked to see how a form similar to my own can be so popular. Makes me wish my creator had done more with me in my real form and not my human one, not that it matters much anymore. I like how directly Magu-chan thinks of everything, like the nutrition of food or using a friendship book as a "doomed book of seals" for his followers, growing his followership with every friend entry. Right now, I think he is both the series biggest strength and greatest weakness, because while he is a fun and great character he also steals the spotlight of many other characters when appearing in what was supposed to be scenes about them to grow or change. I don't think that is a bad thing for a fresh series though, there will be plenty time later to give everyone the screentime they deserve."

"Thanks a lot, Hajime. Thanks to all of you for speaking your time. This last applause if for all of us! Go nuts!"
"WWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!", screamed the idiot trio of Banda, Tamashiro and Momiji, stomping with their feet while White, Hajime and Mr.Commentary had a more solemn clapping style and Eiji, Jackman and Noah were busy figuring out who of them could clap the fastest in under a minute. After the cacophony passed, Eiji stopped clapping and moved his shoulders in circles to get the stiffness out of his system.
"So what you think of the future of Magu-chan? White?"

"I think it will be a moderately success, with around 150k at its peak and between 100-150 chapters before ending on its own terms."
"I believe it will run much longer with 200 chapters but I also don't see it selling more than 150-180k. I don't know if a calm series like Magu-chan will be that popular to the readers.", added Momiji after White finished her expectation for this series. Eiji nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, I see it the same way with something just short on 180 chapters in total and sales being right below 140k. Maybe I am too generous, but I wouldn't mind if it gets to be that popular."
"I just wanted to say, you guys are being very generous assuming this will run for years. Once Jump stabilizes its list of series, it will look at sales again and once Agravity Boys is gone, it might hit Magu-chan next depending on who well the new series do next year. I think it will end before chapter 100 and sell around 60 to 80k and that is plenty good for it already.", disagreed Jackman with the other three's assessments.
"Hm, I also don't see it do that well. 100 to 120 chapters and 70 or 80k seems more believeable to me than double that numbers.", agreed Banda to the former suggestion.
"Indeed! WSJ is a Shounen Magazine, it won't continue two childish series like Magu-chan and Roboco with a potential third on the horizon in its roster, at best it will be one, maybe two if they sell really well. I think Magu-chan ends somewhere between chapter 70-80 and sells at best 40 or 50k per volume.", jumped Tamashiro the mascot suit by.
"You guys are just negative nancy-pantsies.", laughed Noah heartily. "I can see it run for a very long time and who cares what its sales are, as long as the fans of it enjoy reading it every week? But yeah, it will not sell as much as other series in Jump which might be a problem."
"Interesting. I think this is the first time you are not totally optimistic about a series future, Noah-kun." The little boy turned to the purple ghost who made that statement with a surprised tone in his voice.
"It's normal to be worried about a series you like not doing well, isn't it?"
"Yes, but I can assure you, that Magu-chan will surely run for quite some time. Maybe not as long as you wanted it to run, but more than others in similar situations as Magu-chan was granted to. My belief is that it will get a bit above 120 chapters and sell 100k at its peak if it doesn't get that one arc to hype up support for it. Or if it gets lucky enough to get an anime, it might push it just up there to even reach the heights of 200k sales, but I don't see that happening."
"Mr. Commentary is right, Noah. There are plenty factors we cannot see into that might play a huge part in how long Magu-chan will run, like how it continues to grow in sales, how other new series will be doing well in Jump, if there is support from the editors, if the creator actually wants to do a longer running series or rather a short running one with its own intended ending instead of a rushed one. Personally I just see it finish at 80 chapters and 80k sales. I wish it more success but I gotta be realistic, it might not even reach 80k to be honest."

"Well, that was a lot to take in. I am curious to see how Magu-chan will do in 2021. Let's end it with that, next week we got the third Jump manga of a creator who once had a success and a fail, let's see what your thoughts are about that then." Eiji released everyone from the meeting who went their own ways to read books, play games or hold a nap, well, almost everyone.
"On a word about your bathroom duty, Tamashiro."
"Ah, shit..."
"Yeah, exactly that..."

Banda massaged his hands, wondering if he should do some boxing and kicking training today, when Jackman tapped his back with his gloved finger.
"Yeah, buddy? What's up?", asked Banda as he turned around.
"Uhm, I wanted to speak with you in private. It's about my power-up ability regarding the Sunheart's use." Jackman seemed both nervous and excited about those news, but he wanted to share this with Banda first and hear his opinion, before coming to Eiji with this.
"Of course, bro! About time to show what kinda man you are! Let's go up, plenty of space for you to go wild if you find need to be!" Putting a hand on Jackman's shoulder the duo went to the stairs leading to the streets, while Eiji was busy to chastise Tamashiro for a job done improperly, with an amusing White looming in the background.

Outside the two walked to the large Park district, this time visiting the version of what seemed to be a copy of the Central Park in New York. Jackman started to talk when they reached a large tree as they were pretty much alone there with no one in sight.
"So, I thought the last days how I could use the Sunheart in me to be more useful to you guys. Like last time with the Bone Collection incident, I wasn't very useful at all..." Banda interrupted his friend right there, holding up his right hand ina stop motion.
"You helped us getting the injured of the battlefield and keeping them safe with the other non-combatants, that's more than plenty, bro. You shouldn't belittle your own actions, none of us does it to you either."
"Yeah, I get it, but that is still far from what I want to be, should be, have to be. I wanna be Jackman, Banda! And right now, all I got is his name while being stuck in this overgrown puppy mascot suit. I spoke to Momiji, Tamashiro and Mr. Commentary in regards how they figured out their powers and they told me it would come to me naturally someday. And I think it did so yesterday. When I was out trying out some cool finisher moves, my hands and arms grew! Like they were not looking like those floppy things now but real strong and muscular like Jackman ones! I think my power is that I can change into Jackman!"

Banda listened to his friend excited explanation with keen interest. Having a second front-liner able to take some punishment besides him would certainly be helpful if they had another case of a character running amok after its series ended.
"Can you show me?", was all he asked.
"Hell yeah!"
Jackman clenched his fists and closed his eyes as he concentrated on that "right feeling" deep inside him that he had since that training yesterday. He imagined how his real self would be like, cool, tall, strong, impressive, a might you could put your trust in and who would defend justice for everyone. Wind started to turn around him, faster and faster in a swirl, golden light fused into its stream and when Jackman felt himself tapping at this feeling, it spread inside him like magma from a volcano outbreak. Banda watched with fascination how his friend grew nearly thrice in size: A larger than man robot suit in black and orange with a doberman head on its broad shoulders, a black scarf dangling from its neck, rippers running all over its body. Banda got tell from a single glance that he was strong.

"What do you think? What do you think?" Jackman looked mega excited, prancing around doing kicks and hits with his no longer clumsy limbs. It felt so good to move so quickly compared to his chubby puppy self.
"I think... that you look amazing, bro!"
"Right?! I look so damn cool!"
"The coolest, bro, the coolest! So how long can you keep that form up?"
"Uhm....", answered Jackman, unsure how to reply to that question he had not expected.
"Powers are a power consuming thing, they are nearly always time-based in their duration. Can you feel the Sunheart inside you?", explained Banda the new recruit to their club who never had a Sunheart before in his life.

"Ah yeah, I can feel it... fizzle inside me? Is that bad?", asked Jackman worried.
"No, that's good. Means you are the long running type who can keep this battle form up for a couple hours. Within it are your real abilities costing you more power to be used. You got some moves from your series, right?"
"Yeah, like the 100.000 Horsepower Jack Rocket."
"Sounds like a doozy of an ability and one that must burn a ton of Sunheart power to be used, so lets not do that. How about we hold a spare in the Dome in the training halls? I am itching for a real good fight for a while.", challenged the large teenager cracking his knuckles in an intimating sign of power dwelling inside his well trained body.
"Sure, sounds fun." Jackman shrank back to his chubby puppy self. Banda looked down at the smaller mascot suit, disappointment clearly written in his face.
"I had hoped we would do a race to there..."
"I am not going to waste my precious powers on a race! We hold a three round contest, three minutes each and that's it. Take it or leave it!" Ever since Jackman got his newfound transformation power, he felt far more confident than in the past weeks. Banda laughed loudly.
"Look at how much that puppy has grown! Alright then, buddy, let's go, I gonna show you the ropes in the training hall. Maybe we get lucky and some other Battle or Action series characters are there as well. Gonna introduce you to them!"
"Don't call me a puppy! Wait up!", complained Jackman, running after the young man who went ahead of him with his much larger steps.

Word of Author

Phew, in time this time with another 4k chapter, bit longer than last week with 4160 words. Probably due Jackman finding his power and sharing his findings with Banda.^^

I actually had a different ending in mind, one that would have probably been more shocking and brutal but then thinking about it, I didn't really had a way of playing into it the next weeks, so I decided to drop it. For now.

Interesting how hard it sometimes can be to write 9 opinions about a series which has only reached just 19 chapters. But 19 is an important mark for our friends in this club so it makes sense they talk about reaching such a "milestone" when other series do it. I am glad I didn't made it that all of them would make fun of the series reaching said milestone, it would most likely be more boring that way. Changing things up with who likes what and who doesn't like what makes for more interesting parts to read.

See you all next week Sunday if I can get it done in time.^^
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 11 - Hard-bore Cop and What the hell is that abomination?!

"Glad to see you all still here, ready for the third round of our month long celebration of four series of Jump reaching the 19th chapter mark." Eiji grin was meant by a groan from Hajime. The little silver slime alien looked pretty annoyed.
"I am starting to get annoyed by this. Where is the Axeman when you need him?"
"Come on, buddy. We got the best newcomer of them all! A real man's man series!", celebrated Banda, crouching down to give Hajime a light backslap, or whatever you could call the part of his pudding-like body that had no eyes on. Needless to say Banda's "light" slap caused Hajime to fly across the room, hit a wall and slide it down with the grace of a Jell-O. Didn't really helped him to improve his mood.
"Best one? Hardly, but that's what we are here for, so let's get it over.", sighed Hajime. Noah reached down to pick him up and hold him up to his chest, cuddling him like a kid would cuddle a disgruntled cat. Didn't really helped him to improve his mood either.

"Anyway, let's get this ball rolling already.", said Eiji and started the clapping to begin with the congratulations. "You wanna go first, Banda?"
"You need to ask? CONGRATULATION, HARD-BOILED COP AND DOLPHIN! You are a hardcore manga with a great buddy-buddy theme I love and adore and hope we get to see more of! While I wish there was more fighting and cool fighting scenes, I enjoy reading you weekly and wish you the best of luck to get to the top!"
"Geez, you even used its full title? You're a real fan, aren't you? You realize it's just another series passing us by.", laughed Tamashiro at how enthusiastic his big friend was at his congratulation.
"You wanna go next, Tamashiro?", Banda retorted. The red-hair teen grinned as he took on that offer.

"Congrats, Hard-Bore. You're trying so hard to be a copy of the creator's previous success, it is almost admirable. But I think while you got a lot of good enough points, you are falling short in all categories though I am too lazy to list them all, I leave that to the others like Momiji." Momiji sighed, knowing this would come.
"Sorry Banda. Congratulation to making it to chapter 19. Your series has a great idea with the ocean and its inhabitants as main point but you hardly make use of it so far. I hoped you'd be more like Grand Blue with its fantastic scenery but you are basically just a delinquent cop beating up sea monsters. While you are fun in the short-time period, I am worrying my interest in you will wane in the long-time. Hopefully you got a badass arc in your sleeve somewhere, because otherwise this is going to be repetitive very quickly. Uhm, Noah, say something nice please, Banda's broken facial expression is hurting my heart..."

Noah was clapping with his hands hold close together to not let go of Hajime who's tummy was jiggling with every clap of the child's hands while his own tentacle formed into hands made their own clapping sound. Needless to say that tummy rumble didn't improved his mood also. Still he let that happen to him because he knew it cheered Noah up to cuddle with him though Hajime had no idea why this endless optimistic kid needed cheering up. Noah's claps got intenser as did Hajime's tummy toppling.
"All of my congratulations, Dolphin-san! I find the idea so cool how you got a talking Dolphin man who is also a cop and I love how funny and strong Chako is! Your jokes are great, your fights are cool and I can't wait to see what other Sea monsters Dolphin-san and his partner have to beat up! Hajime's next!"
"Well then.", sighed Hajime to commence to fulfill his duty. "Congratulations, Hard-boiled Cop etc. You're pretty so-so, you got fun and cool moments as well as boring and lame ones. I don't really "feel" much reading your series, like it feels like you yourself don't know what you really wanna be for the readers and I think you might need a real set goal which is reachable in some dozen chapters to get something going, because right now it feels very wishy-washy. White-san, if you'd be so kind to continue?"

White's nostrils flared up as her turn came up. She clicked disapproving with her tongue before speaking up.
"Congratulations, unnecessary long title. Your humanoid monsters in the sea are pretty nice as is the whole single dad and daughter setting with a cop who read too many old detective stories. I liked the realistic part of the first chapter where Samejima got his ass handed to himself by his superior due his reckless and dangerous behavior. Of course you threw that over board pretty quickly but whatever. What I can't stand is the emptiness of your female characters! Like how? The girls in the creator's previous work Beelzebub all felt more unique and alive than any of the females presented so far! Like even the officer Nanase who had the most screen-time has barely anything going for her character except for her tits and that's a body part! Don't build a character around her chest! Hah, Mr. Commentary take it away, try to keep it short and snappy..."
Mr. Commentary chest puffed up as he began his short and snappy speech.

"My congratulations, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin. You reached the magical number of 19 chapters yet I wonder how much of that was due your own strength and how much of it due the current situation at Jump and your creator already being known in the Editorship. As mentioned before it feels aimless when reading your series. You got distinct characters and powers yet mostly use them for jokes instead of cool moves. Personally, I feel like chapter 17 was the closest you got to what you might wanna aim for: A beautiful world humans love yet that is alien to them, even dangerous and cruel, where humans struggle to breath and where darkness and light goes hand in hand as you break the surface to where humans thrive. It seems your creator is using his old formula of his former success albeit no longer in a school setting and while I agree mostly with White-san's rant, I think your biggest missing issue is that you got no Furuichi. See, Furuichi is a prime example of why support characters are so important to a function cast to highlight the main characters and play off with other support characters or bring importance to side characters in an arc. Right now you basically only got main characters and side characters but no real support character who is able to lighten up the mood or to turn it serious if needed. I think, this missing piece is vital for your future success and I hope you can either raise one of the side characters to support level or create one in future chapters to stick with the main characters, especially since two of the main characters are very similar in character and action as well as..."
"Mr. Commentary!", snapped White while clapping loudly with her hands to get the purple ghost's attention.
"as well as other stuff I am going to omit. Eiji-kun, you're up."

"Congratulations, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin. A lot has been said already and more would have been said without White's interference, so I try to just say what's on my mind: You can do better. You got a great idea, a good cast, a totally OP power in a little child, you could get really far if you use all your parts right. But at the moment it feels like your creator cannot shake off his past whenever it is his success or failure in Jump, I hope he can put his confidence in you and your story soon. It's your duty as his characters to give him that confidence and inspiration. Be more brave! Jackman, please finish the round."

Jackman grinned and breathed in relief that he wouldn't had to chose White like when they congratulated Ayakashi Triangle. Sometimes it was easier to be the last one than the second to last one.
"Congrats, Hard-boiled. I really like your hard-boiled cop main character and your hard-boiled dolphin cop, that one was an actual surprise when I saw that guy in chapter 1. Like I thought this was meant symbolic or that it would be like a animal companion not an actual human with a dolphin head who can transform into a dolphin and has to get thrown into the sea by his daughter. Really like that scene by the way. Not really a fan of Chako though, feels like she is used too much as a plot device and not like a character of her own, I kinda wish she had some friends her own age so that we could see sides of her that are not related to cop work or magical powers. Oh well, but that's up to your creator to decide, isn't it?"
"All done? All right then, folks, what do you think will be the future success or failure for Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin. I think it will run above 200 chapters but not find quite the success with 80k to well maybe 100k per volume.", started Eiji the next part of the ritual. Banda jumped right in with a roar.
"NEXT JUMP PILLAR! 400 chapter, 400k sales! WOOOOOOT!!!"

"As if!", denied Tamashiro and Momiji Banda's overflowing enthusiasm.
"80k maybe if it can run long enough but from a three time Jump mangaka the editors will demand more so this series might not even find that time. I give it around 150 chapters before it has to finish.", explained Momiji.
"Generous of you. I give it 50k and it will be forced to finish before chapter 100.", gave Tamashiro his harsh verdict.
"I wish that was the case but the way Jump looks at the moment and how many older series will finish in the next months, it is more likely to be a 50k seller and run for far above 100 chapters like 180 or more. Jump's line-up is that weak." White shook her head over this sorry display the magazine had become in 2020.
"200k sales and 250 chapters! There is so much stuff in the ocean, the author could never run out of material!", announced Noah jumping up and down giving Hajime in his arms a good shake.
"Th-hi-is no-oh-t po-wo-ssible! Ple-ew-ase st-ow-p ju-uh-mpihhh-ing!" Listening to Hajime's shaken plea, Noah stood still and Hajime told his friends his view of this series future. "90k and 180 chapters is my best guess. If it can reach that, that is."
"I myself believe Hard-boiled could be fairly popular with 180k-250k sales if it gets an anime and with a bit less than 300 chapters. Jump needs new longer running series and they know this creator, if their future newcomers have similar fail rats like in this year they will yearn for some stability.", predicted Jackman.
"If this series can find its footing I also believe it could reach 250k sales with more than 300 chapters. However if it keeps going at the current rate it might actually end with 60 or 70k sales and below 150 chapters because till then Jump might have found new safe foundations with Mashle, Undead Unluck, Ayakashi Triangle and Me & Roboco. Right now Hard-boiled ain't in a fight against the axe. that's for Agravity Boys and co to worry about. It is about fighting for future popularity and while it might not had a bad performance for its first volume, it might still go under, if the readers cannot connect to this series characters like they could so easily with the ones from the creator's first success.", professed the chatty ghost as last one.

Eiji clapped a last time in his hands.
"Okay everybody, we're finished! Give this applause to yourselves, then let's get out and enjoy the nice day outside!" Most of the U19 followed that order, clapping, stompping the ground and yelling before they finished the third round of this month long rituals.

Word of the Author

Only 2089 words. I wanted to write more (I was like "AAAAAAAAH" while typing this) but I didn't wanted to have another delay and the last three days (friday-saturday-sunday) I was moving out and it was just exhausting! How can two rooms have so much stuff in it? How can cleaning two rooms and a bathroom take so long? Why in God's name didn't I just blew it all up with a bomb? Probably because that would end with me in prison but you can dream~~~

Last ch.19 ritual next week with Roboco & Me (no, this is not a typo, I swear!). Then in a couple more weeks Kokosei and Phantom Seer, maybe Our Blood Oath if they are lucky like Guardian of the Witch, but their 10th chapter was all like "we got 5-6 chapters left, chop chop!". We will see.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 12 - Roboco & Me

"Give this last one of this round a huge applause for I am about to announce the congratulation ritual for Me & Roboco!"
"Just call it what it is: Roboco & Me!", joked Tamashiro after Eiji's introduction to their latest and last round of this now month long ritual. The others grinned and joined the sneer from their cynical friend.
"Roboco best girl!"
"Roboco best bro!"
"I want Roboco to my big sister!"
"Easily best Maid of Jump by a far margin, why if I recall correctly..."
"Roboco best robot!"
"She's a unique character all right."
"Eh, she's okay, I guess."

"So, what about Bondo?", asked Eiji the others.
"Literally who?", asked Tamashiro in return, causing laughs, giggles and some snorts in the round. Only Noah seemed upset.
"Not cool, Tamashiro-niichan! I like Bondo, he is always trying his hardest and is really nice and caring and-"
"Relax, I was just kidding. I know he is a good kid.", tried the scolded teen to calm down the younger boy. Eiji coughed slightly.
"Can we start now?" Everyone nodded. "Then this time I will give Mr. Commentary the first round!"

"What an honor! Why, must have been ages since I last started off this ritual as its first congratulant. Congratulations, Roboco & Me! I can see in you the same spirit my creator had when weaving our world into being. You do it more parodic but you are aware of it and the readers really like it. You're off to a better start than my series was and while I do feel a little jealous I cannot help but also be happy to see a follow gag series have success and show all the other genres that we do have our place in Jump. Your greatest strength is not your comedy though but your lovable and memorable cast. It is hard to make such characters in less than twenty chapters, but you succeeded. There is love in each and every character made poured through the ink into the paper by your creator and it reaches the readers hearts as well. You are very episodic build which can be both a strength and a weakness for I hope you will get a "real arc" soon and that it will resonate well with the WSJ readership. Certainly now is the best time for you to give it your all with the magazine being in a new phase of finding itself a new line-up for its future and I hope and pray you will be a part of it. I wish you the best of luck and hope that someday my series gets mentioned by you too as a parody."
" That was...surprisingly short for your standards, bro. Everything okay?", asked Banda a little worried during his claps.
"Just being a little sentimental, is all, dear Banda-kun. If you will, would you follow-up?"
"Of course, buddy, of course. Heya, Me & Roboco! Congrats to getting past us all! Big shout-out to my namesake Bondo who shows what a B-bro can achieve in this business! You're playing a great and often unappreciated role as a straightman but you do it with courage and determination and I respect that mad, man! I know you get overshadowed often but you keep doing your part as MC even if it ain't fulfilling giving your other Main Character and Character cast the boost they need to gain the attention from the readership and with it Attention to grow even further with the interest and care provided with each chapter. Stay strong, B-buddy. Noah, you're up!"

"Yes!" Noah's claps got louder as he banged the hands together yet his voice was still as clear as the peal of bells. "CONGRATULATIONS, Me & Roboco! You are one of my favorite series! I love your art-style and how easy it is to fall in love with your large cast of different characters. While I like them all my absolute favorite is Gachi Gorilla! I first feared he was a despicable bully type, but he is actually deeply caring for everyone and a good a huge heart like a whale in his chubby body. I like his nice bullying of helping others even if it doesn't look like helping at first. I think he will go very far in a popularity poll once this series gets one. I know I would vote for him in first place if my letter could reach the other side. I know your series will go very far, further than any of us were able to go. I just know you will like the new sights you see on your future way. Hajime-niichan, I pick you!" The silver slime alien grinned weakly.

"Kid, you always pick me. Well then, congratulations Me & Roboco. Your story is pretty much not existent, your development is bare none and your art style is outdated, but like the others have said, you got that certain something that keeps you glued to your series. It might be the character cast Mr. Commentary mentioned but I think it is more the interaction between the characters that keeps the readers coming back. Despite me not really liking episodic chapters, those have a very well thought feel to it. My personal fav was the one where Meico narrated about her master's life as a genius kid, rich heir and a friend to Gachi Gorrila and Bondo. She became my favorite character after that as well. For me watching a side character who I thought would play mostly a background and short appearance profile she was surprisingly deep, caring and funny in her way how she supported her master and tried to cheer him up. If the creator can put that much thought in a single character who so far was neither part of the main nor the support cast then that speaks for the quality this series holds. Momiji, you go next."

"Thanks, glad you liked this series so much, Hajime.", thanked the sole glasses wearer in the room his little alien friend before continuing his part. "Congratulations, Roboco & Me! I keep it short, just like Noah I am a huge fan of Gachi Gorilla and every chapter with him in it is a blast. Keep him a big part in the series and you got gold right there! Jackman, your thoughts?"
"My thoughts are with you in the part that they got lucky and struck gold, but for me the real gold mine is Roboco with her antics, quirks and obviously her funny parodies which are a blast to either find or get thrown into your face like a clown cake. Her design is pretty unique, she is super strong, got a tons of gadgets, her past is still mysterious even with the appearance of her little sister, her loyalty and stupidity are both breath-taking and her being the joke maker is a boon with her master being a great straight man. It just fits, like ketchup bottle with rice and hard-boiled eggs with a Fanta bottle thrown into the mess. A glorious mess.", laughed Jackman, then he looked around who was left over to pick from. His options were limited to White, Eiji and Tamashiro and when the mascot suit character remembered how Tamashiro had forced him to pick White in the first round with Ayakashi Triangle, he picked what he had to pick.
Jackman hoped that he would be forced to pick White because Eiji would want to wrap this month long event up by himself. Plus he didn't wanted to pick White again and knew that if he were to pick Eiji the chances of him asking White to be next were pretty high. Tamashiro snorted, seeing through that holey plan easily.

"Congrats, Roboco & Me for getting this far. I keep it even shorter than Momiji. I like you for your parodies and Roboco's wackiness. And I pick E..." Eiji's intense stare and hardly noticeable head-shake made Tamashiro actually stop and consider his options of potentially angering a monster demon alien other dimensional being or whatever the heck White was or definitely get on the bad side of their leader for taking the easy way out. Tamashiro always preferred to take the less riskier option.
"Erm... White-san, if you'd be so kind to go next?"
White was amused by the usually so feisty athlete acting so meek. Her entrance to the club still hold great sway with some of the members of old even today and their needless concerns added greatly to her amusement. She nodded gracefully and began her part of the ritual.

"Congratulations to your 19th chapter, Me & Roboco. While I find you mundane, your art out-dated and most of your jokes being more of a miss than a hit I do enjoy some of your parodies and I really do like some of your cast while I can tolerate the rest of the lot. And since nearly everyone mentioned their favorite character, I will add mine to the list as well which is Madoka. I like her facial parodies the most and her diverse talents impress me. It makes sense why the MC fancies her though I doubt he will ever get together with her, this just ain't the kinda series for it." The girl with the fitting name according to the color of her attire and hair kept quiet though that she also liked Akane Urahara in the latest chapter. While the newest cast addition had a cool design, her background story was just dumb, like falling in love due a fart? And Brad Pitt? Come on, girl, get some glasses. And her goal of getting a gorilla boy to fall in love with her was just hopeless. Yet strangely White felt a connection with this little girl though she couldn't what it was.
"The honors to end today's ritual are all yours, great leader.", said White with a tiny teasing smile to the one who had yet to congratulate another series passing them all by.

"My congratulations, Me & Roboco! What impressed me the most is how you overturned my expectations on you after a couple chapters from your first one. I thought you would be all lame and childish jokes but this series has more to offer than that: A large, varied cast, many jokes of all ages, a good knowledge of manga culture and a good set of unexpected situations to keep the reader's interest up. I don't think you are top of the class but you certainly will be there in Jump for quite some time, that much is certain. As for my favorite character, it is Gachi Gorilla's little sister Ruri. I like how tirelessly she works towards her goal, how she is not too proud not to ask for help and take it when given as well as her pure feelings she pursues earnestly for Bondo. I hope we get to see more of her in future chapters."
Eiji breathed out and then clapped louder than before.
"And this applause if for all of you for sticking through those 4 weeks without any bitching or throwing the towel. You guys are great and I am glad to be with all of you in one club!"
"Hear, hear!", came the response from the rest of the U19 club while they also increased the volume and speed of their claps.

"So should we do the usual expectations or..."
"Ah." Hajime's surprised sound interrupted Eiji's well-known route to the next part of the ritual.
"What "ah", Hajime? Did I forget anything?"
"Uhm, did we do a first chapter impression from Build King last week?" Everyone stared at the little alien with big eyes.
"Oh..." Eiji facepalmed. "Right there was that. I was so into the 4 series getting past U19 groove I totally forgot about the new series."
"And about Sakamoto Days.", reminded Momiji scratching his nose in a sheepish way.
"That too, yeah. Okay let's skip the whole prediction stuff, not like we can predict the future of how the readers will act in their reading and buying behavior. We just gonna do both first chapters at once and..."

"Uhm, excuse me, Eiji-niichan?", asked Noah raising his hand like he was in school to get his leader's attention. Eiji nodded him to go on. "I wanted to go to the playground with White-neechan after our Me & Roboco ritual, if we do two new series I might miss most kids playing there during the day. Can I and White-neechan leave early and come back in the evenings? Please, Eiji-niichan, pleeeease?", begged Noah with huge puppy eyes. White laughed in response to Eiji's troubled expression.
"There is no need to ask, Noah. There is no way Eiji would refuse such a simple wish of two of his companions, right?"
"Well, no, yeah, I don't mind you guys going and having fun, we can always adjourn our discussion about the two new series for another day." White stopped Eiji's offer with a wave of her hand.
"No need. I am sure you boys can have plenty fun discussion the two new Jump series without Noah and me. No reason to procrastinate any longer. Plus I am getting tired of all this weekly clapping. Just get it over with today and don't bother telling me your results when we come back, I am not interested in either series."
"I am VERY interested though! So make sure to tell me, Nii-chans!", smiled Noah widely.
"Of course, buddy! Leave it to us and go have mad fun like a proper kid!", confirmed Banda with a thumbs up which Noah replied in kind.

White moved to the little blonde kid to lead him to the kitchen to get their stuff for a pick-nick and playing in the park and playground of the city of towers. The playground was a version in the Park district where all possible playgrounds were in one place. It is easily one of the most popular places in the city of towers. Unimportant named side characters both from known and unknown series spend a lot of their free time there with their friends and families. For Noah it was a paradise where you got waterpark, ballpark and roller-coasters all together with tons of children who wanted to have fun like him. To White it was a place frequently visited by losers, people who were content with their lives as never being important or worth being remembered by the readers of their series. She didn't really liked being there, with all the mindless laughter of the children and meaningless chit-chat of the parents. Yet she found it impossible to refuse the little boy's requests and kept visiting it to do Noah a favor who preferred to go to the playground with her the most. Why he preferred her company for those trips over the others she had no idea though. She was sure Noah would have more fun frolicing around with the likes of Hajime, Mr. Commentary or Jackman compared to her who just stood at the sidelines and watched Noah having fun.
Though maybe that was what Noah was looking for, according to Mr. Commentary, someone who felt like a parent than a playmate as he could find countless playmates on the playground but nobody to look after him as a parent would. White scoffed at that idea, but she couldn't deny that she was standing with the other parents looking pretty out of place in her white outfit whereas nearly all the mothers and fathers around her looked pretty normal and average. She sat down on a bench with the picnic basket next to her feet, watching Noah climb over the largest set of climbing towers and buildings she had ever seen. She prepared for another boring afternoon as nobody would dare talk to her due anyone even trying to do so in the past had been scared away with a glare of hers.

White didn't knew she would encounter something this day that would scare even her.

It was when Noah returned with a bunch of noisy kids all rushing to their mothers to tell them of their adventure today. One of the many children running past her bench looked at her. Children always did because White looked pretty and interesting, so they always threw a glance or two her way to later gossip what kind of sister character she might be and from which series she could be. Obviously none of the kids had ever heard about Ziga so there was no way they could ever guess it right. But this one child looking at her was different from the others. It was running like the others, laughing like the others, yelling like the others, throwing its arms around like the others and sweating like the others. But when they locked eyes White's insides felt like they got squeezed into a tight box.
His eyes looked so out of place.
Devoid of the fun his expression described, empty of the exhaustion he should feel after playing so much, cold despite the heat in his face. White knew this look very well, for it was her own eyes that had been staring back at her each time she passed a window during the times her series had been alive and running. It were eyes looking at insects and farm animals, at food, at vulnerable being that deserved to be crushed under its stare. It were eyes of a monster.
And everyone but her seemed oblivious to it.

Maybe it was because at her core White too was meant to be a monster, which made it so easy to recognize another, but she felt this kind of monster frightening even her because the way it looked at her was the sole time a spark of interest blinked in its eyes: Hunger.
It was for less than a second but that short amount of time of looking at each other send her body into a frenzy with her survival instincts screaming at her to fight or flight. She did neither. She couldn't. Not with Noah in the immediate proximity. Fighting meant risking his life in the unfolding fray and fleeing meant abandoning him if the monster hiding in kid clothes were to unleash his hunger right there and now.
Her tough nails drew long lines into the wood of the bench ext to her thighs as she contained the urge to follow her character core's demand to be egoistical, think only about herself and that nothing else but her own survival mattered. The iris in her red eyes shifted into its demonic form, she could feel it as could she feel every milliliter of her blood boiling in her veins for that unprepared danger suddenly appearing in front of her. Quickly she regained control, calming her heartbeat, easing the alertness of her brain and forcing her eyes to human once more. With strained breaths she watched Noah run in the group of children around the mothers legs, unaware of the danger he was in.

White was able to observe the strange child which looked remarkably unremarkable, a poster child of a background child who happened to get a name due a one time episode of its series where it was needed to give the really important characters a chance to shine. Scruffy black hair, black eyes, a button nose, plain shirt and short pants. Even if you looked closely at it you would not be able to see it as anything else but a child having fun. But to White it was more or better said less than that. It was fake. Everything about it was fake, its looks, its voice, its behavior. Even the hunger it had shown to White felt fake in hindsight. It was this fakeness that had alerted her instincts, it was a fake monster in a fake child's body and it scared the hell out of White that she was unable to explain this child's existence with her knowledge about this world. She just knew that it was wrong, that it should not be here, that it shouldn't even exist to begin with but its presence mocked her disbelief.
Noah saw White looking at him and waved at her to show he had noticed and was happy about her attention given to him. The girl waved back hesitantly, unsure how to proceed from here with the least danger to the boy who trusted her like he would with a real sister in blood and family ties. She didn't even knew if it was right to not attack the fake thing immediately. Whatever it was, it was a dangerous being, else her character core would had not reacted so strongly to it. She waited with halted breath, ready to explode anytime and pounce on the boy were it to reveal its true colors whatever they looked like.

Noah hopped towards her and with each skip coming closer White felt ease rush over her because it meant one more moment of safety, one more moment when everything was still complete and the world had not been broken yet. When Noah arrived at her bench unharmed he looked really confused at White because her face showed a smile of deep relief.
"Is something wrong, White-neechan?", he asked, worried he had done something to make her worry. White felt an urge to hug Noah and fought it down, she had put enough strain on her character core already by ignoring its previous call. She just shook her head and reached out to gently stroke his blonde hair to ease his anxiety and to satisfy her desire to confirm his safety with her own touch.
"Everything's fine. Say, I feel hungry, what do you say, we go to the Japanese Park and have a belated lunch?" Noah nodded happily, feeling the hunger from running and climbing around all day like a monkey child on banana juice. She picked up the basket and offered absentmindedly her hand to hold his, an offer Noah gladly took on. White felt Noah's tiny hand squeeze her slender one as she broke their way through the crowd towards the exit, her back feeling stung by a thousand needles, not knowing what kind of danger she left behind her.

The eyes of the child followed them as they left the playground.

Word of the Author

Hoh boy, this was late. Really late. Was supposed to go up on Sunday 22th but I just couldn't do it. Writing a chapter each week is really hard, especially when you started something new and quite exhausting in real life one day after updating your last chapter. I still need to get into a proper writing schedule to keep up with the changes and demands I got now. I doubt I will be able to update in two days on sunday. Though it would be nice if I could.

Next chapter will not be about what White had experienced in the playground but about the boys at home discussing the first chapters of Build King and Sakamoto Days thus named "Build Days". Hope you guys haven't lost interest yet and that you liked this chapter.^^

This chapter got 3754 words all together. Writing 4 chapters about series passing the U19 club was pretty exhausting, I hope Jump doesn't do another such large and close bunch again. At least it will take a couple weeks before Kokosei or Phantom Seer reaches their 19th chapter. I am thinking about doing an interlude about the U19 club past after next week, let's see if I can manage to do that.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 13 - Build Days

After White and Noah had left for their little trip, Eiji turned to the other boys, alien, living mascot suit and purple ghost.
"Men's day only from now then. I am sorry about messing up with Build King last week, guys. Seems like my mind was elsewhere."
"Meh, we all forgot about it, no big deal.", said Tamashiro with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Pretty mean to Build King though, to just forget about it." Hajime was not alone with his opinion as Momiji and Mr. Commentary nodded in agreement with that statement.
"Ey, bro! It's not like they know about our discussions about their series..."
"Or that we even exist.", interrupted Jackman Banda's reply who continued as if he hadn't heard his two-legged puppy buddy.
"... but what matters is that we do this, together, to have fun and that no matter how many series come and go, we will continue to stay together. This is more than chitchat, this reminds us that despite our different backgrounds and opinions we will always have each other backs. As long as we got that, it matters little what the world of the readers thinks of us or even remembers us. We are the U19 club and we can trash-talk and praise whoever we wanna about and whenever we wanna about!"

Tamashiro grinned when Banda hit his open left palm with his right fist to finish his speech with a full bang sound.
"If I didn't knew better I would think you had been a Captain for longer than just three panels in your series, man." Banda sighed deeply and closed his eyes, putting his buff arm around the slender redhead.
"Me too, buddy, me too."
"So will this be a sentimental remembrance or can we start our more than just a chitchat talk?", asked Momiji with a warm smile. Eiji laughed and gave the spectacle wearer a slap on his back.
"Alright, we gonna do two first chapter talks in one setting, first Build King, what was good, what was bad, what future do you see for it and then the same for Sakamoto Days. Mr. Commentary, since you already started off today's ritual you might as well continue."

Mr. Commentary took a bow before the boy with the large scar in his face, quite happy he will get to talk so much more specifics today than just about one series.
"About Build King's first chapter let me first say that I enjoy whacky manga ideas, like a manga about building houses? How awesome is that to think of how to make that interesting to the readers? With the idea of Build Kings which are fantastic buildings existing for eons and withstanding everything thrown their way you got something that will catch the attention of the readers for sure. It looks cool, it has many diverse looks and you can pretty much add any kind of "power/unique quirk" to the Build Kings you want to as creator. Those endless possibilities are in my opinion Build King's biggest strength, like how there are Trolls who eat houses, hammers that use Vitality of its user to draw amazing power and a world chuck-full of incredible buildings our MC pair want to witness themselves and one day build one on their own. I like that that 1st MC is more of a bodyguard and warrior than a real carpenter while the real house building duty is left to the 2nd MC, it will give both appropriate times to shine as well as depend on another. The artstyle is also fitting and quite beautiful when it comes to the presentation of the Build Kings. However I also see some areas where I feel Build King is rather weak. For one its humor was more miss than hit in my opinion, then there was no carpenter skills shown, like what wood do you use, how to think up a plan how to build a sturdy house, magical stuff needed to mix into the building materials to help the house become immune to fire and so on. For a manga about carpentering there was very little carpentering and much fighting and world building. Which is my next point that I am iffy about: I don't think it is proper World building if you throw more and more stuff out there without properly explaining it, like why are there so many intelligent races living on this one island together with Trolls who wreck their houses? Sure it looks cool, but at some point the readers will either be overwhelmed or they will no longer care about the new things because they will soon no longer matter. I know it is unfair to assume such a level of world-building in the first chapter and I know much stuff can be explained in future chapters but given the current speed WSJ culture I am afraid that world-building will be largely left as cool sound bits and interesting looks to capture interest of the readers without providing deeper lore. As for its future I can see it become a longer running series of like 200 to 300 chapters. I am not sure how large the fanbase of this series gonna be but it certainly will be a dedicated one, I assume it will have sales between 80k and 120k per volume. Eiji-kun, I am curious to hear your thoughts about this series next, please."

"Sure.", replied Eiji with a resignated sigh. It really was impossible to stop the purple Ghost from talking too much once he gets started. "As for me, I liked the wild Island the two kids were on with all its crazy animals and interesting races. I liked the quick flashbacks which established their relationship with each other, the Master they had learned from and how the island was their training ground. The Build King look really cool as well and I can't wait to see them. The Hammer jumps and huge Hammer hit reminded me so much of videogames, really loved that. I am not so sure about the "build peace" part though. If you build up peace by standing up to bullies and tyrants then you are a warrior and not a carpenter, doesn't matter that you use a hammer to beat them up. Though, well, in a world like this carpenters probably have to fight a lot just to get the stuff they need to build stuff with. The two brothers both have their obvious weaknesses which they can cover for each other, so I am really curious of who will join their party for their journey. I didn't cared much for the jokes though but I can read other mangas to get a laugh. This one I am just all about the exploration of this insane world those two live in! I expect around 300 to 350 chapters and that it can get a larger fandom of like 200k. Hajime, you're up."

The little silver alien sighed and scratched his cheek with a tiny tentacle.
"Uhm, gonna be honest, that one just wasn't for me. Sure the intro looked pretty cool and I like the idea of making Epic Locations, which you usually read about in books, see in manga and movies the main focus, but I just don't like either of the Main Characters. We got a childish OP-kiddo and a cry-baby Carpenter with some skills but not OP skills yet? Neither are really taking my interest and if you cannot care for the ones making the journey then the journey itself becomes obsolete. The creator is creative with his world I'll give him that, but it just failed to capture me. I know I should not cloud my assumption about its future success or failure by my personal taste but I think it will be a shorter series with around 100 chapters and below 100k per volume in sales. Sounds rough but I could see plenty of readers raising their eyebrows at this first chapter and then put it aside. Tamashiro, let's hear it."

"For me it got the right mindset, "building peace" with a hammer to the face! That should keep the peace in place, haha!", laughed the lanky redhead. "It got right down to business that the real business of this series will be about the Build Kings and not how many pretty or sturdy houses those two will build. I dunno if they ever get to the level to build a Build King themselves but I doubt it, seems too incredible to me. The creator can write a ton of stuff with those Build Kings, each could be like the different Islands in One Piece, some worth a chapter or two and others dozens of chapters in a long arc. I expected it to be a techy series but it clearly is a battle series with houses as a theme and that's fine by me. Also I would except more readers be interested in battles than the technical stuff of how houses are build. I didn't disliked much except the artstyle which just feels as not quite fitting to the series and that the 2nd MC is such a whiner, but hey, it's just the first chapter, plenty of time ahead for him to grow. I feel like this will semi-popular and run a long time due Jump losing so many good selling veterans and needing more time to build up new fandoms for their new potential success series. 300 Chapters and 100 to 120k sales seems about right to me. I pick Banda as next talker."

"Alright! I see it similar as Tamashiro, it's an interesting story in a crazy world with cool characters in it and that mix is great! That hammer jump part was the best one for me! In a world like this it is no wonder that carpenters are so important for living good and safe lives. I am curious to see how their story will develop. Will they just travel from Build King to Build King and repair or learn stuff there or will they build their own houses due contracts and grow on their own as carpenters and fighters against House destroyers which there are probably more than just the Trolls. It is not a story to be taken too seriously but rather one that the creator wants to tell and loves to talk about. I didn't really had anything I disliked about the first chapter, maybe its ending if I think about it. Felt too sudden and choppy to me. Like the creator noticed too late that he was missing a couple pages and decided to bring the whole other matter to the next chapter. Doesn't have to be a bad choice but I'd rather had seen them leave the Island in the first chapter but that's just me nitpicking. My guts are telling me that this one could run for ages, like 400 and more chapters as for its success I think if it gets an anime it will reach between 200 and 300k sales, which might be just enough in those times to justify writing up to 400 chapters. Well, that just leaves you to finish, Momiji."

"Look, I see it just like Hajime, this first chapter was not my cup of tea. I barely liked anything about it except the cool looking buildings but that's it. I know, it's like Banda says I am not supposed to take this too seriously but come on! Why is this Island so closely populated and yet so full of wilderness and dangerous wildlife? How did that Trollking not die in his prison without food and water? Why are they not leaving on their own when the one their Master was supposed to send is coming too late? Even the Jokes were dumb and not funny. The art is clean but ugly, it just so comedy-like when it is bad at telling jokes and good at fighting. At least make the houses look being made with more sense. I get that it is meant for artistic value and grabbing the interest of the readers but the house the 2nd MC build just bothers me because it didn't looked like a house that should be standing on its own. But what do I know about houses? In any case I have a feeling I will drop this once it gets past its 19th chapter, I don't think it will be able to make me want to read the rest of it. But I can see it becoming quite successful, there are plenty of people who like mindless whacky fun. 250 Chapters and 100k sales are my guesses for its future success and it gonna annoy me if it goes even further than that."

"Do you wanna do the first part of the Sakamoto Days first chapter talk, Momiji?", asked Eiji, hoping that the other series had managed to leave a better impression on the shogi player. Considering the grin the boy with glasses threw at his leader, Eiji was right on the money.
"Don't mind if I do. Sakamoto Days reminded me a bit of Spy x Family, with the hitman and family theme and obviously the clairvoyance ability of Shin. It's like a out-of-shape genderbender version of Yor got married and does a normal job while still thinking of killing everyone as first solution to everything. I have to say I really love Sakamoto's thoughts of killing everyone who pisses him off! It's just so "what the" and then "oooh, just a thought" with the panel arrangement and the transition from the thought panel to the reality panel with the bubbles really drawing you into Sakamoto's head with how he sees the world while he withstands to act upon his instincts. With how he is a Jack of all trades, he also got a Gintama background that gives way for many many different kind of future chapter episodes and arcs. I like that while out of shape he is still highly skilled and talented, it makes him look both funny and cool. I also like how his shop is also his secret weaponry, like his customers are only inches away from guns when they take an item from the walls! Same for the ease with which Sakamoto dealt with the Mafia Mob. The ending was also pretty good with Shin now being part of Sakamoto's daily life and giving comments to Sakamoto's thoughts as he is a man of few words which over time might get a little boring if not a lively 2nd MC. I didn't liked some stuff though, like how badly drawn the guns mostly were or that the background felt sloppy many times. And I didn't liked how Sakamoto was able to deflect a bullet with a cough drop, like sure, rule of cool, but that was ridiculous! Or that the Mob chef who employed Shin forgot about his hitman being able to read minds, Jesus... In any case, I have big expectations for Sakamoto Days as I think with its setting and theme it has many paths it can go down and might hit just the right nerve of the readers to grab their attention. With Shin having superpowers I expect future hitmen and spies and bodyguards and police cops and such to also have some sort of superpower or otherwise be extremely talented in something. If it goes down the Gintama path it will probably gain a huge cast with many organizations and characters, with SxF it will focus more on Sakamoto and his family and close friends. What I worry about is the goal of this series as so far it seems Sakamoto had already achieved his dream and the goal is now to protect it at all cost. It is different from the usual formula. But we will see. I hope for its success so I believe it will get like 250k sales and 300 chapters before it ends. I can see it running for quite some time in Jump. Who to chose next? Hm? Why are you all looking at me like that?"

"I can't believe we got a 2nd Mr. Commentary, I dread the day Sakamoto reaches his 19th chapter...", sighed Tamashiro covering his eyes with one of his hands.
"You, uhm, you're a pretty big fan, what, bro?", tried Banda to see the positive in Momiji's excitement.
"Well, I'm glad you liked it a bit more than Build Kind, I guess.", joked Eiji who had not expected that barrage of words from the usually quieter Shogi player.
"Dude...", said Hajime and Jackman in unisono, not believing their eyes and ears.
"Oh, shut up all of you! I am not gonna pick any of you next! Mr. Commentary! Show them how it's really done!", shouted Momiji clearly embarrassed, pointing at the purple ghost who nodded solemnly.

"This is a premiere. Everyone! I agree with everything Momiji-kun just said albeit I believe that it will be a bit less popular and not run for so long. 200k sales and 200 to 220 chapters are where I see it going. I think this might be the shortest I have ever spoken about another Jump series here and I don't feel bad about it. Thank you, Momiji-kun, for giving me an opportunity to cut the chase and keep my speech short. Banda-kun, if you'd be so kind to follow up?" Banda's jaw had dropped when he heard he was chosen already instead of trying to concentrate on Mr. Commentary's comment to get most of it.

"Wha-what? Already? What's going on today? So, uhm, yeah, wait a moment please, gotta collect myself!" Banda did his breathing method from his Taekwondo times and after a few seconds he was back in full shape to say his piece. "Well, I don't really see the similarities to SxF and Gintama to be honest, that would be too much of a praise in my opinion for its first chapter. Don't get me wrong, I found it pretty decent but not so good. The art in Build King might be more childish but it is also far cleaner than the one in Sakamoto Days, obviously the creator can still improve or the artstyle can grow on me in the coming weeks but I don't think so. I also liked Sakamoto's killing thoughts and the cool fight sequences, but if that continues for the next couple chapters then I will be worried because that gets boring quickly. I think it will need more characters in the main squad like three or four to play off different relationship angles. Well, the color page did show off 4 other characters in the background so we might get to see how they are mixed into all of this in the next couple chapters. Personally I do think Sakaomoto will do well with the taste of the readers these days. I expect 150k sales and 230 chapters for its future! What are your thoughts, Eiji?"

"Well, I found the premise pretty sweet. A legendary Hitman who gave up his job and fame to be with the woman he loves and build a family with her together. I like the clear difference between the highly skilled Sakamoto and the lazy daddy Sakamoto, being chubby and loving to slurp Ramen. I also liked the opposite ways of how he dealt with the Mob in the past and now in the present, it shows that he has already gone a huge character change from being a pragmatic and cold-blooded killer to a still pragmatic but soft defender of his life with his family. The family dinner with him, his family and Shin was also nice even if short. I can relate to that a lot, when I was able to spend time with my parents at dinner, the food had a warmth and deliciousness to it that I couldn't find in any restaurant and my worries and bad thoughts were gone for a while. That little scene made me miss them even more..."
Eiji noticed the silence following his nostalgic trip into a closed off past. The others here also had their own parent characters but not everyone was able to spend that much time with them or had such a deep relationship written with them into their cores when they were created. Before he would dwell too long on it and make it obvious Eiji quickly tried to move on from that heavy mood.
"What I don't like was the little focus Sakamoto's family life had but it makes sense because for a first chapter you need bombastic stuff to grab some Attention right away to keep readers interested for more. I also hope Shin gets his own goal beyond being Sakamoto's little helper and fanboy. I also worry about possible stagnation in future arcs because Sakamoto already has everything he wants and doesn't want to change anything. To take the Spy x Family example, in there you got 3 different goals with Twilight wanting to succeed his mission, Anya to keep the family together forever and Yor wanting to avoid prison for being single. We don't have anything like that here, both Sakamoto's and Shin's goals seem to align if anything. It is something that can be taken care of in the next few chapter though. I am not bothered by the art, I don't like it, I don't hate it. I could see 200 chapters for its run and also the same amount of sales in the thousands. Hajime, what do you wanna add to the topic?"

Hajime knew that Eiji regretted his words about his family memories. Parent characters are often pushed aside by the creators to make way for friends, rivals and love interests. Parents are just seen in many cases as a bother, a hindrance, worrywarts about their children and their children, often dangerous, choices. Not everyone was so lucky to have such caring parents like Eiji did or any parents at all. The alien didn't thought that their leader should feel sorry for missing the obvious. They all did. Even if there was no way back, should they really just shut down even the memories about the happy times they once had?
Hajime's body started to tremble as he grew in size and morphed clothes, skin, hair and everything that's needed to look like a normal highschool boy, except for the two hair additions at his head looking a bit out of place. He looked at Eiji, smiled gently, then spoke.
"It was okay. I didn't laughed about its jokes or funny faces, I found the battles cool but not incredible, Sakamoto and Shin were fine main characters but they are clearly both lacking to gain a real followership. I can also see that it might have a lot of potential for future arcs with its set-up, but also risks of stagnation if the creator is not able to build a believable bridge from how all those adventures get the family involved so that Sakamoto is needed to save the day. What I really did like was the family dinner scene, just like Eiji. Family usually doesn't play that big of a deal in battle heavy mangas and I feel like Sakamoto will be more battle heavy than comedy heavy. It will be nice to see a change in that and hopefully the family times will feel as satisfying to read as that dinner scene. I think this series will reach 100k sales and also around 100 chapters. I might change that assessment when we get to chapter 19, who knows. Jackman, you're up."

"Uh, okay.", stuttered the mascot suit, who was wondering why some expressions had suddenly fallen after Eiji's speech which he thought was a real fine one. "I found the series pretty cool, the funny faces were weird to me, but the fights were really cool and so is Sakamoto! Like deflecting a bullet with a cough drop? That's super cool! Same with how nimble and strong he is in his chubby form. He is a real bonafide badass. Shin was okay but he got pretty much owned all the time around and was usually the straight man for Sakamoto's kill thoughts which was a bit funny, but I wanna see more than that from him to make him at least half as interesting as Sakamoto. Uhm, since you two brought up the dinner scene, I didn't wanted to talk about it first, thought it sounded too cheesy, but, well... You know, I never had a family, I didn't really existed till my series ended after all. And the first time I read the chapter I skipped that part, it was short and forgettable, on the second time though, I got stuck on it because of Shin's words. He described what I would say when I think of eating together with all of you, it just tastes better when we ea together than when I eat alone. It is a pretty sweet feeling and it would be nice if this series can deliever the same thing in future chapters with Sakamoto's family, ya know."
"Bro! Come here for a hug!", cried Banda out with tears in his eyes and didn't waited for Jackman to come over as he walked through the circle and hugged the puppy mascot with all his might.
"Waitwaitwait! UGH! Don't hug me so strongly! GAH! For real, why does this even hurt to begin with? AAAARGH!" Jackman's pleas went unheard as he got squished at the broad chest of the muscular soccer player.

"Maybe you should let Jackman breath, Banda.", suggested Momiji with a chuckle.
"Does he even need air?", asked Mr. Commentary curious.
"Is that question really coming from the purple ghost who keeps eating delicious food yet never needs to use the toilet?", replied Hajime puzzled.
"Fair 'nough."
"Let him down, Banda. You can hug him after the discussion all you want, with his consent obviously.", laughed Eiji, feeling a lump drop from his heart. It's true he had lost a family, two even if you count the U19 friends from his series, but he gained a new one here, in the U19 club. There were many more chances in the future to build happy memories with than just be sad about the ones you already owned.

Banda dropped Jackman carefully to the ground who wheezed like a dog that had ran way too many kilometers at once. The mascot needed a few moments before he could give his estimate for Sakamoto Days future success.
"I think it makes 280 chapter and around 175k sales. It runs long because of a dedicated fanbase, but it will never become a giant seller. Well, Tamashiro, you can finish now."

Tamashiro didn't said anything, he kept his gaze straight at Eiji who started to feel nervous and unnerved by it.
"What? You got nothing to say about this series? That would be a first."
"I got plenty to say but before that, a word of advise from me to our dear leader. Don't keep everything bottled up. If you suppress both happy and sad memories, deny your bad feelings to be voiced, then your soul turns ugly. Take it from someone with a bad personality who did this for a long, long time. We are no longer bound to a series, to a creator's whims, we can decide for ourselves, as good as we can with the cores inside us. So if you want to vent about something someday, just come to us, we'll listen to you all day long, Eiji."

Now it was Eiji who felt like giving Tamashiro, the usual problem child, a hug and cry like Banda had. He controlled himself to not interrupt the circle plus the dicussion was almost over.
"Okay, thanks, Tama-chan."
"Ugh, if I had known you go back to my other nickname, I would have kept quiet. Just don't bother coming to me about stuff in regards of White."
"Huh, but why?"
"Because it pisses me off."
"Why does me talking about White piss you off? I don't talk about her that much. I don't get it."
"Exactly that. Now, if you don't mind, I wanna finish this shtick and say my piece."

"Sakamoto Days had an okaish first chapter, two main characters introduced, powers shown, bad guys got beaten up, reason for series got revealed which is all about keeping the family safe and sound and protect the new life Sakamoto had for a couple years. Pretty standard stuff, same for the powers, jokes and battle scenes. It has no cool setting like Build King does with its Build Kings everyone wants to see. It's the normal life of a not so normal father. And that I think lies its biggest problem. Sakamoto is good at being a hitman, he is really good at it. But what about his family man skills? We didn't saw any of them in the first chapter and eating the dinner your loving wife cooked is not a skill, it is a requirement of being a proper human. I believe the family will play a very small fiddle in this series, only there to set up gags and dangerous situations they need savings from. And I don't believe the majority of the readers will stay behind that concept. So I give this series 50 to 60 chapters before it ends and I think it will be lucky to reach 20 or 30k in sales."
"Damn, that's harsh, bro."
"No need to sugarcoat my worst fears, Banda. WSJ ain't a nice place to run for long and make a ton of fame at. Either you bring it from the start or you disappear sooner or later."
"What would be your positive estimates, Tamashiro? If it can grab enough readers attention to survive for more than a year like Yozakura Family did.", asked Eiji seriously. The respondent raised an eye-brown before answering.
"If it can manage to stick around, probably above 150 chapters, but its sales at best will probably never cross 60k per volume. I just don't see the readers take a similar interest in it than us, they don't need to cling to each other to resist the pull of the Gate. They got no core inside them telling what they are supposed to be. They have the freedom to read us at their entertainment than worry about their lives. Sakamoto and his family will fall victims to the same Indifference like the rest of us."

"That's a fair argument, albeit I don't think we should write off all readers as not caring about us or being indifferent to our fates. Your series also had its own fans who wanted it to see reach an anime and run for a long time, didn't it? We shouldn't blame the readers for not liking our stories or us enough to keep us in the play in the WSJ tower. If anything the system WSJ runs its own company is too harsh to create much attention with. Which is why some new series are rushing it so much, scared of the Axe. And right now WSJ itself feels the need for stability it no longer enjoys due the endings of many older series. Even Jump+ is getting past them in terms of amount of readership. Maybe that might give them a new look at how to run things and when to decide if something is hopelessly unpopular or deserves to run for a longer time."
"Sure, if you believe so.", replied Tamashiro to Eiji's objection, dropping the case for now. Though it was obvious Tamashiro still held a grudge on the readership for not giving him more love to run for a longer time.
"Then I will declare our first chapter discussion of Build King and Sakamoto Days for finished. Thank you all for the insight of your thoughts regarding those two fresh series. I hope you all liked it and that you will stay as fit and thoughtful when we get a new series in Jump though that might take some time." With those words Eiji ended the session and the other boys and not-quite-boys-in-the-exact-sense-of-word cheered and clapped a little.

But just when everyone got ready to go on about their business, Eiji spoke up again, this time sounding a little more hesitant than usual.
"Also, uhm, yeah, see guys, there is still some stuff I wanna talk about. Would any of you want to listen to me ramble about some stuff that has been bothering for a while?"
"Sure, bro! Let's go to the big couch for this one!"
"We should always hold our discussion stuff over there. Why are we not doing that?"
"Because, Momiji, White will spread out over it like a lazy cat and then we stand around being all jealous and bothered."
"Says the silver blob who lies on her lap or legs or stomach like a real cat would."
"Don't make me sound like a pervert, Tama-chan."
"I go make us some hot coca, any wishes?"
"Tons of marshmallows for me, Mr. Commentary, please!"
"Got'cha, Jackman-kun. Also something special for you, Eiji-kun?"
"No thanks, just a regular one is fine. I feel like I will get diabetes if I got a real Mr. Commentary Coca with whipped cream, roasted marshmallows and smarties on top. Plus I will probably be talking for quite some time now."

"Thanks guys."
Word of the Author

Well, this took a bit longer. Sorry everyone, I was sick since Monday. Truth to be told I wrote most of the stuff today and the past two days. Glad I made it to sunday at last. Albeit a few days too late.^^

Makes me respect the mangakas even more to hit out a weekly chapter though they do get paid for it and they are in real trouble if they keep missing deadlines unlike me, so there might be some differences here and there. :P

This chapter is a bit bigger with 5609 words all together, pretty happy about it, at least for now, might change my mind in a few months and wonder what the hell I was thinking when writing this down. In any case I wanna talk a bit about the characters here. As some of you who might have read the originals had noticed I took some freedoms here and there, some by design like my "original" character Jackman who was not alive in the original series as he was just a vessel for the other brother or by accident like Banda's name (sorry, bro!). I do try to keep as close to the original as possible though, same here with Tamashiro's character.
I dunno if you think of him that way since nobody writes comments but I think some or even most of you might see him as a little asshole or as a quite annoying guy. In Full Drive Tamashiro does have a nasty streak as a Main Character as that he does fake-smile and bottle up his negative feelings while also rile people up with his choice of words, basically a provocateur. He even gets told that he got a bad personality which he could not understand. Right now all those characters in this series are past their own series bounds, they can make own decisions even if often guided by their character core when doing so.

In Tamashiro's case he accepted that he got a shitty personality due his creator's decision and that while he had instances to show that he had a good and proper side, his series ended so soon that most of the series he is pretty much an immature brat, jealous, hot tempered, a mean streak in his words, etc. Outside of Jump with Marin the heroine he had plenty time to think and be bothered by his core telling who he truly is and who he could never quite become due the sudden end of his series. Unlike the others he also lays some blame on the readers not just Jump and his own creator. He believes they shunned him for being a "Hinata copy", for his not so goody-two-shoes character, for not being as cool looking in his sport as other heroes in their sport series. Basically he knows he got a bad personality and lives it out and the others know it too ofc.
They tolerate it and accepted it as Tamashiro would have a hard time changing against his core. He does try to not piss them off too badly but he can find his foot on or even a bit over the red lines. It's something the U19 club grew used to over time as he grew used to what he could and could not say.

So I hope this explains why Tamashiro behaves the way he does.

Btw, in this series he is 13 years old and a shrimp,aka Hinata small but middle schooler. I think I might have written his age wrong someway, I gotta correct it someday. XD

Hope you all had fun with this Build King/Sakamoto Days first chapter discussion and I can get you something new to read next sunday.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Interlude 1: Birth of a Club

Sometimes I still have nightmares about that time. That time after my series ended and before the U19 club was born. We fictional characters were not made to exist without a running series. That's what the Golden Gate is for. That's what the Call is for. To lead us through the swirling door to wherever the hell it leads to, may be heaven, may be hell, may be nothing at all. I still remembering the feeling of numbness after my last final chapter, how my body grew and morphed into and Adult one, how my consciousness was rushed through events so fast it nearly broke my sanity. I lived years in instants, felt joy and sadness, fear and elation, anger and calmness all together at once. I felt the pain of my creator. I watched the Attention from my readers dim, discarding me as another failure, skipping over my final moments like they meant nothing at all. I saw the pride of my friends and comrades in the few screen time they had, to show the world beyond that they are alive, had been alive, and it was eating me alive.
I felt no pride.
Just numbness.

Ole Gozalo. That was my series, my title, my everything. And it was gone. After 12 chapters I walked over the red carpet leaving the WSJ Tower, I don't even remember what series replaced my old Poster space. I remember smiling and chatting with XXX and XXX as well as the Captain and some of the other named. We weren't that many to begin with. You can give only so many characters a name during 12 chapters after all. I remember a few guys from other chapters telling us good-bye, most of them have ended by now. I remember the feeling of the Call take hold of my core and how it lead like on a leash towards its Gate. I remember standing before those large stairs, looking around, seeing sad but satisfied expressions and I was trying to match them. I remember us going up the stairs and everyone going through the gate one by one while we applauded and laughed because for all we knew this was the last time we could celebrate together, the end of our series, our farewell from this city. Makoto Hanamori, Ichiharu Ichino, Kyosuke Shiba, Gramps, Asahina, Uranishi, Kurumizawa, Oota so many...
Hanamori-chan and Ichino-kun were the last to leave before it was my turn. I remember telling them I wanted to be the last one to go like a true MC telling his series good-bye.
A lie.
They left.
I stayed.
I just couldn't follow them though I would not know why exactly.
I just couldn't.

I stood before the swirling energy for hours, feeling the pull but for some reason didn't wanted to follow it. I sat down and watched the city, sunken deep in my thoughts why I couldn't do something so simple as stepping through a door which behind all my friends might be waiting for me. Then I realized the problem wasn't the gate or my core, it was my heart. It hurt. It was bleeding. Crying in pain. I didn't wanted my story to end like this. I didn't wanted my life to be finished like this. I didn't wanted to be forgotten.
I knew I was selfish, childish even. It is the fate of nearly all characters to be forgotten someday. At some point even the most famous fictional characters will be forgotten when the last reader has drawn their last breath, but that day was so far away, an eternity, and in this here and now, I just wanted to remain. I remember tears running down my cheeks, my nails digging red trenches over my face, my guts wriggling like worms and snakes. I felt terrible, denying myself the peace of an end my friends had willingly chosen.
Maybe I should follow them? Chase after them? Believe in a fairy tale of a beautiful place awaiting me beyond that giant door frame, existing just for me, my friends and all the others, stars and failures alike, who had gone through it before me?
I rose from my seat on the white stairs.
I turned to the Golden Gate.
And I gave it the middle finger.

I don't know why I did that either. It's not like it could see me. Hell, for all I know my friends might have seen the gesture. Hope that's not the case. Would be awkward to explain if someday I happen to met them again. In any case, I left soon after, thinking it would be torture with the Call trying to drag me back. But that wasn't the case at all. I felt like as a feather as I descended the stairs and went back into the city. I didn't knew where I was going or what I would be doing from now on, but I didn't cared. For the first time in my short life I felt free and I wanted to taste that feeling for all it was worth.
I pretty much regretted it the first night outside.

Sleeping outside sounds lovely and romantic, but in truth it is just cold and lonely. I was shivering in my boots, wishing myself back to my warm futon at home, just to remember I no longer had said home. It was a painful first night. Followed by a hungry morning. I still had some of the Attention from my last chapter in me despite the feast we held yesterday. I wanted to take it with me as some sort of souvenir, now it served as a simple breakfast. And with the last bite was born the worry were my next one was supposed to come from. Life outside your series ain't life like you know it. There are no jobs to make any kind of currency at, no food stalls, no supermarkets, just towers, large buildings and vast endless districts with all kinds of themes. Since you can make everything on your own with the right amount of Attention and Attention is only given to named characters in current running series, you're pretty much doomed in the streets.
No series means no readers.
No readers means no Attention.
And no Attention means you are less than garbage, you don't even exist.

I try my hardest to forget the stuff I did the next days after this morning. I tried to endure the hunger, withstand the Call, ignore the stares of the characters who wondered why my stomach was grumbling. I remember begging a woman for Attention, I remember threatening a young guy to hand over his sandwich, I remember a kid giving me her candy when I laid in the dirt, crying about my pathetic self. I was at the lowest point in my short life. This City of Towers holds no love for those unneeded, not deserving to live in its vast glory and it lets you feel that with its every fiber.
At one of those nights when I was shivering inside a play construct of a playground looking like an igloo with spikes to climb, they came to me.

Other Characters from series that had ended way too early for their taste. I first thought they were hooligans from some series trying to beat me up, but they managed to calm me down soon enough and when they offered me some cheap ramen in a cup I joined them in a heartbeat. Their names were Boro and Carlos as well as Salvia from Demon's Plan, Hakuba Reiji and Shizuka from Love Rush!!, Tatsu Frampt from Red Sprite, Ryo Arakami from Buddy Strike, Madogiwa from Devilyman, Kenzaki Ameri from Lady Justice and Jin Matsuriya from Ultra Battle Satellite. Those ten people would become my first comrades in this new world that didn't cared about me.
We didn't called ourselves U19 Club or anything like that, we were too busy to survive to care how to name us. And we tried everything to get through the days and nights.

We stole, we robbed, we fought, we emptied trashcans, we ate the Tarbatz and Cloudlichs even when it made our stomachs hurt. We were despicable. Not everyone was able to take this well, especially Boro and Kenzaki who's cores were made with Justice and Righteousness. The first who broke however was Carlos, Boro's best friend and a man turned demon just like him. Maybe it was because his own story never found an end or because he had so little screen time in the series when it was running, but he was always starving for Attention, even hid some Copperbugs from us for himself. Really pissed off Jin and that guy already got a short temper on his own. There was a big fight and Carlos left the group, telling us we all would do the same if we were in his shoes and that we are just animals licking our wounds.
Boro convinced us to look for him and try to get him back to the group.
We found him in the garbage dump of a large tower, no idea which Magazine it belonged to. He was waist-deep in Tarbatz and giggling like a maniac. There I saw for the first time what the negative emotions can do to a character if he took too much of them in. I watched him gag and shudder while describing the joy he felt from feeling anything at all. I still remember how he shouted it was better to eat Tarbatz than Cloudlichs. Boro and Kenzaki tried to stop him, they failed.
Carlos became a Wraith.

I had heard those ghost stories, of forgotten characters who rolled themselves over and over in Tarbatz, desperate to feel anything from the Readers if only their hate, disgust and mockery. If done too long and too much, it will twist their core, change their personality and turn them into a Wraith, a ghost of revenge who hates everyone who isn't like him. I thought it was made-up stuff because who in their right mind would eat or bath in this nasty Attention, poisoning their own body and mind? Yet it was true and it was terrifying. Carlos skin cracked as black miasma poured through those cracks, painting his body dark like tar, his eyes disappeared into his eye sockets replaced by white light orbs, his teeth fell out and his proud and haughty voice changed into a hollow one full of sorrow and rage.
He attacked us.
It was terrible.

We were weakened due our poor diet while he was powered by the negative energy of the Tarbatz. His touch alone was horrible to endure with the tar sticking to our skin and sinking into our being. I remember kicking him over and over again with Jin, Kenzaki, Tatsu and Jin doing their hardest to take him down. Boro managed to beat Carlos down but he couldn't deliver the deathblow for saving Carlos was the deepest point of his own core. It was Tatsu who stabbed the dark ghost through his chest just to get his head ripped of by the claws of Carlos, Ryo got his chest sliced and Jin managed to squash the black mass of a head into a pulp.
That was my first fight to the death. In a garbage dump, covered in Tarbatz and bruises, feeling warm blood run over cold skin, hearing the cries and sobs of the others and my own mingled among them. I watched how Carlos and Tatsu's bodies disappeared, leaving nothing behind to tell their existence had been real. Ryo was the first to stand up and leave, heading straight for the Gate. We followed him and helped him along the way when he stumbled. He was mumbling all the way about his series, his hopes, his dreams, the pain in his chest and his worry of what awaits him on the other side.

We others walked in silence, no one spoke a word except Ryo, we were all deep in thoughts, listening with only one ear to his ramblings. I also was wondering if this was worth it. This was not the defying challenge I had imagined. If I allowed myself to listen to the Call and just let it lead me away from this world wouldn't all my pain, fear and hunger disappear as well? Where would you go if you died outside your series and outside the gate? I didn't knew, nobody did because that wasn't supposed to happen. I was a freak and a fool and I felt alone even with the others around me. On the Gate's stairs Ryo wished us well and that he hoped we would see each other again some day. Then he left. Kenzaki turned to us, calling it a day and we went to the playground to find some sleep.
The next morning we noticed Boro and Salvia had left us. There was no note of them. No word of good-bye. Yet we all knew they had gone to the Gate and left this world. None of us blamed them.

The next days I witnessed how Madogiwa and Shizuka got weaker and weaker as they ate more and more Cloudlichs to appease their hunger. Hakuba was so worried about their state he used his charm ability on some women to get their attention and in turn they got satisfaction from his body. You could see in his eyes how doing this broke something in his core but he would keep doing it over the next few days to bring in as many Copperbugs and Argentberries as he could. Kenzaki and Jin had another quarrel with Jin demanding we should go even further in our threats and crimes to keep ourselves alive and Kenzaki opposing it as that would twists our cores so much that we might lose our minds.
In the end Jin left us in search for the fabled Underground city, hidden in the tunnels of the subway. A place where everything gets dumped and everything is possible. Another story I heard and thought not to be true. But what do I know of this world anyway with my limited knowledge? I just know that I never saw Jin again.

The five of us started to despair, we saw no hopes in avoiding the unavoidable. I knew it was only a matter of time till the rest of us would give up and walk through the gate as well. It was then that U19 was axed and Eiji and his friends came across us. Watching not just one or two characters but a whole cast defy their destiny of being cast away was in some way awe-inspiring. I got pumped up when Eiji asked if we wanted to join them to overthrow this corrupt system that only cares about money and fame. It was a real good time. They took us out of our dark hole and gave us a purpose which we so dearly needed.
Handa Kimie who was the leader of the Garage Kids, the teenager gang with super powers called Libido which Eiji was part of to oppose the evil Adult Party (what a dumb story, if you ask me), told us that we were the first seeds of a new organization, a rebellion which will change not only this world but also the one of the other side. Rarei the Otaku was the one who build us the diving suit stuff we needed to go deeper into the large garbage dumps without the Tarbatz messing with our bodies and minds. I had a lot of fun with Mauro Ken who nearly looked like me but was a weakling and coward, but he could play video games like a young god. Then there were the others like Nanami who was always such a serious glasses guy, Hibiki the singer, Daiya the invulnerable strongman, Nemu the sleeping beauty and of course Tsukino Akari, Eiji's girlfriend.

We established a new household in the cellar of the Magazine Tower that had once thrown us out, we created safer ways to gather Attentions and we made new rituals to keep ourselves steady against the Call. But it wasn't enough, funnily enough it was Handa who first surrendered to the Call just three days after the U19 club had been formed. It was a sad good-bye. Handa made Eiji the new leader, Nanami stayed in his Vice position. Then shortly after Poro and his friends had joined, we lost Hibiki, Daiya and Rarei to the Call as well. With the weeks and months coming and going we lost more and more people losing the will power to stay and who rather walked through the gate then chase a dream of a fairer world. I couldn't condemn them. It was hard to imagine such a world and how we were supposed to change it into a fairer one to begin with.
We no longer were Inspirations to creators and even if we were we knew that others had a say in our creation as well. Reader don't want to read boring or lame series they see no merit in and Editors don't like to watch a series take up space when it sells badly. We had no way of communicating with any of the people on the other side and even if we had, would they bother listening to us?

Kenzaki and Madogiwa left when characters from Full Drive and Golem Hearts joined us. It was a hard time for me, each morning I could feel the pull of the Call and more than once I was this close to just giving in and leave. It was tiring to stand against the Call and ignore the feeling in your mind like an annoying insect which was bothering you. For some reason I resisted, maybe it was because I finally found friends and not just comrades or maybe I wanted to see how far Eiji could go with his belief of changing the world when so many other Main Characters before him had failed. Whatever it was, it gave me the power to keep going each new day even with the faces changing around me, with old ones leaving and new ones arriving.

Hakuba and Shizuka left together with Nemu and Amuro shortly before Ziga, Momiji no Kisetsu and Invade you! ended. I was the last one from the old squad before the formation of the U19 club. Well, if Jin ain't somehow found a way to stay alive somewhere in the city. It was the time I changed my goals from trying to rebel against the world to just having fun with my friends and enjoy the time I chose to have for myself after my series was finished. It might not be perfect, it might not be heroic, but I was happy. Even when Nanami and Akari and the other characters from the other series left us, I somehow felt it will be okay.
I will not find a way to get to tell the readers my full story.
I will not be able to change this world into a better one for unpopular series like us.
I will not stop others from leaving me when they feel they can no longer continue to walk with us on a path that seems to lead nowhere.

But I can have lots of fun and will try my hardest to make my friends around me happy, so that they might draw strength from this happiness and maybe stay just one more day with me. Because what I am scared of the most is to be all alone like I was on my first days in this city.

Word of the Author
Okay, my first interlude, 3300 words strong. Thought it was time after 13 chapters. I chose Banda (aka Banba but eh, too lazy to change his name :P) as first one who thinks back of the old days because he is the oldest member and who remembers a time before U19 was a thing. It is funny how U19's end gave way to the meme the Japanese created to welcome Eiji among their midst and from then on he would be a center piece for future U19 series.

I figured it might be more interesting to read how Banda lived before the club was made and how they survived. Really wasn't anything glorious. Not that dumpster diving and impersonating Background Characters is that much better but it does beat robbery and some other stuff any day. I also wanted to give you guys a deeper look into Banda's "fun big bro" personality he has now. In his own series he was more concerned with becoming popular, becoming strong and being a clumsy fun guy. Now his priorities are different and with that his character slightly nudged into another direction. He doesn't need to be in the spotlight or grow into an amazing character. He is already content with his place and happy where he belongs to.
Which I think is something many people in our own world wished they had.

In any case, next week we got he 19th chapter of Kokosei, something to look forward to maybe? Or maybe our U19 club friends are so tried of this ritual they just do a half-assed job so that I have to write less and be a lazy bum going into lockdown next week? Who knows. In any case I hoped you liked this Banda centered chapter and the change into the personal view-point. I wanted to try something differently, not sure if I will keep this PoV for all future Interludes or not but in Banda's case I found it very fitting.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 14 - High School Failure: Kokosei Kazoku

"Everyone, welcome back to another round of a new Jump series reaching chapter 19! Give a mighty applause for High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku!!!" Eiji applauded eagerly yet the response was lackluster at best except of course for Noah and Mr. Commentary who joined Eiji's clapping with much enthusiasm. Eiji looked around and slowed down his claps followed by the purple Ghost till Noah was the last to keep going before stopping as well. With glowing eyes he was waiting for what would happen next.
"Guys, why are you all looking down so much?", asked the club's leader his friends. White rolled her eyes, Banda scratched the back of his head uncomfortable in his skin, Momiji, Tamashiro and Jackman sighed like one man and Hajime just kept staring broody at the ground.

"Bro, it's just... I think it's getting to me lately how many series get past us. Just puts me down talking about their success, ya know?", explained Banda, looking apologetic at his best friend.
"At this rate even Our Blood Oath will get to chapter 19 with no problems.", muttered Hajime darkly to which the sighing trio squirmed in pain.
"How? I had so much better art than either of them!", cried Jackman, dropping to his knees in despair.
"Art ain't everything, my friend. You need a compelling story, engaging story-telling and interesting character cast to stay relevant in Jump. Obviously Our Blood Oath got none of that and Kokosei very little but with the current times none of that matters.", grunted Momiji, gnawing at his thumb nail.
"Oh, can it, Four-eyes! Those gay Vampires and dumb family got lucky as fuck to not get axed at chapter 10 or 12! It just pisses me off that in a couple weeks we have to clap for them too! I just wanna punch them and the damned Jump Editorial in the faces!", swore Tamashiro, his face as red as his hair and his eyes were glowing the same angry fire.
Eiji sweat-dropped, not sure how to react to the salty behavior of his comrades. The chapter 19 congratulation ceremony sure gonna be interesting in a few weeks. White dead-panned at this unsightly behavior before adding her two cents to it:
"You know, you could just have stopped reading it and see it coming instead of rolling in your self-pity and anger. I stopped reading Kokosei at like chapter 7 and Our Blood Oath at chapter 2. I'm just annoyed that it takes so long to get over with this ritual."

"Uhm, White, didn't we agreed to at least read every series to chapter 19?", enquired the boy with the prominent scar on his forehead. The girl in question raised one of her white eye brows at this ridiculous inquiry.
"I got better things to do with my time than wasting it on series with no value to my entertainment. Like checking how many cockroaches live in our basement for example."
"We got cockroaches?!", asked Mr. Commentary in actual shock, not being a huge fan of those critters and really who is. Except maybe Noah who loved like all life forms.
"Not anymore after I fried 34 in the kitchen, 18 in the bathroom and 13 in the bedroom and another 9 in the living room. No need to thank me."
The image of White hunting down cockroaches with her lighting powers while laughing manically seemed really funny to Eiji so he quickly covered his face with his hand in an outworn fashion to hide his smile. Using an expiration of breath as an act of exhaustion he tried to get his mind back into the game.
"Okay, so we live cockroach-free now, not that I noticed any of them the past months but that just speaks for White's efficiency. Can we please get back to the ritual, everyone? Even if you didn't liked it, it is important for yourselves to stay connected to reality to weaken the Call on your Cores, okay? So after your congratulations, I don't care what you say as long as you clap and do your part. I'll start off then."

And with that reprimand Eiji started to clap in a steady fashion waiting for the others to join. Noah and Mr. Commentary followed suit, then White and Banda and Hajime and lastly the trio looked at each other before raising their hands to clap as well.
"Congratulations, High School Family! You reached chapter 19 in a quick way getting a couple double chapters. If you're lucky you will continue for a long time as a gag manga similar to your creator's former work Isobe. I wouldn't put it past you to reach a similar amount of chapters. You got a lovely cast with the whole family in highschool and are building up a proper support cast to let each family member shine. Personally though I enjoy you more of a slice of life series than I enjoy your jokes, they just feel weaker then let's say Roboco ones. I hope your jokes will develop better over time so that I may enjoy them as well. White, keep going."
White shrugged upon being picked, at least she could get her own part over with quickly.
"Congratulations, I guess. I've only read you till chapter 7 but I can say with conviction that you got nothing I hated so far but also nothing I could bother caring about. You're insignificant in both your story and your main selling point which is comedy. Maybe you got better in your past dozen chapters. I don't know and I don't care. If you keep on living, then good for you. If you disappear in a couple months I won't cry a tear for you. Have fun, Tamashiro."

"Alright then. Confuckinglations, Kotaro you lucky son of a beautiful woman! Your series reached chapter 19 not for your poor straight man plays but for your family being a bunch of whacky weirdos. I gotta respect that as it works well for this type of genre. Alas that is how far my respect will go for you. You're boring, lame and just yawn-worthy. I can count the times I grinned at a joke of yours at one hand that is missing two fingers. I can finally stop reading you and should done so way earlier like White-san did. I don't need to wish you good luck because you already used up a lifetime of luck to get where you are. I pick Mr. Commentary next, keep it short if possible, old man." You could see how visible Tamashiro felt better to let this series drop. Mr. Commentary chuckled at the young boy's relieved expression.
"Hoh hoh, I believe you're a bit too young to see the value of a series like High School Family. My congratulations as well, Kokosei Kazoku. I like the combination of family and school theme, usually those are always separated with home and school building yet you brought the family life to school and school to its family life. I personally really enjoy the father character. He is so enthusiastic and positive about finally being in his high school life that it makes me feel alive and young again. Good old times. The chapters where he stars the main focus are my favorite and I hope to see him become a full member of the volleyball team very soon. You play the weirdness of grown-ups as students pretty well, better than with the cat and young child in my opinion. Your art is unique and fitting, it will never win a price but it doesn't need to, to give the story a warm feeling when reading it. I can see room of improvements like adding more facets to your characters personalities, but I believe you will figure those points out in time as your cast is pretty big for a series being just shy of its 20th chapter. Similar to Eiji I can see you go a long way and I wish you much luck and happiness on it. Momiji-kun, please continue."

"Thanks for keeping it short, wish I could say the same positive arguments like you, but I'm afraid I just don't see those good points you pointed out." Momiji pushed his glasses up his nose before continuing his clapping and own ritual part. "I congratulate you to get where none of us could. Despite your unimpressive art-style, your one-quirky character cast and your lackluster jokes I know you will keep going for quite some time. A couple years ago that might not have been enough but now it is enough. I will also be dropping you and hope you will better yourself for your own sake. You already got a gift handed over not that many got, you shouldn't be careless with it. Noah, if you're ready you can-"
Noah didn't wait for Momiji to finish as he already blurted out his favorite points about this series.
"Congratulations, High School Family! I really love your adorable family you got there and how Kotaro despairs over their behavior but how he also keeps loving them because well, they are his family. I like how the mom and dad are able to live the school life they never had to provide for their family, better late than never would my Master say. I also like how much the family enjoys the present they are in and how much they appreciate each other even when they bonk heads together over various things. I like how tolerant everyone is at school and how they can accept this family among them even when there were troubles at first. Reading your series gives me a good feeling and I hope to keep feeling it for many more times as I continue reading you for many years to come! So who do I pick next?"
*It's going to be me, isn't it?*, thought Hajime matter-of-factly while keeping his tentacle claps in harmony with the others. Noah's large eyes started to shine as he figured out his next pick.
"Hajime-niichan! I pick you!"
"Thanks, Noah."

Hajime took a deep breath, then transformed into his highschool self, leaning onto the table he had sat on previously. "Congrats, High School Family. I can see why some readers really enjoy your series for what it is, a good feeling series trying to incite a laugh out of you. But I just felt sad when reading you, not because what you wrote made me sad, but... your school life is what I had wanted my series to be like. Easy-going, relaxed, a bit weird but in a good way. It made me realize how dire I needed others like myself in school, how harsh it was to always be the focus because of your innate weirdness you keep hiding from everyone else but cannot live out either. I like that your family is so honest with their desires and hopes for their school life, I just wished I could have done the same back in my time. Oh well, at least now I don't need to hide who I truly am."
With that said Hajime turned back into his silver slime self before looking at the clapping mascot suit. "Jackman, you're up next."

Jackman nodded and moved his puppy head left and right to ease some tension in his shoulders.
"Okay. Congratulations for getting to the mark of 19 chapters, High School Family. I will be honest, I think you are quite frankly not funny. Not once did I laugh at your jokes, your situations at school bore me and I just want something to happen that grabs me by surprise. Maybe you're just not meant for me to enjoy, maybe you are too avant-garde for me to understand. In any case, I will also not continue reading you after your latest chapter. Oh, also your art sucks! Banda, you're the last one to go."
"Sure, buddy. Let good ol' Banda handle the finish. Congratulations, High School Family!", shouted Banda loudly as the volume of his claps rose as well. "I know you're not at fault for me feeling bad about my own inability to get where you are right now. It's my own insecurity and immaturity telling me you do not deserve what I never had. I get why you will continue to exist for a long time. Your creator is known for his previous gag series and it seems he took the same formula with a couple twists and it stuck enough for the readers to continue reading. With the current line-up of Jump with plenty older series ending and some of the newer ones bound to get the axe in the coming months your easy going jokes and funny, nice family will be plenty enough to stick around for a while. While you are not in my top ten Jump series, or top fifteen for that matter, I will still read you to see what the future holds in for you. Also I hope Eiji doesn't mind if I finish up the ritual and get to the other stuff we are supposed to talk about?"

Eiji gave Banda shrug combined with a grin. Seeing that as approval Banda's own grin doubled in size.
"Great! Then hereby I declare the Congratulation round for High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku for done and over! You can all stop clapping now, yes, you too, Noah-buddy. As for the next topic on the agenda I will give the word to Sharkface who got something to tell us and it ain't about cockroaches, I promise."
White's left eye slightly twitched as she took a step forward to command the attention of everyone in the circle.
"Thanks, Afrorilla." As usual White's voice was accompanied by a chilly tone yet Banda only laughed in response.
"BAHAHA! That's a new one, I like it!"
"Pearls before swine, I swear. Anyway, listen up, everyone! When Noah and I were at the playground we came across an unusual child. You might think, so what, there's plenty of that in this city, just look around his room. But I mean, unusual in the sense that even I felt threatened alone by its mere presence. So much that I wanted to run away or slaughter everyone on the spot. And you all know how much I value my strength and power."

White's straightforward intro to the problem at hand had silenced any attempt at a joke from the others. If some mere child had scared the living daylights off White then whatever that child was it could surely not be a simple child. Mr. Commentary raised a hand to be heard.
"Could it have been a main character from a horror series? Like a monster in child form killing and eating others?"
"I thought so too later, but I doubt it. The child looked very average as did its mother, like two named characters who live mostly of Cloudlichs and Copperbugs because they got a name and spotlight for a single episode of their series and barely any screen time. Nearly all characters at the playground are from that kinda background. Main and Support Characters hardly if ever show up there. The past days Eiji, Banda and I investigated the playground a couple times to see if we can spot the child or its mother again, but they never showed up. When we talked to the parent characters or children characters they said they hadn't seen them either for quite a while."
Now it was Tamashiro getting his piece of word in.
"So you guys did something again without telling us first? And here I thought we were past that stuff. Didn't you promise to tell us if you'd plan something dangerous again?"

White ignored the hidden hurt feeling in the young boy's voice, she wasn't there to pamper him after all. So it fell to Eiji to pour oil on troubled waters.
"That's why we talk about this now. What we did was to only investigate the matter at hand, we didn't plan on acting if we had found them again. Just to follow and see to which series and magazine tower they belong to. We actually thought of dropping this matter with the same matter of thought as Mr. Commentary had. But well, yesterday something happened that made us change our minds about the child."
"What happened?", asked Momiji curiously. It was Noah who answered by stretching his hand as high as he could to get everyone's attention.
"When White-neechan and Eiji-niichan came back from their playground date, they told me they hadn't seen the child they questioned me about last week. Then I asked them what child they are speaking about and when they had done those questions to me."

Hajime's eyes grew big. As did Eiji's and White's albeit for a slightly different reason.
"You forgot about the kid? And the questions? How?"
"Dunno.", replied Noah with a childish shrug, looking more serious despite it.
"I also belong to the ones who not only forgot about the kiddo but also about my trips to the playground looking for it.", explained Banda with a grim expression while crossing his arms. "I see no reason why Eiji would lie to me-"
"Ha-ha.", interjected White quietly.
"-and it is true that there times in the past days I could not remember where I had been or why. I am not sure if that has anything to do with the kid but if it can somehow mess without memories then it is a pretty powerful thing, I'd say."
"Plus when we checked on the playground again this morning, nobody there could remember the kid or its mother or that we had asked about them the past days. They thought we were playing around or were angry that we tried to scare their kids with some made-up ghost story.", added White some more information to the matter at hand.

"But why would it want us to forget about it?", asked the purple Ghost into the room.
"Maybe it is a defense mechanism.", pondered Jackman. "Like it wants to stay undetected for whatever reason. What exactly tipped you off that this child was different?"
"To say it with one word, it felt fake. Like a predator in sheep disguise, just that... that even the predator part felt wrong as well. All I know is how its eyes looked so hungry at me as if I was some tasty sandwich sitting around. I thought this to be the only real moment it had, that it wanted to eat me, but then suddenly I wasn't so sure anymore, as if nothing about this kid felt real. Yet it was there and I knew for sure I couldn't stay there anymore."
Everyone looked uneasy at each other, Hajime questioned Noah about this matter.
"And you didn't felt a similar feeling back then? A feeling of fear or that something is wrong around you?"
"No and even if I had, I don't remember anymore if I had felt that back then. But according to Eiji-niichan and White-neechan, I said that I didn't felt anything out of place there."
"Then the only question is how Eiji and White can remember it while Noah and Banda forgot about it."

"Maybe it has something to do with the amount of Attention.", theorized Tamashiro, rubbing his chin. "I mean, it is no secret that they got the most Attention of us all in them. Maybe the powers of the creepy child work on anyone with low or poor Amounts of Attention and in that case it makes sense why it was hiding at the playground because I doubt those side characters there get that much Attention from the readers for their little screen time."
"Then how was it able to make Noah and Banda forget about it and all the instances were it was the main point about?", asked Momiji, intrigued by the theory of his little friend.
"Dunno, brain waves?"
"Doesn't matter how or why the fake kid did what it did. What matters is that it's dangerous and we don't know its purpose.", interrupted White the boys thoughts.
"Indeed, which is why from now on I want no one to leave the Clubroom alone.", agreed Eiji with the sole girl of their club. " At least be in a pair of two, keep your eyes open and your wits sharp. Maybe it means nothing and we never get to see the kid again, which I certainly wouldn't mind. But if we do and it is hostile I want us prepared. If you notice someone forgetting about the child, come to me or White to remind you again why you shouldn't roam the streets alone. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Sir!", came the half-serious half-joking response back from most club members, some even doing a mock salute. White rubbed her forehead in annoyance, Banda laughed in good manners about the military joke and Eiji grinned, knowing that his comrades would not take it on the light shoulder no matter their current easy-going behavior.
"Dismissed then. Let's hope that in a few weeks we have a good laugh about our paranoia as well."
"Let's hope so...", muttered White under her breath.

Word of the Author

YEAH BOI! Got a chapter up in time again! Let's hope it stays that way. Got way bigger than I intended it to be though. No 1000 or 1500 words, but straight up 3569 words. Hopefully next week I can keep it down a little. I already know if OBO makes it all the way to chapter 19 there's gonna be a whole lot of salt in the U19 club. I should name that chapter "Our Salt Bros" if it gets to that point. XDDD

Btw, do you think I should change the "Interlude" stuff to "Chapter XX.5" or should I keep it with the Interludes?

Hope you are also intrigued with the playground child from a couple chapters ago. Can't keep it all about club activities and the idiot trio complaining about another series getting past U19. Wonder how that kid made everyone forget about it or why? Yeah, me too to be honest... what was I honest about again? Strange. Lemme check. A child? What child was I talking about? Noah? But I am pretty sure he didn't had any sort of mind manipulating powers except ofc his power of friendship speech powers. Hm. Oh well, I am sure that will fix itself with time.

Have fun, everyone. Maybe I do some sort of preparation for chapter 1000 of One Piece chapter or I keep going about this... about what again? Man, this really starts to bother me, I know I am a scatterbrain but usually I am able to keep my plotline at hand...
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 15 - Preparation for the One Pi-Hunger-Hunger

"Yes-yes, warm, soooooft, smells good-good. Thisss feeling on our hands best-best. Ahhh, waited so long-ever, want-want eat-feast now!"
The dark, deeply scratching voice unfitting to the little creature looking like the most average child you could imagine rummaged through its mother's open stomach with its tiny hands. Despite the pure bliss in the voice, its face remained expressionless like a doll in a storehouse. It started to hiss as it threw away organs and chucks of flesh leaving bloody trails throughout the room pointing towards what anyone would describe as a scene of carnage.

"Stupid-dumb organs, useless-needless flesh, always in the way-way. Where isssss it? We nee-nee-need it! AHA!" The joyous sound of triumph resonated in the room as small fingers grabbed hold on their precious treasure. A white orb left the corpse of the mother hold tightly by the bloodied hands of her child. The blood seemed to be repelled by the orb as it looked untouched and pure in the face of madness giggling and jumping around the room, tossing the orb up and down, catching it, kissing it, rubbing its cheek on it while its smiles remained lifeless and empty, a visage knowing what a smile meant yet not knowing hot to smile for real.

"So long-eternal, so much tiiiiiiime invested-poured in! Ours-ours now, come little core, be one-many with us! Come~", cooed the creature drenched in blood and other fluids of its victim. Its jaw broke wide open, far larger than the tiny mouth of a child had any right to open. Its teeth changed form, looking like drills and its tongue hang out like a long rag. It stuffed its mouth with the orb and crunched it to tiny pieces, feeling the core bleed its rules and emotions into this tiny creature, ever hungry, never satisfied. The boy gulped the white mass down and a large bulb wandered through its throat to its stomach.
The smile changed into a toothy grin meant to express frustration yet it looked just pitiful and empty.
"WRONG! No-no, not enough, not the feelingssssss of a mother-things's love-affection we wanted! We got betrayed-scammed! We did so much-many things! This thing-thing had almost nothing in it-it! Haaargh~"

The boy walked around the corpse in a circle ranting about the missing flavors and thin taste of the orb it had just harvested. In the meantime the corpse started to fade away into nothingness, even the lumps of its flesh spread out in the room disappeared and the clothes and hands of the boy looked like not a single speck of dirt had been on them. At this moment the only one who still remembered her was her murderer as she disappeared from everyone's minds in an instant. The boy scratched its face and ruffled through its hair as it tried to express its feelings to let off steam as its insides rumbled and tossed around. Like a spoiled child it rolled on the floor, biting the now clean carpet and left long clawing marks in the walls. Finally, it had itself under control again and knew it had to do better next time. It next food had to be better, tastier, more fulfilling. Feeding on unimportant Named was safe but insufficient for what the creature truly wanted: Understanding of what it meant to be alive.
Then it remembered. A girl in blazing white, beautiful, special, delicious. Clad in anger and hatred, pierced with confusion and loneliness, with a tinge of sadness and budding feelings the girl was suppressing with pride and fear. A godly meal for the ages!

"Yeeeeeeeessss~", the boy hissed as drool ran down its weirdly smiling lips. "Must not eat-starve, but eat-feast! Want girl-thing's core, want-want inside us! But delicious girl-thing never alone-alone, always someone-something with her-her. Remember her dreamy-yummy scent, must find her, yes-yes. Must smell-find her, make plans-ideas to get-eat her. Will grow-change with her core, next level-evolution will be ourssssss for sure-sure!"
With a large smile and way too widely opened eyes, the boy left the room and walked through the large apartment looking like a town. Nobody paid it any mind just like the boy wanted it to be. This was the last time it would leave this apartment to never return to this series ever again. It had spend a lot of time after taking over the persona of this named boy in hopes to strengthen the flavor of its real target's core by receiving her love and partaking in activities of affection. It was a bust but still a success in defeat due the meeting with the girl in the playground. She seemed to have taken notice of the boy strangeness though the boy was unable to name how that could be. Its power to mess with the minds around it was great to hide in packs of characters, looking for its next prey and adapt to different situations, waiting to grow more powerful with each successful hunt and one day reach the peak of its being.
It left the tower and walked towards the Park District in hopes of finding clues of the whereabouts of its next meal.

Meanwhile, the U19 club was busy preparing for the big celebration of One Piece's 1000th chapter. It's not like you could party a 1000th chapter milestone everyday so everyone did their best to make this the best party ever in the U19 cellar. Banda and Mr. Commentary were busy in the kitchen to prepare the feast while Eiji and Hajime were cleaning the room which furniture Noah and White were removing to make space. Momiji, Tamashiro and Jackman worked on the decoration and banner. Besides the old ones they wanted to make new shiny ones so they were using a lot of Attention from the storeroom. They were very enthusiastic about their task which turned out to be a problem when White entered the room to check on their progress.
"You used how much Argentberries!? You were supposed to only take Copperbugs for your work! What were you thinking?!"
White's enraged shouts brought Eiji, Noah and Hajime to the storeroom, looking at a huge pile of all kinds of decorations, from simple strings of lights to life-sized statues of the Strawhat Crew as well as costumes and party poppers and fans and a colorful banner with glitter on it. Eiji bit his lips thinking about how much this must have cost at Attention to be made while Hajime just facepalmed himself and Noah looked with awe at the amazing stuff laid out before him. It certainly looked impressive but it was clear that the boys had gone overboard in their task. White was furious,. When would they use all this stuff again? This was a waste of resources and the apologetic faces of the trio kneeling before her in dogeza style did little to calm her wrath.

Eiji let out a deep sigh. This needed to be fixed and White scolding the boys would not do so. He put his hand on her shoulders to get her attention and stop her before she could blow her lid off. White flinched slightly, turned her face to look at Eiji before using her left hand to remove his with an indignant expression and turned away from him. The pink-haired boy felt a bit hurt even though similar stuff had happened hundreds of times before. There had been dozens of times as well where she was okay with him touching her to calm her down, but lately it seemed like she was avoiding him on purpose. Though that was something to worry about later.
"Momiji, Tamashro, Jackman, you're going to sort this mess out. Take your diving suits and go garbage-diving. I don't care if you can't get everything you used up today, just get enough for a start so that we don't have to take so long to fill the storeroom again once we are done with the preparations. Hajime, Noah, make sure you get an overview of what's what in this decoration collection and think up where to put what. White, please help me with the cleaning so we can finish in time."

White muttered something inaudible under her breath but she turned around and left the room taking Hajime's broom who took Noah by the shoulders to stop him from jumping into the pile of varied decorations. Only the three kneeling had seen for a brief moment the tiny smile on her face before leaving the room. Eiji's glare send them running to grab their stuff for the diving expedition. Outside the tower's cellar the three looked at each other, waiting for one of them to take control and thus responsibility for this mission.

"Sooooo~", coughed Jackman slightly being the most inexperienced in the group in regards to garbage-diving. "Any ideas where we can start with the Attention gathering, guys?"
The two boys looked angrily at the mascot suit who had dodged the mantle of responsibility. Not wanting to be outdone Momiji pushed his glasses up his nose, looking straight at little Tamashiro.
"Well, if we are speaking of experience than Tama-chan got the most of us, so he should know where we might find the most Attention at a time like this." The eyes of the spoken to twitched slightly as the older teen tried to make him pack leader and thus the target of any complains Eiji or worse White might have upon their return.
"Aren't you the smartest and oldest of us though, Momi-chan? This sounds like a task made for a strategist, if we'd leave it to me we certainly won't get as much as with you at the helm."
"Don't call me Momi-chan."
"Don't call me Tama-chan."

"For real now, where do we go? If we come back with nothing, then even Eiji might consider punishing us severely, like not getting to eat a bite of what Banda and Mr. Commentary are cooking in the kitchen right now! Wasn't the one week cleaning duty already bad enough for you?" Jackman's words made the two boys remember the awful time they had with seemingly endless cleaning of the kitchen, bathroom and garbage duty. Maybe this wasn't the time to bicker with each other.
"Jump+?", asked Momiji Tamashiro.
"That or Jump Square, either are a good starting point.", replied the small teen.
"Yes, but I believe we might get more Argentberries at Plus due Kaiju No.8 exploding recently in popularity and still having a small cast.", explained the Shogi player.
"Might mean more waste going down the drains with more goodies.", grinned Tamashiro.
"Let's go then!", announced Jackman and marched down the road with his equipment on his back.
"It's the other direction, Jackman."
"I knew that! I was testing you guys!"

After several successful dives getting a whole bunch of Copperbugs with several Argentberries the three were pretty complacent, knowing that they hadn't just recovered a start but like bit more than half of what they had used up for decorations. Even White would had to acknowledge their haul as a big one. The three happily chatted along the way back home.
"Say, don't you think that White might have a thing for our leader?", asked Jackman, excited to gossip about his hunch he had for a while since entering the U19 club.
"If so then she is wise not to act on it.", said Tamashiro, moving the bag on his back to distribute the weight a bit better.
"Huh, why?"
"Let's just say that Eiji is already taken and she got not a snowball chance in hell.", answered Momiji mysteriously not really wanting to dig too deep into Eiji's personal matters.
"What? Who? Wait. It can't be... Him and Banda are a couple?" The two boys broke out in roaring laughter at Jackman's suggestion who joined the laugh.

"No, it's someone from his previous series.", explained Momiji seriously, hiding his sorrowful eyes behind his glasses.
"Oh." It was all the explanation Jackman needed to shut up. Albeit Tamashiro had none of that discretion.
"Besides that, White is a Villain and Eiji a Main Character, a hero. Heroes get the Heroine or one of the other Love Interests depending on the Creator's taste. But a Villain and a hero? Not gonna happen." The other two did not object, knowing it in their cores how the world plays out. Even if the Villain were to switch sides later on, in the love game for the Main Character they were a lost cause, no matter how deep their affection ran or how interesting they were.
"I'd really like to know though why she took a fancy to Eiji. I thought she hated all humans due her core's rules. Only Noah, Hajime and Mr. Commentary seem to be okay in her book.", listed Tamashiro the by White most liked U19 members.
"And Jackman.", added Momiji with a grin.
"Really? I thought she hated my guts!"
"Yeah, because you hang around us all the time."
The three friends had another good laugh which stopped in their throats as someone suddenly stood in their way.

*Threadless! Useless-pointless, no aim-goal in life. Petty, weak, pathetic! Axed-things!*

A little boy, average in looks, in shorts and shirt, looked away from them, seemingly crying and rubbing his eyes.
"Oh crap, a lost kid.", muttered Tamashiro not really into the nice guy act of looking for a mother who could be gods know where.
"Be nice, aren't you a hero?", teased Momiji his small friend who rolled his eyes in response.
"No, I am a cocky challenger and quite happy with just that, thank you very much."
"We gotta help the child!", decided Jackman who was really into the nice guy act. Finally a chance to be like a hero and help others, even if it is only looking for a mom.
"Do we really have to?", complained Tamashiro.
"The mom might be hot, guys.", countered the mascot cheekily. That convinced the two teens quickly.

*But smell-clues the garbage-things holds. Yes-yes, we know that smell-smell! White girl smell, preciousssss prey-feast~*

The three walked up calling out to the crying child.
"Hey boy, what's up? Are you looking for your mom? Want us to help you? Don't worry we are not suspicious people, you can trust us!", exclaimed Jackman loudly.
"Sounds sus to me.", muttered Tamashiro with a grin. Momiji seemed deep in thought so the smaller teen put his head atilt to look up to his larger friend. "What's up with that frown? You liking this good knight act less than me is a surprise."
"It's not that, I think White and Eiji has told us something about a child and I forgot what it was."
"They said what about what child?"
"Who said what about who?"
"Guys, please concentrate on the poor kiddo, will you?", claimed Jack unnerved the attention of the two boys.

*Look-stare in our eyesssss! You're our-our next prey-things! Tell-scream us what we need-need to know, yes-yes~*

The boy turned around, tears and snot running over his face. Jackman kneeled, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket.
"Oh, don't cry, my boy. We're going to find your mother, I promise you that."
"Who are you talking to, dude?" Jackman was surprised, even for Tamashiro this was a stupidly mean way to act.
"We should be going home, why are we still in this street?" Jackman couldn't believe his ears. Even Momiji wouldn't want to help a crying child just because he wanted to go home sooner? He turned around to give them a piece of his mind and lost his words while opening his mouth, instead he asked this:
"Where is Tamashiro?"

*Helpless play-things, play-play with us, yes-yes! Delight-please us! Ssssscream!*

A finger tipped on Jackman's shoulder. He turned his head to face the kid again, but all he saw was the fist of Tamashiro coming crashing down his face. The mascot felt his large feet lift from the ground as the fit hit him with a strength he had not expected from his friend. It hurt. He flew past Momiji and slid on the floor, feeling the Attention and Equipment in his bag roll around.
"What just happened?", screamed Tamashiro looking in shock at his friend who had suddenly flew past him after asking such a weird question. There had been nothing behind Jackman, so he turned his eyes back from his friend to the spot he had kneeled before just in time to witness Momiji doing a incredible round-house kick to hit his face. Only Tamashiro's quick reflexes allowed him to dodge that kick by quickly dropping to the floor, feeling the air rush above his head as the feet scraped past his spiky hair.
"What are you doing?", asked Momiji incredulous, wondering where the hell Jackman had been sent to because after flying past him he was just gone. Before Momiji could form another thought Jackman appeared next to him his backside of his big shoe kicking the Shogi player straight in the chest.
"Uff!" Momiji flew into the tower's wall, losing his glasses, hearing part of his ribs crack and even the wall appeared to have taken damage. Were it not for the big bag on his back Momiji might have fainted due a concussion. Instead he slid down the wall, coughing badly in an attempt to catch his breath. Yet even more desperate than for air, the now glasses-free boy was in dire need for answers why his friend was attacking him so furiously.

*YES! Feel-fear confusion! Hate-disgust each other! We want to taste-savour your feelssssss~*

Jackman got up, putting a hand on his chin, feeling it pulsating like an open wound. His body felt like in a rush, his brain in shock. He watched in disbelief how Tamashiro beat up Momiji, then watched Momiji putting on the moves on Tamashiro in rapid succession which the small teen was dodging by the skin of his teeth. Jackman did what Jackman do best: Stop thinking, do something! He threw off his bag, jumped up, leaped towards the Momiji and Tamashiro he currently was seeing and grabbed their wrists. Momiji looked up in confusion, Tamashiro had the most disgusting grin on his face while throwing around his fist to smack Jackman again.
But Jackman's training with Banda paid off. He pulled at the wrist of his violent friend, the fist went aside of his face, hitting his floppy ear. Jackman ignored the pain and brought down his forehead on the nose, feeling it crack under his weight. He released Tamashiro who stumbled backwards and pulled Momiji up. Now he saw Tamashiro still doing his dodges but with no Momiji in front of him. Jackman grabbed his wrist as well and pulled both boys away from the fake Tamashiro as quickly as he could.
"Run, guys, run!"

*Argh! Bad-worse decision! Didn't expected weird-strange character-thing to still be conscious-awake. No play-games anymore! Kill-kill the Axed-things!*

"What the hell happened?! Why did you attack me?", asked Momiji struggling to speak, breath and run at the same time while being pulled by the one who had just put him through the mill.
"Just run, four-eyes. Something's fucked up here!", replied Tamashiro now running on his own, getting rid of his backpack to lighten his mass. He didn't knew what happened either, but he did know that there was no way the nerdy Momiji could pull off such battle moves. Whatever it was, it was not kosher.
"We gotta get the others! We need their powers for whatever this was! Just BRRAAAGL~"
Jackman body had a sudden chill as he ran through Mr. Commentary who was around the corner and had been sent to find the idiot trio to make sure they were doing a proper job with their amends. Seeing the wounds on Momiji, the shock in Tamashiro's eyes and Jackman looking like a scared out of its fur bunny, the purple ghost went straight to business.

"Jackman-kun, what happened?" Jackman answered without thinking, doing what a Jackman does best.
"There, there was a crying child, then then there wasn't and we, we did, I don't know why, but-"
"Ssh!" Mr. Commentary put a finger on Jackman's lips to silence him. He had heard enough. This must be what White and Eiji had warned them about. He put his upper body through the building's corner to see a child rushing at them. He pulled his face back, hoping he wasn't seen. To the three deeply breathing boys he said:
"Get moving. Leave this to me."
"But-", protested Jackman to no avail.
"I'm a ghost, Jackman-kun. I will be fine. Now scram."
The three boys scrammed while Mr. Commentary hid entirely inside the wall, waiting for the boy to approach the corner.

Just seconds later the boy was there. A purple fist clad in a Knight's armor came through the untouched wall, hitting the boy square at his chin. Or so Mr. Commentary thought as he left the wall to float onto the sidewalk. But all his punch had done was push the boy away guarding his chin with an arm.
"Hm, seems like I need to be more serious with you, boy. Or what else should I call you, fake boy?" The child on the street began to laugh in an ugly way, like a squeaky door scratching over the floor. Mr. Commentary shuddered and understood what White meant with this child being fake. No character, certainly not a human one, could laugh so wrong.
"Funny-jolly Threadless, you're not-not like the other-things. Your thread-thread is cut-white, theirs black, axed-black. We will eat-devour you!"
"I'd like to see you try, kiddo. This old man got some tricks up his sleeve. Did I mention that I am a ghost?"

With that exchange the fake boy leaped into action, seemingly flying through the air to reach Mr. Commentary quickly. Yet Mr. Commentary pulled out of nowhere a baseball cap and uniform as well as a baseball bat and hit the child square in its face, sending it across he street into the other buildings wall.
"Told you I got some tricks on me. Hm, interesting. I am sure I hit you, no, I KNOW I hit you, yet I cannot remember the weight behind the hit or how badly I damaged you nor where I hit you. Pretty cool mind-trick, but quite useless as long as I do hit you.", mocked Mr. Commentary the boy pulling himself away from the wall it had left a mark in.
"Less talk-talk, more fight-fight!" The boy disappeared from Mr. Commentary's sight who immediately raised his bat, ready for anything. One moment later he saw himself swinging a bat at his head. Thankfully he was quite nimble and simply let his head disappear into his shoulders like a turtle watching the bat swing past him while his baseball cap did some twirls in the air before dropping onto the purple's ghost head or what remained of it.
"My turn." Again Mr. Commentary send his opponent flying, this time looking like himself.

"Transformation powers? Copy powers? Can't be, I was able to hit you and this is too quick for a transformation. Illusion then? Wanna have some in-battle talk, boy?"
"No.", said the boy who had appeared behind Mr. Commentary. Before the ghost could react he could feel the slashes of claws over his back. Stumbling forward, turning around to swing and miss on the boy, Mr. Commentary received three more hits in the stomach which send him back a couple more steps. Quickly he floated up, away from the boy to understand what had happened.
His free hand reached for his back, returning with purple blood on it. Confused, Mr. Commentary stared at it.
"I'm bleeding? Impossible! But I got hit as well, how? What is your secret, boy?" The boy did not answer and instead jumped up, disappearing midair. Instead of sticking around, Mr. Commentary flew away to the end of the street where he then turned around to watch it for the boy to appear. Now it was the boy's turn to mock his opponent as he showed up a few feet away from Mr. Commentary walking slowly to him while laughing his ugly laugh.
"Ohhh, are we scared-afraid? Doessssssn't Ghost-Spirit wanna bleed-bleed? Still think-think you're invincible-unbeatable? We strong-stronger than you-you all! We will feast-end you! One-many you will become, yes-yes!"

"I have no idea what you are talking about, boy, but you really need some education in speech. And I already told you I got some tricks up my sleeve." Mr. Commentary's face changed. It transformed into a purple version of his real human face with proper eyes, nose and lips. He was still overweight but he no longer looked like a character from a comedy series. He took a stance like a Baseball player would getting ready to receive a ball. The boy charged, the ghost swung and suddenly during his swing a glowing ball of purple light appeared in front of him. He hit it with the baseball bat and send it flying towards the boy who quickly side-stepped it.
"Miss-miss, piggie-fat!"
"I know I am repeating myself, but-" At that moment the purple ball made an U-turn and hit the sneering boy in the back of his head. "- I got some tricks up my sleeve."
The boy, carried forward by the force of the hit used its momentum to do a somersault forward, taking Mr. Commentary by surprise. As the boy landed in front of him, the ghost leaped backwards to avoid the slash of the fake child.
"Hng!" Yet bleeding marks tinted his white-blue striped Uniform purple through the tears in his clothes. The boy spit on the ground, letting purple drops fall from his invisible knives attached to his fingers. He licked off some of the blood, taunting his opponent.
"Assssss do we-we."
"Hmpf! Troublesome brat.", replied Mr. Commentary bravely, both hands clenched onto his bat, hoping the others from the Club would find their way to him soon.

A few minutes later, Eiji, White, Banda and the whole rest of the club, except Noah and Hajime who took care of the injured Momiji at home, came rushing past the corner to watch a scene they wouldn't had expected even in their wildest dreams.
In the middle of the street sat Mr. Commentary in his transformed ultra battle form, staring at his bloodied bat, surrounded by purple puddles of blood, seemingly uninjured. Eiji ordered White and Banda with him while the others should stay back and wait. Carefully they approached their silent friend. His red needle floating in the air, attached with a red string to his right pinky, was ready to strike at any moment. Banda creaked the joints in his fingers, hoping he didn't had to use his fists today. White walked seemingly unarmed, a white Umbrella in her hand, yet her red demonic eyes spoke of readiness to unleash hell at any moment.
"Mr. Commentary?", asked Eiji cautiously. The Ghost turned around, his eyes lost in thought began to shine and a smile formed on his normal looking lips. Then with a sudden poof, the purple ghost changed back to his usual chubby self with the goofy look on his face, gone where the baseball equipment and serious old man look.
"Eiji-kun! Banda-kun! White-san! Everyone! I am so glad to see you guys!"

Eiji threw a side-glance at White who evidently relaxed and opened the umbrella to put some shade over her head.
"It's him. Nothing feels fake about him. Whatever the changeling was that Jackman and the others saw, it is not in front of us." Banda breathed out a huge sigh of relief. Eiji put away the needle to walk up to Mr. Commentary, now noticing some changes on him. He looked a bit thinner than before.
"What happened? Where is the child? What is that purple stuff on the ground?"
"We fought. In the sewers. That's me on the ground?"

Banda gasped. White hid her face by pulling her white summer hat brim over her eyes. Eiji's lips tightened.
"That's you?"
"Yeah, I know what you are thinking. It shouldn't be possible but whatever that fake child was, it was able to hurt me, for real. After it left probably when hearing or feeling you guys approach, my wounds healed but my well, blood, for a lack of better word, was left on the street. Some of the puddles have disappeared by now, so I think the rest will soon follow."
"Are you okay, bro?", asked Banda worried.
"Pff, I am more worried about the food in the kitchen, Banda-kun! I hope you didn't left the oven on."
"If you can joke around, then it cannot be that serious. And you look better with that tummy slightly gone, old man.", grinned White as she watched Banda's face grow white in terror, trying to remember in what state he had left the kitchen behind.
"Well, I hope to refill my belly's size back to its former glory after our great party dinner.", laughed the purple ghost hitting his stomachs with both hands causing it to jiggle.

Eiji closed his eyes, happy that his friend was safe and sound, but he still needed to ask one more question which was worrying him.
"You said, it fled into the sewers. Do you think it belongs to-"
"- the Underground City? Maybe. I don't know."
"If so, then that alone is trouble by itself. Citizen from the Underground don't come above, ever.", reminded White the two, her tone serious and even a bit worried.
"Wherever it comes from doesn't matter. We will deal with it! Let's go home first, guys. We gotta check on Momiji and the roast-I mean, we gotta check on our bros at home, right?" Banda pointed with a thumb at the others waiting at the corner. Eiji nodded in agreement, no need to stand around in broad daylight, causing others to stumble over them. Not like anyone would believe their wild explanation anyway.

At the corner, Jackman and Tamashiro assaulted Mr. Commentary with thanks and questions about the fight.
"Thank you so much for saving us, Mr. Commentary!"
"Did you kick his ass? I hope you really put some ooompf in your swings! I wanna see that bastard suffer!"
"I don't know if we could have gotten away on our own given the poor state Momiji was in."
"You gotta tell us eeeeeverything about the battle, old man!"
Mr. Commentary laughed at the two boys honest feelings and gave them a air rub over their heads, giving them slight chills.
"Let's go home, boys."
"One second please!", said Tamashiro, running up the street to the place where they had gotten beaten up by the fake child. He picked something up and returned to the group, showing them his finding.
"Can't waste some Argentberry when we could a perfectly fine glasses, am I right?"

On the way home, Jackman has to ask one question of worry, witnessing the slimmer form of their savior's belly.
"Mr. Commentary, are you really okay?"
"Ahahaha! I told you, Jackman-kun, I'm a ghost, I will be fine. I am fine."

"I am just fine..."

Word of the Author

Hoh boy! Jesus. Like damn. I wrote all this stuff in around 4 hours? Man, holiday days are such a time stealer, lol. All the past days I was busy getting stuffed with food, playing games with the family and recover from both. xD
Only today I finally sat down to write on the 15th (or 16th chapter if you count the Interlude as a chapter) chapter and didn't stopped until I finished! I am very proud of myself and a bit disappointed I did not divide my work schedule better.

Chapter got 5318 words, some scenes just flew outta my fingers in minutes, saved a lot of time, no kidding.

I hope the "child" was creepy enough that you felt a bit scared reading about it.^^
As for its threadless comment in regards to the U19 members, hm, well, think about it yourself. It will be explained in due time, no worries. :9

I am glad I got to give Mr. Commentary his moment of badassery as well as to show off his battle forms (yes, there is an Ultra form. No, I will not make up a new name for it, I am lazy.). The original plan had been for the whole group to gather and beat up the fake child and get behind its secrets but then after the prep scene I changed my mind because this would take away too much attention from the 1000th One Piece celebration I had planned for next week.
So yeah, stay tuned and hope that I managed to get the chapter done in time, haha.

I really wanna write some other fanfics as well, albeit those won't be weekly. Like a World Trigger fanfic or a Gakkou Gurashi fanfic or a rewrite of the bookworm novel/manga/anime where this whole magic noble lady path just infuriates me to no end. Oh well, we will see. After all, I have been thinking of writing a book myself but never got to do it because countless excuses. Bet I won't have to wait long before thinking up some why I didn't wrote the other fanfics down.^^

I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas with your loved ones and that you will enjoy a great Silvester!!! ❤
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 16 - Happy 1000th Chapter, One Piece!

Everyone sat at the large round table and stared hungrily at the table with its contents. The huge crispy roast with its enticing smell, the mashed potatoes and noddles in all lengths and forms, the many different salads and dips and four kinds of different sauces as well as some in the kitchen waiting deserts were torturing the waiting U19 members. All of the food being made of Argentberries promised to be one incredible experience of a meal. Banda even alleged that he had used some Sunheart for the roast and while that seemed wasteful, the looks and smell seemed heavenly enough for it to be true. Yet they could not eat as one of their own was still missing to arrive at the table.
"Where is Mr. Commentary?", complained Tamashiro, loud enough to be heard by everyone at the table but bot loud enough to cover his grumbling stomach. He wore a Pirate hat and an eye patch, many of the other U19 members also had costumes or pirate accessories on.
"He's usually never late for stuff like this.", wondered Hajime in his human form, his left hand ending into a hook which was slowly transforming into a fork. Jackman's fingers were tipping the table showing how irritated the mascot suit was with the Ghost's being a few minutes absent. He knew he had to wait for a huge talk of Eiji before they could finally devour the goods before them but their missing friend made the waiting even worse.
"Can't we just start the speech so we might be able to start eating when Mr. Commentary arrives?" White shot a disapproving glare at their newest member. She was the only one not wearing a single pirate accessory. "Or something else like one looking for him..."

"He ain't in his room, buddy. I already checked. It's no worries, the food is so perfect it will stay warm for a long time thanks to the magic of Attention any my amazing cooking skills. My creator should have made a cooking series like Souma that might have taken off." Banda's easy-going boasting was just there to facade his own worries and to disperse the worries of his club comrades. Noah looked sad, Momiji was playing with his glasses and despite White looking calm she kept glancing at Eiji throwing unspoken words at him, no doubt about Mr. Commentary's weird behavior since the incident with the fake boy monster. Eiji sighed and stood up, taking his glass with orange juice.
"I don't wanna start this off without all of us present, but I think it is cruel to keep you from fulfilling your basic needs. Especially since none of us had breakfast to leave a lot of space to hopefully deal with all of this food."
"Hear, hear!", cheered Banda causing some giggles from the others.
"I just wanted to-"
"I'm sorry, guys. Real sorry." Mr. Commentary floated through the wall, his fingers awkwardly moving over each other. He looked as sorry as a scolded puppy. "I was occupied in the uhm toilet. But all's good now. Hope I didn't miss anything?"

That lie was so bad nobody knew how to respond to that. After all while Mr. Commentary could chose to eat and drink he had never been seen in the toilet. Eiji coughed and pointed at the sole empty chair at the table.
"No worries, Mr. Commentary, I was just about to start. Please sit down." Mr. Commentary quickly followed the offer, nodding to everyone in an apologizing manner. Eiji restarted his speech.
"I just wanna thank you all for your hard work to prepare for this amazing party so I will not talk long because I can barely hear my own words over your protesting bellies! Cheers to you all and cheers to One Piece for making it to its 1000th chapter!" Everyone rose their own glasses and joined the cheers and praise to themselves and to the great manga that gave them this opportunity to party. Then carnage was made to the food. It was so terrible and inhumane that only the veil of silence should be drawn over it and never be spoken of again, except for the fact that it took Tamashiro, Momiji and Jackman 4 hours to clean everything.

After the hearty meal everyone was nearly filled to the brim with their bellies doing their best to keep the insane amount of food inside the U19 members had guzzled.
"So this is how Luffy feels when he ate ton of food.", sighed Momiji, regretting his overeating.
"Nah, his body is made of rubber, his stomach is way more flexible than ours. This would have been a small snack for him.", laughed Tamashiro only to wince in pain when the laughter made his belly jiggle.
"Okay, folks. I think it is, burp, pardon me, time to do some OP talk stuff.", announced Eiji, too lazy to rise his heavy size up his seat. Quiet cheers and silent oaths to never eat that much again were made in response.

"So, in regards to One Piece reaching 1000 Chapters, how do you see it overall, going from its beginnings decades ago to now? Anyone wanna start or should I give the first opinion?" Everyone nods to that suggestion, anything to give them a little more time to digest their food.
"Personally I see that OP has come a long way from its start, it remained super popular, even Kimetsu's recent rise to the stars didn't hurt its popularity as we have seen with the latest poll about what manga the Readers in Japan like the most. But while it has remained popular I can't help but feel a little tired about reading it nowadays. It follows the same formula for a 1000 chapters now with getting to a new island, finding a new baddy and new oppressed which need help, resolve conflict usually with a Gum-Gum-Cannonball-fist and then repeat, after couple islands they get a new buddy and that's it, really. I like it and some stuff like the Going Merry being abandoned and replaced took me by surprise, but One Piece is like your regular breakfast. You like it, you eat it and you move on about your daily life. Like I said, it's good but I think it could use some little pep. White, wanna continue?" White nods and hides a small sleepy yawn behind her hand. Even she got sleepy with so much food inside her, monster commander or not.
"For the last year I found One Piece to be pretty boring. I just don't care about the current Arc or Jinbei joining the Strawhats, like you said, it is too much of the same thing over and over again. The whole Oden wanking off part didn't helped me liking this arc much more either. I'm glad we are finally at the final arc battle, at least I hope it will be it, but I really can't wait to leave this arc behind us and move on towards the One Piece Luffy is after. And yeah, that's pretty much my experience with One Piece, liking some arcs and disliking others and mostly skimming through them to get to parts I like. I'd love to see the Strawhats commit some actual pirate crimes instead of being the good guys all the time who selflessly punish the evildoers and rescue the innocent, but you can't get that with a Shounen series, especially not with one from the old time. Afrorilla, your turn."

Banda stretched his arms and back out, causing his T-shirt to ride up his round stomach showing off his belly button.
"One Piece is a blast for me whenever I read it. It's fun, straight-forward and really cool. Gotta admit, it took me some time to get used to the new designs of the crew members after the time skip, maybe I am the old fashion kinda guy, I preferred the old look of each Strawhat. But I never had an arc I really disliked. How the world builds up with each new arc and island discovered on their journey is great and informative, like how early on you think Fishmen are all assholes and criminal scum just to see later that they got their own kingdom and a lot of shit to deal with, so you start to see the past in a different light than before. It makes me feel more immersed with the One Piece World and I am sure most readers feel the same else it couldn't have stayed so popular for so long. If the creator keeps that kinda work up then the series will stay as popular with the readers as ever. Tamashiro, your thoughts."
"I read One Piece solely for Zoro!", said the young teen with a proud grin. "He is one of the coolest characters I have ever seen. The first member of Luffy's crew, a samurai with a supercool sword style, a code of honor and a willingness to go all the way for his friends. His new looks just made him even cooler and I love how his swords keep changing as well as how he got a soft side to himself due his past experiences. I am glad he gets so prominently shown so I have hardly any arcs I cannot enjoy. I know it's a pretty shallow reason to like a series for but at least I am not like some readers who read a series for its boobs and butts. Right, Momiji?"

"Hey, leave me outta that accusation! If anything I find it a bit too much for my taste, not that I have a taste for ecchi series in general, mind you, I just mean the proportions are all wrong and..." Momiji looked at lots of raised eyebrows around the table. He coughed, collected his marbles inside his head and started over again.
"The biggest plus point about One Piece for me is the friendship between the Strawhats. You can really feel that they have each others backs, that they are okay leaving some secrets secret of the others if they are uncomfortable to open up about them. Their banters are fun, their deeds heroic and while their characters develop very little, it is still pretty deep when they do so. And while its story-telling of its arc is very repetitive, it is always very varied and rich in characters and villains so that you are never bored reading any of those arcs. <hm, think I said everything I wanna say. I pick Jackman next."

Jackman holding both hands over his bulging belly, struggled to sat up right, then gave up and remained slumped on his seat.
"Well, uh, to be honest, I have never read the first couple hundreds chapters of One Piece. Think I jumped right into the Summit War Saga and I honestly do not miss reading the previous part. I think it's good that you can get into a story even if you start reading it from the middle or end. If you really want to, then you can go back and read it all from chapter 1 to now but to me that is just way too much time spend on reading a single series. Don't get me wrong, I like reading it, it is awesome, but it is just sooooooo long. Sometimes even a single arc is so long that I keep forgetting who is who in the new arc and why they matter. The large character cast might be one of One Piece great strengths but to me it is one of its worst weaknesses because you keep getting names and faces thrown at your eyes and they are just not that important to me. I don't care about 20 or 30 new characters and how their lives will change for the better because Luffy and co beat up the bad guys. I wanna see the fighting and cool moments, not endless flashbacks and the stories of victim 1 to 24. At some point that is just exhausting to read and keep in mind and pretty confusing later on if you don't do so. But whatever, I can deal with that. Yo, Hajime, you're up."
Hajime had changed his left hand from a fork into a toothpick and was busy getting some stubborn meat part out between his teeth. He quickly stopped his display of his toothpick skills and changed it back into a normal left hand, looking a bit embarrassed.
"While I do read One Piece for a long time, I admit that I am just not as into it as many of you are. The pacing is often snail-speedy and like you guys said, it is pretty repetitive. It has however its moments that just bring goosebumps all over your skin and tie your heart to every panel you read. Like Usopp leaving the crew over Going Merry, Ace's death, Zoro taking Luffy's pain in Thriller Bark Arc and much more. It's those moments that made me not drop this series, they make it worth reading through hundreds of rather average chapters to get to those moments. The build-up is great towards said moments, when you knowing something is coming down, it is coming down like a truck hitting you at full speed and without brakes. For me One Piece got those genuie, genius moments that make it all worth it. Without those, I doubt we even would have this 1000th Chapter celebration. Well, I got only two to pick from, don't I?"
Hajime looked at the excited Noah who couldn't sit still on his chair and for some reason didn't felt sick even after the 6th Parfait he had eaten. Mr. Commentary looked absently at his plate, wiping the sauce of it with one of his fingers.
"Noah, give it a go."

Hajime didn't need to tell Noah that twice who went right ahead at announcing his opinion of the largest pillar of Jump.
"I haven't read all of it yet, I am about to finish the Alabasta arc, but from what I have read I think it is great! A really entertaining series with so much happening and so many characters and all those cool animals and monsters and weapons and items, it is just a never ending creativity! I can see why this could probably be overwhelming if it keeps that up until its latest chapter but I find it awesome how much thought the creator pours into his world and characters. You can feel how important this series is to him and I am sure the readers can feel the same when reading the series. This is a work coming from the heart not just the brain and that makes it a precious manga to enjoy reading. Oji-san, you got the last word of the round!"
The purple ghost looked up. His swirly eyes and mouth made it hard to guess, but it seemed he was surprised. He put his sauce dripping finger into his mouth and leaned back onto his chair before getting ready for another endless sermon about the history of One Piece, its many good and bad points and what parts you can compare to other series One Piece survived or which are currently running. Everyone was getting ready for some relaxing time as this would take a while.
"It's a good series, that's all that is to it."
The rest of the U19 club waited, then blinked, then looked at each other in surprise.
"That's it?", asked Tamashiro incredulous.
"Well, you said so much, I can hardly add anything to it, can I?"
"No, no, no. What about all the finer points we haven't mentioned or about the series you could compare One Piece to or the other stuff you usually talk about?", enquired Momiji, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Not that important to explain One Piece's success, is it?"
"Are you sick, Oji-san?", asked Noah worriedly. Mr. Commentary chuckled in response.
"I am a ghost, Noah-kun, I can't get sick."

"Guys, it's fine. Mr. Commentary is just battling the amazing dinner I made. Really speaks for my cooking skills if even a Ghost has a hard time to deal with all that food, doesn't it?", laughed Banda, supporting his chin with his left hand while his right one laid on his left arm's biceps. It was squeezing the muscle tight, to keep up the relaxed act. Banda was as surprised and worried as the rest of them but Mr. Commentary's replies made it easy to guess he didn't wanted to talk about his new behavior. White had looked at Eiji alerted when everyone had been busy blinking at the silence of the usual purple chatterbox. The Club leader had barely shaken his head at her. Now wasn't the time to open up this barrel. Instead Eiji opted for a diversion.
"Impressive how much you all can talk about this one series. I am really glad that this wasn't the only talking point I came up with today, since this is a special day as it might be the only time we will ever celebrate another 1000th chapter. So my next point of order would be this simple question: Who is your favorite character? Mr. Commentary i give you the word."
The chubby ghost nodded.
"Quite the simple question indeed. For me it is Nami. My reason for that is personal. She reminds me a lot of my little girl, always feisty with a huge grin on her face. Who is your favorite, Jackman-kun?"

The mascot scratched his ear. He hadn't seen all of the characters past chapters of course but from what he had read till now there was one character that stood out to him.
"I like Franky the most, he made the craziest changes after the time skip and I really dig his new cyborg looks compared to his lazy old man in speedo look. He is very creative with his inventions, sometimes even more so than Usopp, quite cool, very funny and chill. His crazy looks are just the cherry on top. I'm curious about your favorite character, White-san."
"It's Robin. I respect her dedication to figure out the biggest mystery in the world and that she was ready to ally with anyone to reach her goal. She might appear cold and ruthless but she has a very caring and thoughtful side to her accompanied by some really nice teasing on her crew mates. She is probably the most mature Strawhat on the ship and I can't believe the patience she got with those fools on board. You already told us your reason for liking One Piece which is the same answer to this question but you could be more specific this time, Tamashiro."

The redhead shrugged his shoulders.
"Sure, why not. Zoro is obviously my favorite character, he is the best because he is the most awesome one from the entire cast! No matter if pre- or post-time skip he looks cool, acts cool and is cool. He is loyal and strong, in my opinion as strong as Luffy where it not for the Emperor's Haki, and willing to sacrifice a lot for the safety and dreams of his crew mates, even offering his own life meaning the end of his most important promise. His banters with Sanji and Nami are great and fun. His moments to shine are some of the coolest moments in the series. He is a hard-worker, skilled and ain't taking no shit from anybody. I like how he lost or gave away many of his swords yet the one from his childhood friend remained at his side all the time. In that new extra story the other creator really picked up on that sensitive part when Zoro's hold on Wado Ichimonji got tighter when he heard the worries of the father to someday wake up seeing his daughter dead in bed. I like that Zoro is more than just a cool swordmaster and good friend, though those two points are really his main selling points. Yeah, that's about it. I chose Banda to speak next."
"Alright!" Banda took the last sip from his juice then revealed his favorite One Piece character. "In the past I was also a Zoro fan but now I prefer Brook the most outta everyone in the crew. Might seem weird to like a skeleton with stupid jokes, but I just like how he looks out for everyone, keeps the secrets of his friends to himself and has no problem doing some clown moves to make everyone laugh. I like how much he cares for strangers and how big his heart is despite no longer being there. His backstory is quite sad but interesting and his growing powers are really cool as well. He got a mature side to himself he doesn't always show but is always there. Now I think I should pick Noah next before his chair falls over. Bet you I know your favorite character, little bro."

"No way!", replied Noah pronto.
"Yes way!", laughed Banda loudly.
"Well, who is it, hm?"
"Gasp! How did you know?!"
"My muscles aren't the only big thing I got.", asserted Banda, not mentioning the pink fluffy tophat with the white cross on it and antlers sticking out to its side.
"Ewwwww~", said Tamashiro, Momiji and Jackman unisono.
"Don't make this weird, guys. I am talking about my brain here!"
"Would you swines stop squealing so that Noah may tell us his favorite character?", asked White with much fake kindness covering her hidden "or else". The four boys nodded instantly.

Noah stood up on his chair looking much like a real human child version of Chopper himself.
"Chopper is the cutest and most wholesome character of all of One Piece! Despite his harsh past of not belonging to either human or reindeer he is still open to the pain and suffering of others and shares it with his big heart. It does not matter if you were ally or enemy, Chopper heals them all and tries his hardest to become the best, most adorable doctor in the world! He is more than just a cute small talking animal and I like his transformation power a lot! I can't wait to get to chapter 1000 myself someday and see how much he has grown till then! Hmmm, my next pick iiiiiissssss HAJIME!-NIICHAN"
"Thanks, Noah." Hajime had already resigned himself as Noah's favorite pick, there are worse fates out there then that. "My favorite is Usopp for his bravery is stronger than all of the others because he has to overcome his own fear and cowardliness to take up the fight against the many enemies the Strawhats face so often. I like that he was the sole one speaking up against Luffy's decision to abandon Going Merry. I like his lies, big and small, it makes him a normal person who wants to be loved and respected but who can see his own shortcomings and is embarrassed by them. To me he is one of the few characters who grew the most throughout the entire series and I hope he keeps on improving himself while still staying true to who he really is, a coward trying his hardest to be a hero. Eiji, let us hear your favorite character."

Eiji smiled, enjoying everyone getting so into talking about One Piece's success without being bitter about it. This party was already a big success, were it not for the silent purple ghost lost in thoughts.
"My favorite is Luffy. I like him the most because of his optimism and positive character. Even in times of deep sadness or anger he can still look ahead and see better times coming. He might be goofy and not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he got a heart big enough to carry the world on and in it. I like how he never backs down in the face of impossible odds and how he rushes head first into danger. I am aware that his Main Character type seems outdated nowadays and that plenty readers prefer other Strawhats as their favorite ones, but to me he is straightforward, honest with his desires, mainly to eat and help good people, and he will never give up till he reaches the One Piece and makes his dream come true. It took a damn long time, but here we are at 1000 chapters, in the Grand Line, after a time skip, fighting two of the four Emperors at the same time. He is on his way to greatness and I am not gonna miss it, no matter how many more hundreds of chapters it gonna take. Momiji, you're the last one to tell us your favorite character."
Momiji pushed his glasses up his nose before he spoke his piece.
"Sanji is my favorite Strawhat. I like how his cooking skills supports everyone with delicious food and how proud he is of his skill. I like his rivalry with Zoro and his silly behavior around Nami and Robin and in general every beautiful woman. His past as a Vinsmoke is pretty darn cool and I really enjoyed the funny bounty pictures of his and his reactions to them. His dream sounds as grand as finding the One Piece and I hope we do so during their journey because it sounds like an amazing place to look at. His loyalty and willingness to put himself in danger for the sake of others does not have to hide behind Luffy or Zoro as he too was ready to give up his life instead of Luffy or Zoro. He got a petty and superficial side but that just rounds him up as a character with interesting flaws. While others might see him as less impressive than Luffy or Zoro or less interesting than other Strawhats, to me he is the best because of how much he feels like a regular civilian than a pirate, fighter or prince of crime. I hope the series ends with him having his own restaurant and a loving wife, hopefully Charlotte Pudding, with a big family he can give all the love he had been missing as a child."

"Wow, you guys really are into it today. Great, great. So my next speaking point would be: Which Arc if your favorite arc? Yeah. Momiji, you wanna start first?", asked Eiji noticing the raised hand of the Shogi player.
" Uhm, I just wanna know how many points there are to talk about today?"
Eiji just stared at Momiji. Then he picked up a roll hidden beneath his pirate costume. With a swerve of his wrist, the paper unrolled onto the round table, rolling past plates and bowls, revealing dozens of talking points, quizzes and other One Piece games. Many groans were heard around the table as everyone prepared for a very long day.

In the meantime inside the One Piece apartment the Strawhats hold the biggest party their dimensional room had ever seen. Not only have all characters from One Piece been invited to join the huge party but also everyone from the other WSJ series. The Agravity Boys having their last day at WSJ joined the party with much furor, making jokes and doing funny plays and in general had way too little clothes on for what was appropriate. Roboco was talking to several girls about the secret of true womanhood - the beauty of knees and how to properly raise it. Moriking hold a drinking contest with Brook which he lost on the first sip as he fainted right away. Matsuri was doing his hardest to avoid the flirting of Sanji who couldn't stop throwing compliment and praise at all the beautiful young ladies coming to the party and showering them in affection and delicious food. Mash and Andy were in a arm wrestling contest that till now remained at 0 vs 0 yet so far 9 tables had been broken under their strong grip. The cast from my Hero Academica were drowning their sorrow in the offered food and drinks as they mourned the lost heroes from the recent arc's end.

Yuji and his friends were in a deep talk with Robin about curses and how they work. Senku looked at Franky's and Usopp's inventions and they had a nerd-out about plenty of technical issues. Magu-chan and Ruru had a pleasant talk with Chopper and Nami with the latter two promising the adorable God of destruction to sign his friendship book. Riku had to drag Iori to the party who rather wanted to laze around in his own apartment than waste energy meeting new people at some exhausting festival. Tonkachi and Renge were checking out the huge HQ mansion of the Strawhats and taking notes of the impressive and slightly insane architecture which had been influenced by all Strawhats likes, giving it the look of a ship, a house, a factory, a kitchen and much more from the outside. Jinbe was listening to the worries of the Ietani family and the brothers from the vampire series on how to improve in the readership's Attention. The Yozakura family and Sakamoto family had a pleasant talk about family lives being married to a hitman/spym while Luffy enjoyed the company of Samejima and Orpheus as they ate through an insane amount of fish, meat and other dishes Sanji and the other cooks had created with tons of Argentberries and Sunhearts being the source for the ingredients.

Zoro meanwhile went to get a beer as he was sweating from his duel with Asta. He had enjoyed the duel very much and it was a great entertainment for many of the hundreds and thousands of guests watching them. Gulping down the cold drink he breathed out, trying to gather his focus amid the laughs, cheers and talks around him. Thus he could feel the attention of two people walking towards him, he thought nothing of it, just two more characters wanting to talk to him. Then for a split-second he felt incredible killing intent and before Zoro could even form a thought his body reacted on his own pulling a sword and swinging behind him.
"Woha! That was fast! As expected from one of WSJ's best swordmen."
The easy-going voice belonged to a man with white hair, his eyes covered by a black blindfold. The teasing grin on his lip was smug and confident. And Zoro's cursed sword Sandai Kitetsu was only a centimeter away from that man's neck. But what annoyed Zoro the most was that he had intended it to be one millimeter yet no matter how much strength he put into his arm his sword refused to reach the man before him.
"Shitty overpowered crap you got there, Gojo.", spat Zoro out as he pulled the katana slowly away and into its red sheath.
"Eh, it's situational useful, I guess.", laughed Satoru Gojo who's neutral form of Limitless called Infinity had slowed down Zoro's sword swing to the point of apparently stopping when it hit the Infinity between Gojo and the sword's edge. Another young quite handsome man stood behind Gojo looking in shock at what had just happened in less than a second.

"What do you want? A beer? If so take some, we got enough to drown the ocean in beer and wine."
"Later maybe, I am here to talk you about a matter that worries both me and the fine gentlemen behind me. You got some place we can talk in silence?", asked Gojo the swordman, then took the offered beer to salute towards some passing by party members. Zoro eyebrows wrinkled in concern. If it was something Gojo did not wanted to be listened to, it most likely was nothing good. He looked at the young man, looking a little out of place with his eyes darting around uneasy as he opened and closed a lighter over and over again. With his black suit, the flower shirt below it and the tie that man reminded Zoro of a certain ero cook.
"And you are?"
"My apologies, Zoro-san! My name is Chihiro Kurose, I'm from the new series Phantom Seer." Zoro's left eyebrow now rose up. Since he had never heard the name he assumed it must be a support or side character of the new series. Kurose mistook Zoro's silence as trying to figure out what he was talking about.
"My series just got to its 18th chapter, we are still fresh and unknown so it's no wonder you haven't heard from us yet."
"No, I know who you are or better said where you from and who you cannot be from your series. But what business do I have with both of you?"
"The place.", reminded Gojo Zoro with a kind smile. With a dissatisfied snort Zoro led the two men away from the large party to his private room, a training room with tons of equipment to train with, mainly arm strength.

"Go on, Kurose, you told me you can tell this nice fella as well." Gojo pat Kurose on the back who adjusted his tie and took a deep breath before telling his concern.
"During one of our shots I noticed something strange. One of the Nameless Background characters... well, I know it sounds crazy, but Gojo-san seemed to really insist to tell you and uhm, a-anyway...I saw one of them taking an Argentberry inside their bodies." Zoro's eye widened. Again, Kurose misunderstood Zoro's facial expression.
"I know, I know! Nameless cannot take Attention because they got no core to store it in! My eyes must have played a trick on me but that moment just never left my mind and I talked to Gojo-san about it and then he pulled me out of the party and-"
"You know more about this?", interrupted Zoro Kurose to speak with Gojo. The blindfolded man just showed his mysterious smile.
"I'm a social man and listen to many people. Maybe you should try it sometimes."
"I heard from some friend of yours about the crazy thing you had seen, Zoro. Then Kurose told me about his sighting and I had witnessed something similar during the Shibuya Incident Arc. I figured it would be best if we three talked first before we upset the apple cart."

"Wait, what?" Kurose looked even more confused. "You have also seen a Nameless take in Attention, Gojo-san? I thought, the Attention always passes through them, at least it has done so all the time I had seen them in our chapters."
"Indeed, their purpose is to fill the gaps in our worlds to make it seem more lively, not to take Attention which they have no need for. Yet I saw a woman taking a Sunheart and it disappearing inside her. Then she got shredded to pieces by the curses and I couldn't find her after the chapter was done."
"What is the meaning of this, Gojo?", demanded Zoro answers from the Jujutsu Sorcerer who only shrugged in response.
"Beats me. It goes against common sense, after all what use would puppets have for Attention? I tried to think of it as a rare mistake of mine, then I heard from your encounter and after Kurose telling me his worries about his mental capabilities or being in need of glasses and how bad he might look in them because he is not the glasses type, I figured this is more than just a freak of nature incident."
"I would not look bad in all glasses.", pouted Kurose before returning to the matter at hand. "What should we do if this keeps repeating?"

"Nothing.", replied Zoro matter-of-factly. "We cannot just interrupt our act, it would hurt the immersion of the readers. And if the Nameless change looks or scuttle away from the scene as the camera eyes won't care for them, then we can't follow them."
"Maybe we should investigate the Motels.", suggested Gojo, taking a sip from his mug. "Hm, really good beer."
"If we leave the tower too often or for too long then the creativity and ability of our creators suffer. I have seen the quality of some Arcs drop by a lot whenever we left the building too many times in a row. If we ain't there to tickle the muse to kiss our creator so to speak, we will be in trouble. Especially someone from a new series like yours, Kurose." Zoro took a big gulp from his beer to calm his thoughts.
"Maybe the puppets are controlled remotely?", suggested the handsome man. "Isn't there a rumor about a club called U19, rejects from Weekly Shounen Jump who were too unpopular to continue, all ending before the 19th chapter? What if they found a way to steal Attention using puppets as collectors?"

"Doubtful.", replied Zoro, who knew the U19 existed and took huge risks to collect Attention since they hardly got any of their own.
"Very interesting idea. You should keep up that bright mind of yours.", complimented Gojo Kurose respectfully. "But that still wouldn't explain how the Nameless got a way to store Attention and how you would extract it."
"Yeah, that's true.", agreed the Shaman.
"You're also right about the laws considering our involvement in the chapter creation and feel of immersion for our readers, Zoro. So listen, guys, my plan is simple. Since I am "out" of my series current arc I will be the one to take a look at the Motels. It shouldn't hurt my creator's muse too badly, I think. If I find anything I tell you about it while you two keep your eyes peeled for any more Nameless taking Attention or acting unusual."
"Alone?" Zoro didn't liked the idea of sending someone alone after something no one had an explanation for. Even if it was somebody as strong as Gojo.

"It will be fine. Maybe this is something completely harmless and we will laugh about it in a couple days! Which is why there is no need to worry our friends and main characters with this matter. They should focus on their series. And if it is something serious... then we can still tell them and decide what to do next. Because if it is only occasional Attention stealing I can live with it, but if all Nameless start to take Attention for themselves then we Named will soon starve very quickly considering how much they outnumber us."
"Yeah. Be careful." Zoro rose his mug with Kurose responding in kind.
"Make sure to come back home safely, Gojo-san." Gojo laughed heartily and bumped his half filled mug with theirs.
"You worry too much, guys. I tell you, I am Satoru Gojo, I will be fine!"

At the U19 HQ the party had finally come to an end and most of the members were busy cleaning up. Eiji and White however had brought Mr. Commentary to another room to have a talk with him.
"Is there anything you want to tell us, Mr. Commentary?"; asked Eiji his spiritual friend who shook his head.
"Like I already said, I am fine. You worry about nothing."
"Lie.", countered White, her arms crossed and one of her fingers tapping angrily at her slim arm. The purple ghost sighed.
"Look, you don't need to worry. I only need a couple days then I will return to normal, I promise."

"Does it have something to do with the fight? Where you got injured for the first time ever?" Eiji's question hang in the air as his chubby friend remained silent.
"Did he manage to hurt your core?" White's red eyes narrowed as the ghost wildly shook his head and waved with both hands to dismiss this dangerous thought as a damaged core could be the cause for many future worries.
"No! No, he did not! My core is whole, by the creators! Which... I think might be my real problem..." The two teens wrinkled their foreheads then realization hit them.
"How clearly do you hear the Call?"
"And since when?"

Mr. Commentary let his shoulder slouch as he gave up.
"I hear it clearly since the day my body got cut and I lost... well... something from me. It started shortly after you all arrived. I feel like I am inside a bell with my own thoughts echoing back at me. Reminding myself where the others are and how sad they are without me and how happy I would be if I were to follow them. When I came too late today it was because.... sigh... because I was at the stairs looking at the gate, wondering whenever or not I should just enter and leave the city."
Eiji gulped. What his purple friend described were very advanced symptoms. No wonder he seemed so absent-minded the past days. White walked up to Mr. Commentary and slowly put her hands on his, feeling the cold of his spirit body taking her living body's warmth.
"Do you want to leave?", she asked, looking seriously and concerned. Mr. Commentary looked away.
"I don't know. I know I couldn't this morning because I wasn't able to bear the thought of hurting you all on such an important event, saddening you kids with my sudden leave. But the Call just doesn't stop and it is so hard to ignore it, it feels like I am walking against an unseen current trying to pull me towards the Gate. It weakens when we talk and when we are together, but it is still there, always."

"So it helps? Our discussions, our events, they make the Call weaker and you stronger? If so then our next week's topic of Phantom Seer avoiding the U19 fate should help you stabilize yourself more among us. Can you hold out till then?" Mr. Commentary laughed at his leader's worry.
"I am not going to suddenly leave you, my word on that. I will stay with you. Like I said, in a few days I should return to my normal self." But his promise did little to ease the worries of the two teens.
"We will tell the others about your condition.", informed White the old man spirit.
"Please don't, it will just needlessly worry them!", begged Mr. Commentary but his friends refused to budge from their position.
"White is right. What you need right now is constant attention from us. Like you said, when we talk to you the pull on you is weaker. Everyone will chip in the next days and spend time with you as much as possible. We are in this together, Mr. Commentary."

"Okay, okay, I give up. Then I guess I should go and help the others clean up and afterwards come clean myself. Thanks for giving me the straight talk, Eiji-kun, White-san. You're good kids." Patting White's arm and Eiji's head the Ghost returned to the living room where Tamashiro complained loudly that the old man should help him with the dishes already. Eiji rubbed his hands together uncomfortably, remembering the many times he had seen his friends leave him for a promise of peace and happiness beyond the Golden Gate. White turned towards him.
"We made the right decision."
"Yeah, yeah we did.", confirmed Eiji his friend's statement.
"After all, those might be the last days we can spend with him. Better to make the most of it."
Eiji was angered by the calm way the white haired girl spoke of their friend's possible leaving, but when he turned to speak his mind he saw her crossed arms being tighter than before and her head slightly tilted forward, hiding her expression with her white Summerhat.

The boy felt uneasy of this vulnerable sight of the usually so strong White. He knew that despite her cold behavior she saw him and the others as her friends even if she would not put it into words like that. Eiji felt his guts clench together and this time it wasn't about the food churning inside his stomach. Hesitating and slowly he reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, pulling her closer to his side. She didn't pulled away. One of the few times she allowed him to touch her. He purposely didn't looked at her face as he tried to comfort her, not wanting to explain the small happy smile that creeped on his face despite the serious situation they faced.
"It will be okay. You're going to see that it's all going to be just fine."
"Hmpf. You always say that.", came the response from White, hinting some amusement in her words which somehow stirred up Eiji's guts even more than before.
"Someone has to say it after all, else it won't come true."
"I hope you're right. Now, let go of me so we can help the others. I am not going to let the Gorillafro call me lazy."

Deep inside the ground, something was also not having a great time.
"Hate-hate them, dumb stupid character-things. When we get out-free, we eat-kill them all." The angry mutter of a small boy walking through a barely lighted sewer tunnel re-echoed from the dripping walls, making it sound like several children were answering the boy from afar, carrying its hatred through the stinking air. Vermins scattered away from his stomping steps, born from the thrown away Tarbatz, eating the garbage of other series to someday fade away into nothingness or be eaten by other less spoken of creatures. The fake boy could care little for those things. Too much was its pride hurt from the day it ran away from that mocking ghost. It was the right decision, it knew that well, but deep inside its twisted core it knew that it was supposed to be the other way around. They should ran away from it like the prey they were and it should hunt them down like the true hunter it was!

But it was far too weak yet, as weak as the food it had devoured and it hated its weakness the most right now. Lost in the maze of an ever-changing Underground system with tunnels closing and opening up at random, cave-ins and holes opening up to deeper levels even the creature in boy form would not dare enter. Doors appeared and left, sometimes before you could open them, sometimes after you entered them. Shadows and whispers danced through pipes and tubes. A maddening world below the one that was so rich in light, Attention, emotions and other beautiful things to enjoy. But the boy felt more at home here. It knew it just had to find its way to the center and at some point it would enter the Underground City where it could plan its revenge, grow stronger and return to have its well deserved meal.

For days it was wandering, through Cloudlich fog and Tarbatz mire, barely sleeping, hardly eating, carried forward by its burning desire to right the wrongs it had suffered. It would make the world right again, rip off its mask of fame and glory and show its true colors for each prey to see and to fall into despair and fear. One day it will do so, it just knew it.
A new door appeared.
Red and worn out, a rusty handle sticking out like a dead man's hand. Taking a deep breath the boy took the handle and pulled the creaking door open. There it was!

The lights of the Underground City, its up-side down towers facing from the ceiling towards the floor, its lights dim and flickering. A dangerous city most from above never enter, never think about, sometimes even believe it to be a mere myth yet here it was in all its true mystery. Some say the city below the ground to be bigger than the one above, to go deep, deep into the earth, so deep you could walk for days and never find the bottom of it. Here were the forgotten and the scum of creations, the ones without a backing in the real world., read and tossed aside by the Readers in minutes. Hentais, doujinshis, bad fanfictions, failed manuscripts, cancelled games who never saw the light of actual serialization; Memes, Wraiths and even worse things than that. Here was what the fake boy was looking for. A hunting ground. A place to feed and grow.

It stepped through the door which closed on its own and disappeared, leaving behind a dirty wall with moss on it. The boy followed the road towards the city yet just after a minute it was stopped, welcomed by the friendly lawless culture of the Underground City. Two men armed with knives and a spiky club stood in the way of the boy, looking like a mix of deranged Punk junkies and Mad Max enthusiasts. And they smelled worse than the sewer the boy had been in. In short, they were walking clichés any decent reader would roll their eyes at.
"What do my tired eyes see, Chabby my best?", asked the midget one waving its knives around like pompoms.
"I 'unno, Chad, my bad. What 'u see?", asked the large fat dumb inbred looking Hulk back. It was pretty obvious who was the brain of this duo.
"I spy with my little eye.... dinner, Chabby boy, nice fresh young dinner, walking right up onto our plates to fill our bellies~" Maybe half a brain.

The boy snorted through its nose, then its ugly false laughter rose from its throat again, the expression remaining still and fearless. The two crazies responded in kind, believing the kid to have gone mad with fear. Then they stopped as they watched the boy grow, his clothes changing and his hair getting long. Soon a unremarkable woman stood before them, as average as you could find one to be. The two cannibals exchanged a surprised look.
"The hell? Are you from a shota slime fetish ****** or some strange hero story with a really crappy super power?" The midget looked confused at the woman being unsure what weird series their future dinner had sprouted off. This city had its own laws and rules which were that there were no laws and rules whatsoever and pretty much everything could be possible. The large fat one happily caressed his club with his free hand.
"Noice, I luv Slime 'oup, Chad!"
"Eh, whatever. Just means more meat on the bones. Bon appetite, Chabby." As the two flesh-hungry bandits walked closer, the smile on the woman's face grew uncomfortable big and thin, going past the eyes, like a hot knife cutting through soft butter.

"Oh, you-you have no idea-thought how right-wrong you are, mhhh yes-yes.", said the voice of of the former boy's mother.

Word of the Author

Man, this took a bit longer than I expected. Didn't helped that my little brother was over there this weekend and we played games all through-out Saturday and Sunday. Really messed up my writing schedule. Me thinking up new things I wanted to write down didn't helped much either. What was supposed to be around 3-4k words turned into a 8495 words chapter which by the way pushed me above 100k words, 102k words to be exact!
WOOOOOT! GO ME! 102305 words ain't nothing to sneeze at, I think. :D

I hope you found this new chapter entertaining and interesting. I am also curious to see where this might go because honestly I had not planned to put Kurose or Gojo into the story and suddenly there they are. XD

Next time we check out the Phantom Seer getting their 19th chapter, this time being more serious as it might help Mr. Commentary to reject the Call telling him to leave this world and no longer entertain us with his chatty behavior.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 17 - Phantom Sucker

Eiji looked around the room, feeling the difference in today's mood. He knew what those events were for yet the past experiences had told him of how difficult it was to actually pull someone out of the Call, if that was even possible at all. So today's talk about another new WSJ series leaving the U19 mark felt more serious than before. There was no easy-going chatter among the others, no complaining from Tamashiro, no yawns from Jackman or disinterested glances from Momiji hoping this to end soon so they could go back to their hobbies or play games with each other. Everyone looked at Mr. Commentary who looked a bit uncomfortable with so much attention on himself.
The others had reacted shocked when they got told by their leader that Mr. Commentary was feeling the effects of the Call stronger than ever since he got injured by the strange boy creature. Everyone felt the Call but it was usually like bug sounds every now and then or a tingle on the skin, nothing to waste thoughts on and easy to ignore. Their purple friend's symptoms were much stronger though, so nobody felt like joking right now. Everyone wanted to help Mr. Commentary so the past days they had held a lot of activities with him, even at night someone would stay awake with him since a ghost had no need of sleep.

Mr. Commentary was really moved by his friends compassion and he hated how the Call twisted their emotions for him into a nostalgic feeling of how it had been in the past with his former friends and family. It was difficult for him lately to stay focused on the present, his thoughts were often in a disarray, sometimes he confused names from his club friends with the ones from his series, often he would just stare into space, jolting out by the others calling out to him. He knew he was a mess and that he worried everyone. Maybe it was best to just go through with it after all, leave it all behin- Mr. Commentary shuddered, noticing the well-known path his thoughts tended to take as of late, it was scary how little he was in control of them.
Eiji cleared his throat grabbing hold of his attention as well as everyone else's.
"Everyone, I welcome you to our usual congratulation round of another WSJ series avoiding the same fate that we hold. This time it is Phantom Seer. I believe today either Momiji or Tamashiro should be the ones to start, who of you wants to go first?"
"Uhm, excuse me, shouldn't we wait for Noah-kun and Hajime-kun?", asked Mr. Commentary confused. He noticed quick glances between the others, it was Banda who answered his question with a big grin on his face.
"Those two left this morning already for the playground since Noah wasn't allowed to read any more of this series. Hajime volunteered to play with him there."
"Oh, I must have missed them then."
"It happens, bro, no worries." In truth Banda did worry as did the others since Noah and Hajime had told their purple friend good-bye this morning. That he couldn't remember was just another one of the later symptoms of the Call growing stronger.
"Anyway, Four-eyes and brat, which one of you wants to start?", inquired White looking as cool as ever. There was nothing to gain from Mr. Commentary to notice her worries and she disliked how easily some showed theirs in their glances.

"Well, I-"
"I do it!", interrupted Tamashiro Momiji, his eyes closed and a big thin smile on his face, his trademark fake one from his series. He too had no problem acting like nothing weird was going right now. Eii nodded and started to clap as his red-haired friend began the applause.
"Congratulations, Phantom Sucker for getting past us all despite you sucking butt. Your MC is a boring wanna-do-nothing-wanna-be guy with an OP power and a typical tragic background story, your MH is a reckless goody-good two shoes who can't accept killing even the worst kind of people, your powers are just there with no real basis or system and your jokes are lame. But your fanservice is the worst I have ever seen! What's up with those blackhole once you get past the thighs?! If you don't wanna draw panties then draw your girls in angles that wouldn't show them off! Don't just draw a black nothingness over the whole butt, creator! Anyway, you shouldn't rest easy just by getting to this far, the only really good thing you got going for you are your creepy monsters, make your characters more well-rounded and likeable, a real power system that is actually believable in the setting and either cut your jokes or work on them. And if you give us pantyshots and do the panties as well! Anyway, your turn, Mr. Commentary!"
Mr. Commentary nodded knowing that being called early while still focused will make it easier for him to do his part.
"My deepest congratulations, Phantom Seer. It is nice to see a fellow Exorcist series gain traction and get at least this far. I feel like our dear Tamashiro-kun was a bit too harsh on you. Personally I think you..." What had happened in Phantom Seer again? Does it matter? "...that you got more going for you than just creepy monsters. Yes, for example..." Mr. Commentary kept mimicking the claps while furiously trying to remember what he had read of this series so far. Remember your own series. "... your characters! They are likeable, just not to everyone's taste is all. And powers, well, they don't have to be explained to look cool. " If only he knew what the series Main Character's power was! Mitama-san always had funny ones. "Like in my own series, we never really had a proper power system, stuff just happened, like power balls being used as basketballs or spirits being used like Pokemons or sudden power ups gained in the Antartica. Sure we were a gag manga but we had plenty of powers to make fun of which is no easy feat by any means..."
"Mr. Commentary.", interrupted Eiji the rambling Ghost before he could keep talking any further about his own series. "Please stay on topic."
Eiji's smile was light and friendly but to Mr. Commentary it was just another sign that he had lost his focus and talked about his own series again.
"Yeah, of course. I just wanted to say that Phantom Seer is no gag series, so it would be better off to take the power stuff seriously. Not just show-casing different types of it, but properly explaining it. That's all. Momiji-kun if you were so kind to continue please?", finished Mr. Commentary his talk rather quickly. Tamashiro was disappointed, he didn't disliked the series that much but he thought if he badmouthed it badly enough that it gave Mr. Commentary enough munition to keep talking about its good points. Instead he had just repeated his points while trying to make them sound good.

Momiji took the cue from Mr. Commentary rather quickly to start off his own congratulations to this series.
"Congrats, Phantom Seer. Albeit I must say I do like Tamashiro's nickname for you, Phantom Sucker, because right now you do seem to live by sucking off the Attention those Phantoms are giving you, rather than getting some through your own characters. I agree that your cast is a bit one-sided, mysterious big sister, caring rival, reckless heroine with good heart, a main character who acts all aloof but is actually a good person helping everyone even if he acts like he doesn't want to. But I give you the benefit of doubt as I know too well how hard it is to have characters with many sides to them after less than two dozen chapters. At least you will certainly have more time to develop their characterization. Right now I find the playboy Kurose and the Komachi girl more interesting than the supposedly Exorcist trio, albeit that has more to do with Kurose being a good support character and Komachi being the current attention center of this little arc. What is really good is your art as it fits your series quite well and has its own style, albeit some quirks in the fanservice part are regrettable. I am not sure if I like the quick moving to the supposedly End boss and her minions that much. I would have preferred building up the side cast in the school, showing different kind of Phantoms and ways to deal with them as well as explanations for the different kind of exorcist methods. Maybe after the Counselor has been dealt with, we can get to that. Banda, what's up?"
"Bro! I'm up and ready to give Phantom Seer a huge shout-out since they exceed my expectations from chapter 1! CONGRATS, PHANTOM BROS!!! When I read your first chapter I thought it would be a endless episodic stuff with the two Main characters over and over dealing with Yokai or better said Phantom problems. Instead you gave us glimpses into the past of the main character, a real villain early on, human-phantom hybrids who willing gave up their humanity for power, that's all good and interesting stuff that will surely grab the attention of some readers. Your characters have laid the groundwork for your world building and I am sure their characters will develop well alongside the world as we get to see more facets of it. I am actually not that big fan of the art due the legs sometimes seemingly disconnected to the main body, like the butt and hips not being there, it just feels weird looking at it. But for the Phantom it works great and it's no trouble that they are your best selling point, after all they are your title as well. I pick Sharkface next."

"As if a Gorilla could judge art.", teased White Banda about his art comment. "Congratulations to getting to chapter 19, Phantom Seer. Yes, your art style is sometimes wonky when it comes to human body structure but at least you got your principles right of not selling your female characters as fanservice material to our Club pervs. They are cute and deserve better treatment than that. The determination of the two Main characters complement each other well, with the scarred Veteran and the chipper rookie. One who sees his job as work and wants an easy life as well as revenge and the other who sees it as fate and wants to help everyone including the worst offenders. There will certainly be enough conflict as well as growth with a combination like that. Your support and side characters had so far a tough time to shine but that's what is to expected with this tiny amount of screen time. Also a big compliment from me in regards to your Phantoms, they are real monsters, actually harming human and not cutie-cute pies like in Ayakashi Triangle and their creepy looks adds to their charm. I do agree though that your power system is a bit lacking though rule of cool like Mr. Commentary already said trumps every boring rulebook in the first year of serialization. You're next, Eiji."
"Thanks, White. Congratulations from my side as well, Phantom Seer. I will be honest, I never quite got warm with this series. It has always been so-so to me, with its ups and down. Its ups were mostly the cool moments when Iori used his cool shadow powers or when the creepy monsters appeared for the first time. Its downs were stuff I found just dumb like just standing there and watching for several panels how Komachi's body got turn into a monster or how quickly Riku learned to become powerful. There is often no "weight" behind actions, for example if the Beckoning Hand who had led Iori and Kurose into a trap had died which first seemed to be the case with the broken jaw and all the blood in the arm ball but then it was that everyone survived just fine. With Phantoms like Senju and her minions that feels too good to be true. Same with the kid and the mirror where you just get the Kouhai to "clean" everything up, that's too easy of an explanation! You all said enough about its characters, powers and monsters so I keep my mouth shut about it. Jackman, you got the honor to finish this session."

"Well then, congrats Phantom Seer. I see it like Eiji that there are parts that sucks, good one Tamashiro, and parts that are great. One of the parts I liked was the showcase of the same Phantom, Sakabashira, as an evil and as a helpful one. Maybe it's because of my origin but I like stories where there are two sides to the perceived enemy with a dangerous and an useful one. At least it feels better done than in Ayakashi Triangle where we got only one Ayakashi Familiar and honestly he is just there for comedy relief whereas Kenma's Tengus are actually useful for some Shaman techniques. One of the downs I disliked is the utter disapperance of Riku's "school life". I'd like to see more of her friends questioning her being around a rumored guy like Iori or her family asking stuff about her school or a teacher reminding her for some work or thanking her for her selfless help in some school festival. Stuff like that makes the world feel more alive to me. Just "fighting" and "working" ain't school life what a youth should be about. Same problem for me in regards to Mashle. But eh, I can see why the creator chose to do it this way. Much easier to hold onto readers if there is always something interesting happening each week. I just wonder if this series can keep this up forever, is all."
"And that's it, folks! Thanks for being here! So, Mr. Commentary, did the session help you to stay in the here and now?", asked Eiji the Ghost who had stopped clapping sometime ago.
"Huh? Well, uh, I think so, yeah. I liked listening to all of your opinions. Made we wish I had been more specific with my own."
"No worries, we get another chance sometimes soon."
"Wait, you don't mean..." Tamashiro sounded honestly disturbed by the mere thought of which series his leader was talking about.
"Yep. Our Blood Oath."
Everyone groans.

As the club disbanded with Banda and Eiji leading Mr. Commentary to help cook in the kitchen, Jackman had to ask the others a question he was worrying about since this morning. But everyone seemed so relaxed with it that he thought it was stupid to ask, so he hold his tongue until now.
"Aren't any of you worried about Noah and Hajime coming across the fake boy again? Like what if it attacks them there?"
"Not really, no."; yawned Tamashiro.
"Hajime got Noah with him, he will be fine?", explained Momiji matter-of-factly.
"Noah is probably the third or fourth strongest of us all, is what they are saying.", sighed White, still not liking that Noah went out to play, but you can keep a kid only for so long occupied inside. She was a bit hurt though that he had chosen to play with Hajime instead of her when they both volunteered.
"He is???"
Then he listened to Momiji and Tamashiro telling him about a tournament they once held where Noah came this close to beating Banda in third place while White left the idiot trio to their devices to read a book and relax.

Later at night, Mr. Commentary sat on the Couch in the living room, playing with his thumbs. He couldn't sleep or better said pretend to sleep anymore. Usually he would either remember the past while laying in bed or take a walk or clean the rooms or do something else, but right now remembering the past brought unpleasant thoughts like wondering if all this was worth it. Being alone on a walk ended with his feet back at the stairs again and he couldn't find the will to clean either. He watched the last light go out in the hallway as White entered the candles-illuminated room, her hair free of her braids and in a simple white nightgown going all the way down to her knees.
"Wasn't it Hajime-kun's turn to stay with me tonight?" Mr. Commentary's question sounded amused, White had spend the most time awake with him the past nights and it seemed she took over another night duty to keep him from leaving forever.
"I offered it to him since he played all day with Noah and seemed pretty tired."
"Yeah, the little boy got enough energy for an entire Kindergarten."
"So true, he still loves that same damn story about the little hamster no matter how many times I read it to him already. He never gets bored out of it."
"Hmm, reminds me of my little girl..."
"Mr. Commentary."
"Sorry..." His apology was filled with sadness. Just a few weeks before he could talk about his past with no worries and everyone rolling their eyes at his talkative nature but now, those nostalgic trips into the past made it all better to finally let go and embrace the past for how good it was. Ah, if only he could see everyone again. His thumbs stopped playing and Mr. Commentary squeezed his hands together, his fingers holding tight onto each other. White sat down next to him.

"Another episode?" White played with her hair, a sign of her uneasiness despite looking like she couldn't care even less. Mr. Commentary found it adorable that the self-proclaimed monster had so many tiny cute quirks to herself which showed her true caring self. He wondered how she could develop those sides outside her story despite being a genocidal Villain. Who said she didn't had them all the time? Mr. Commentary blinked despite having no need to do so. This was the weirdest thought he didn't had thought himself by far. But it made him curious.
"Yes. Say, White-san, we talked a lot those nights, so would you mind answering me a more personal question?"
"If it keeps your mind occupied, sure."
"Are you really a Villain character?" White looked like Mr. Commentary had just insulted her mother, which the purple Ghost wasn't quite sure if she even had one. Then quickly her expression shifted back to indifference again.
"Of course I am.", was all she said without attacking him or overly defending herself. The purple ghost felt like he had to apologize and give an explanation.
"My apologizes, White-san. It's just... in the time I got to know you I thought I had to be careful around you and wondered why the others would allow a Villain, who has no problem to murder people, stay with them. Yet I saw so many instances where you seemed more like a normal girl that I started to question myself if you were truly "evil" or as evil as your story made you be."

White was quiet, looking at her knees, pondering her answer. Then she turned her face towards the ghost and opened her mouth.
"How does it feel to be loved?"
White's question took Mr. Commentary by surprise. That wasn't quite what he had expected from her. But she meant it seriously, he could see it in her eyes. So Mr. Commentary looked back to the ceiling, trying to come up with a satisfying answer.
"To be loved... it's like feeling at ease, knowing you're accepted, watching your wife nag you about your clothes and your daughter roll her eyes at your unneeded explanation. But you always seen them smile and care. It's unspoken stuff like getting your favorite snack when watching TV or made fun of how much your body has changed over the years without feeling hurt. It feels like breathing air and the sun shining on your skin, it's an everyday thing you've grown used to yet it still has some magic to it, that makes you grateful for receiving it. The little chuckles at your same old and tried jokes. The rebuke to eat more healthy and go for more walks. Some questions about your health weaved into normal conversation. It's stuff you don't think too deeply about but it is always there. It's interesting how hard to explain it is, it feels easier to explain how to love then how it is to be loved. I'm sorry if my explanation was not satisfying, White-san."
"No, I found that explanation sufficient. Thank you."

Silence sat down between both of them. Mr. Commentary wrestled with his tongue and good conscience but ultimately his curiosity won over both.
"Is this about Eiji-kun?"
He had expected her to tense up, to swiftly shake her head or gasp in surprise or do some other rather un-White behavior. She did none of that and just answered quietly.
"No, It's about Ko."
Not the Romcom development Mr. Commentary had hoped for. He knew that Ko had been the main protagonist of White's series and that he had left through the Gate before his own series ended and he became honorary member of U19. He wasn't sure how to continue from this reply of hers.

"Sorry, did my question trigger anything again?" Now White's tone did had a worried touch in it. Mr. Commentary realized that she asked so because he had been silent since her answer.
"No, no. Really, I wasn't spacing out or anything. I am... just trying to understand you."
"A hopeless endeavor. Humans can't understand each other nor themselves, how should a Human's spirit understand a monster's mind?"
"Because you are not a monster, White." She raised an eyebrow at her name being used without his usual honorific. She knew that she had probably stroke a nerve of his in regards to herself. "I feel like this might help me stay in the here and now. Knowing more about you and the others will give me more of a foothold than talking about the WSJ series and their futures."
"No wonder, those talks were invented to prevent the Call from taking hold over you, not to cure it.", scoffed White playfully at the hope those sessions were enough to keep Mr. Commentary from going through the Gate. She had seen it fail many times, including when Ko got it as well.
"Please don't try to dodge my intent, I am serious."

"Tsk.", clicked White her tongue against her teeth. "Seriously, using your condition to get me to talk about something I haven't told anybody."
"It was your question that started this fire of curiosity in me, White-san."
"My explanation wasn't meant to go this deep.", protested the girl, putting her head back onto the couch, letting her white hair nearly drop to the floor behind. A glance to the side confirmed to her that the ghost was dead-set on finding out answers from her. She sighed. Maybe it would help him and even if not, he would take that secret with him through the Gate, that she was sure of.
"Fine, I tell you. But if you ever utter a single word of tonight, I will throw you through the Golden Gate myself! It all started pretty much when our first chapter got released..."

Word of the Author

Woot! Did it in time! Hell yeah, I rock! Go, me!

Anyway, enough backslapping myself. New chapter out about Phantom Seer getting to chapter 19 with 3956 words as well as showcasing Mr. Commentary's trouble with his current Call condition. Shame, the new PS chapter only gets uploaded on 17th and not today, but it's not like I can just ditch it since I am trying, yeah trying even if it failed once, to do weekly as much as possible. Really threw a wrench into my future chapter planning. Maybe I have to split next week's chapter into two. I planned to call it Love to hate you & hate to love you but maybe next week chapters will just be called Interlude 2.1: Love to hate you and the week after Interlude 2.2: Hate to love you.
Oh well, we will see.

Hope you guys liked this chapter and that you also liked the cliffhanger I ended on. Cya next week Sunday if I can keep my lazy self from lazing around.^^
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Interlude 2.1 - Love to hate you

...actually, it might have already started beforehand. You know how it is, being born, I mean. Being a Named is so different from a Nameless who believe they are "alive" when they "become" their roles as nameless Samurai, Gangster or as a child eating an ice cream. They believe their lives and their worlds to be real, but we know it better because we have been there since the very beginning. First you are a mere thought, shapeless, with no purpose but to exist, possibly be forgotten the next moment and you don't care. But then more thoughts join you and they spin around you like thin threads, combining into a yarn ball. Over time you get an awareness that you are no longer a thought but an idea, an idea that takes on shape and changes upon it, over and over again. It's painless, downright interesting even, watching your body morph and switch and the threads inside you unravel while new ones get introduced and old discarded, forming the Core you will carry with you for the rest of your existence.
Once the idea solidified it becomes a draft. Here your destiny, your goals and your story begins and changes again and again without a worry of your own, until you feel you got it just right. You see the others who are supposed to be your comrades and your rivals, your allies and your enemies and see them change as well. You see the threads form between each other as your creator puts you in place for his story. You get one name, many names, but eventually you will have only the one name that actually matters. You know your role and your mission which is to tell the story your creator had thought up and bring it to as many readers as possible. I think here it might have started, the real problem, those relationship threads...

Then the world begins to warp and form around you as the creator begins his incredible work to bring a whole world to life, you feel warmth rising in your body as you become a part of something bigger than you which also couldn't exist without you. Then it begins with eyecameras appearing telling you it is showtime. And finally you feel the gaze of the readers on your skin as you dance through the first chapter telling the story you had been prepared for your entire life..... just to watch the attention manifest in your world and even if you have no real clue there is this instinct that tells you which are good and which are bad.
I've seen a lot of bad attention on my first day, Mr. Commentary. And some good, but that also just bore deeper trouble for later. See, many people hated our "edgy" start with a MC who's so good at everything and just chosen to be the hero and the story killing off the love interest and mother of the hero right away. A whole city massacred just for the sake of "oh my gawd, the stakes are so high and there is only one thing that could save us which is MC because dreams and shit", ugh, gimme a break. I hardly had any lines or screen time in this chapter but I enjoyed them nonetheless since unlike the readers we carried all the thoughts and possibilities our creator had molded into us as our Core. I could feel the interest of many readers on me, their curiosity, their likes for my looks, their wonders for my role in all of this bloody mess. I knew it of course, I knew the real plotline, the end goal, the twists and surprises. The readers never got to see most of them though.

When our first chapter was over and we left the studio we were greeted by all the other running series back then, kinda a tradition, both a welcome party and a good luck wishing ceremony. Useless in our case, I suppose. We laughed and faked smiles with those characters that bothered to come and greet us, the few Named of the first chapter, Ko, Banno, Saya and me despite my name yet to be revealed to the readers. Ko's mother and Amagi were not with us, they were gone, erased from the story. All who are destined to die inside a story get a one-way ticket through the Gate once their death has concluded. After the party we walked into our apartment and pretty much created our own rooms with our willpower and went to bed without talking to each other. I could feel the jealousy of the other three for all the Argentberries I had gotten despite my little screen time, but I didn't bother for my hatred towards them shielded me and theirs towards me warmed them. Maybe everything could have been different if I had shared with them or if we had not hated each other so much, but I don't think so.
The reaction of the readers world was so different of the emotions our creator had for us in his heart. We felt rejected, hopeless and angry. We were disappointments to our creator and helpless to change the indifference and dislike of the readers watching us telling his story. They made their verdict about us and their judgement was harsh and cruel. We could feel it each day in the desperation of our creator as we tried to push him on, motivate him to keep going, to turn this ship around and sail us to a new horizon. But our Cores, our threads with each other were in our ways. We couldn't work together and so we started to blame each other and even our own creator for misleading us with his love when all the world had for us was disdain. Honestly, in a way we were protecting ourselves, I was a welcomed target to vent by the others as I was the sole "villain" the story had and I could use my popularity to make fun of their missing ones. It wasn't a nice working system, but it worked for the time we had left.

At chapter 6 we felt his resignation and we stopped to inspire him any further for his heart was as closed off to us as were so many of the readers own in our first few weeks of life. The Named who joined us afterwards were downtrodden, silent, self-pitying. Some of them never even shared their name for they knew their time would never come, that their names and cores had lost all meaning. The other series no longer talked to us for they knew our fate as did we - we were to be axed. The next weeks just sucked ass. We were either always fighting with each other or alone in our rooms with our thoughts void of the excitement and joy we had felt upon our creation. For some it even was a relief when the axe finally came and our series was finished off. The last few chapters were so crude... it was like turning into our own fanfiction, witnessing all the sudden changes and plot drops.
The mother for example had never been intended as a "Boss monster", it was actually the father, but since the manga was axed the story had to end way earlier, thus he never made it into the story and faded out as an idea. So the "new mother" was like a mockery to Ko. A version of his loving mother that only existed to bring pain to him who had already lost his beloved and his normal life to become the hero of this story, yet nobody wanted to see him in that role.

The day when the chapter was released with his new mother character being revealed... Ko was destroyed. After the shooting was done, he immediately left and closed himself in his room. He didn't wanted to see her walking around in the apartment. She was a pretty awful character as expected of a hastily put together one-sided "evil" villain. She made the atmosphere even worse than it was before with her sadistic mockery, she knew her fate so she used it as a hammer to strike all of us down who were still wounded by our axed end in a couple chapters. I avoided her for I also was a target for her sardonic pleasure despite being "allies" in the rest of the story to unfold.
I remember entering Ko's room after unlocking it with a finger morphed into a key. I saw him crying on his bed, the few personal items he had scattered and torn on the floor. I walked up to him...I....ugh, it makes me sick to remember this.
No, no, I am fine.
Haha... as if I'd stop talking now, Mr. Commentary. Wouldn't feel right. I am not feeling sick for what happened but because of who I am.
Remember the relation threads I was talking about earlier? Our creator had a... well, interesting idea for Ko and me which is why Amagi had to die in the first chapter - he intended for me to later become the main heroine and a comrade to the MC and much later his love interest. A move which of course would be really difficult to pull off since I was the one who awakened Ko to his monstrous self and had him kill not only an entire city but also his own girlfriend and mother.

Yet he also carried those promises of future love with me in his Core as I was holding them in my chest. It was a... curious mixture. When I stroke his hair it was both repulsive and irresistible to me. When his need for comfort won over his pride and hate for me and his head rested on my shoulders, his arms wrapped around me, I felt disgust and bliss at the same time. I felt our Cores resonate and repel each other as our brains struggled to make sense of those conflicting passions. You see, Mr. Commentary, I had it far easier than Ko at this time because we were still at the introduction part of the story or at least that's what had been our creator's intention. I loved to hate him, my hate for him was pure and undiluted and my future love for him, while existing, had not been awaken yet. But Ko... he had to deal with hugging the person that ruined his previous life and he hold the natural and from our creator intended emotions from such a loss in his heart. His core told him to feel vengeful, unforgiving, merciless, tough, driven by hate and a hopeless promise to feel relief in killing me. Yet his core also had already written in it that he will forgive me someday, work and fight with me the same enemy for the sake of humanity, that he would hold my hand and kiss me... it was much harder for him to accept this part of himself when the other emotions were still so fresh and strong while the future ones were just seeds which hadn't even begun to bud.
That was the first time I comforted him. And the last time he allowed me to do so. He never comforted me. Not that I needed that, mind you, but I can't deny that there was a tiny part in me that wished we had been closer and was yearning for his soft touch and kind words. But it was too small to make a difference.

When our last chapter was done, the hallway was empty. Nobody had come to say good-bye to us. Only our stuff was there, our apartment already cleared for a new series which replaced us. Jump was less lenient back then as it is now when it allows even unpopular series to run for some time instead of instantly finishing them off. Without a word we grabbed our stuff, not that I had any besides my clothes on my body and my parasol to block the sun. We just walked out and made our way towards the Golden Gate, feeling its beckoning call. When we arrived, it went quickly and unceremonial. They all left, relief and regrets written all over their faces. Ko and I were the last to go. I still remember how I stepped forward with Ko right behind me so he as Main Character would pull the final curtain on our series and suddenly I stopped. I just knew that if I walked through this gate, everything I had felt and done over those few weeks would become entirely meaningless. That I would be forgotten and I wouldn't even care about it.
I turned towards Ko, my hands clenched onto my parasol while my mouth opened and closed like a fish, unable to mutter a single word to convey my intentions. I am not even sure anymore what I wanted to say back then. That it wasn't our fault? That I was sorry? Or that I wished I could love him like he deserved to be? Whatever it was, it remained unsaid and he looked at me confused and tired.

That's when Eiji, Banda and Poro showed up. They asked for a talk and offered us a place where there would be tea and cake. Ko didn't wanted to bother with them, but when I walked down the stairs he followed me, for he didn't wanted to leave before the Villain of his story. We listened to them and meet the others, Nanami, Akari, Ruika, Yuta, Noah, Tamashiro, Marin as well as the other bunch of side characters from Eiji's series that hadn't left to this point. It was quite lively, very annoying but lively. Much better than what I had endured in our apartment thus far. They were very interested to find out that I was a Villain and worried how this might play into becoming part of their club, especially considering the complicated relationship I had with Ko due the circumstances of the first chapter and my involvement in them. In the end it was Ko who spoke out on my behalf and that we would try to be civil as much as we can. To this day I still don't know if he said that because he wanted to join the club himself and have a way to plot his revenge on me or because he wanted to do me a favor as I didn't wanted to leave this world. Who knows.

Anyway, that's how we joined the U19 club. But that's not where our story ended...

Word of the Author

Another update in time, proud of myself. Only a 2455 chapter but then again this was meant to be one chapter or Interlude in this case, not two parts. Just imagine that last week's chapter was uploaded today with Phantom Seer avoiding the U19 fate and this talk of today's and next week happened right after it. Actually interesting that White's past happens with her telling Mr. Commentary, I had not imagined that development when I thought of her character dilemma at the start of the fanfic.

Well, White's dilemma should be obvious but to make it clear: She struggles with her character being a villain while her core hold some fundamentals to become a heroine if her series had continued for a longer time. At least that is my theory for Ziga and why the mangaka decided to had the Love interest die early and not introduce another cute or hot chick or a harem from the get-go in the A.D.R.A. force. Like for real, all there were was an angry looking captain who couldn't even kill a "monster spawn" aka a baby monster on her own and lots of angry dudes who were boring af. Just put in 4 or 5 girls like a twintail, a tsundere, a kuudere, some motherly type, a sporty type, etc and another boy or two like a glasses guy and a rival guy who all also share the similar "Flash waves" BS like Ko and have them become a team instead of having a time skip where Ko gets punched in the face by a guy named Bosun nobody knows anything about and who never speaks another word after this scene! Like wtf! That's so bad it would be comical if it wasn't so boring!

Anyway, since my theory involves White switching from White Commander to the human sides that obviously means there are other colored Commanders and that Ko and A.D.R.A. alone are not enough to battle them and their 49 Monsters, so humans need a monster of their own, a "Godzilla" so to speak and someone who can control it if it runs rampage or help it develop new powers and for that position White is perfect. But well, even if that was the plan (and who knows if that really was it) it never came to fruition. Now White is stuck with her two-faced core and her desire to not leave the city for whatever awaits her behind the Golden Gate.

Next chapter, Hate to love you, we will get a deeper look into her and Ko's life in U19. Also I am so happy I found out Poro's fiancé's name which is Ruika Kagami. You can really see the art resemblance with Taiyo and Mutsumi, just a bit more demonic and Mutsumi being baby-crazy and Taiyo basically being Onepunch-man on his Otaku search for human way of life and romance.^^

PS: Is it just me or do I got way more views ever since the "Happy 1000th chapter, One Piece!" chapter was released? Feels like I had around 30-40 looks per week not it is around 90-100. Or maybe I am just imaging it... or maybe I should name my future chapters "Happy 1002th chapter, One Piece!", "Happy 1003th chapter, One Piece!" and so on to rake in the views, muahahahaha~ xD

PSS: In case you wonder what Characters of series with an author and a drawer think of who their creator is, they see no difference in either, they are basically two in one. It is always "one" creator for each series even if two humans were needed to form one. And if you were to count Editors into it who with their suggestions and Input can greatly alter a story, like it happened in WT with the earlier arrival of Jin, then you can even call it 3 in one.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Interlude 2.2 Hate to Love you

In the next days, we became part of the club albeit both of us had their problems. While Ko was written to be a charming fellow the way our series ended and his experience as a hated MC made him more withdrawn and curt to the others. As for me my status as Villain as well as my written hatred for humans made it difficult to form deep bonds quickly. I pushed a lot of people away from me who tried to get close to me. Especially the girls who tried the most were often victims of my scorn and sharp words. I noticed quickly that this hatred did not extend to non-humans characters so it was easier for me to become, well, friends might be too strong of a word, comrades with Poro and Ruika. And of course Noah who was too stubborn to leave me alone and who showed me plenty of sights in the city I had not seen in my time hiding away in our WSJ apartment. But Ko and I stayed apart inside the club rooms and avoided talking to each other.

Thankfully the others didn't pushed us to speak to another, knowing how difficult our relationship was and being sympathetic enough to Ko not to demand from him to not hate the one that took so much from him, even if she was only following her role. Ko searched the proximity of Eiji and Banda while I stuck to Poro and Ruika. He was a good fighter and his ability to turn into a monster was even stronger. Of course without the monster catalyst of the story his by will transformation was like only two meter high but it still allowed for quite some extra power in his punches. Banda and Poro enjoyed those mock battles with him, especially Poro who's power was totally broken as Hell's Nr.1 fighter.

Obviously I took no part in such brutish events. I preferred to read and go on walks, enjoy the freedom I didn't had as muse for my creator. Even after the series end I could still feel the disappointment of some readers that they won't see me again, I could feel the work they put into artwork of me and well, some more primal feelings I'd rather not think too deeply about. Ko on the other hand was quickly forgotten by the readers and you could see how he was struggling with depression, going on and on about what if scenarios that no longer mattered and we had no power to change anyway.
It took him some time to accept this fate. Banda and Eiji were the main factors on Ko getting better. But well, he had never been written as a fun loving and friendly character. Similar to myself he had plenty folks he fought with because he couldn't stand their easy-go-lucky behavior or saw some jokes as attacks on his character. When he had conquered his dark thoughts he would throw daily threats of killing me someday at me to which I responded in jokes driving him mad, while everyone else were worried whenever we would finally clash or not. The members were really patient with us. Truly a fun time.

In the coming months plenty people left us. Yuta and Marin were the first to follow the call. Yuta apologized so much to Poro who didn't blamed him at all and was just happy his first ever made friend had stuck so long with him. Marin tried to convince Tamashiro to come with her but he refused with a smile. I wondered how he could smile like that when this was supposed to be something sad for human lovers. Only later I found out that this was his fake way of smiling to hide his hurt feelings. Stupid if you ask me. As if hiding feelings will accomplish anything. Did you just snort at me, Mr. Commentary? No? Good.

Well, them leaving wasn't the worst for me as we had Momiji and Ichihara as well as Hajime join our circle of misfits. I couldn't care less who left and joined us as long as I felt comfortable. Later though I was the one who had to deal with people I had grown accustomed to leaving me because of the Call. Poro and Ruika left together when their creator brought a new series to life in Jump. Mission: Yozakura Family, I didn't saw much in that series but those two were for some reason happy to see parts of themselves in that series and that their creator still continued to hold something of their characters dear to himself. I think this was one of the few times I was actually sad. I didn't cried or anything but I did spend more time alone with my thoughts realizing how fickle relationships are and that many in this club will leave me at some point because their will to stay was not strong enough.

The others wouldn't let me brood in peace. Noah, Hajime, Eiji, Banda, Momiji, Ichihara, Akari, Nanami even Tamashiro and Ko were there for me. Albeit Ko was acting like a tsundere about it with a huge tsun before the dere which was missing. We went to the park district, made a picnic and played games and talked a lot, remembered a lot. That was probably the moment I realized that simply just refusing to leave was not enough, you needed to live to want to stay. And to live meant to remember the past even if it was sad or made you angry. So I tried to remember everyone who left through the gate and cherish the memories I could make in the meantime with those who stayed with me. If me being strong enough to withstand the Call meant to remember the ones who couldn't then they would still continue to live within me. I found a purpose for myself that day. I never shared that with anyone so I'd appreciate if you'd take that to your grave, Mr. Commentary. Oh, don't be silly, you know how I mean that.

So I started to observe and keep note in my mind about everyone. How Nanami tended to push up his glasses when he was angry while Momiji did it when he was nervous. How Akari had the habit of moving her fingers over her skirt when she felt restless or how patiently Ichihara taught others how to play shogi including myself. How Eiji looked after everybody, how many different kind of smiles he got depending on the person and the situation he was in. Or how much the room brighten up when Banda waltzed in with his booming voice. How quiet Hajime was and didn't minded spending hours with someone in silence as companion. How lively Noah was each day and that despite his childish smile you could see a grown-up sparkle in his eyes, maybe even more grown-up that most of us are or behave. How diligent Tamashiro trained each day burning with determination to not surrender to a world calling him a failure.

And Ko...sorry, watching Ko was... difficult for me. It pained me seeing his sadness shining in his green eyes. How sometimes during the laughs and jokes at the table he would fell silent for seconds, deep in thought as if he was at a different place that I had no entrance to. The bitter feature around his mouth, the wrinkles on his forehead when he thought he was alone. The times he would clench his hand to suppress feelings like anger or sadness or... sigh. Then there were moments when he watched Akari smile at Eiji and him back at her before looking away. How he felt more liberated in his monster form and how much it hurt him to feel happier like that than in his usual human looks. How he would sometimes stare for hours into the same page of a book before putting it away. How he volunteered for any mission or how he'd always chose the most dangerous parts, the most risky way to throw himself into the fray. How disappointed he looked after some battles watching his flesh melt together, closing the wounds he had obtained. The split second of relief on his face when I opened my eyes after I had gotten torn in half...
My selfish wish to stay here might have had hurt him more than I had expected. Maybe a part of him had already gone through the Gate, just a part no one could see, not even me. It didn't come to me as surprise when someday Ko stood up after breakfast was done and said: "Thank you all for everything you have done for me. But I will leave today. Good bye."

Heh, as direct as always when it wasn't about feelings. Poor Eiji, I remember how those words tore open his still fresh wounds since Nanami and Akari had left just a week before. At that point Ichihara had left us for more than a month. He had to close his eyes to collect himself before giving Ko a nod and asking him if he wanted to be accompanied by everyone to the Gate. Of course he refused but he turned to me and asked if I would come with him to the stairs. I was surprised. I thought I would be the last person he wanted to see there when he leaves the city finally behind, even ready to break the tradition of the Main Character going last through the Golden Gate. I'm not sure if the others had taken notice of my surprise, I just stood up and followed him out of the kitchen, not saying a word to the others.

I was wondering briefly if today was the day Ko would try to kill me for real but nothing in his body stance spoke for aggression or killing intent. We didn't talked at all during the trip to the Center of the city. The City is gigantic and yet your steps will always reach the center before the day ends if you stay besides someone following the Call, no matter what streets they pick or how fast or slow they walk. His pace was slow but the sun hadn't even begun to set when we saw the white stairs going up to the Golden Gate that promised you an afterlife, happier than anything your current lives had to offer. We stood there for a long time in silence, watching the sun set and paint the towers in crimson. I didn't minded the silence for I didn't knew what to say to him, the one who was born with me and who would now leave me on his own volition. Then he brook the silence.
"You know, I always hated to love you."

When he took one more step forward, something in me winced painfully. It was a step which I didn't followed, couldn't follow. A step of determination and relief on marble white stairs while mine remained like roots on the ground. Each of his steps hurt me like broken glass rubbed over my skin, sinking into my flesh, dwindling down into tiny shards of diamond rushed through my veins into my entire body with each pump of my heart. I felt like saying something, anything to stop this pain from existing but I knew he wouldn't make it stop, not for me. It's strange how to this day I cannot remember how many steps Ko had taken on the stairs before he stopped. Was it 7, 8, 9 or more? He turned to me with an expression so helpless and hurt that I cursed our creator for creating us, the readers for not giving us the chance to resolve those conflicting feelings and myself for forcing him to not leave through the Gate back then. His hand reached out to me, open palm to the sky, the motion alone begging me to take it. I could feel my body moving on his own as my arm stretched away from me, mirroring his move.
"Come with me."
"Stay with me."

We spoke at the same time, overlapping each other. His words more like a plead, mine an order, still having a part of me clinging to the belief he would follow my words like he was supposed to as the original tool of war he had meant to be. I could feel a twinge in my core like something was pulled, stretched thin, then something snapped and I felt like waking up from a trance. The pain had stopped. I had taken a step onto the stairs without my notice and quickly moved back, retreating my hand as well, clenching onto my other before my chest. On Ko's face was a smile of acceptance, his expression as soft as at the start of the first chapter like he was liberated of a burden. His open hand closed and fell to his legs before he spoke his last words to me:
"I see."
Then he walked without a pause the rest of the stairs up towards the Gate and went right through it.

I am not sure what he had seen or realized when he had looked at me. It felt like a thousand words were hidden in those two, encrypted in a way that felt both alien and familiar to me. I stood before the stairs for a long time, finally taking notice how damp my left cheek was. My core felt strange, like something had moved from one point to another and I couldn't pinpoint neither where it had started nor where it had ended. That time I spend there felt like a daze, numbing my thoughts and feelings. When I turned my back on the Golden Gate and returned... home it was dark.
I walked swiftly, wanting to feel the company of others to ease the uneasiness spreading in me like a wildfire. At the door to the Club, I stopped and collected myself, I didn't wanted to appear weak or desperate though a part of me felt that way. But another mocked me for feeling like this over a single person leaving me and another reminded me what I am and who I am supposed to be. That made it easier to open the door and walk in.

Only Noah and Hajime were there. They turned in surprise at my arrival. I could see that they had expected me to have already left or worse considering the bad blood between me and Ko. Noah cried my name and hugged my waist nearly toppling me and Hajime hugged my leg. The insides of my chest were in a mess, tight and uncomfortable yet I didn't wanted to tell them to get off of me. Before I could ask them where the others were I could hear their heavy steps and dark mutters behind me in the corridor. They had left to look for me, worried I might leave without a goodbye or that I and Ko had been in a fight to the death and we needed to be patched up.

When they walked through the open door and saw me Eiji was the first to join the group hug the other two had started. I felt a familiar repulsion feeling a human's touch, my core demanding to push Eiji away, to berate him for breaking the minimal distance I had told everyone to keep from me, to show how strong I was, needing nobody's pity or help to get over this event. Then I felt his chest shudder on mine, my hair getting wet from his silent tears as he buried his face in there to hide them from the others and the lock of his arms around my back grew stronger as if to confirm I was really there.
It was disgusting. It was weak. It was... honest. I could feel the something of my core that had moved since Ko's departure appealing to return the hug much to the shock of the rest of my core. I compromised to an admittedly awkward pat on his shaking shoulders. Then Banda jumped at me like a crazy Gorilla on Banana juice and squeezed us all together like we were clay meant to be pressed into a new mold. Momiji and Tamashiro joined the hug as well and that's when I snapped and started zapping everyone, except Noah, to keep their damn distance from me and stop hugging me like I was a stress ball.

I might have zapped Momiji and Tamshiro a bit too strong there which might explain the trauma they feel towards me. I apologized and thanked everyone, assuring I didn't needed to be comforted and that I was fine with Ko having left us. That it was good for him. The others agreed and smiled at me. Banda hit my back with a pat strong enough to break bones, that dumbass Gorillafro, and called for a party. We didn't go to bed that night and spend it in the living room, talking and remembering a lot of Ko's time among us. Noah fell asleep on my lap while I listened to the others talking, joking, laughing and crying. I joined them with my own memories and that evening made me feel relaxed and safe. Like I had found my place in the world. No way I gonna admit that to the guys though, could you imagine how much their ego would grow hearing that?

"And that's pretty much my life story. Do you understand me better now, Mr. Commentary?" White's mocking question was met with an answer more serious than you would expect from such a goofy looking ghost.
"I understand more of you than I did before. Thank you for sharing your story for me, White-san." White shook her head, smiling a mysterious smile Mr. Commentary couldn't quite put into any category he knew of. She doesn't take you seriously.
"It's fine, it felt good to speak of the past, to remember it, the good and the bad." You mean nothing to her.
"Will you remember me?" Mr. Commentary had spoken those words without thinking, shocked by his own courage and scared of the hope he could feel dwell in his core.

"I will." Just two words hiding a thousand within but to the purple spirit those words were not encrypted and the tiny smile on her face lit by the light of the dying candles was one he knew of very well. A smile he had seen so often in a face full of wrinkles, accompanied by an eye-roll and a warm voice teasing him for his overly long explanation over something spoken in the TV. She will forget yo-oh, shut up already.
"Do you want to talk some more?", offered White, Their cups have been long empty and Mr. Commentary looked at the large clock in the room, indicating that dawn was near. Something in his core seemed to click in place.
"Let's prepare breakfast before the others wake up."
"Alright." Mr. Commentary couldn't see it as he was the first to float into the kitchen but a content sparkle had set in White's eyes, she felt like tonight had been a good night for their chubby purple friend. Maybe the Call's hold over him wasn't over yet but it certainly was a step in the right direction.

A few hours Tamashiro stormed into the kitchen, a huge grin all over his heated face as he announced some incredible news to the rest of U19 club sitting at the table and eating their breakfast.
"Guys! Our Blood Oath gonna end at chapter 18! They didn't made it!"
That announcement brought different reactions from the toast and muesli eaters. Hajime just shrugged before putting another tentacle-spoon into his mouth. Noah looked a bit sad to which White quickly stroke his back and threw an angry glare at the jovial Tamashiro. Mr. Commentary raised an eyebrow at the sudden end as he had expected it to go past twenty chapters and die before the thirtieth chapter. Momiji swallowed up his cocoa and blew it all over the table. Banda's mouth stood open showcasing his crunched meal. Jackman's eyes grew big while his ears stood at attention upon those news. Eiji put down his marmalade bun and scratched his chin.

"Fo-orgh re-real?", asked Momiji under several cough trying to regain his breathing.
"Absolutely, I checked the net and found a reader talking about how the serial number of OBO ends at their 19th chapter. ", nodded the hyper red-head. Seeing Tamashiro nod Banda threw his head back and thankfully swallowed before saying:
"Oh, that's so.....uh.... sad for them."
"There is still some justice in the world.", muttered Jackman returning to his bun.
"You guys are being childish again.", scolded White the four while rolling her eyes and spreading Nutella on a new bun for Noah who accepted the news with a small sigh, already having expected some news of the series ending sooner or later.

"You guys know what this means, right?", asked Eiji with a little smile. Tamashiro's grin disappeared at that sight.
"Oh no..."
"This means..."
"Crap!" Jackman realized what it meant.
"...that we..."
"Don't say it.", whispered Momiji breathless.
" another..."
"Bro~" But even Banda's plead couldn't stop the end of Eiji's sentence.
" recruit for the U19 club! Who wants to come with me and greet them?!"
Groans of four quite unhappy boys were heard at the table as their leader prepared in his head some lines on how to greet the Vampire/Human brothers.

Word of the Author

Phew, that grew bigger than expected. 3265 words, that's a lot for the 2nd part, I feared it would be less than 2k.
You know what's not less? The views on this fanfic! Over 1k views, wow! Not sure if that is good or bad considering we are at the 20th chapter but I am happy nonetheless that there seem to be quite a few of you who enjoy reading the adventures and everyday life of our WSJ series who failed to reach the 19th chapter.

As for this chapter I was a bit surprised by the development myself. White went further than I originally had intended to but it felt right for her to let Mr. Commentary join her past and with that her way of becoming the person she is now. Same with Mr. Commentary himself. Before the 2nd part of this Interlude I had accepted that it might have become time for Mr. Commentary to retire through the gate with lots of tears and warm farewells. But after this chapter I am no longer so sure of it. Am curious to see where this will go myself, lol. Sometimes it feels like those guys are writing their own story when I look at a finished chapter and ask myself how the heck I got there. XD

Hope you had fun with this chapter. See you guys next week with "The effeminate Samurai".
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 18 - The effeminate Samurai

Eiji sat alone at the kitchen table, turning a mug of coffee round and round in his hands, staring into its contents. He had yet to take a sip and the black liquid was growing cold. His mind was still occupied with the talk he had last week when he tried to recruit the brothers from the axed series Our Blood Oath. He, White and Noah had gone to meet them up before they left the city through the Golden Gate. Noah came along because Banda suggested that having a kid with them certainly would be more useful since one of the to be recruited was a child himself. Eiji and White agreed with that judgement and Noah was happy to be part of something important and maybe gain a friend in his age for U19.
The three watched the procession of OBO characters leaving the WSJ tower and followed them to the center of the city, reachable by anyone no matter from what point in the city they set off to find the Golden arches promising eternal bliss in the afterlife. Many of the characters went right through, maybe they had their farewell party last night or maybe they didn't cared for the others that much or maybe they were happy this was all over. When the big brother picked up his little brother to give him a hug and turned to walk through the Gate himself, Eiji and the others stepped forward calling out to him.

Shin Hizuki, the big brother, was kind enough to take up on the offer to talk with us albeit his little brother Ko was really adamant of not talking with us. Thankfully after White and Noah displaying their powers the three would play in the park district while Eiji and Shin sat down on a nearby park bench watching the three chasing each other or White throwing the kids dozen meter high and catching them when they came down. It was a display of recklessness any decent parent would have gotten a heartattack from. Shin on the other hand was very relaxed and laughed a lot watching his little brother having so much fun.
"I listened to your idea and heard your arguments, Eiji-kun.", began the big brother his answer to Eiji's question if they were willing to join the U19 club. "And I think you guys are doing something I couldn't have dreamed off or deemed to be an impossible achievement and my purpose was to bring peace between humans and vampires. But I am afraid me and my brother have to decline your kind offer. We are set to go through the Golden Gate and we will stay with that decision."

Eiji was a bit disappointed hearing that, but it's not like they were the first characters from an U19 series refusing to join. He still had to try another push though.
"Even if your little brother looks so happy right now? He will have fun with us and I am certain we will grow on him with time. And you two could always be together in the club as you promised each other." But Shin just smiled sadly and shook his head.
"Indeed, friends are important and I wish Ko had friends his age in our series but our creator thought differently. This is not about being happy or having fun or even our promise, Eiji-kun. We want to see our parents again, Ko's parents that is."
Eiji remained silent, aware that Shin was a human raised by Ko's vampire parents to be his big brother. Despite this difference of prey and predator they had close family ties, thicker than blood. From Eiji's perspective it might have been one of the biggest plus points of the short-lived series; one of its few good points, many of his club would add. Shin continued his explanation:
"They say that all the characters thought up or which had a place in the story-telling but died or were never shown are over there, waiting for us on the other side of the Golden Gate. After we knew our series would be axed Ko was distraught, blaming himself for the sudden end despite only being a kid. I cheered him up, telling him that this meant we would be able to meet his parents earlier. This helped Ko get over our series demise, he's even been looking forward to it after the last couple chapters. He's been stubborn ever since, he will want to leave and I will follow him. Doesn't matter what awaits us on the other side, may it be heaven, hell or even the erasement of our existence, at least we will face it together."

"I see." Eiji nodded, Shin's explanation was plenty enough to know that this recruitment was a bust. A shame, two more members could have been great, but it's not like he could force the brothers to join.
"Do you mind if I ask you a question, Eiji-kun?", asked Shin, torso bowed forward, his hands put together, watching his brother play like a proper child in the field.
"What do you have from doing this? Standing up to a system that has been running for who knows how long and most likely will not change just because less a dozen characters from different series dislike how their series have been treated. I can't see where your way will one day end and I already know that the way alone will be rough and harsh, so why do it in the first place? Are you happy doing it or do you believe you will find happiness along the way or at its end?"

EIji opened his mouth and closed it as Ko ran up to his brother, jumping into his arms.
"I'm tried, big bro. Can we leave?", he yawned big time not bothering covering his mouth.
"Sure, Ko. Let's go. I'm afraid this is where we part ways, Eiji-kun. It was a pleasure talking to you. I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for playing with Ko for so long, White-san, Noah-kun. I hope you find what you are looking for in this city."
Noah was sad that Ko and his big brother leaving but Ko came down from Shin's arms and gave the golem boy his red bowtie. The elegant long silk tie was wrapped in a loose childish way around Noah's neck who took that gift happily, porudly showing White how cool he looks with it. The two kids were promising each other to someday play again, whenever or wherever that may be. Then Shin picked up his sleepy little brother, nodded towards the three club members and left the park for their last journey.

"He reminded me of Ko. The little brother, I mean. They even shared the same name. I don't think he could have become happy in this city. It was good they left." White's calm words were meant as consolation to Eiji's who had hoped for their numbers to grow today. She noticed he still looked unsatisfied.
"Relax, will you? There will be plenty of other series we can ask in the future. We should go home now." White grabbed the hand of Noah and moved towards the park district exist, Eiji following them close-by. But what he was unsatisfied about wasn't the brothers leaving them empty-handed, but that Eiji didn't knew what kind of answer he would have given Shin at that park bench.

Finally Eiji took a sip of his coffee. It was disgusting. The icky taste snapped him out of his dark thoughts. His right hand reached up to massage his forehead. He didn't liked the mood he was in and that a simple question about happiness had tossed him into a pit of memories he rather not remember too much.
In Eiji's series emotional mainstays were an important part to the story of how teens awoke their "Libido", a superpower to stand up and overthrow the tyrannic rule of the Adult Party. For him it had been his childhood friend and crush Akari Tsukino who gave him hold over his emotions in those frustrating and unfair times under the rule of the adults, doing and saying whatever they pleased. Once that emotional mainstay was gone or threaten it could trigger an awakening in the teens and it did for him as well when Akari turned out to be a genetic SSS rank and the Adult Party took custody of her. His red thread and needle was born that day and helped him in the course of the series to withstand all challenges.

When his series had ended most of the U19 characters refused to leave the city, their emotional mainstays helping them to ignore The Call unlike all of the adult characters. Eiji had Akari and she had him, Suzuki had his baseball, Nanami his desire to justice, Nemu her love for sleeping and Amuro his games and so on. Maybe Handa, their leader in the series, was the first to leave after a couple days. His wish to see the Adult Party toppled was impossible to fulfill and his health was limited by the few years he had left after transforming into a godly berserker in the series and sharing his life force with the three teenager assassins who had been tossed aside by the Adult Party. There was nothing left for him to hold onto, not even the Garage Kids were enough to drown out The Call.
They all left, one by one, in pairs, in groups, their emotional mainstays weakening and The Call growing stronger.
Even after Akari left Eiji still remained, not abandoning his new duty as leader. But ever since she walked through that Gate, Eiji couldn't help but wonder...

*Why am I still here?* This old forgotten thought popped up suddenly in EIji's mind and he immediately realized his mistake. You should be-
"Don't you dare start with me again!", hissed the teen angrily, feeling his scar throb at the sudden entrance of a foreign thought pattern. It quickly faded away but another noise reached his alerted ears. Momiji stood in the door and coughed awkwardly, looking left and right to avoid Eiji's gaze.
"Uh, sorry, I didn't knew it was bothering you so much to always have to do the introduction part of our sessions. If you want I can take over this time?"
Eiji blinked before he understood that Momiji had tried to get him to come for the first chapter discussion of the new WSJ series, the Elusive Samurai, and had misunderstood his hiss as a frustrated refusal to do the introduction part. Obviously Eiji didn't minded doing those but it's not like he wanted to tell his friend that The Call had connected with him once more. Mr. Commentary's case was enough drama for now.

"Yeah, that would be real nice of you, Momiji.", smiled Eiji thankfully. Momiji embarrassment left and he beamed with confidence that he was helping our his leader. He himself was no stranger to what pressure could do to your mood and he was glad that he could take a burden, even if it was a tiny one, from his leader's shoulders.
"Alright, cool. You gonna come then? Everyone's waiting for you."
"I'll come once I have finished my drink. It will be real quick."
"Ok, see you soon.", grinned Momiji and left the kitchen.
Eiji stood up and threw the cold contents of his coffee into the kitchen sink. He let out a big breath, sucked in another wave of fresh air, slapped his cheeks and got ready to meet the others outside.

"Okay guys, listen! Eiji is not feeling on the top of his game today, so I, Momiji Kuramichi, will do the introductions today!"
Everyone muttered at Momiji's announcement since Eiji had been the one doing the introductions to their sessions each and every time so far. The whispered about stood next to White and Jackman and tried to look nonchalant. Not that White was buying it.
"Something up?", she asked quietly while Momiji struggled to get everyone to quieten down.
"All's fine. Just felt like mixing up the process is good once in a while."

"Seriously shut up or there will be headbutts all round!", screamed Momiji at the top of his lungs. The round turned silent for Momiji's headbutts could bent metal, it was a threat not to mess around with. "Hmpf, why not behave from the start? Hährrm! Everyone, I welcome you to the discussion about the first chapter of Weekly Shounen Jump's newest addition - The Elusive Samurai!"
"Isn't effeminate Samurai more fitting?", shouted Tamashiro in-between, after weighting up the risks and rewards of angering Momiji. Momiji's eyes flashed up in bloodlust, then evaporated into laughter which the others joined as well.
"Yeah, he is quite a trap, isn't he?", agreed Momiji, then followed on where he had left of.

"As I was saying saying - The effe-ah, dang it! The ELUSIVE Samurai is the newest face of the WSJ line-up. Its creator already had a huge success story with Assassination Classroom as well as another success series with Neuro: Supernatural Detective. So it might be a series to look out for the future. Then again, many thought the same about Samurai 8 or Robot x Lazerbeam and look where they ended. Anyway, I will start the thoughts about the first chapter, its ups and downs and what I feel the future for this series might be."
Momiji took in a deep breath, then laid out his thoughts.
"First of all I find it very interesting that the history of Hojo Tokiyuki is used to tell a story of heroism, especially considering how it ends. A hero who runs away and stays alive is different from the usual reckless hero charging into danger and standing up to his opponents, so I am curious to see where this will go to. Obviously the art is great, especially if you compare it to some of the other art styles we had with the new series from last year. While I liked the transition with the falling ball into the falling head of the half brother, I did not like the sudden change in tone. It was too abrupt and brutal in my opinion. I get that the creator was trying to get the start of the story out of the way to reach the juicy bits quicker. But I feel like this was too rushed with so many characters appearing and disappearing in quick succession. Suwa Yorishige is a fun character, the influence from the creator's early works are easily to spot. Not that that's a bad thing. Not sure what to think of the main character yet, he is still a child so running away from battling grown-up Samurais makes sense, but can you capture the hearts and minds of the readers with that alone? My expectations for this series are nonetheless positive. I believe it will stay for the next couple years in WSJ roster and that overall it will sell millions, less than Assassination Classroom but probably more than Neuro did. Mr. Commentary, you're next in line."

"Thank you, Momiji-kun." The purple ghost scratched his not-existing chin. "I remember my history lessons as well, so I find it curious how savage and villainous Takauji has been portrayed given how this story has to end. Except of course the creator goes his own way and create an alternative history which he as creator has all the rights to do so. We got a hero by killing and another by living, you could call it differently though a hero who wins and a hero who avoids losing his life. I find the idea pretty interesting, mostly because I don't know which way the creator will go if given enough time to tell his idea. Uhm, I pick Jackman-kun next."
Jackman rose an eyebrow. "You need to tell your estimates, old man."
"Goodness me, I am so forgetful. Well, I assume the same as Momiji-kun, I guess." Jackman rose his other eyebrow in response, but decided to not pry any deeper. It seemed like the spirit had made some recoveries since of late, but apparently he still wasn't over the hill.

"Hrrmmm, ok then. By the way, Momiji, what were the two former series total sales?" Momiji took a moment to remember before answering Jackman's thoughts.
"It was around 4 Million for Neuro and above 20 Million for Assassination Classroom."
"This ain't Simpson, Tamashiro.", admonished Eiji the little red-haired teen. "And please remember your estimate next time, Mr. Commentary. And Momiji, not everyone knows those numbers so keep it to how many chapters it will get and sales per volume."

The three nodded and Jackman continued his piece of the discussion.
"Ehh, well, the first chapter didn't really spoke to me, personally. The art was too "flowerly" for my taste and I didn't liked the hero suddenly turning barbaric traitor for reasons that elude me. Maybe future chapters will explain his reasons for killing former friends and comrades. But right now I am just confused. Same with the way the Hojo Clan behaved by committing mass suicide. I am not a history geek so to me that just felt strange and wrong though I am aware of Seppuku being a big deal back then. Still I feel like so many soldiers, samurai and lords could have at least gathered for a last battle instead of well, doing what they did. I do like both the kid and the priest though. I feel like they will be a great pair to stand up and take back what belonged to his family. I don't know how they will do that, especially since the kid seems averse to fight for or by himself but that's what we got the other two kids for. I liked the violent parts as well, it felt fitting to that age where might made right. I expect great battles in this series and I hope I won't be disappointed. I think this series will get like 500 or 600 chapters because it seems to have a big story to tell. I think it will sell around 500k per volume because the fame of the creator will help it stay alive long enough to gather a fandom and get an anime as well. EIji, you wanna go up next or should I pick someone else?"

"No, I am fine with continuing. The first chapter was a bunch of mixed feelings for me. I liked the characters shown in it, even the villainous hero Takauji, the art is immersive and the storytelling was quite swift, but I feel like there is a discrepancy of just staying alive and letting others fight your battles for you. While retreating makes sense and is a correct decision in the right situations, always avoiding danger seems wrong to me when others have to face it in your stead. I hope the creator won't make the main character too cowardly. The end game seems obvious to me but after hearing Momiji and Mr. Commentary, I remember how much I slept through my history lessons. I feel like the creator could have cut some parts that felt repetitive or unneeded to me but since this is the first chapter where he got a whole bunch of pages, it makes sense to use them for some more detailed panels. I agree that this feels like a story that could run for many many years so 600 chapters seems about right to me, depending on how many time jumps are planned. We already know he gonna have to reach the age of ten but what comes after that is left open to the imagination of the creator. I feel like 500k is a bit big, maybe after an anime, but 400k seems more plausible."
Eiji stopped and looked around who to pick next. His eyes wandered to White who seemed absent-minded, then over to Tamashiro who was pointing at himself.
"Tamashiro, you're up."

"Nice!", grinned Tamashiro.
"Reading the first chapter it was pretty clear to me that the creator tries to appeal to the Kimetsu readers with the demonic faces of the murderous Samurai and also to the Fujo readers with this whole pretty boy thing who blushes furiously in another man's arms. I respect such dedication to pandering to the fans. Not sure if it will pay off but if what Momiji said about the creator is true then there are millions of readers waiting to read and buy his stuff. I liked the trap guy, very speedy, will be cool to see him dodge all the arrows, spears and swords trying to take his life in the coming chapters. I was pleasant surprised by the swing of mood in the middle of the chapter. I had expected some sort of demon invasion but it was just humans being humans and even the great Hero Takauji was no stranger to slaughter those who oppose him and whatever his plans entail. Yeah, the art is real bonkers, you can see how experienced the creator is in putting his characters into scene and make them appealing, funny or impressive to the readers. I however feel like he wants to tell a story that will only take a couple years at best, like 200 to 250 chapters, maybe pushing up to 280 but that's it. I could see this becoming a pillar of Jump with the way they are looking for one, it certainly will get its pushes. Something above 600k per volume is my best guess for this series. I just hope it won't pander to the Fujo community among the readers too much. Noah, let's hear it."

Noah stopped stroking Hajime's slime-skin and looked up, his eyes tighten in concentration.
"Well, White-neesan said if this series kept being that violent and bloody that I wouldn't be allowed to read it till ch.19, so that's a big minus point from me. But aside from the part where everyone got killed, murdered and maimed, it was pretty sweet and cool. I liked how pretty everything looked and how funny the priest was. I don't really like the prince though. He's a prince, right, not a samurai? I dunno, feels wrong to me to run away, I'm not the type for that. Still the other guy killed so many innocent people that I hope the kid will beat him someday when he is older and more experienced. You guys all talk such huge chapter numbers while I think he makes like 300 or 350 chapters, as for its sales maybe 400k or 500k is possible. I don't know, I never read the creators former works, but if Momiji's numbers are true then that seems possible to me. I pick Hajime-niichan next!"

Noah went back to petting Hajime who let the tiny child fingers swipe over and over his soft slimy skin. It felt pretty good.
"Hrrrmm, I found it pretty boring. Sure it looked good, great composition, clean art, nice expressions and so on. But I found it to be a pretty package with a lot of questions in it. I think the creator either should have skipped that start all-together and show that stuff later in flashbacks or he should have made the start slower so that we care more for those murdered people, a bit like Kingdom did it. He decided to rush the start and that's okay, but it's not my cup of tea. Maybe he will slow down later or do a proper time skip but right now I am not sure what to think of the first chapter except it left me confused. Like why is the kid so good at evading when he is only 8 years old? Or like Jackman said the sudden turn of the heroic Samurai turning into a murder machine slaying his former comrades and Lords. Or why the priest is actually supporting the kid's goal, because I don't believe his loyalty argument considering he can see into the future and did not help the child's father to survive it. Anyway, it might grow on me in the coming chapters or I might ditch it after the 19th chapter. It will probably run for quite some time 400 to 450 chapters and sell 400k each volume. Banda, what are your thoughts?"

"Finally! Ok, so I found this supercool, the looks, the movement, the characters, it is all topnotch. The part with the ball and head was goosebumps albeit the shock value was cheap because the kid, like many characters this chapter, was introduced shortly before he died. It makes it a bit hard to care, maybe the creator wanted all that to get out of the way but I hope if he plans similar stuff in the future that he will properly develop those characters so they grow to us that their death matters to us. The chapter flew by really fast, right now I am quite interested in the idea of the creator that running away is a form of heroism, I can't wait to see how he plans to show that. The kid is a proper Ninja will all his dodge skills so that alone will be cool enough but just dodging doesn't win you battles or wars. And this kid is in a big long war right now. Maybe there will even be proper strategy battles with battlefield plans and so on just like Hajime noted as in Kingdom. WSJ could do for such a series now that the team-fights from World Trigger have moved on to Jump Square. I think it will run shorter than you guys expect which might hurt its total sales, like 300 chapters and 300k sales. I could be wrong of course. Welp, can only chose you, Sharkface. Let it rip."
Banda grinned at the white-haired girl who rolled her eyes in response.

"At least that way your banana-brain won't fry over who to chose, Afrorilla. The first part of the chapter was pretty boring but with the beheading of the half brother and the perfect Samurai showing his true power-hungry colors, the story really picked up speed. It was a nice one-month time skip, saving us all the boring stuff of getting to like or care for all those people who would have died anyway. I think that was a good decision. Obviously he could have prepared his coup better, the whole letting the prince get away while the city was sacked and burned to the ground was stupid. Like it was a single priest and his daughter on a horse, okay they had a little support but still. It feels like Takauji had expected the whole Hojo clan to commit suicide and he should have known that the "little lord" would have none of that. I dislike the scaredy cat and the fraudulent shaman saying that running away is heroic. It's a disgrace, people don't remember the cowards and losers, they remember the ruthless and strong. The kid might be able to put up a good fight though if he can get more supporters like those two backstabbing children, good kids not wasting a nice opportunity. Not gonna say anything about its art and pace because pretty much everything has been said. I on the other hand bet higher on the sales reaching a total of 700k per volume while it will have around 450 chapters at most."

Momiji clapped into his hands to turn everyone's attention towards him.
"Thank you all for your open words and thoughts, everyone. Good stuff today. Hope we can repeat everything next week as well. If Eiji doesn't mind, I'll gladly will continue to-"
"Actually,", interrupted White the excited Shogi player by raising her hand slightly. A tiny cold smile played on her lips. "I am interested in doing the introduction for the next new series. I am sure you don't mind, do you, Momiji?"
"Uhm, of course not, no, not at all. Totally fine over here."
"Is nobody asking for my opinion on this?", asked Eiji slightly amused.
"You should take it a bit easier, bro. It's not like anything important is going on right now.", laughed Banda generously, hitting his friend strongly on his back, nearly knocking him over. "We got enough Attention, have our work cut out for the next weeks and the strange kiddo is nowhere to be found. All's good and well in this town."

Elsewhere in the city Gojo grunted, dissatisfied with his findings the past weeks. He had talked big game with Zoro and Kurose of leaving this matter of information gathering to him, but after walking through dozens of Motels of the Background characters he had barely anything to show for. What he knew was that there must be several dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of Motels all scattered throughout the entire city, all looking the same, all housing the same kind of face- and genderless puppets who come to life whenever a series chapter screening is supposed to start. Instinctively they walk to the towers, into the studios and change their appearance into whatever they need to be, becoming more "real" than the Named themselves. How they do this without eyes, ears or even a brain was a puzzling question to the Jujustsu Sorcerer Teacher.

The insides of the Motels were all the same, way larger inside than they looked from outside. Each building got an entrance room owning a staircase leading upwards and a corridor in the back. They seem apparently "endless" for when Gojo walked through one corridor for roughly five hours, passing countless large rooms with hundreds of puppets standing inside, he still saw no end arriving, yet when he turned around his feet seemed to walk miles with each step taken. After just five minutes he stood at the entrance or exist once more. Same with the stairs, no matter how many levels he went up, there would always come another but turning around to walk down and after just one staircase he stood before the door leading to the city again. It made him question if all motels were connected to the same "motel dimension" and that similar to his own power you could never reach the "end", whatever it may be, no matter how hard or long you tried.

Gojo had avoided this for a long time, but it seemed he had to do this after all to get the crucial information he was after. He had to enter a room with the golem-like puppets and see for himself if there was anything strange going on. The first room was unremarkable, white and empty safe for the hundred puppets standing attention in the middle of the room, in military rows of ten. The puppets didn't reacted to his presence, nor when he touched them or talked to them. This went on and on for several rooms and Gojo started to think that maybe something else must be behind the sightings of Background characters taking in attention since he wasn't finding anything.

Then in one room, he felt it. The flicker of Attention, like a butterfly's wing beat. All Named could feel Attention more or less strongly though the strongest to feel and hardest to suppress Attention was that of a Sunhearts. It was considered rude among Named to emanate Attention as if to brag how much Attention you got stored inside you. Even the Main characters of the famous series do their best to keep the Attention's shine inside them down, only letting it shine when they are in their roles for their chapter screenings. Gojo saw no aura of Attention in this room but he would have bet an entire confectionery of sweets that someone or something in this room hold onto a Sunheart themselves and had reacted to his presence. The Strongest Jujutsu Sorcerer of Jujutsu Kaisen, or at least that's what everyone call him there, walked into the room, acting as if he had not noticed anything. He didn't knew if this was necessary or if it was even possible to fool a puppet but he shouldn't leave out any opportunity to rise his chances of catching a clue to what had happened the past months.

He walked through the rows, first, second, third, fourth. He felt nothing. Then finally he noticed a movement behind him, silent, slowly, as if not to notify the intruder of its presence. Gojo smiled slightly. He had great trust in his skills and allowed the puppet to move closer and reach out to him. His Infinity form will slow down the hand so much it will never reach him since he won't allow it to do so, that's when he will turn around, capture the Attention thief and find his answers to the whole mystery. The lifeless hand came closer and closer, reaching for his shoulder. Soon the trap would snap and Gojo while acting relaxed and bored was ready to leap into action once the hand seemingly stopped above his shoulders.
That's when he felt the weight of a heavy hand land on his shoulder.

Gojo's thoughts were in a disarray and his body hesitated for just a second to understand what had happened right now, a second too long. Before Gojo could react another hand was placed onto his head, his knees suddenly buckled as if strings attached to his body had been cut. His arms waved around in the air, strengthless and without control. Darkness seeped into Gojo's mind and he understood that he had lost control over both his body and his techniques.
*I fucked up...*
Then he lost consciousness.

Word of the Author

Dang it, Banda, you jinxed it! No, Gojo, live, damn it! Then again it seems you will be gone from the story for a long time anyway, so take it easy, pal.

5657 words all together. Not bad.

In case you wonder what Noah is allowed to read, basically anything that doesn't scare him. Since he is in his child form if things get too violent it reminds him of the time his master nearly died and that brings back bad memories. Still he can look at normal fighting and even blood and death as long as it doesn't take overboard. Stuff like CSM and Kimetsu were taboo for example while One Piece is okay, that however is too long for Noah so he got bored and stopped reading it.^^

Not much else to talk about, except maybe if some wonder why I didn't had the Vampire brothers join - I was thinking about it, but after reading their series, I felt like there was nothing they wanted from this city or the readers. They wanted just each other which they already had and going through that Golden Gate promised them the chance to see Ko's parents again so not taking that would seem more against their characters than staying in hopes for recognition they don't really care about. They will be happier on the other side on the gate than on this one.
Though they couldn't leave without messing our dear's Eiji's mind, lol. I wonder when I come to his part of flashback, White's suddenly popped up as well when Mr. Commentary had or still has his issue.

Anyway, enough talk, cya next week when we talk about "I tell c(razy)". Hope you liked this chapter. :D
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 19 - i tell c(razy)

"Well, well, aren't you all an example of quiet and attentive listeners, waiting for the session to start? Why aren't you always this well-behaved?", asked White in a pleased surprise. The others stood in their circle waiting for her to start the discussion about the new chapter of "i tell c" or Ai Terushii. Unlike with previous session this time the amount of chatter and small-talk was zero. This was the first time White would do the introduction of their usual new WSJ series talk and nobody wanted to be the first to step onto a landmine and pull White's ire onto them.

"I welcome you all to our discussion round about the newest series in Weekly Shounen Jump: i tell c. It is a series about a trio of detectives, two twins and a little lady who solves crimes in an unconventional way. That is to say the little lady falls in love with the criminals, stalks them and gets them to confess their crimes. Now as always remember to talk about the points you saw as good or bad as well as your prediction for its future and success or failure. I will start and from there we will pick whoever we feel like picking or who signs they want to go next.
I found the first chapter quite okay. I liked the idea of a sick person with an extreme case of Stockholm syndrome falling for each criminal she comes across. Wonder if this also counts for female criminals or not? The art is good though not fantastic, the idea is simple yet could be both fun or boring for two different reasons. One are the criminal activities of Risa in her pursuit of her knight in blight, like how and why she keeps getting away with them and how extreme they are and the other is the explanation for the cases. Knowing who the criminal is before revealing the evidence is a bit boring. In Detective Conan you have the hunt for the evidence and then its presentation along with the reveal who the culprit was and how to convict them of their guilt with irrevocably evidence. So I could see it either finding success with readers who like me enjoy the idea of a detective who adores criminals to the point of falling in love with them or failure to capture the readers interest as they find her annoying with her strange habit and her way of investigating crime. I believe it will be a short-living series with like 60 to 70 chapters, each volume selling around 10-12k.
If it can get past that, good for the creator but I have a feeling the problem with this series will be the criminal investigations and since that is a major part of its whole scheme it could all fall apart rather quickly. Hajime, since I am interested in your opinion about this new series of your creator, I pick you next."

Hajime was back in his human form, hands in his pockets. He had a nostalgic look on his face despite his eyes speaking a different language of disdain.
"Ah right, my old creator. Yeah, he gotten a lot better at drawing than back to my times. Impressive what two years of hard work can do for a creator's ability. About the main character trio, I am not quite sure if we can call them a trio as it seems Risa is the main factor in moving the story ahead while the twins are there to guide the story for the readers as the "eyes" to witness said progress. I am personally not a fan of it, I don't wanna see all the important stuff like finding the evidence by breaking into the culprit's home done in flashbacks, I wanna be part of it and make my own guesses on who the offender is. Also some stuff like how she knows who the culprit is by just smelling or seeing him is a bit, hm, too convenient. It feels a bit lazy in my opinion.
Maybe I am too harsh on him because of how my story went back then, but I think he will not hit the nerve of what the WSJ readers want to read in a "detective" series because it is pretty much just a "stalker" series. I believe he will get axed before the 19th chapter and only get like 4k or 5k per volume. Which still would be more than I made, ugh... I choose Noah next."

Hajime looked not really happy having to talk about his creator newest series. He remembered how Poro lost all will to stand up to the Call after the first chapter of Yozakura family was released. Maybe he did so because he was content with the development of his creator and didn't harbored any hard feelings for him, but Hajime still did. He had felt the carelessness of his creator after the axe had been brought down on them. He couldn't forgive him for that and this series was not good enough to make him forget of the abandonment he felt having to endure his last chapters before the final one.

If Noah was sad that he couldn't choose Hajime after his piece was said, he didn't showed it. If anything he was as hyper as ever.
"Geez, you're a really tough cookie, Hajime-niichan! I personally found Risa great! I mean, she loves even the worst kind of person! Isn't that like really amazing? I find it interesting to see how a bad guy gets done in by bad methods done by a good person, I felt it satisfying, like feel a piece of what you make others feel. You can't always do the things the proper way, I know that from my own series. Obviously how she does things is no good but if the superiors are okay with it, why shouldn't the other detectives as well? I think the twin brothers were the weakest link to me in the first chapter, I can't even remember their names. Their whole presence seems to be two steps behind Risa and just comment whenever she made another criminal confess his crimes. That's not really interesting so I hope the creator gives them some UUMPH to make them more appealing to the readers. I believe in i tell c to get above 250 chapters and gets like 100k per volume. Oji-san, you're up!"

Mr. Commentary nodded, focusing to clear his thoughts of the annoying voice that kept nagging him. The talk of the return of Hajime's creator with another series had reminded him that his own creator will someday make a new series and probably forget all about them as the years passed by. That thought was enough to strengthen the pull of the Golden Gate had over him. Concentrating on the here and now and on the first chapter's content, he started to speak.
"Their names are Sakon and Ukon, Noah-kun, easy to remember. Though I agree that the two brothers are less interesting than the main female lead character, albeit they got a hard time against someone who is basically a criminal herself while working as a detective. Her fate however kinda explains her behavior. What has yet to be explained is why the higher echelon is okay with this and not sending her into therapy. I am sure we will get an explanation for that in the future same for some stuff that will make us care about the twins more.
The way I see it tries a different gimmick to grab the attention of the readers, which might work or not, I cannot speak for the readers. Personally I found the idea interesting but also appalling, using a sick person's condition to do their work feels so wrong. I would like it more if she herself is against feeling that way but can't help it and is properly conducting detective work while her stalker condition drives her to use other means which she feels bad for using. Instead she enjoys it, collects pictures of her crushes and really seems to want to run away with the culprit. Thankfully she has yet to come across someone willing to do so but she is a pretty young lady, so I don't buy it that all men would refuse her. Especially since they could just kill her if need comes to be.
I feel this is the major weakness of the story, that this endangers her too much. Maybe she is an amazing fighter who knows, but then I wonder how she got kidnapped except of course she learned that during the five years after her kidnapping. I feel like it will be just short of 50 chapters, selling like 7 to 8k per volume. I can see it avoid the axe for a while with the other struggling series we got currently, but I cannot see it go above 100 chapters, if it only does a weekly "criminal gets chased by crazy stalker detective" chapter. Jackman-kun, as a hero character, what are your thoughts?"

Jackman crossed his arms and pushed his chest forward, trying to make himself look taller when he heard Mr. Commentary calling him a hero character when truly all he had been in the series was a weapon suit. But now he was his own character and he was proud to have the same name as Jackman the hero. So far he had no chance to show off his heroic side but he was sure with this unique group it was only a matter of time until he got to do something.
"Well, first off all I think you guys are under the misconception of all three being main characters. I think the big bro is a support character who also got a tie with the kidnapper of Risa, probably his girlfriend being abducted and either being missing or killed. The real MCs are obviously Risa as the hound and catcher of criminals and the younger brother Sakon who wants to do things the right way and not fight poison with poison. It's the usual tale of two two roads leading to the same goal, opposing sides that work together. That could work splendid if they were more of a team but it seems Risa does everything solo and the brothers are only chasing her shadow.
Also it seems she stumbles across the criminals rather than using clues and evidence to find them. I think it should be the other way around. The search and hunt part is fun to read too, albeit then the cases will take longer than just one chapter per week and in the starting phase that might be a bad idea to do so. I found the idea intriguing but I disagree with her methods and hope the creator finds a way to mellow her out quickly and work more with the brothers since it seems they are supposed to take care of her and her cases. My guess are 100 to 150 chapters for its length and 40 or 50k in sales. Eiji, your turn."

Eiji liked what he had seen and heard so far. Everyone seemed really into it and White had done a nice introduction instead of a lackluster one he feared. He took notice of Mr. Commentary more agitated state after Hajime's part but he would get to that after the discussion was done.
"Obviously i tell c won't be your usual detective story but that is fine. Unique series have a chance to catch on and either create a niche for themselves or gain even greater support than that. But I worry about the same thing as you guys - can Risa capture the interest of the readers with her illegal methods and explaining everything afterwards her confession? It feels more like a criminal working for the cops than a detective working for justice. She has her own goal which is not to put her lovers into prison but to burn through with them.
Maybe the brothers are both meant as her bodyguards and her chaperones in the sense they are supposed to keep her from running away IF she were to find someone crazy enough to take up her offer of getting together as lovebirds. Personally I feel bad for her. She cannot live a normal life, loving only criminals and falling out of love quickly, a prisoner to her own broken mind yearning for something she cannot get or worse if she gets it, will be life-threatening to her. I am curious to see how Risa's story turns out and how the two brothers play a part in it. For that I give it 200 to 250 chapters in running time and a whooping 80k to 100k in sales per volume. I feel like Jump wants to get more longer running series which is why they gave the new ones advertisements in TV. It might help get them the early push they need to run long enough to get to the good parts of the story and character development to keep the readers invested in the story. You think so too, Tamashiro?"

Tamashiro blew a raspberry. He seemed bored because he wasn't able to do some mischief but now that it was his part to talk, he felt he was allowed more freedom to express himself. He earned that after staying so quiet.
"Not at all. The c in the series title so stands for crazy which the series is. Crazy dumb that is. The disbelief is too strong there, I don't expect too many readers liking that. No matter how cute the girl is or how sad her past, most readers will be put off by her. Sure, she is "interesting", but interest alone makes not for success, you need to be "likeable" and missing that is something I can sing about. She is selfish to the core, cares not for standards or principles and believes any means are justified as long as it gets her the love she desires. It's nuts, that's what it is. Thus I stick with Hajime who knows his former creator better than me anyway, this is a U19 series and will sell like 3k max with its 2 or 3 volumes. Sounds harsh but I think that's how it gonna play out. Take it from here, Momiji!"

Momiji scratched his chin as he himself had his doubts about the series but didn't saw it as crass as Tamashiro did.
"Personally could see this run for quite some time and that's because I think the creator deliberately made this whole shtick with the stalker part so illegal despite her being a detective. It's to have a lot of space to grow and change within but if he had done that right from the start then there would be no conflict and no tension between the three main characters necessary to grow due and with. All the stuff you complain about will go away with time which is the main problem of this series. If it doesn't get it done within a certain period of time then yeah, it might end early though I doubt it will end below 19 chapters. But if it can get to the likeable part Tamashiro was talking about then I see no reason other than lack of creativity of why this series shouldn't get like 300 chapters and a reasonable sale amounting to 200k and above. It got all the stuff it needs to be popular an interesting crazy female lead who is cute and pretty, two twins who look similar yet are quite different from one another in personality and lots of potential mayhem in disturbing cases. Biggest problem I see is the lack of detective work which I hope only got shorten down the first chapter to introduce the three characters and to main-case the gimmick of this series which is Risa's love condition. You can't have a detective series without some detective work as well and that goes beyond meeting and talking to suspects or eye witnesses. If it does that part properly though then it gonna stay for a long while because in my opinion WSJ needs some mind games series and this might do just the trick. Banda, you're the one to finish the round."

"Thanks, bro." Banda hit his left open palm with his right fist causing a loud sound echoing through the room. "I not gonna lie, this chapter has given me more creeps than most of Phantom Seer's Phantoms. Like I legit thought this girl was the murderer and she was damn disturbing with her behavior prior her introduction as detective. After that it was harmless, like you knew the others would stop her or that there would be a catch. And the catch was she is so heavy nobody wants to bother with that for the rest of their lives so they prefer prison. I can see why she got a collection of photos and not a collection of boyfriends, heh. Yeah, the two bros got overshadowed big time but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A main character needs to stand out and while her looks might seem pretty normal for a female main character her behavior is anything but normal. She is quirky, obsessed, driven and totally loco in the head. A mixture which surely will gather some interest and thus plenty of curious Attention from many readers. Key point like Momiji said, is keeping that interest up. The cases are one thing, same with Risa's way of "solving" them but the real issue is what the purpose of the twins gonna be. Sakon already said he intends to stop Risa while Ukon couldn't care less as long as she gets the job done and the top brass is okay with it. If they are however only on the sidelines then that's lame. They need to be more involved with the crime investigation in future chapter else Risa alone will not be able to carry the series on her own. Main characters are especially good when they can "bounce" on and of other characters, otherwise they stay static and stale. As for its future success, eh, 100 or 150 chapters but sales more around 60 to 80k or something like that. I think this is a hard series to guess considering WSJ never had that many detective series in its roster."

"Then that's it. Thank you all for your honest opinion. Next week we got another new series. Anyone interested in doing the introduct-" White didn't got any further as a booming voice was interrupting her.
"ME! I DO IT!" Banda had raised his hand and looked dead serious in his attempt to take the spot Momiji and White had been previously in.
"Ooookay, that's a surprise. Any reason why, Gorillafro?", asked White incredulously.
"Nope, just feel like doing it is all."
"Well, if that's it and nobody else wants to bother with the introduction then you got the job, I guess."

The group scattered to return to their tasks or hobbies. Eiji walked up to Hajime putting a hand on his shoulder.
"You ok, Hajime."
"I told you before the meeting that I am fine. Really. I'm not like Poro. This new series of my creator doesn't bother me the slightest."
Eiji was sure that the last part was a lie but he believed that Hajime really hasn't gotten unstable and an easy target for the Call. You only bother him~ Eiji's hand cramped onto Hajime's shoulder. Hajime wrinkled his forehead.
"Look, I am not gonna disappear overnight or anything like that, okay? I promise. Is that all?", asked Hajime easing and pulling away Eiji's hand, waiting for an answer.
"Yeah, okay.", replied Eiji, feeling a different kind of worry set into him. Hajime turned into his smaller slime self and crawled away. Eiji looked over to Mr. Commentary and saw White talking to him. He knew she would handle any problem in regards to him. Right now he needed a distraction, something to ease his mind.
"Hey, Banda! You up for a football match with Momiji, Tamashiro and the others?"

Gojo floated in utter darkness, fully aware that something bad had happened to him inside that motel. He wasn't sure why exactly his power had not worked nor how much time had passed but neither questions helped him resolve his current situation. Instead he tried to focus on his self. Since his mind was active that meant his brain was still working. The alternative of his soul or mind somehow being pulled out of his body was a possibility as well, but if that was the case no point dwelling on it. However hos focused session had success. He could feel... coldness. Wherever he was his butt was cold. Again,. not necessarily a good thing but to feel the cold on your butt you needed a body to which said butt was attached, so yay himself, he still got his body.

With every second, minute, hour or day passed inside his comfy blackness his mediation session brought forth new fruits - dampness on his clothes and skin, cramped muscles from laying in an uncomfortable position, his left feet feeling lighter than his right because of a missing shoe. At some point he could feel his surroundings yet he was unable to rise from his slumber. A presence came towards him, dark and grim, a bundle of negative emotions setting their target on the sleeping Gojo. He could feel it approaching him, carefully, quickly, a touch on his hand and then something sharp bit in his finger.
It was enough to wake him up completely and to instantly activate his power to keep the sharp things from his bleeding finger. Confused and startled the presence was unable to react swiftly enough to dodge Gojo's incoming fist. It got crushed on the pavement and Gojo stared at the black remains of a rat which quickly faded away in tiny clouds of smokes.
"A vermin?"

Vermins are being which start to exist if large amounts of Tarbatz are bundled together for a long time. They are usually in the forms of insects and critters and can grow to enormous size which is why the garbage removal of series thrown away Attention exists. Better to burn than let such dangerous being born of disgust, hate and mockery. But the towers were not the only place where Attention came into existence. Gojo looked around to where he had been. A lesser visited street of small niche magazine towers possibly from some Internet webcomic. But more importantly behind him was a dirty and wet subway station, closed with yellow-red cordon and a sign which said: "Under construction. We thank for your understanding.".
Gojo knew where he was and that realization made him, the cool veteran who had fought against the most insane odds, gulp.

But whatever the thing that dragged him here wanted him to do, was out of his guess. For now he had to go back to the WSJ Tower. Who knew how long he has been out? Given the stand of the sun, actually not that long, maybe a few hours at best. He pulled off his other shoe, no reason to walk around like a hobo. Gojo looked at his bleeding finger. The wound was not too deep but he was worried about the effects the bite of a creature born from evil thoughts could do to his body or worst his core. He should probably get that checked on at home. He turned away from the station, shaking his head as he made his way home.
"So it's real after all, huh?"

Word of the Author

Okay then, another chapter up. Actually I am not sure if you even like those first chapter 19th chapter discussion this group does. Maybe they bore you or amuse you with how wrong they are (lol). Chapter got 3976 words all together. As you see it was mostly all about Risa, but since she was the one leaving the biggest impact of impression that was a given. Hope the opinions were still diverse enough to be interesting.

Also phew to see Gojo fine and dandy, just a tiny cut and a missing shoe. Not the worst mission he ever had, I am sure. XD
Pretty sure some of the JJK fans are relieved to see their favorite Sensei up and well again. Now the only question is why the attacker in the motel brought him to this station and what exactly he meant with this chapter's last words that it is real after all. Maybe some attentive readers can already guess.^^

Next week we got Banda having the honors to introduce the "Witch Watch" to us. I have no idea how to make fun of this tbh. Like "Bitch Watch" seems a bit much to me but "Witch Match" as in matching with the Ogre boy as a couple seems a bit boring. If someone of you got a idea that sounds at least sorta funny you can send me a pm. Otherwise I might have to go with one of those two. Maybe I find a word that sounds similar to Witch but means like being a clumsy person or something like that.
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 20 - Glitch Watch

Kurose had always thought that some of the "gimmicks" of characters were always exaggerated in the series. Like losing your way on a straight road, how could you do that for real? But when he was told by Gojo to go collect Zoro from his own apartment to avoid him getting lost, he started to wonder if maybe there was something behind those gimmicks after all. After an hour of waiting before the One Piece door, just to knock and have Nami open to tell him that Zoro got lost from the bathroom to the apartment door, made Kurose realize that some things ran deeper than you can see on the surface. The whole One Piece crew helped finding Zoro who was found in the closet of Nami, which to his defense was insanely large and a labyrinth on his own. Seriously, how many shoes and clothes can one woman own?
"I cannot believe you got lost on the way to your own apartment's door considering it is quite literally right next to the bathroom, Zoro-san...", sighed Kurose checking his watch knowing that they were over two hours late to the meeting with Gojo.
"Let me tell you this, Kurose. Getting lost is easy, but getting lost on two meter between your start and your destination? That is art. The readers love my gimmick and I work my hardest everyday to keep it as sharp a tool as the rest of my weapons for their entertainment.", explained Zoro unapologetic. Kurose said nothing, not quite sure how you could be proud on getting lost. But then again he didn't really had such a gimmick himself except being a womanizer or at least acting like one though it didn't seemed to be a hit with the readers.
"If I had a gimmick that gave me lots of Attention, maybe I would also view it differently.", thought Kurose quietly.

The Jujutsu Kaisen door opened before Kurose could knock, revealing an excited Gojo who had waited for the two to arrive for the past two hours.
"There you guys are! Next time you gotta speed up finding Zoro, Kurose.", objurgated Gojo the young shaman jokingly.
"Tsk, shitty Sensei...", muttered Zoro, not liking how others made fun of his great gimmick his creator had gifted him with.
"Now get in, get in. I got something important to tell you."

After giving their greetings to the rest of the JjK cast who was lazing around the lounge, Gojo directed the two to his private chamber, which to Kurose's surprise and slight envy was far larger and luxurious than he had expected.
"The first anime season has been a large boon for my popularity. I'm swimming in attention right now. Not that I was poor by any means before but the amount I got after the watchers turned to readers for our series, it was something else. Can I get you anything to drink? Beer, Scotch, Sake, water, watermelon soda?"
"Beer, large keg.", growled Zoro, hoping the palaver to be over soon for Gojo to tell them of his findings.
"A Scotch sounds nice, Gojo-san, thank you." Kurose hadn't drunk a Scottish whiskey yet but it fit his image of a cool gentlemen, no reason to waste a good opportunity.
"Coming up.", grinned Gojo, snapping his fingers and a large keg of Beer and a glass of scotch appeared on the crystal-table before the two guests. Kurose winced at the thought how much attention this little stunt must have cost, but Gojo could probably snap his fingers all day and he still wouldn't run dry of attention to use.

Zoro sat down on the couch, taking a sip of his beer and grunting in approval. Kurose took a generous sip of his Scotch and immediately realized that maybe scotch wasn't his glass of beverage. Gojo laughed heartily at Kurose's coughing and gave hi a beat on the back.
"No worries, you'll get used to the taste in no time."
"So? What you got?", asked Zoro who no longer could be bothered with social cues.

Gojo leaned forward to Zoro past the still slightly coughing Kurose who only nipped his scotch now.
"So, I found out that all motels I found so far have the same interior looks, meaning they are most likely sharing the same dimension after all..."
"In other words, the same nothingness as the last time.", interrupted Zoro the teacher disappointed, taking another large gulp from his enormous keg.
"...and I got invited."

Zoro spat out his beer all over the table, the couch and the carpet. Beer spits hit Kurose's clothes who saw his poor jacket mistreated as a shield by a quickly reacting Gojo. The shaman really didn't wanted to think how much it would cost to clean this room up nor much time he gonna have to spend on cleaning his clothes once he returned home.
"Bullshit!", declared Zoro loudly, standing up, beer still dripping from his chin.
"Nope, I'm telling the truth.", replied a smiling Gojo pecking behind the wet jacket to see if the weather was clear of sudden beer rain.
"Who the hell invited you?", asked the swordsman in disbelief. A confused Kurose looked between those two famous characters, not getting one bit what one was so excited about and the other so shocked about. He raised his hand slowly to get the two's attention.
"Uhm, excuse me, but what is this about someone inviting Gojo-san? And to what?"

"Gojo is talking about being invited to the Underground City by a puppet.", explained Zoro, shaking his head.
"Or someone who is using said puppets to steal the attention.", added Gojo.
"We have an Underground City?"
"You explain this to the new guy. I gotta finish my drink.", pushed Zoro the responsibility of educating Kurose to Gojo.

"The Underground City is the opposite of our City of Towers where we are seen and read by readers all over the world in established magazines. The Underground City is said to be way larger than ours as it is not only a den of bad fanfiction and extreme parodies but also a graveyard of dead ideas and dumb concepts and failed story attempts half-written and forgotten. According to the rumors it has its own laws like fresh towers erupting from the ceiling all day and streets disappearing into nothingness. The characters down there eat the Tarbatz that finds its way down there, dumped by the own city's garbage collectors unable to burn it all. They are supposed to even eat each other to make it through the day. And you cannot visit it unless one of its inhabitants invited you by showing you the way."
Kurose blinked in response, taking all that in. It sounded incredible and incredibly dangerous.
"Such a city is under our feet all this time?" Zoro laughed at Kurose's question.

"Of course it is. For every idea that a creator manages to successfully birth into a full-fledged story they got ten that failed along the way and never saw the light of the city above. I know of some WSJ characters in the past who told me they had been invited to the city, some of them never came back from their first trip and others got addicted to the rush of a city life where they are no rules, laws and norms to uphold and where they are the VIPs no matter the tiny Attention they can bring with them."
"Zoro is right. In that city you can do anything with your attention. Up here we can make food, clothes and furniture with it. Well, and it makes our auras extra shiny and boosts our skills, but who really needs that, amirite? But down there, you can do anything with a Sunheart or an Argentberry or even a Copperbug. The only limits are your own imaginations."
Kurose's eyes nearly popped out of his skull hearing that fantastic part of the story.
"That sounds too good to be real."

"Which is why most believe it to be only a hearsay.", hummed Gojo happily, still feeling giddy about the discovery.
"So how did you got invited?" The humming stopped upon Zoro's piercing question. This was the part Gojo wasn't looking forward to explain but it was important for another reason.
"Someone touched my shoulder inside the motel and I lost my consciousness. When I woke up I was near an entrance to a subway station which was closed down saying it is under repair."
"A subway station, Gojo-san?"
"Someone got past your ability?!"

"As embarrassing as it is to admit that, yeah, I didn't saw that coming myself. As for your question, Kurose, I'm sure you know we got subways all over the city to travel quickly, a necessity for a city this large. However, I have never seen a subway under repair, I'm sure Zoro can confirm with his many years of experience that such a station just isn't a thing in this city."
"Right, right. I don't think I have seen that anytime. But they can ignore our abilities, Gojo? Do you have any idea what that means? They could cancel all our attacks like that. Heck, for all we know they could even make my sword slashes disappear. Whoever the guy was that touched you, he definitely must be from that city underground." Zoro downed the last of his beer and put it down strongly on the table. Kurose nearly jumped expecting the expensive table to crack.
"Wait, but wouldn't it be really easy to see the entrances to the Underground city then? How can that be a secret?" Kurose thought his question to be valid but Gojo just grinned while Zoro massaged his forehead with his knuckles.

"We are talking about a city where everything is possible. I wouldn't wonder if they got some kind of totem or some other item that makes such a station invisible or instantly forgettable to characters like us. There are probably many such entrances which we never see during our time outside the tower. They probably want to avoid too much attention else we would sooner or later do something to limit their influence on us. Imagine dozens of Characters disappearing over weeks. We'd freak out over the consequences for our series. Especially once important side characters, support characters or even main characters are gone."
"Uhm, right, that makes sense, I guess."

"The real question is why you got invited down there." Zoro looked seriously at Gojo. "Since they didn't dragged you down there when they could have, it means they want you to come willingly. To meet them there or do something for them there."
"Or to return with a team.", threw Kurose his idea into the ring.
"Indeed, whatever the one who gave me the invitation wants is in the Underground City. It could have something to do with our own goal of finding out why and how the puppets are stealing Attention from the series. Could be something else entirely though."
"Like a trap." Gojo nodded at Zoro's contribution.
"And we shouldn't forget that the Underground City is supposed to be a maze. If we go in there with no intel we might be lost for weeks or even months before we get back to the surface. If can do that at all, that is."

"We can't be gone for weeks, Gojo. Our friends would notice and worry and it would impact our series immersions. Not everyone is as conveniently gone from the storyline as you are.", argued Zoro. Kurose kept wisely quiet how Zoro with his sense of direction hardly would be any help for an expedition like that anyway. Gojo was up on his feet again, snapping his fingers which cleaned the clothes from Kurose and the stained furniture as if he had worked on them for hours with cleaning tools. Kurose was thankful for that but he knew he could never stomach such sinful use of Attention. He really hoped if he ever became as popular as Gojo he'd be a bit more humble with the Attention he received. Then again, he probably never will be as popular so nothing to worry about there.
Gojo turned to his guests who were waiting for his reveal on how to deal with this problem.
"Well, we cannot go, I agree with that. However, I think I know just the right guys for a time-consuming mission like that~. Now do you guys want to play Old Maiden or Mario Kart first?"

"Bros and Sharkface!"
"Ugh." White demonstratively rolled her eyes at Banda's childish intro.
"I welcome you to our newest WSJ series first chapter talk - WITCH WATCH!!! If anyone got funny ideas how to name this newcomer I am all ears."
Tamashiro opened his mouth.
"No B-word allowed.", interrupted Banda causing the redhead to pout.
"How about Glitch Watch?", suggested Momiji, adjusting his glasses slightly.

"I like that, bro! Glitch Watch it is! You all know the rules, yadda yadda, let's go! Glitch Watch is about a Witch who is clumsy with her magic and a boy who is a mix of Ox and Tiger aka an Ogre and he is supposed to be her familiar because girl has bad mojo the next year and he gotta keep her safe. Okay, now that this is done to my opinion:
So I found the first of Glitch Watch to be pretty... average? Like don't get me wrong, I thought it was quite good, but it didn't wow me, ya know? Like the art is neat, the idea solid and the goal clear but everything went on so slick, that I didn't really felt much reading all that stuff. Some of the jokes made me laugh, others didn't. My absolute favorite thing about this first chapter was the Ogre boy 'cause he is really strong, knows Martial Arts and he is the no-nonsense type of guy which I can get behind. The girl's cute, but a real klutz, which honestly just makes her even cuter. Maybe her airheadness could be dialed a bit back but that development will probably happen much later. Considering the past successes of this creator, I could see this be quite popular and running for long, like a Nisekoi or We Never Learn type of romance manga if it turns into a harem story once those two hit the school. I expect like 300 chapters and around 150k sales per volume. I think this will stick together with Ayakashi Triangle as the romcoms of WSJ with some battles in them. Eiji, bro, wanna go next?"

Eiji nodded, glad that Banda had done his part as introducer albeit he felt it was done a bit hastily. Not sure if this was due Banda being nervous or just not wanting to bother with the rules that have been told over and over again.
"I understand what you mean with the "slick" comment, however I saw that as a good point of the series. It has a good reading flow which is easy to follow, you can feel the experience the creator has to make a story accessible to his readers. I also like the focus on our two main characters and we basically get told two different stories. From Niko's POV it is a romance story of two childhood friends living together and from Moi's POV it is a serious bodyguard story of keeping Niko safe from whatever her mother has seen in her prophesy. That's Quite a clash but a good one in my opinion, it makes their roles clear of who is the joker and who's the serious man. It is a straight-forward story which can be seen as good or bad depending on your taste. What I personally didn't liked were most of the comedy parts, I just couldn't laugh at them. Maybe it's because I haven't gotten familiar with the characters yet or that type of jokes just ain't my cup of tea, but I hope the creator steps up on the comedy part if he wants to be a true romcom. My expectations for this series are around 250 chapters and a bit above 100k sales, like 110 or 120 or so. I pick you as next speaker, White."

White played with one of her braids, looking disinterested, albeit she couldn't help but notice that her heartbeat went just a tiny bit up when he mentioned her name. It annoyed her greatly.
"Yeah, yeah. A new romance story with comedy parts and some quick action scenes to lighten things up. We've seen that dozens of times by now, many failures were among them as well. But I agree with Afrorilla and Eiji that this most likely won't be a story quickly over. The mention of the Holy Land of Witches alone can bring forth a 40 to 50 or even longer arc for example. And the school with a big enough support cast can greatly enlarge the length of this story as well. However, I think both Main characters are too weak in capturing a lot of reader's interest. Just being cute and in love won't cut it for Klutzhead to stay relevant in the long-term, same for Hornhair to just be serious and worried all time. Yes, it is only the first chapter, but keep that up for too long and it might annoy some readers and they gonna drop it over long or short. I really liked the magic part though, the idea that with power comes cost is a good one and one that be often used in many situations, both light and heavy ones. I believe it runs between 250 and 300 chapters, as for its sales, slightly below 100k, probably. Mr. Commentary, it's your turn."

Mr. Commentary bob up and down on his feet instead of floating as he usually does. His hands hold together behind his back, he looked sheepishly at White as he got called out.
"Eh? it is already my turn?"
"If you don't want to, I could just pick someone el-"
"I was joking! Just joking, White-san! Geez, always so serious. Witch Watch got a nice first chapter but I feel the creator played it too safe which is why it might have missed some ummph behind it. The exposition goes by quickly and reveals a lot of stuff about the world and the characters themselves who are both not normal humans so their situation needs to be explained. The creator tried to lighten the reading parts up with some jokes but plenty were more miss than hits. I feel like the creator will have a much easier time to tell jokes once his series has settled and secured a safe position in Weekly Shounen Jump. When I read the chapter it felt like he really wanted to get all the important fundamental stuff over and be done with it. The focus will lie on the relationship of those two childhood friends, a witch and her familiar, a girl and her bodyguard, a one-sided love and a determination to protect no matter what. That will probably be the stronger forte of the creator given what I have read from his former works. Like White mentioned the idea of the magic spells having a cost added to them is very neat. And since even body parts are okay I can foresee some dramatic stuff regarding Niko's hair when it comes to repair Moi's body after some hard battle. The spells and their costs or side effects will probably be the driving plot-points of many future episodic chapters. Only question is if the readers will respond well to this type of story telling after the tease of the great disaster that will befall Niko sometime the next year. As for its duration I assume 350 chapters at max, sales around 200k, probably a bit below that. What's your opinion regarding Witch Watch, Tamashiro-kun?"

Tamashiro yawned loudly before answering.
"My opinion is that it was super boring. Nothing really happened due that repair magic making everything well again and the Kelpfish guy was so stupid not to get that she is a witch that it annoyed me greatly. The whole story feels quite dumb, like the dad suddenly leaving, the mom deciding to send her daughter to live alone with a horny boy, the girl being so into the guy that it is annoying and the guy just being a stone brick in his expressions most of the time. I am not super stoked to have to read 18 more chapter of this before we get to its 19th chapter discussion. Yeah, I believe it will get over 19 chapter but there is no way I see it getting to 100 chapters with such lame main characters. 60 chapters would be the highest I'd give it to last. Sales? Maybe 20k or so. If it were to sell any better than that it might just live long enough because we got so many other series that sucked worse. I bet your take on this series is way better, Noah?"

Noah weighted his head left and right while crossing his arms before his chest, looking mighty serious for a little kid.
"Hmmmm, actually Tamashiro-nii-chan, I get what you mean. Unlike you I liked the first chapter and Niko and Moi are really nice characters and the magic spells were cool, but like this was all so conveniently that I couldn't feel much tension. Neither when Niko was in danger of really being crushed or when Moi got told the real reason why he is Niko's bodyguard. Also the short flashbacks were too many in my opinion, I found them quite confusing after a while. Also I dunno but their romance felt pretty flat? Are all teens supposed to gush so much about someone's appearance? Isn't that really superficial? Kinda makes me glad to still be a kid. The jokes were really funny though, I really liked the fishcake one, hope the creator brings more of that kind. I feel like 200ish chapters might be enough to tell a year's worth of story. And it will probably sell really good though like 250k because the creator is well-known and there is probably a hunger for another romcom to replace WNL and AT seems a bit too serious to take on that mantle. Aaaaaaaand I"
Hajime raised a tentacle.
"Hai hai, Hajime desu~", replied the little slime alien causing some laughs among the boys with his dry response.

"I'm on Tamashiro's side with this series. It just wasn't very interesting to read, the only interesting part was the revelation of the disaster and that was it. The other stuff that happened or was spoken about didn't captured my interest much. I feel like it has a lot to do with the two main characters because I cannot get warm with them. Maybe I will care for them later but right now they are just there. Like they don't even look special except for the tiny hair stuff on top of their heads. Like couldn't you have made the Ogre kid a bit bulkier or give him actual real horns he has to hide with a headband or make the Witch look like a Gyaru or something like that? Those two need to become more interesting if we don' get other more interesting side characters soonish. I think around 80 chapters for its length and 30k sales for its volumes. Obviously it will pass the 19th chapter mark but I doubt it gonna cross the 100s with how lackluster its main duo is. Momiji, what do you say?"

Momiji scratched his cheek, unsure how to proceed after hearing even Noah having problems with this first chapter. Then he sighed and decided to just be honest about it.
"I, don't laugh guys, but I really liked it. I found it funny, cute and adorable and quite cool as well. Niko and Moi work great together both with the jokes and how much they are about another. I liked the contrast of Niko's lovestruck view and Moi's serious bodyguard attitude, those two will cause many great jokes in future chapters for sure. The art is clean and well drawn, the characters look cute and the relationship between the two Main Characters is the clear highlight for this and most likely future chapters. I am curious about the Witch culture and what other humans with Familiar ancestors we gonna get in this series. Obviously the school with Moi friends and the friends Niko gonna make will also greatly influence the series since the creator likes to make large and interesting character casts. I do not worry about this series future the slightest, it might live even longer than Ayakashi Triangle for that matter. I give this series over 400 chapters to tell its story of which I doubt the great disaster will be the last thing the mother gonna foresee and sales will be around 300k for sure once it gets an anime. Well, you are last to go, Jackman."

Jackman took a deep breath, steeling himself for the question he wanted to ask once he had said his piece.
"Alright, my turn. First off I found the art was just okay, bot bad but also not really good. Sure it is "clean" but I feel like for the magical effects it needs to be more bombastic. Second the idea of the magic spells being associated with cost to be cast like actual things or feelings and not just "mana" is good. Depending on the situation it could either make for a funny joke like taking someone's happy feelings and making them a downer or a more serious take by having to give up on something important or dear to someone to make a spell work. Third the two main characters are solid but that's pretty much it, even despite being an Ogre or a Witch they do not feel "unique" and I think that is pretty important for most main characters, to come across as someone you cannot just run in at the next corner. Maybe it is different for romcoms but hearing those two were an Ogre and a Witch I kinda expected more of an ogre-like and a witch-like look on them. Fourth it needs to be funnier, seriously, I didn't laugh even once at the jokes! You can't just be cute as a romcom you gotta be funny as well! I hope the quality of the jokes improves next chapter. As for its success I see it like Banda with close to 300 chapters and around 150k sales."

"And last point can I be the introducer next week? Please?"
"Sure, bro, I see no reason why not."
"I declare our discussion about Glitch Watch for over and done, bros and girl. Shame the name didn't stuck, it was a good one, Momiji."
"If you want something to stick then we should have went with my idea of B-" Tamashiro's protest got interrupted by Banda starting to sing very loudly and terribly.
The rest of the U19 gang had a great laugh and returned to their tasks, chores and games they intended to play today.

Your real friends miss you.
You are just faking your laughs.
Aren't you terrible for lying to them all?
You shouldn't be here, your place is elsewhere.
What good does it do to talk about nonsense nobody cares about?
In the end they mean nothing to you and you mean nothing to them.
Just let go~

After the discussion Eiji stood before the mirror in the boys bathroom, watching his mirror-self talk to him like it was alive. His hands clenched onto the sink and his teeth grit together as he hissed his response to the voice playing tricks in his mind.
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up!"

Word of the Author

Uff, 4671 words. Started with Gojo, Zoro and Kurose because I expected you guys wanted to hear what the thing was Gojo couldn't quite believe himself. Wooooot Underground City Arc!
Like not next week, that is. Someday in the future. :P

Big shout-out to Kurose btw. He might not be as famous or cool or skilled or quirky or otherwise remarkable as Gojo and Zoro are but that makes him a good outlet to show how far above other characters Zoro and Gojo are with their amount of attention and care the creators have put into them over time. Thanks for being such a miserable normie, Kurose.^^

I hope the idea of Glitch Watch instead of Witch Watch makes sense because you know, Niko makes mistakes with her spells and messes everything up, thus a bug in the magic system. Way better than Bitch Watch that's for sure. Tamashiro gonna live with that disappointment. xD

Next week we talk about the *checks notes* Nine Dorks Balls Parade. Gonna be fun, probably. :3

And no worries about Eiji. Speaking to your mirror image is normal for growing teenagers. I'm sure of that. ;)
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 21 - Nine Dorks' Ball Parade

With a run-up from the kitchen to the living room, Jackman slid on his knees into the circle of his friends waiting for him to open up the third first chapter discussion.
"Eeeeeeeeverybody! Welcome to the first chapter discussion about Nine Dragons' Ball Parade!!!" Jackman stood up and dust down his kneecaps, muttering that whoever was on cleaning duty this week hadn't done their job quite well.
"Don't you got a nickname for them, Jackman?", threw Tamashiro in as the mascot suit character took his place in the circle.
"Well, not really. You got an easy one to remember?"
"Nine Dorks' Ball Parade. Those two lead characters fit that description perfectly and I am sure the next team members gonna be eccentric as well.", grinned Tamashiro.

"Sounds fitting to me. So, no more stalling. Nine Dorks' Ball Parade is a sport manga about baseball i which two kids are on their way to greatness with Hakuo or so they thought until one kid got thrown out and the other refused the honor of joining the Emperor of Highschool Baseball. The glasses kid wanna become a catcher, but is not really talented, your usual hardworker character with a knack for numbers and stats. The happy-go-lucky kiddo wants to become a pitcher but can only throw fastballs and doesn't even properly know the rules, from what it seems. Usual rules, start with stuff you like, stuff you disliked or wanna see improvements on and then what you believe the future will hold for the first sport series after Haikyu finished. I'll start!
I liked the hardworking kid, Tamao Azukida, I've got a soft sport for hardworkers. Poor kid did so much right in this chapter yet the adults still refused him, simply because they didn't wanted players who can think for themselves. A real shame. The whole chapter was pretty much about Tamao and the try-outs, so I hope Tao Ryudo gets his stuff explained next chapter. There wasn't that much on him except his talent, his kind nature and his fearlessness when facing with such odds. Tamao is more of a worrywart, shy and not really very self-confident despite being able to follow a strict training plan and to remember so much information. I can see a good character development there. I didn't liked the other kids taking their mistakes out on poor Tamao. If you refuse to follow signs, don't blame the catcher! Art is okay, nothing stellar but also not hurting the impact of the scenes it wanna display. It is one of the things the Creator could improve on with time though. As for its future, I believe that the WSJ audience is hungry for a sport series and baseball is popular in Japan, so I can see it go really far with like 400 chapters and selling around 300k. Maybe wishful thinking but I really wanna see Tamao go far, I'm rooting for that guy! Gotta get the bad vibes out first so I pick you next, Tamashiro, don't trash it too badly though."

Tamashiro laughed gently at Jackman's worries.
"Chill, man, just cause I think the art is boring, the storytelling generic as heck and the conclusion obvious from the start, I won't say it's bad. I really liked Tamao's love for this sport, even I personally find Baseball to be pretty lame. But you could see the amount of work and passion he had put into making the team as well how crushing it was to be rejected like that. Being rejected for your physical abilities is something I can understand as a shortie myself. I think plenty readers will also feel for him in that moment and be happy when they got to the chapter's end with the proposal to make their own team and beat the arrogant emperors themselves. Two don't make a team though so I am curious about what other characters will join their team. Doubt they are all dorks, but who knows. They surely gonna need a cute female manager though, can't miss that generic box to tick off. I think what's bad is how predictable it all was, nothing really surprised me about this chapter, the creator himself could throw a fastball or trickball at his readers once or twice during the course of his story to shake things up a little. The other bad stuff I found was the huge focus on Tamao which made Tao seem more like a support character to give him a push than a fellow Main Character. Well, I don't think it will get very far though, Baseball can be hard to made interesting for a large audience. I predict around 50 chapters and 15k sales per volume. Maybe Mr. Commentary can enlighten us more about its future chances of dangers?"

Mr. Commentary gave a short cough after taking Tamashiro's cue.
"Very well, Tamashiro-kun. I must first admit while I do know a lot about baseball, it is a bit crazier than the stuff we got shown in Nine Dragons' Ball Parade. I missed some explanation for the rules of baseball but the first chapter focus was more about Tamao's path and his guts, which I think was a good choice from the Creator. Even if you know nothing about this sport, you can still tell how good Tamao's reading of the opponents was and how important it was for their victory, mostly due the pitcher and catcher not working together beforehand. I liked the chemistry of the two main characters. Like Tamashiro said, it is a tried and true concept of a shy hardworker with an outgoing talented guy but it worked very well for this chapter due Tao's refusal of joining Hakuo in the end and wanting to form a team with Tamao. I understand the scouts concerns, but I found them too cruel. Children aren't soldiers, children are children and they shouldn't see sport as work at such a young age. As an adult myself, dead though, I found that pretty despicable. I am actually unsure of this series success in the future. I'd like to see it rise as a new sport star in Jump, but I feel like Tamao isn't the kind of star character you imagine for WSJ, after Hinata left such a strong impression on the readers. While he got his many good points, he might be too quiet and shy to gather much Attention on his own. It's good he got Tao with him, but Tao as well could be seen as unexciting if he just stays kind and smiles all the way. I've got a similar feeling like you, Tamashiro-kun, that this series will run for a while but fail to gather enough steam to run for a long time. 80 chapters are what I would give it as running time and selling around 25k per volume. Are you sharing our thoughts, Momiji-kun?"

Momiji nodded in agreement.
"Kind of. First off, I really liked that I could immerse myself into reading the story. Watching a kid chase his dream and have it taken from him after witnessing such a height was a damn deep fall but an excellent one. Tamao's dark thoughts and regrets were nice as well. I feel like the Creator is better at emotional ties than at the action stuff. I found a lof of that not very exciting. Gotta admit, my own sport would struggle to be described as "exciting" by many, but baseball is a physical sport so I expected more scenes that leave a strong impression than we got. The question is if the Creator wants the sport to be the main focus or the journey of the two making their own team. A mix of both would be best for that might gather the most readers to follow it for a long time. Difficult to tell after one chapter, but I found the sprouting friendship of Tamao and Tao more intriguing than the match they had held. If it keeps up like that it might disappoint a lot of sport fans which might hurt the series survival chances. Everything has been said about the art and storytelling, so I won't stir that up again. I can see it reach slightly above 100 chapters and having a sale range between 30 and 40k, but I cannot see it become a Haikyu replacement. Eiji, I pick you next."

Eiji scratched his head.
"You guys are pretty harsh on our first sport series in a long while, aren't you? I'm not as enthusiastic as Jackman about Nine Dorks', heh, Ball Parade but I could see it living for a while longer alone due many other series struggling at the moment, giving it more time to develop its characters and form the rivalries between the team Tamao and Tao forms vs the other school ones. I think it is good that the Creator wasted no time explaining the sport rules, plenty of time later for that when they get a total newbie to join their team to make up the numbers, which would be another generic box to tick off, I guess. Putting the focus on Tamao was better, same with how Tao helped him to gain confidence and present the plan for the team to win. It was a simple plan, but one that worked well enough. I liked the switch in pitchers which just played into Tamao's analysis strength. As expected though he didn't made it into the champion team who already won the cup three times in a row. Would be too easy. And what can you expect from adults who think of children as soldiers? For them the kids are tools to make money with using their connections into the sport, they are not doing this for the betterment of the children or the growth of the team, they do this for money and the rush of power being in command of the strongest team that is out there, simple as that. Adults can be so damn foolish. I liked how baseball turned into a mind game between catcher and batter. Suzuki would often speak of that but I couldn't really wrap my head around it. Now I could with the pressure of strike outs and the few points you can make by running the field before the ball returns to base. Still the future games need more power behind them, Tao's fastball was cool with Tamao's twitching fingers but a lot of stuff happening felt "little" and was over too quickly for my taste. I get the game wasn't the main stuff but Tamao doing so much good to make his team win and it being for naught, but I hope future games got more Uuumph behind them. I expect between 150 and 200 chapters and 60 or 70k sales for each volume. Noah, stop jumping around please, you're getting your turn."

Noah stopped jumping around impatiently.
"This series was so good! I totally get Jackman-niichan for liking it that much! Tamao was awesome, Tao was awesome and the whole making their own team to shake up the status quo is awesome! I don't care that this is generic as long as I can enjoy it. And I did enjoy it, a lot. Maybe the art and sport action parts could be more amazing, but I am sure that's something the Creator will grow into. What you cannot grow into is making your characters likeable and interesting enough to want to see where their story will lead them to. Either you can do that with your first chapter or you will struggle no manner how many more chapters you push out after the first one. I'll give it 300 chapters and 300k sales! It will surely become a sport pillar of Jump! Don't you agree, Hajime-niichan?"

Hajime's tentacles fiddled against each other awkwardly.
"Uh, sorry, Noah, I found it pretty boring to be honest." Noah's shocked face looked really shocked. Like Hajime had told him that he had eaten the last chocolate pudding in the fridge Noah was looking towards to. Frenetic Hajime waved his tentacles above his slimebody.
"I'm not saying, it's "bad", I am just saying I couldn't enjoy it as much as you and Jackman. Obviously it got its good parts which you have all mentioned already like the Main Characters being likeable, right focus on relationship building and emotional payoff, but the sport parts and the outcome of the Scouts verdict left me yawning. If you see something coming a mile ago then the impact is lessen dramatically. Even the ending had me rolling my eyes. It's easy to say to make your own team, but actually really difficult. It costs money, you need a school with actual equipment and a fitting sports ground, you need people willing to spend time and energy on a sport that has lost part of its popularity over the past years and people to support the team to win their matches against such elites like Hakuo. Tamao alone won't cut it vs a 50 men team, there is a limit to one brain vs many brains. So yeah, I don't really see myself reading this past chapter 19, except it really ups its game and with game I mean the Baseball parts. 30 or 40 chapters and less than 10k sales are my predictions if it stays as unimpressive as it is currently. Maybe White-san has a better verdict for it?"

White tilted her head slightly to the side before giving her verdict.
"I didn't got any of what happened in there, so I can't really speak of any good points that come to mind. Like why numbers matter so much considering the irrationality of humans or why the boys enjoyed hitting a ball or throwing a ball or catching a ball. Or how you get points in this game. It seems like a "Home run" is a good thing but it didn't seemed like many tried to go for it. Or maybe it is harder to get that I thought but the big guy made it look easy. The glasses boy annoyed me greatly, he should have spoken up more on his own if he was not at fault. You can't win by being meek. Smiles taking everything so lightly also annoyed me, it didn't made him look competent but careless considering how much glasses has worked towards his goal. The scout made lots of sense to me. If you already got 50 thinkers then you don't need a 51th, you need someone who can follow orders without question, not someone who starts thinking of his own and messes up the long thought up plan. I'm not sure where the story will go from there, seems unlikely an amateur made up team can beat such a strong team Glasses and Smiles wanted to join. If they do beat them just because of the power of friendship it would be one hell of a cringy story to read. I hope the Creator can explain things more in the coming chapters so I can understand the passion the two Main Characters feel towards their sport, otherwise it will remain a mystery for me. Because of my lack of knowledge I will stay in the middle of what you lot predicted, so I take 150 chapters and 150k sales. You can finish up, Afrorilla."

Banda put himself into a pose, hands behind his back and chest out, like an athlete standing attention as the music plays.
"Sure will, Sharkface. If you want some pointers with Baseball, come afterwards to me and Mr. Commentary, we know our stuff. The passion of improving your skills day by day, the rush of adrenaline when facing a strong opponent, the feel of relief and happiness when you capture the win by your own hands and with your teammates help. One of the best things a human being can feel! Tamao said it correctly when he cried that he was thankful for falling in love with Baseball. I had the same feeling with soccer. Realizing how amazing some of your teammates are for what they can do and your own will to go and reach their heights and even surpass them is amazing. Tamao was denied his price simply for the fact he was small, slower and less strong in throwing than the kid they picked. Sounds cruel, but makes sense in a physical sport so I won't hold a grudge against the Scouts. After all they will get their just deserts when Tamao and Tao will beat their highly priced elite team once they meet in the finals! Yes, it is generic, yes, it is predictable, yes, it plays really safe ball but it is just the first chapter! No reason to drop it. Once it has established a foothold in Jump and a following among the readership it can do more risky moves if the Creator wants to do so. I know that my Creator had planned many such events but we never got there, not that I mind, some were pretty harsh for my friends and teammates and even myself. I respect Tao for refusing to join the strong team just to live by his credo. I respect Tamao for his hard and steady work he put into his dream. And I know my respect for both with grow in future chapters when they face the hardships of forming a new team by themselves as Hajime has already mentioned. I cannot wait to see the other seven members of their team and hope they all got quirky and fun characters to be a joy to follow their path to glory and victory! This is the way of Banda and they are following it step by step and I will not miss a single one of them! 350 chapters and 270k sales per volume! Let's show Weekly Shounen Jump why Sport series are needed in their roster!"

Jackman clapped his hands together a couple times.
"Well spoken, Banda! That's it then, thanks for talking so openly and we all see each other once one of the younger series reaches their 19th chapter. And yes, Noah, is something the matter?"
"Can I be the next introducer? Pleeeeeeeease~?"
"Uhm...", Jackman looked at Eiji and White who just shrugged their shoulders or gave it an approving nod. "...of course you can, buddy! I can't wait to hear your intro!"
"YAY! Thanks, Jackman-niichan!" Noah jumped at the chubby looking mascot, hugging him with his tiny arms and Jackman returned the hug.

"It was a good idea to switch up the introduction part. It seems they all have fun so far.", praised White Eiji, herself also having enjoyed her spotlight some time ago.
"Yeah.", replied Eiji, forcing a smile as he felt the familar feeling of hooks piercing his skin, pulling painfully on him, wanting to drag him out of this room, towards a sweet promise of relief and happiness waiting for him, far away from here. White stepped up to Eiji, pushing her white summer hat up to be able to look up to his face.
"Is something the matter?" Her question sounded cold compared to her previous praise, her eyes betraying the slightest glint of worry.
"No? Why are you asking?", defended Eiji himself by turning the question on her.
"Are you...", Eiji felt his heart hammer in his chest as White's red eyes bore into his own. Has she seen through his facade of acting normally? "...perhaps missing your part of introducing each series lately?"

Eiji blinked. Then he gave a chuckle, sighed dramatically and asked her again, a small smile dancing on his lips.
"Do I really look this childish to you?"
White felt a tiny bit of heat rising from her chest to her cheeks. A slight movement of her head indicating a shake pulled the rim of her hat over her face as she hid her expression from his teasing eyes.
"Well...", began Eiji, feeling the pull lessen on his soul as he felt appreciation for White worries about him. "I can't say, that I do miss having the control over the start of those discussions. Maybe I am becoming too much of an adult myself?"

White hid her hands behind her back, her fingertips moving against each other. She felt this was a good moment though she couldn't quite tell what about this moment was so good.
"Say, if you want to confirm your inner child still being there, would you want to go to the playground with me and Noah? I am not saying we should play there ourselves, that's silly and unbecoming though of course you can do whatever you want to do over there, I'm sure Noah would be happy to have someone of the bigger guys following him on the climbing equipment as I don't do that myself, you know..." White really wanted to bite her stupid tongue off as it seemed to have gotten a life of its own, chatting away like a nervous snake. Her guts were moving around as if her breakfast had been a bad one despite her only using fine Argentberries. And her toes were tingling as if telling her to run away. But from what is she supposed to run away? All she is doing is asking Eiji for some out time to lay back and relax, there was nothing deeper to it. At that thought her core seemed to pull into two directions at once, a confusing feeling.

"Sure, I'd love to." Eiji's reply was honest, happy to have a chance to drown the inner voices tormenting him with the sounds of children playing without a care in the world. That White has gone out of her way to let him in into her special time with Noah was a good feeling as well, he knew how important those playdates were to her, even if she would never admit it openly.
"I see. Seems you were more worried about growing up, than I thought.", teased White the young teenager with the prominent scar on his forehead who playfully grumbled back.
"Yeah, yeah, you got me."
"I'll meet you once I talked to Noah."
"Can't wait."

White left Eiji, suddenly missing all the stuff she had felt wrong in her body before. It seemed replaced with an inappropriate feeling of euphoria. Somehow it even scared her how light and elated her steps were. She felt like this was what Banda had been talking about before, but she hadn't really won any game or match, just gotten a positive reply from Eiji to her offer. Her core was spinning like one of those spinning toys she had seen Noah play with other kids at the playground. She remembered Mr. Commentary's question to her on the night before she told him her story about herself and Ko. The spinning stopped abruptly and White quickly closed those thoughts away as disgust began to boil in her. She knew she couldn't help but feel this way. Yet she didn't knew which way she meant.
*Have I really changed?* A thought both dark and hopeful was born in her mind as she walked up to Noah still trying to convince Hajime of the awesomeness of the Nine Dragons' Ball Parade.
This time she didn't bother hiding her smile.

"Did you hear that?"
"You think, that's a-?"
"We gonna follow them?"
Tamashiro grinned mischievously at Momiji, Jackman and Banda's whispered questions, giving them the obvious answer he had given them before.

"Really? This is your great plan?", sighed Zoro, standing in front of the large playground where dozens of kids and their parents were running around. Some children, their mothers and fathers were throwing worried looks at the swordsman and his three swords at his belt.
"This is why I told you to not bring your weapons, you know?", smirked Gojo back at his annoyed green-haired friend who looked really out of picture at this scene. Kurose was still reading through the dossiers the Jujutsu Teacher had handed out to them before leaving the WSJ tower with them for the task of finding the U19 club.
"How do you got all this information, Gojo-san? Even about characters from series which ended before your series began?", asked the fashionable young man, looking at dozens of characters who's series had ended before the 19th chapter the past couple years.
"In my early days I was really curious about the U19 club rumors and dived into the archives of WSJ and then I just collected whatever picture, name and info I could find in case I ran into someone of those guys refusing to leave the city after their series had ended."
"And what would you have done if you had found one?"
"Invited them to a drink, probably."

Zoro put his hands into his sleeves, before he turned his angry face at the nonchalant Sorcerer.
"And yet you hadn't found a single one in two years? And you have the gall to say you know who could deal with this whole Underground City problem we got, when you don't even know where they live? Plus you made me leave the tower when my series is having a huge fight arc going on and my friends are counting on me?"
"Like I said, I know who to ask, I never said where we can find them. And it's not like you are the main focus of the arc, so your influence on the Creator can be dismissed for a couple hours."
"Creators, send me patience..." Zoro threw his head back as he quietly asked some higher deities to give him strength to not strangle the one he cannot even put his hands on.

"But uhm, Gojo-san? Are you sure, it is a wise idea for us to do this?" Kurose looked mighty uncomfortable, noticing how the circle of the other visitors of the playground grew wider and wider as each minute the parents were pulling their kids further and further away from the three men standing around and watching a large playground full of children.
"Hm? How else are we supposed to find them, Kurose? After all, one of their members could be the young child version of Noah from Golem Hearts. It might be a wide shot but it is a worthy one."
"That's not what I am worried about... More like, three grown men, staring at playing kids without any of our own? Doesn't this seem a bit strange?" The young man really wanted to bury himself in the ground or at least show that he didn't belonged to this party of two men who stood menacingly or aloof around.
"Ah.", replied Gojo, finally understanding his younger friend's worries. "You're worried, they think we are ped-"
"Please! Can we just redo this with Bondo and his friends from Roboco or something like that?", interrupted Kurose his WSJ senior as he really wanted to be far away from the judgemental stares of the parents and kids.

"We could also check out the sport grounds. Some of the possible characters are from axed sport series, we might find them there if they still want to make use of their given skills.", suggested Zoro, starting to feel the not welcoming atmosphere himself.
"So we split up? Great idea, covering more bases, champs. Zoro can hit the sport grounds, I go to the arcade center as teenager usually hang around those and Kurose can go invite Bondo and co for a picnic at the playground.", formed Gojo the new plan and clapped his hands together once. Kurose raised an eyebrow.
"How am I supposed to invite Bondo and his friends for a playdate? I don't really know them. And what if I can't find them on the first try? Should I keep inviting them over and over again? Isn't it weird for a grown man to invite children over and over to play with him?"
"That's your problem.", smiled Gojo, patting Kurose's left shoulder.
"Yeah, come up with some excuse or something like that.", said Zoro apologetic, secretly happy he was not stuck with the playground search.
"Creators, be merciful on me...", prayed the defeated Shaman as it was clear that his seniors had no intentions of spending the whole day playing with kids while checking out other kids for the one they were looking for. He just hoped this wouldn't start any weird rumors in the WSJ tower.

Word of the Author

Done again. Uff. Always a dang work to write a chapter in one day. I really need to spread my work out over the days. Hopefully the reduction in my work hours next month will make this a bit easier. 4767 words in one day can be pretty exhausting. But that's on me, isn't it?^^

Anyway, always surprising how sometimes a chapter changes in the middle of it. Like White and Eiji were not supposed to talk to each other after the discussion of Nine Dragons' Ball Parade but somehow it happened. Same with Kurose having to deal with Bondo and Roboco's shenanigeans. Poor dude deserves some drinks from Gojo and Zoro after they found the U19. xD

Hope you liked the chapter and that you will read next week's "Kurose x Roboco". At least I think that gonna be the title I gonna go for, lol. Kurose doing the hard work for me. XDDD
--- Double Post Merged, ---

Chapter 22 - Kurose x Roboco

Nervously stood Kurose before the door leading to the apartment of Me & Roboco. He had tortured his brain to figure out a way he, a stranger who hardly ever talked to the cast of this series, could just invite a bunch of kids to come play with him on the playgrounds. No matter how he looked at it, it was hella creepy and a death sentence to his reputation. Not that he got much of a reputation considering the length of his series and his appearances so far, but he still liked to think he was seen as a decent and kind man. He breathed in, breathed out.
No way to beat around the bush, he just gotta go head-first and see where this will lead him. Zoro and Gojo were doing their part as well, no way he would stand back just due the fear of soiling his name.
He knocked on the door.
A youthful female voice came from behind the door, it opened and Kurose stared at the knife greeting him.

"Oh my, aren't you Kurose-san from Phantom Seer? What brings you to our humble apartment?" Bondo's mother greeted the guest with a sweet smile, one hand on her cheek, her head slightly tilted, her other hand waving around the cutting knife like it was some sort of cutesy accessory. Kurose could feel his smile freeze to death as his eyes darted around never leaving the knife's moving pattern.
"U-uhm, I-I am here to see your S-son, Bondo, please." He was proud of himself to just have said that and not ask why she is handling a knife like it was nothing or begging her not to kill him. He knew comedy characters tended to be... particular and it seems the Me & Roboco cast was no stranger to that concept either.
"Bondo? My my, I hope the little rascal hasn't played a prank on you recently. If he did, I am so sorry, I will put him straight, no worries!", said Bondo's mom and cut so swiftly through the air with her knife that Kurose lost sight of the knife for a moment. Was she actually a killer character?!?
"Nononono, none of that, really. I just, I just need to ask him and his friends a question, is all." Kurose shook his head as quickly as a dog shaking off water.
"Oh well, in that case, please come on."

Kurose stepped in and followed Mom, that was her name, not Mrs. Taira or anything like that, through the Me & Roboco apartment.
First thing he noticed was that he felt like he had stepped into a village. There was no ceiling or walls, just the sky and a bunch of small houses. In the streets were some tables and chairs with booze, water and snack and named adults sitting on them and playing cards and dice. He saw the old professor and his crab creature playing some game with Motsuo's father and the old looking but actually young writer with the hobo look.
"Got any sevens?"
"Go crabs."
"All in with 5 million Yen! Show-down, gentlemen."
"You gotta roll the dice first, else it doesn't count."
He had no idea what they were playing.

They arrived at an unremarkable house with a plate saying "Family Taira". Suddenly Kurose wondered if he had ever seen the father of Bondo in the series. After entering their house, Mom turned around to ask her guest if he had any wishes.
"Would you like some tea or coffee while you wait in the living room?"
"Thank you, ma'am, but no, thank you very much. Also I would like to ask Bondo in his private rooms if that is okay?" Kurose hoped he could keep this matter under wraps if he only asked Bondo and Bondo only in the most likely case that he would refuse going along to the playground. Having a mother figure who might gossip it to the mother characters of the other series was something he wanted to avoid at all cost.
"No problem at all. Up the stairs, second door to the right, you cannot miss it."
"Thank you."

Kurose walked up the stairs, to the door, knocked on it and still had no idea how to ask the kid to be his guise for the playground to look for possible U19 club characters there.
"Come in.", said a squeaky childish voice, clearly years away from its voice break and most likely never reaching it considering the main target audience of this series. Kurose opened the door and saw Bondo with an Ayakashi Triangle manga sitting right in the middle in his room. And Gachi Gorilla. And Motsuo. And Madokaaaaaaaa. And Ruri. And Roboco. Kurose felt his knees grow weak. It was the worst case scenario. Of course it was! This was a gag series, it would be the worst one by default! How could he be so blind and naive?

"Oh, you are.... who are you?", asked Bondo, clearly confused though Kurose could hardly find fault with the young boy. He was just a support character of a new series and hasn't been in the studio the past weeks while his female partner Kondo took the spotlight in his stead. For Bondo it must feel weird to suddenly have to flashy dressed man stand in his door frame, looking like he wanted to be anywhere but here.
"H-Hi, Bondo-kun, my name is Chihiro Kurose, I am a support character from Phantom Seer, pleased to make your acquaintance.", answered Kurose. He just had to stay confident and stay focused on his task, no shame, no weakness shall stop hi-

"Wh-what is it, Roboco? You really scared me with your loud yelling!"
The buff looking Ordermaid jumped up, ignoring her master's demand for answers, in her hands a volume of Jujutsu Kaisen. Her eyes were wide and her face flushed and he could clearly and unintentionally see her panties in full display. For some reason Kurose couldn't fathom that her pure white panties had the words "Hot & Hopeful" written on them.
"A-are you the Chihiro Kurose? The one who was voted 6th in hottest support characters who the female support characters want as a boyfriend?!" Kurose was taken aback by her questions.
"I-... I had no idea there was such a poll going on, but I suppose that's me, yes. I had no idea I was this highly regarded among my female coworkers." Kurose felt pretty smug, hearing he was in the top ten and as boyfriend material was balm for his confidence.

"Well, Roboci-chan is the only one voting in that poll, so...", explained Madoka putting her My Hero Academica issue aside, smiling apologetic at the smug Kurose who stood there, three fingers caressing his chin in an attempt to look cool.
"Of course..."
"Don't worry, Kurose, you are only 172 votes behind Junpei Okuno. I'm sure your popularity will jump up once you appear again.", comforted Roboco the deflated Kurose giving him a thumbs up.
"Literally who?", he asked the Maid immediately regretting his question.
"Some hot sketchy guy from High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku."
"Didn't he showed up just in the latest chapter?! How did he got past me with 172 votes??? Scratch that, he is a support character? I thought he was a side one! Actually, forget that, why are you, a Main Character, voting in a poll meant for support characters voting on support characters?!"

"Great Tsukkomi, ook!" A chubby kid with a gorilla face looked up from his One Piece volume, laughing with a wide mouth. The kid next to him who was reading a Dr. Stone volume, snickered as well, his smile somehow looked mean though.
"Maybe we should ask our unexpected guest what brought him here into Bondo's room, don't you think so, Roboco?" Kurose started to sweat. This was bad. He was so taken in by the comedy route, he still hadn't thought up an excuse to get Bondo and pals to come with him and his confidence was in the shitter as well after hearing how some random fresh guy kicked him out of the Top 5, even if it was a Roboco only poll.
At that moment, Roboco gasped, putting a hand to her mouth, looking in shock at Kurose, shaking like a leaf. He had no idea what was going on.
"It can't be... Kurose, are you here to invite me on a date to improve your rankings that way? Oh, you sneaky little devil, you~"

The Maid started to squirm while the girls made cute kyaaah sounds at that suggestion. Kurose felt his common sense packing its bags and leaving his body. This series was so tiring to a honest, serious guy like him.
"Geez, Roboco. Please stop teasing Kurose-san like that. I'm sure he has another reason why he is here. Don't you, Kurose-san?", put Bondo his Ordermaid straight, turning to his adult guest with a smile. Kurose wanted to hug the little boy so badly. He caught himself and just let the words flow.
"Actually I am here to invite you and your friends to play with me on the playgrounds outside. Of course if Roboco-san wants to come along, she is more than welcome as well." There, said and done. Now it was up to the creators to decide his fate.

"No way!", shrieked Ruri, letting her Magu-chan volume drop to the bed where she and Madoka had laid upon. Kurose's heart stopped.
"Hm, what is it, Ruri-chan?", asked Bondo, seriously confused. The little sister of Gachi-Gorilla waved him and the others to come closer to her. Kurose stood like a statue in the door, he was dead inside. Not only did he fail his friends and senpais but now rumors of him being a creep would make the rounds in the tower. His future looked bleak and hopeless.
The kids made small gasp and Roboco started to sweat like a Jujutsu Kaisen character as the girls kept giggling and throwing glances at him, while Gachi-Gorilla and Motsuo kept nudging each other with their elbows, nodding to his direction. Kurose wanted to run away and bury himself somewhere deep in the ground but his feet were rooted in the door frame, he couldn't move. Bondo walked up to him, his facial expression hidden beneath his cap's visor.
Kurose felt his heart beating like a drum getting hit by a mad drummer high on drugs. Here came his sentence.

"We'll gladly go with you to the playgrounds!"
"Eh?" Kurose was flabbergasted.
"I love the playgrounds. Going with you guys and Kurose-san is going to be so much fun.", rejoiced Ruri, putting her hands onto Madoka's and jumping up and down with her on the bed. The slightly older girl agreed with her.
"Indeed, it will be an amazing time for sure."
Motsuo rubbed the underside of his nose with a finger, looking quite bashful. Same for Gachi-Gorilla who was rubbing the back of his head and looked really shy but also happy.
"Heh, that's adults for you."
"Ook, this must have taken so much courage, ook."

Kurose didn't had the faintest idea what just happened but he realized that he had done the impossible. He invited a bunch of kids as guise for his search despite being a total stranger to them. Honest and straight-forward was the best way after all!
Bondo made a "come closer" gesture with his right index finger and the happy Kurose smiling all over his face bowed down to the young boy to lent him his ear.
"No worries, Kurose-san. We kids will try not to get in your way of your date.", whispered Bondo quietly in his ear.
Kurose felt something crack inside him.
"But to ask us kids as cover to have an opportunity to spend time together with Roboco. My, I wouldn't have taken you for the shy one, Kurose-san." Bondo winked at him as he went past the still standing man to tell his mom he would leave the house and apartment to play in the city's playground with his friends and Kurose and Roboco as their guardians.

Kurose looked at Roboco who was standing in a growing puddle of her own sweat and who turned as red as a tomato when their eyes meet, black smoke leaving her ears like an old railway locomotive.
"GIRLS! LET'S GO MAKE SOME SANDWICHES FOR THE TRIP!", shouted the big Order maid and rushed past Kurose before she abruptly stopped in the hallway turning towards him to say something that was on her mind since from before.
"D-don't think this will get you back into the Top 5, b-baka!" Then she giddy-jumped down the stairs to the kitchen.
The girls followed her, giggling with reddish cheeks and Ruri looked in proud amazement at Kurose while the eyes of Madoka were glittering with excitement.
Gachi-Gorilla and Motsuo passed him giving him some appreciatory nods and childish nudges into his sides. Then Kurose was standing alone in the door frame as he heard child voices teasing a bashful Roboco in the kitchen who seemed to tear down the kitchen itself given the sounds coming from below.
"What in the hell just happened here?"

Word of the Author

I gotta be honest, this chapter was supposed to be much much longer. Maybe I will add the rest to it later, but after writing this 2237 word scene I was like "Ey, this could be a fun stand-alone, couldn't it?". It's certainly NOT because I am too lazy to write the other Xk words to finish in time because I wasted time playing video games, reading manga and watching anime.

I think this is the first chapter without any of the U19 club guys making an appearance. Not sure if this is considered cheating or not. XD

Anyway, big thanks to Kurose for taking the fall for this chapter. Dude's a real teamplayer. Ruri's MVP for moving the story along with her great ability to read the room of me having no idea how to get those kids follow a grown man onto a playground. ;)

Here's to either adding the rest or making the rest its own chapter next week, not quite sure what to name it though. We'll see. As will Kurose watching all those rumors going wild in the tower after his "playground date" with Roboco. :P
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James Rye

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英雄メンバー / Eiyuu Menbaa / Hero Member
Oct 18, 2014
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Chapter 23 - Like it's your last day

"Come on, come on, let's go, let's go!", demanded a super excited Noah, pulling on both Eiji's and White's hands. For a little kid he got enormous strength easily pulling both stumbling teens with him.
"Easy now, Noah!", reminded White the blonde boy, digging her heels into the sand, just to drag a deep trace in it.
"Yeah, we gonna need our arms to play, you know.", laughed Eiji, feeling at ease now that he was outside during a beautiful sunny day and the pull having vanished for the time being. Having something to do or look forward to really helped to control your wary soul giving in. Noah let go of both their hands and Eiji looked smiling at the kid before him, appearing both hyper and apologetic. Noah was used to only go with either White or Hajime to the playground. White wasn't really big on the "play" part of playground and while Hajime was a fun playmate, his ability to shapeshift often made him the center of children's attraction with Noah often losing sight of him after a while, having been swept away by dozens of curious children hands. Which usually left Hajime traumatized and White in charge of Noah's playground trips until he got better.

"Sorry, White-neechan. But this is the first time I am here with Eiji-niichan, so I wanna show him everything! And the playground is soooooo big, we'd need the whole day to cover just a tiny part of it! First we gotta go to the climbing Rope-tower, then the watergun-castle, the interdimensional swings, the eternal slide, the sticky seesaws, the-" Eiji threw a side-glance at the calm White who rearranged her hair and hat from the effects of Noah's sudden pull.
"Is this really a playground?", he asked quietly.
"I stopped asking that myself after the third time I had to look for Noah in the Maze of Madness. And yes, it is a playground device for children after the age of 6. It's very popular among children, considering the amount of parents looking for them in there.", came the cool answer from the Maiden in White. Her insides though felt less cool. She knew it had been her idea to invite Eiji to the playgrounds and on the way towards it, everything had been normal. They talked normally, acted like usual, listened to Noah's arguments about why Nine's Dragon Ball Parade will certainly be able to survive above chapter 19 and far beyond. But now that they had arrived and White had taken a look around, unknown worries about her looks and how she and Eiji stood next to each other among a crowd of people, young and old, children and parents and grandparents, rose in her mind. To calm them she thankfully had the excuse to work on her hair and hat, else she might have jumped at the sudden question of her friend.

A little anger was bubbling in her chest that she was so conscious about her looks or how others might see her and Eiji. Why would she care about that? She breathed out before putting her hands on her waist to lecture on Noah on his manners. Even as a child that wasn't a real human you should still know how to ask others for their participation in games and fun and not just assume they will do everything for you out of their own goodwill. Though White didn't doubted for a second that Eiji would go on any playground equipment Noah guided him towards until he collapsed. Even White herself had found her endurance waning while Noah seems to have an unlimited amount of energy in this small body of his.
"First of all, Noah, you haven't asked Eiji if he wants to come to all the events the playground has to offer. He might want to sit down and relax for a while. And second, I got a basket full of delicious food and a blanket, we'll have to find a spot in the picnic park first before we go onto the playground. You understand?"
Noah looked on the ground, his left shoe playing with his right, his lower lip pulled forward and his puppy eyes glancing upright in a begging plea. A sight that would have melted the coldest heart known to mankind. White wasn't bothered the least by it. On the other hand Eiji suffered a critical hit of cuteness.
"Tell you what, kid,", he said, ruffling through the smooth blonde hair of Noah, "once we found a place to set down our grub, I gonna play with you until I drop. How does that sound?"
"Really? AWESOME! Quick, quick, let's go, let's go, the park is in this direction!" Again were Eiji and White pulled away by their hands from the younger child.

"You better prepare yourself.", warned a tense White Eiji, who looked at her bewildered.
"What? Why?"
"You're about to experience an entire new battlefield. I know that you are a nice guy, but where we go the strong will devour the weak-willed.", said White, her eyes turning demonic and her sharp shark-teeth showing in a toothy smile. Eiji sweat-dropped.
"I don't think looking for a picnic spot will be that much of a de-eeeeeeeeh?"
They turned around a corner and Eiji witnessed what could only be described as a mass brawl. He watched fathers and uncles, mothers and aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers fighting each other with their fists, feet and teeth. Throwing sandwiches at each other, umbrellas were used as bats, defeated participants were wrapped up in blankets and thrown away to the sideline with children cheering at the fighters and sneering at the defeated. Eiji stared in shock and he was certain he had just seen a set of fake teeth flying through the air.

"Come on, come on! We're going to get the best place again, White-neechan!", Noah's pull was incredible strong as he steered the two into the mayhem.
"Guard that basket with your life, Eiji!, shouted White, throwing the basket into Eiji's free arm. She ran ahead with their blanket tucked in her arms, jumping over the fighting groups and using the heads as stepping stones to rush to her target, the biggest cherry tree in existence and its sole free spot at its huge roots. Around it was the largest amount of the victims of this battle.
"Eh?" Eiji couldn't do much but pull the basket close to his chest as a merry laughing Noah guided him past left and right the mess that was going on around. Much to Eiji's surprise some of the people who glared at them, lost their fighting will instantly after throwing a look at the boy who was pulling his hand and quickly scrambled out of the way, shouting apologies and begging for mercy. Eiji really worried what White might have done in those battles for Noah to obtain such an aura of untouchability. Without any scratches they arrived at the tree but White wasn't the only person standing there.

"Ohohoho, look who we have here again?" An old granny laughed haughty, her dark eyes in her wrinkled face twinkled in anger and lust for revenge. Eiji shivered. Those were not the eyes of a nice granny giving candy to her grandchildren but a seasoned warrior who had seen countless picnic battles for the supreme picnic place of all. White tossed her hat to Noah who caught it skillfully and dropped her blanket to the ground, her left hand playing with her long white hair, throwing a provocative smirk at the granny.
"Hello Baa-san. Still haven't learned your lesson where your rightful place is? I am happy to teach you and your goons again that's it's seven foot below ground level."
"Hmpf!" The old lady snorted unladylike, snapping her long fingers summoning a dozen other grandmas to her side. "This ain't the old Grannies Alliance you've beaten in the past, Brat. Show them our newest members, ladies!" With those words the other dozen grandmas stepped aside revealing two nicely smiling grandmothers who were cracking their knuckles and necks. The leader of the Grannies Alliance turned in triumph towards White.
"See and feel despair, girlie. Those two new recruits are from Weekly Shounen Jump! Of the rising new star of entertainment, Sakamoto Days! And they are so strong they even beat its MC into a bloody pulp over a backpack! You're going down today! I feel sorry that I have to do this before the eyes of your boyfriEGRGL?!?"

Faster than Eiji could look White had grabbed a muffin out of his basket and skillfully thrown it into the Granny's mouth shutting her up before she could finish her last word.
"You talk too much, old hag. Let's fight."
The moment White spoke those words the old women threw themselves like wild wolves at her, howling their battlecry: "FOR OUR GRANDCHILDREN!"
"Eeeeeh?!?" Eiji was lost at words and soon lost in a flurry of punches and kicks raining down at him from the two new granny recruits who immediately spotted him as the weak point of White's fighting power. Noah stood at the sideline, jumping up and down and cheering for his two friends.
"Go, White-neechan! You can do it, Eiji-niichan!"
"Do what?!", asked Eiji in a scream, dodging all the attacks while keeping the basket with the goodies in safety.
"Kick their butts, what else.", explained the blonde boy way too nonchalant for Eiji's taste.

"I am not going to fight some old grandmothers!"
"Oh my, what a gentlemen.", laughed the granny with the roses on her pullover, throwing olives and cheese chucks on toothpicks at Eiji as if they were Ninja stars. He blocked all throws with his basket.
"Indeed, but son, if you think like that you're going down.", said the obviously black dyed hair grandmother who used the distraction provided by her friend to suddenly appear behind Eiji, landing a nasty elbow hit into his left side. Eiji coughed, white spots dancing before his eyes as he struggled to stumble away and keep his posture.
"Just keep those two busy for a minute while I deal with the rest!", demanded White who was dealing with the other dozen grannies who seemed similar combat-oriented old people like the two facing off Eiji. Eiji winced in reply. The black-haired granny used that moment to blow cacao powder into Eiji's face causing him to get a coughing fit. The granny with the roses pullover jumped and landed a knee rocket kick on Eiji's most sensitive parts while holding onto his shoulders to aim and hit true.
"EH!!!???!!!" Everything turned white to Eiji as he dropped to his knees, the basket rolling onto the grass. The last thing he heard, before sweet silence embraced him from the unspeakable pain he was feeling, were the two grannies pitying him.
"Poor kiddo, he really was over his head."
"Yeah, when this battle is won, we should dye his hair black. I am sure his parents would thank us."

"Are you awake?"
An unfamiliar voice spoke into the fog that was on Eiji's mind. He ignored it, wanting some more minutes of sleep. He turned his head around on the warm skin that his head was resting on. Hm? Eiji's fog was gone in an instant. Why was he feeling soft, warm skin on his cheeks? He had been with White and Noah on his way to the playground and in the picnic park they had gotten into a fight with some grannies on the warpath and then they committed a war crime on his little Johnny and now he woke up on some legs? Eiji gulped, feeling his heart pound all the way up to his throat. He could feel the fabric of a skirt on his nose which increased his tension even further. He knew he was in a bad spot. He had no idea why White would let him rest on her big muscular legs and even allowed him to bury his face in her skirt but he needed a plan to get up without being murdered for this...wait. Big, muscular legs?
Eiji opened his eyes quickly. White panties with the wording "Good morning, sleepyhead" greeted him. As if stung by an adder Eiji ripped his head away from that panty shot, his red cheeks glowing in the daylights as the maid who had offered him a lap pillow looked bashfully at him, her eyelashes moving rapidly up and down like a bad parody of a seductive Geisha.

"My my, so wolfish. Seems my charm works even on the men sleeping the sleep of the just.", praised Roboco herself, adjusting her ruffled skirt with one hand while the other one was holding her face.
"That's Roboco you you, right, Madoka-chan?", laughed a little girl with an out-dated hat on her head. Another girl with a ponytail replied to her in the same kind laugh, agreeing with her. Looking around Eiji saw two blankets laying around with two open baskets, he and Roboco were on the blue one White had carried to the playground. The two girls sat on their red blanket, together with a boy with a cap, another with a bowtie and a gorilla baby. Eiji blinked once, twice. It wasn't a gorilla baby, but a boy looking very much like a gorilla. As he heard laughter Eiji looked at the source seeing White standing a few meter away with Noah and a young fashionable man at her sides. They were talking with the leader and the two new members of the Grannies Alliance and had a good talk with many laughs, exchanging gifts and wishing each other a good fun day with the family and friends, before each going their own way. The picnic park was quiet now, no battle sounds and shouts could be heard, only talks and laughter, jokes and cheers were flying through the air not fake teeth and shoes. Everyone sat on their blankets, having a drink or eating something while the children either played ball, threw frisbee or played catch or had already wandered off to the amazing playgrounds to play with their friends over there.
"What in the world?"

"First time in the picnic park?", asked Roboco with an understanding smile of a veteran which slightly annoyed Eiji considering how much longer he was around than her. "No wonder, the late mornings when the Playground and picnic park opens are the worst. Greenhorns like popular Main Characters, unaware of the cruel sides of the world, get swallowed up in those tides of war and spit out like a chewed gum. I remember my first time here, good harsh times, nothing like today..." Roboco looked like she had a PTSD flashback with a cigar suddenly in her mouth, a fake drawn scar over her left cheek and an eyepatch hiding one of her eyes. Eiji knew better than to ask where she suddenly got all those extras from.
"What happened?", he asked for clarification.
"They helped us defeating the Grannies Alliance.", explained White matter-of-factly, dropping at his side, putting the spoils of war onto the blue blanket. Cake, omelette rolls, salad and even a bottle Sake were among them. "When you fell I had a few difficulties dealing with those two grannies. On their own they would have been no big deal but with the others as support they were formidable opponents. It's when those two -", she nodded towards Roboco who waved her hand and Kurose who sat down on the red blanket with his own share of cake and other stuff."- came along and lend us a hand. As allies we will share this place for today. And if this alliance were to hold for future days then the Grannies Alliance will never be able to claim ownership of this spot ever again."

Eiji felt overrun and he was surprised how gung-ho White was about this picnic battle. Probably because this reminded her of her old days as commander and it seemed to be a legal way to beat up some humans without consequences. It seems she hasn't used any of her powers in this battle else he would see charred and slain corpses everywhere. She really was used to this craziness.
"I might sound stupid for asking, but is this normal?"
"Pretty much so.", laughed Bondo. "At first I was also shocked when we came here for the first time. But it is sort of a tradition of the characters who uses this battle as a way to fight their boredom."
"Most of them don't got the luxury like us, appearing regularly. Some appeared for a couple chapters and will never show up except maybe for a short panel shot-in when the final has arrived and the hero remembers his past. Others got a name but are mostly in the background and sometimes used for reaction scenes. Others are the family of friends from the main protagonist who got shown and are now there but got nothing to do in the story. I don't know when this whole tradition started but since you can just recover from your bruises after one night sleep, it's not so bad.", explained Motsuo further.
"The joy of running series.", muttered White under her breath.
"Ah, I understand.", answered Eiji, not really understanding anything. Maybe it was something similar to how characters kept fighting, killing and dying in the studio shots for their chapters. Just something to fight the boredom outside of by their creator chosen roles. As long as said creator poured in his creativity, attention and energy into the world he made, no matter what happened to any of his creations in this city they would be fine the next day.
But this was a feature the U19 club no longer had.

Elsewhere in some bushes four stalkers had been watching with wide eyes what had happened in the past couple minutes.
"You saw that? How that granny kicked his nuts with her knee?"
"Bro!! The granny who threw that other guy over her shoulders was way more badass than that."
"White and Roboco totally owned them grannies though. No mercy for the old."
"Could you guys shut up so we don't get found out? I'd rather not explain myself why we are here in the bushing crashing into their play date." The other three boys kept their mouths shut after Momiji angrily reminded them that they were not here to watch some randoms wrestle each other.

"Maybe we should introduce ourselves now? I'd like to know who we aided to keep this magnificent spot for ourselves for today. My name is Chihiro Kurose, pleasure to meet you." The nicely dressed man gave a slight bow and flashed a charming smile at the three U19 members. The smile froze and died a silent death on its way to White who's icy stare made Kurose quite uncomfortable.
"Name's Noah. I found your Order Maid super awesome. That body slam from the sky was crazy good!" Bondo seemed to have grown two inches at the praise of Noah, rubbing his nose slightly embarrassed but proud.
"Hehe, seems like you already read a bit about our story since you called her an Order Maid. My name is Bondo. These here are my friends, we got Gachi Gorilla..."
"Ook ook."
"...and of course our series Star, Roboco!!!"

Eiji couldn't help but smile at how well behaved those children were. He knew some characters who could cut a slice off such good behavior. A few feet away Tamashiro and Jackman had to fight the urge to sneeze with Banda and Momiji holding their hands over their mouths and noses.
"My name is Eiji Kudou. You already know my young friend's name. And her name..."
"White.", interrupted White Eiji, giving the kids and their caretakers the smallest of nods. Yet her cold reaction didn't seemed to have turned off the affection the children showed her. Ruri's eyes were dancing over White's outfit making imaginary sketches while Madoka admired White's hairdo with its smooth white long hair. The boys were a tad embarrassed being so close to such an outlandish feeling beauty with her red piercing eyes. Roboco had the worst reaction of all though. She hugged her knees, tears running down her cheeks and she gnawed off her thumb's fingernail in what seemed to be a fit of jealousy.
"Dang it. She got strength, beauty and a cool name. So freaking unfair..."

Bondo and the other kids jumped around Roboco, trying to cheer her up with Noah joining the fray of praising the good points of the in jealousy stewing Order Maid. After a few minutes of showering in compliments and commendations, Roboco lit up with a huge smile.
"Ehehe, I am pretty cool myself, aren't I?"
"Sure!", replied all kids unisono, thinking to themselves that a truly cool person wouldn't ask that for sure.
"Well, I gotta go and make us some food then. This battle has made me hungry and I believe you guys should get some energy into your bellies before running off to play creator knows what." Roboco jumped like a little goat to their bag and pulled out a big brazier as if this bag was a Doraemon gadget. Kurose in the meantime had the feeling he had seen those three characters before, but he couldn't quite place where that was. He wondered if perhaps those were the U19 club members he was looking for, but since he had been so busy thinking up a plan on how to get the Roboco & Me to act as his observation cover he didn't really had looked much into the dossier Gojo-san had given him.

Feeling his heart beat a bit faster, he reached into the bag , watching the kids engaging Noah and his caretakers in small talks about toys and the various insane playground installations. His hand felt something, he grabbed it and pulled out... a bottle of fuel to help kindle a fire. He put it aside and took another grab. Steaks and sausages came out next. Then potato salad. Sandwiches. The newest issues of Weekly Shounen Jump. After Kurose pulled out a card game, he gave up and decided to ask the owner of the bag for help.
"Roboco-san, could you please help me find my doss-" Kurose's question dried up in his throat as he saw his important dossier being used as combustible for the brazier fire to get started. Roboco leaned over it blowing lots of air with her cheeks looking like balloons.
"Hm? Did you ask something, Kurose?"
"Why are you using my papers to start the fire, Roboco-san?"
"Oh that, I couldn't find my fuel in that damn bag so I took the next best thing and now we got a nice fire going. The coal should be soon ready to put on the meat and vegetables. Thank for you pulling out all that stuff, Kurose. How gallant of you, tehee~. Ah, there was my fuel."
Defeated Kurose let his head hang low. He couldn't even be angry at the scatty maid since it was his own fault for not properly studying the information given to him. He felt bad for letting Gojo-san and Zoro-san down. Now he had a good cover and was at the place he was supposed to observe yet he didn't knew who he was looking for.

"Everything okay? Here, have a drink." Kurose looked up into the scared face of the pink haired teenager offering him a lemonade. Gladly he took upon the offer, it wasn't alcohol, but better than nothing.
"I take it those papers were important?"
"Yeah, but not like that matters much anymore. I just have to get a new copy and do my work properly next time. There are plenty of future opportunities after all."
"To do what?", probed Eiji further but Kurose took a sip of his cold lemonade instead of answering.
"Let's not talk about work today, shall we? I believe we should help Roboco-san with her grill because I don't think she gets the concept that the fire should die down and not keep getting fuel poured on."

After stopping Roboco from throwing the whole canister into the brazier the grilling could finally start. Soon a good smell filled the air. Bondo and the others invited the three U19 members to join their feast as his mother had packed way too much and the three agreed as long as they could share their own food with the children, Kurose and Roboco as well. It was a huge feast and a big joy with Roboco and the kids making lots of jokes, funny faces and even little plays to entertain their new found friends. Eiji felt like it must have taken the whole day to party and laugh like this yet when the children said they finally wanted to go into the playground, the midday sun was still up and shining its friendly light on all who had found joy under its rays.
Roboco volunteered herself and White to look after the kids while the men could look after the stuff and take a rest from all the food. White rolled her eyes but didn't protested too much on Roboco's move. She was glad Noah had so many playmates this time plus she was up against Roboco and she knew there was no arguing with that kinda robot.

"Puh, that was heavy.", sighed Eiji cozy. Kurose put the dirty plates into the dimensional bag and agreed with the teenager.
"Indeed. I didn't had this much good food in... well, in a lot of time." Eiji raised an eyebrow at that pause. He knew of Phantom Seer's typical TOC positions so he could draw his conclusions on how much Attention it must receive and how little someone not so important to the storyline like Kurose must get. He didn't pry further as he didn't wanted to hurt this man's pride. Eiji knew himself how much it hurt to see other series do so well and to compare it with the struggles of your own. Yet it was Kurose who kept going.
"How are you guys holding out those days?"
"Pretty okay, I guess. There are hard weeks but also good ones. Same as usual, I'd say.", tried Eiji to keep it as vague as possible. It was a bit of truth in it, but Eiji wanted to avoid giving Kurose too much details for further questions. After all, Eiji no longer had a running series in any magazine he could name as source for his Attention.

"Good, good. Well, with an interesting looking main cast like that you guys were bound for lots of Attentions from the readers. Albeit I think Noah's looks are a bit antiquated, it is interesting in contrast to you and White-san.", smiled Kurose just a tad sad towards Eiji who quickly shook his head in response.
"Oh no, we aren't from the same series. Each of us got their own, ya know?"
"Well, that explains your highschool attire, White-san's summer clothing and Noah's vintage look. I kinda expected you to be from the same series because well, it seemed like you have known each other for a long time. Friendship across series is a good thing."
"Aren't you also friends with Roboco, Bondo and the others?", asked now Eiji curious to hear where Kurose wanted to go with this topic.
"Hm." Kurose looked at his hands, pondering whenever or not to tell Eiji the truth. Then he decided that it wouldn't hurt so much, since he wasn't part of the WSJ Tower. "Remember the work I mentioned before? Someone I look up to asked me to keep an eye on this playground. However a single guy sitting here all day would be mighty suspicious so I needed a cover. And Bondo and his friends are said cover for my work."

Eiji listened in silence, not sure if this was a moment to butt in asking what exactly his job or favor was in particular, because it seemed like Kurose still had something to say. Which he did.
"I'd like to consider the children my friends though it probably sounds childish for an adult to say so. I didn't had many friends outside my series until recently. The occasional meetings and parties here and there. But when I had a problem Gojo-san would listen to me and he showed me that I wasn't the only one and so I got to meet Zoro-san. Since then I meet those two a lot, pretty much only to drink, but still, I consider those times precious to me. Because I don't know how much more of those moments I will have."
Eiji gulped, feeling his throat tighten up with a familiar sadness.
Not knowing when your time has come, just having the constant feeling of pressure and hopelessness sitting inside your chest. It was a terrible feeling. Those worries overlapped your very being like a blanket, making it harder to reach to the outside, to forget or even to have simple fun. For Kurose to admit this so openly had taken Eiji by surprise. He knew nothing he said would make his worries go away, yet he said his empty platitudes anyway.
"I'm sure there will be plenty more moments to come."

Kurose didn't bother to reply to that and only smiled in return.
You and he are the same. Will be the same.
Eiji closed his eyes and controlled his breathing when the familiar voice reappeared inside his mind. Thankfully he had Kurose's next question to focus on.
"How did you guys make it so far?"
You didn't.
"We didn't do anything special. We just lived through our days like they were our last, we still do even now."
Your last day is long overdue.
"I see. Probably not a bad attitude in a city like this.", grinned Kurose ruefully. "Sorry you had to listen to the ramblings of this sorry adult, Kodou-kun."

"You can call me Eiji. And you're not a sorry adult, believe me, I have seen plenty of those myself. You are honest, kind and trying your best. I see nothing there to be sorry for."
"Eiji it is then. Call me Chihiro, if you don't mind."
"I don't... Chihiro."
"Thank you for your words, Eiji. Maybe you're right and I should live my days like they could be my last instead of worrying when my last one will come. I might have more fun this way."
"It certainly is easier on the mind."
"Heh, maybe everything turns out alright and we gonna see each other plenty of times in this park."
"Yeah, that would be great."
Says the one living a lie.

Meanwhile Roboco had a "Girl talk" with a very uncooperative White. White had been ignoring the past hour how Roboco was gushing about her relationship with Kurose but now the conversation was moving to a topic White no longer could ignore and made her wish Roboco would be talking about Kurose again and how love-dovey they are in her mind.
"Now tell me, White-chan, how long are you and Eiji-kun a couple?"
"We are not a couple."
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I don't believe you! Norway! For real? So you are in a one-sided..."
"I am not in love with him either!"
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I don't believe you! Norway! For real? Does this mean you are a Tsundere or a Kuudere? Gasp! Don't tell me you are a Yan..."
"I am no dere at all..."
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I don't believe you! Norway! For real? But the longing way you kept glancing at him today..."
"GRRRRRRRRRR~", growled White, sounding more like an animal than a human. She was slowly but surely losing her patience with that Robot Maid character. Because Roboco wasn't human it felt easier for White to tolerate her, but her annoying over the top reactions were a bit too much for the serious ex-commander.

Roboco remained unfazed, crossing her arms and looking meaningful to the sky. At least she thought she looked like that, to White she just looked like a try-hard who tried to look cool and failed miserably at it.
"Well", sighed the self-proclaimed love expert, "if you say that this is your current relationship with your friend and you are happy this way, then that's good and okay. But you aren't happy, are you?"
White remained silent, not liking that this dumb robot had hit straight center with her assumption. She didn't knew when but at some point there had been an impatient part inside her which was throwing itself left and right inside her whenever Eiji was close by. Where this part came from she had no idea but what it wanted was very clear to White and she was aware she couldn't give it what it wanted.
"After all if you guys haven't meet us you would be spending all the time with him watching after and playing with Noah, riiiiiiight? Sounds like a date to me, doesn't iiiiiiiit? Weren't you hoping for some changes today, mmmmmmmmmmh?" Yeah, no way White would give this bothersome piece of technology the satisfaction of being right. She turned her head away to no longer have the knob nose in her face.

"Sorry if I teased you too much, White-chan.", apologized Roboco with a somber smile. "I guess, I felt a little jealousy for how pure your feelings are for your friend. I will never get something like that in my gag manga nor elsewhere. Sure, I might play the act of a confident and self-righteous prima donna in my series but I know my own limits. There is no way Kurose came to me because he wanted to go on a date with me. I dunno why he came to us but it certainly wasn't for me. This is actually my first real date, if it even is one. And I feel pretty damn insecure about it which is also why I picked you to come with me into the playground instead of letting you and Eiji spend some time alone in the park. Sorry..."
Roboco looked so shamefaced that it reminded White of the time had caught Noah with the cookie jar in the kitchen once. Roboco's honesty was so disarming that White felt her annoyances fly away, replaced by an envy of not being able to do the same.
"I'm not angry with you. I probably wouldn't have been able to do much more than hold idle small talk with him anyway. And if you are so insecure, then just keep going out on more dates with that dandy guy. The way you are you will sooner or later lose that insecurity and then you can ask where you guys are for real. Which is more than I could ever do."
"So you admit that you've got a thing for Eiji, huh?"

In the bushes in the park 4 characters were really not having the time of their lives.
"I am boooooooooooored~", complained Tamashiro.
"Yeah, this isn't quite the date I was expecting.", agreed Jackman disappointed.
"My leg cramped. This sucks.", whined Momiji massaging his left thigh.
"Bros, I know this looks bad but we gotta stick through with it. After all, we cannot leave the bushes now. We only got into them unnoticed thanks to all that fighting around. If we were to leave they would notice us for sure and who of you got an explanation for why we were hiding in the bushes, hm?"
Only silence met Banda's question.
"Yeah, thought so. Wait. There are White and Roboco coming back. But where are the kids?"

Eiji had the same question in mind as Banda.
"White, where are Noah and the others?"
The girl rolled her eyes in response. "They entered the maze of madness."
"What?", asked Kurose jumping up from the blanket. "Weren't you supposed to look after them, Roboco-san?"
"Ehehe, we were a little occupied.", made the maid her sorry excuse while stretching out her tongue, squinting an eye and bonking her own head with her knuckles, all in an attempt to look cute. To White it just looked like a horrible caricature of a lame idol pose.

"Well, is that bad?", wanted Eiji to know. Maze of madness sounded bad but White had said that Noah had gotten lost lots of times in it so far. Maybe it wasn't as bad as feared.
"Not really. Once the park closes the Gargoyles inside the maze will awake and bring all lost children to their parents, if you don't wanna look for them yourselves."
"Oh puh, I was worried for a moment there.", sighed Kurose in relief.
"Park closes at midnight though.", deadpans Roboco, invoking panic inside Kurose who suddenly had a very live image of a certain mother with a knife in her hand and her possible reaction to her son and his friends being out this late without her allowance.
"We gotta find them asap!"

The bushes rustled in worry upon the news.
"The kids got lost?"
"In a maze of madness?"
"Why is there even such a thing on a playground to begin with?"
The boys in the bushes had heard enough to know that the situation was serious. Serious enough for Banda to make a decision.
"We gotta help them find the kids."

"What? No!", objected Tamashiro vehemently. "You heard White. The kids are fine and will get carried out by gargoyles or whatever at the end of the day. No reason for us to get more cleaning duties than we already got."
"I agree with Tamashiro. Sure, it's bad the children got lost, but this is a playground designed to have fun, they will be fine.", tried Momiji to reason with the headstrong Banda.
"I side with Banda. Can't you imagine how scared the boys and girls must feel trying to find the exit and running in endless circles? This ain't about avoiding punishment, this about doing the right thing!", argued Jackman in favor of Banda's position. Banda leaned a bit forward, knowing he had to compromise if he wanted all three on board with this search & rescue plan.
"How about we do it like this: We wait till all four entered the Maze, then we go inside as well and look for the children. If we find them we can led them out and go our own ways and if we happen to run into the others we can claim we only came here to waste time. It's not like it's forbidden for adults to enter the playground and use its stuff. White cannot spin a rope around our necks for that, can she?"
Tamashiro and Momiji didn't looked quite convinced but they nodded nonetheless. Banda grinned in response.
"Good, then let's wait a bit. The others are already on their way to the maze. Once they're inside we'll follow."

In another part of the town, Zoro walked into the Game Arcade to look how Gojo was doing in his search.
"Are you for real?"
Zorro's sudden appearance and question made Gojo stop for just a second... and red blinking lights showed him that he just failed two dance steps in a row.
"Nooooooooooooo~" Frantically Gojo jumped around, trying to save as many points as he could while Zoro was pinching his nasal bridge in annoyance and external shame. At the end a heart-broken Gojo sat before the Arcade Dance Machine. Tears ran down behind his blindfold. He turned his face to the swordsman and Zoro knew he was looking at him reproachfully.
"I could have beaten the highscore if it wasn't for you!", came the whiny accusation, ticking off Zoro even more for how odd it felt to have one of the strongest and most popular characters of Jump use that kind of tone over a thing like a Dance highscore.

"Oi, what do you think you're doing here?", asked Zoro and stepped towards the sitting man, pulling Gojo up by his long shirt. The fact that he allowed him to do that only served to further Zoro's annoyance. "Why are you wasting your Attention on Dance machines when you should be looking for clues about the U19 club?"
"Why are you here and not in the sports center?", retorted Gojo calmly.
"Agh." Zoro grit his teeth. He really didn't wanted to admit that his proud gimmick had caused him to get lost in a city that leads you to where you wanna be. Obviously Gojo already picked up on that.
"Oh, is that how it is? You rather wanted to find me than the sports center? I am flattered.", he snickered causing Zoro to turn red in anger.

"Hah? Wanna become a head shorter?", threatened Zoro the teasing Jujutsu Sorcerer teacher who quickly put up both hands in an attempt for offering peace.
"Come on, you don't wanna do a scene in here, right? Not with all the kids around." Zoro gave the Arcade a sweeping glance, watching dozens of children and teens stare at them. "As for your question, I was trying to blend in. You know, be the cool adult, make use of my natural charm and then get the bits of informations about other teens and kids that fit the description we are looking for."
"I see.", replied Zoro, letting go of Gojo's shirt.
Gojo dust down his shirt to get the wrinkles out. He couldn't help but throw another jab at the green-haired swordsman.
"So, you really got lost on your way to the sports center? I am always impressed by this ability of yours, Zoro~"
"Zip it. Tell me what you found out yet."

Gojo turned silent quickly which raised Zoro's suspicious and his left eyebrow.
"You really were only fooling around, weren't you?"
"Look, you can't just get into this kids on the first day. I'm playing the long game here, winning their trust little by little, then I'm going all in!"
"Choice of words matter, Gojo.", grumbled Zoro displeased. He let out a large sigh, before dropping the case and crossing his arms. "Let's hope Kurose has more success on his end than we did."
"We shouldn't expect too much, Zoro. It's only the first day of our search, it would have taken tremendous luck to find any U19 in such an endless city on the first try."
"You're right. I wonder how long we got to look till we finally find them."
"Patience, my friend. Let's go and check on Kurose, I feel like this poor fella could use a drink or two."

Inside the maze of madness the four caretakers split up in two teams with Roboco and Kurose in one team and White and Eiji in the other. They agreed to wait by the blankets with the children once found by one of the teams. Roboco and Kurose went left, White and Eiji went right. Soon the paths split up again and again. It was a curious maze. There were walls of stone and thicket, stairs leading down into crawling dungeons, or up into large towers with no windows, even portals that you could enter to come out in some other part of the maze.
"How big is this thing anyway?", asked Eiji after a couple minutes and after the 5th time they had run into a dead end.
"Big enough for all kids of the city to play in it.", said White, giving a nod to another pair of parents rushing past them in the search for their own children.
"There is no way we gonna find them in this damn maze.", cursed Eiji, hitting a wall in his frustration. The wall gave a creaking sound and slipped away, revealing another path. Before Eiji could voice any disbelief that this maze even had hidden paths, White walked into it. Eiji quickly followed her hot on her heels.

"Are you sure we can find them before midnight. I don't worry about Noah, but the parents of the Roboco & Me series will be probably pretty worried by then."
White shrugged her shoulders.
"Depends on what?"
"Depends on when we find one of Noah's golems flying or running around looking for the exit. They can lead us to him. It's how I was always able to find Noah in this mess of a maze."

Eiji blinked. He had to give the little kid props for his way of thinking. Though considering he kept going into the maze and been lost in it, Noah must see this as part of some fun game. Then another thought crossed his mind.
"Wait. Why didn't you tell Roboco and Kurose any of this?"
White took a left turn and then went down some stairs into the lower levels of the maze.
"White?", repeated Eiji once they were below the ground.

"Roboco was complaining about her insecurity with Kurose, not being able to tell if he is serious with her or not. So I figured I could give them some time alone in the maze. Telling them about the golems would just occupy their minds. If they come across one of Noah's golems it's up to them if they want to follow them or not. Maybe they'll see them as part of the maze, who knows. In any case, it is up to her if they'll have a talk or not."
Eiji walked aside White, looking at her face shined upon by the smokeless torches on the walls.
"Is something on my face?"
"No, it's just... I know you're a kind person, White, yet I'm still surprised that you are helping someone out with their love trouble. That's very nice of you."

White felt both elevated and nauseous by Eiji's praise. Elevated because the impatient part inside her grew from her stomach all the way to her beating heart. Nauseous because her core did what felt like a backflip landing on your face. She wondered if all human characters had a similar two-facing way of feeling about the same thing differently or if it was just her and her messed-up core with its confusing definitions carved inside it. Glancing upwards to Eiji, who had a troubled look on his face staring at the xxth crossroad they had come across on their journey looking for the kids, White thoughts started to swirl around the question if he too had strange contradicting feelings about her.
Roboco's words came to her mind: *But you aren't happy, are you?*
Why couldn't she just be satisfied what she had so far? The impatient part inside her grew even further, reaching her throat. She could feel her lips part against her will and her tongue unusually heavy starting to move.

"Uhm, E-Eiji?"
"This probably sounds strange, asking now of all times. But how are you feeling-"
The outcry of a small boy interrupted White's nervous question. Bondo had come around the corner, pointing with his finger at the two and waving at his friends in the hallway behind him to quickly come at his side. White and Eiji stared upwards since Bondo and his friends were all walking on the ceiling.

"Of course this place got gravity denying features.", mumbled Eiji, ruffling his hair in relief they had found the children. Or the children had found them. What does it matter?
"I told you, I had heard Eiji-niichan and White-neechan voices.", proclaimed the little boy with glasses proudly.
"Ook. This maze really is the best maze ever."
"See? We are on the ceiling ever since we left the Penrose upside-down tower. How cool is that?", asked Motsuo his friends, nodding at the two teenagers below them to drive his point home.
"Hi, White-neechan! You found one of my Golems yet?"

"No, we haven't. I think this is the first time I found you without one of your little helpers." White felt strange relief, not because they had stumbled across the children, but because she hasn't been able to finish her question. Her impatient part had shrank back into its usual ball size in her stomach and she was Lady over her tongue and mind again. It was kinda scary how quickly she could lose control to this impatient part of hers.
"So how do we get down?", asked Madoka to which Eiji raised his arms to the ceiling.
"Just grab on and I pull you down, maybe that's enough to undo the Voodoo which makes you little spider-piglets."
Madoka laughed and took hold on Eiji's hands. With a little jump and a twirl she landed on her feet on the ground again. Eiji did this five more times then they had the whole entourage with them.

"Alright. How do we get out of here now?" Ruri's question made Eiji sweatdrop as he hadn't thought about that part of the rescue mission at all.
"That's easy. White-neechan got an in-build compass to orient herself around.", explained Noah proud.
Everyone stared at her.
"How else you think I was able to teleport around in my series without going into walls?"

Nobody questioned that example. Motsuo took out his cellphone once they reached the surface to call Roboco on her in-build phone to let her know that they have been found and are safe. Cellphones only worked with the cellphones of the same series, meaning exchanging phone numbers was pretty much unnecessary. Curiously the city had plenty of phone booths but calling someone from another series on their cellphone was impossible in this city.
"Hello, hello, Roboco? Yeah, it's me Mutsuo. Yeah, hm, yeah you could have thought about calling us first, but it doesn't matter. Eiji-niichan and White-neechan have found us and we are okay. Currently we are on our way out, so we will meet you-... What you mean, you are lost? You can fly, you know? Ah, you cannot fly and you have no clue where you are. Don't you got a radar or something? Okay, okay, don't cry, it's perfectly normal that those functions suddenly lose their uhm functionality. Might be due the maze, pretty interesting that phones still work though. No, I don't find your suffering interesting, Roboco, no! Look, Noah just made a little clay puppy, super adorable, and let it smell Bondo's cap to find you, it will lead you to the exit, okay? He says, it works just fine since it will find him no matter where he is. Yeah? Okay, nice talking to you. Cya soon."
Mutsuo hang up.
"Yeah, just like you say, Gachi Gorilla. Typical Roboco.", shook Bondo his head mind-reading and agreeing with his gorilla-looking friend.

White led the group singleminded towards the exist which they reached in less than half an hour. Outside the kids wanted to slip away to go to other playground facilities, but Eiji and White reminded them that Roboco and Kurose were still inside the maze and looking for them. And since they had promised to wait in the park, they would go there and wait till the other two arrived.
On their way to their picnic spot, Eiji turned to White.
"Say, what was it that you wanted to ask me in the maze?"
"Oh, that? I just wanted to know if you are feeling better today despite all that happened.", came the relaxed and cool answer from White who had hoped he had forgotten that scene but already had an excuse prepared in case Eiji would bring it up again.
"Heh, is that all? Yeah, I really do feel better. It was a good decision to come here. Thanks, White."
"You're welcome."
The kids snickered but the teens ignored them.

They played card games on their blankets till an exhausted Kurose and heavy breathing Roboco arrived at their place, guided by a little golem looking like a clay puppy with leafs as floppy ears.
"Good job, buddy, you brought those two all the way over here.", praised Noah his little creation.
"This maze is insane. How this is allowed for children I will never understand.", wheezed Kurose, his tie loose and his jacket hanging from his shoulders.
Roboco was sweating like a workhorse and she gulped down an entire bottle of water all by herself.
"Puuuaaah! Now I feel alive again! Next time we come here, the maze of madness is off-limits, guys! Capiché?"
"Yes, Roboco~", said the children from her series unisono.

There was still plenty of time left to enjoy the many other sensations the playground had to offer, so the four followed the kids and took part in some of the crazy stuff themselves. White noticed that Roboco and Kurose didn't exchanged a word much less than a look for the rest of the day. She didn't asked Roboco what had happened in the maze. She could guess for herself and it made her more glad that Bondo had stopped her question before she could fully form it. When the time had come to pack up they returned to the park, watching many families already leaving to return home to their Magazine Towers and Apartments. Two men however sat before the park entrance, a white-haired one with a blindfold over his eyes and a green-haired one with a huge packet besides him, which clearly looked like three swords wrapped up in packaging papers.
"Look at that.", marveled Zoro at the sight.
"Ah, he is a lucky fella, after all.", grinned Gojo smugly then he stood up and met the group arriving at the gate.

"Eiji Kudou, I presume."
Eiji wrinkled his forehead. It was rare for high-profile Characters like Gojo and Zoro to leave their tower. And even rarer for one of them to know his name.
"Yes? With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"
Zoro laughed out loud at the chutzpah this kid was showing to one of the most famous characters of current Weekly Shounen Jump. Gojo's grin just grew wider, he liked that kinda spirit.
"I got something to talk with you, if you don't mind hearing me out."
Kurose's jaw dropped as he realized he had been talking to three targets of the ones they have been looking for. Zoro came to his side and pat him strongly and acknowledging on his back.

Eiji exchanged a look with White, she neither shook her head nor nodded, leaving it to him to decide what was best. He was curious to know what this talk's content, so he agreed.
"Sure, I don't mind."
Eiji and Gojo took a little walk away, while Zoro entertained the star-struck children jumping all around him demanding to show-off his awesome sword skills or to show his incredible strength. He declined on the swords display but he gladly showed the kids how strong he was by throwing them far far far into the air before catching them again, much to their laughing joy and Kurose's growing worry with each throw. Meanwhile White and Roboco cleaned and packed everything up. Since they were alone now, White felt it was appropriate to ask how the maid was feeling currently.

"Do you want to talk about what happened in the maze?"
Roboco stopped with the card games in her hands for a moment before putting it away in the dimensional bag. She sighed and scratched her head and sat down cross-legged, showing off her white panties saying "Hmmm...".
"Well, after the little puppy found us and started to led us towards the exit, I straight out asked Kurose if he really is into me or not, no jokes this time." White stayed silent, both impressed and shocked how blunt Roboco has been. Then again she nearly has done the same.
" He then took a deep bow and apologized to me, explaining that his friends had asked for a favor which he needed Bondo's help and it kinda got out of control when he was at his house. So he hasn't come to ask me out."
"But he said, that I was a very special person to him, someone with a big heart, bright personality and he likes my humor, so he'd like to stay friends. I believe, this means I still got a chance to make him fall for me if he thinks so highly of me, hehe~"
"Oh.....well, that's...good?" White wasn't quite sure what to say at this point but Roboco beamed at her, so she must have said the right thing. Which meant White's expectations of why Roboco hasn't spoken with Kurose for the rest of the day was dead wrong. The robot woman was just embarrassed to have gotten so much praise at once and literally couldn't look him into the eyes anymore. Again, White was reminded of herself when Eiji had praised her today. She wasn't sure if she liked how much she had in common with Roboco.

When Gojo and Eiji returned from their talk the others were waiting at the gate. While the kids assaulted the two with questions, neither answered much or only vague. Whatever it was that Gojo has told Eiji, it could wait till they reached their hide-out, concluded White. The three of them split off earlier to return to the WSJ tower basement in another way. When arriving at the Tower Gojo and Zoro grabbed Kurose by his arms, declaring that they got business to deal with him. Said business involved lots of heavy liquor and lots of laudations for a job well done. Roboco brought the pretty tired kids home. When she had wrapped up Bondo in his bed, she sat down and looked out of the window of their house inside the apartment. There were no stars or moon she could look at, only the lights of the other houses where its inhabitants were still up, doing who knew what.
She wondered when the next time would come that she and Kurose could spend some time together.

As for our four stalkers who had gone out to look for the children - they have gotten lost in the maze for the rest of the day. Until midnight came and the Gargoyles carried them out, throwing them onto the streets since there were no parents waiting for them. Exhausted and hungry they walked back home and when asked where they have been so late, they lied about having spend too much time and Attention at the Game Arcade. They dropped dead into their beds after a quick after-midnight-snack.
Kurose was returning home many hours after midnight. Soon the sun would rise and a new morning would greet him and his expecting headache.
He was happy though. He had gotten drunk with the boys, fulfilled their request successfully by accident and he was not marked a pervert or creep today. Which reminded him of the rejection he had given Roboco. That memory made him sad, he should have found a way to invite the kids without using Roboco's feelings as an excuse. That hasn't been very gentleman-like of him.

Maybe tomorrow he could apologize to her with some flowers and chocolate? Women love flowers and chocolate and now that he has told her the truth, there was no way she would misunderstand those gifts of him, right?
Kurose laughed a drunken laugh, remembering Eiji's words of living every day like it was his last one. Kid was right! What need did he had to worry about the future if today was so much fun. When he could enjoy his life with others and see the amazing and crazy city districts. From now on, he would live every day like tomorrow was no more. No more excuses!
Things are looking up.
Maybe tomorrow an even better day would come.
Finally Kurose got his keys into the keyhole. He opened the door, seeing everyone from the Phantom Seer cast standing in the hallway, heroes, villains and support and side cast alike. He blinked a couple times, trying to understand what was going on. Aibetsu walked towards him, her serious look tainted with sadness and worry, turning Kurose's heart into stone and silencing the happy alcohol induced delirium in his mind.
"Kurose-san, where have you been? Come in, you have to hear this as well..."
Or maybe today his last day had already arrived.

Word of the Author

Hello, everybody. Sorry for the long delay. I had some issues that took a lot of time to get the head free of. I can only apolo-IS THAT A 2 BEFORE THE K I SEE THERE?!? o.O
When did that happened??? I haven't updated in weeks, how did I got past 2k views? Dang, now I feel really bad for letting you guys down for so long.

I hope this won't happen again and that I can bring the next chapter "Phantom Sayonara & Buried King" on sunday. Maybe Monday. Hah, I really need to get back in pace.

This chapter got 10128 words in total, I hope you liked reading it after having a couple weeks of pause. In case you don't know what happened so far, feel free to reread everything.^^

It's a bit of a shame my crack ship ended like this, it was supposed to end like this way later down the line, but I only got myself to blame for that. Shame about Phantom Seer. Let's see how long Roboco can stick around.

Cya all in a couple day. :)

PS: Guys, I got a new post to post all my future chapters in! There was something good about this hiatus! :squee
--- Double Post Merged, , Original Post Date: ---

Chapter 24 - Buried King and Blue Balls

"Guys, there has been a change of plans today.", announced Tamashiro as everyone gathered in the living room in a circle waiting for Noah to begin his introduction. "Noah told me he rather wanted to introduce a new series than do a passing the 19 chapter mark, so I'll take up his part and hereby declare the congratulations on Buried King reaching 19 chapters discussion! Remember don't only talk about the obvious bad points, make up some good ones.
Eiji wrinkled his forehead. He knew that Tamashiro hated it when series he deemed "bad" passed the mark they never could, yet he seemed to be in a really good mood despite having to introduce such a series. Tamashiro started to clap, it was sarcastically slow.
"Let's begin! Congratulations Buried King! You made it! And that's pretty much all you did! Sure, you had a cool wacky world but what good does such a world building do to you if you cannot showcase it? All you did the past dozen chapters was rush rush rush, throwing characters and plot development at your readers like its candy. It is obvious you are done, I bet next chapter will be your last. You got lucky that your train wreck didn't crashed earlier but it was so hilarious bad that I cannot be mad at you. I hope Mangahalla or whatever awaits you on the other side will be more kind to you than reality was. Eiji, you're up, man."

"Uh-uhm, don't you wanna say more, Tamashiro? Like more good points or where it can improve or..."
"Nah, waste of time. After all it has no more time left to improve, that's for sure."
Eiji sighed and kept his clapping going. "Congratulations, Build King. You developed differently than I had expected, I like the immensely large world you are hinting at and the interesting looks of your new characters. Yet I am worried about your character cast exploding, same with the plot development of the Buildon license tournament turning into a warzone. And as awesome and simple as the color power system sounds, it just seems to add color after color after even not colors, like Luck ain't a color, that I feel to agree with Tamashiro about rushing too much. I don't think you gonna end next chapter, that would be like the most open ending ever, no way WSJ would do that to a veteran creator. But at the rate you're going you won't even reach chapter 30 if it keeps that rush up. Got something positive to say, Noah?", asked Eiji desperately, feeling he could have said more but he just couldn't come up with anything.

"Tons!", laughed Noah, clapping furiously. "Congrats, Build King! I like your cool powers and how building is like martial arts. I like the Build Kings and they are all alive and can give you super powers if you live in them. I like the twist of the house beast being so important as well as the surprise of a sudden war entering the tournament, reminds me of Naruto from what I have read back then. I believe your characters need more build up though. Bad guys show up and are done in in the same chapters, good guys talk about their past and conviction and are done-so, it feels really rushed and super quick paced. I don't know if you wanna go quickly to show the good stuff or if you are already preparing for your own soon approaching ending, but never less, it was a blast reading you!. Hajime-niichan, what's your take?"

The silver slimeball sitting on the table clapped unenthusiastic.
"I agree on the blast, Noah, like one hell of an explosion that you cannot look away from. Congrats, Buried King, getting to chapter 19 ain't no easy feat not even in times like this. You showed us a lot of cool stuff, not gonna lie. Like the hand tools, the vigor system or the troll tools or even the weird looking house Gundamn robots. Yet all that cool stuff is shown in glimpses, like a giant wall painting gettin' erased by white paint. To me it feels like you are in your last strokes of genius, no way you'd end next chapter, but like 3 or 4 max and you will be gone. I'm feel correct in my assumption back then that your characters will be the reason many readers will lose interest in the series itself. Same for me, I just couldn't care for them living in such a vast world because they felt so boring and unappealing to me. Well, at least you can go out with a bang. I pick Jackman next."

"Yeeeeeeah...", said Jackman stretching the yeah for several seconds, thinking hard. "You know, back then in the first chapter discussion you guys jumped me, but I didn't minded that since I didn't had anything to say about this series. And after 19 chapters? I still don't. There is just nothing that interests me in there. I don't care for its wacky characters, its large world nor for its strange art style. I don't hate it, I just don't care for it, is all. And I feel like many readers felt the same when reading it in the Jump Magazine. If it does end next chapter like Tamashiro predicted, I will shrug my shoulder and live on. Banda, bro, I've chosen you to speak up next."

"Got it, bro! And sorry we skipped you back then, bro, no hard feelings."
"None taken."
"Okay. Congrats, Buried King for reaching chapter 19. I can only repeat what the others said, cool world, shame we didn't got to see more of it. The cool world filled with Build Kings, strange creatures and interesting eco systems got all buried in mass character production and plot escalation. I've read the previous work of the creator so I know he can do some incredible work and got a great imagination. I believe though that this series was too much out there. I and probably many readers as well had a hard time connecting to anyone living in such a world thus taking some of the magic of experiencing it when reading the weekly chapters. Maybe the next try of the creator will be a real hit, who knows. Sharkface, you read this series, right? What's your take on it?"

White clapped politely with her left hand onto her right open palm which remained motionless mid-air.
"I stopped reading after the poop and butt jokes in chapter 2."
"What?", asked the club's sole girl their leader. "I can stomach poop and butt jokes, there's plenty of that in Me & Roboco. I just can't take it when those jokes are bad and they were really bad in this case. Anyway, congratulations, Build King. No idea what happened between chapter 3 and 19 but given what the others said so far, I made the right call to ditch you early on. Momiji, continue."

"Not like there's much to continue on.", joked Momiji, clapping normally. "Congrats, Buried King, you truly live up to Tamashiro's nickname. You had some cool stuff, I really like the up-side down castle for example, but cool alone ain't enough to reach success those days. At least you avoided the early axe unlike us, so you got that going for you, which is nice. I think your starting position was the problem. Your two protagonists should have started on the continent or one of the continents with the Master Builder already there, it would have saved a tons of time and explanations and unnecessary flashbacks. This way you could have shown cities, cool buildings, maybe even a rate Build King from the very start and why exactly they are so important to this builder world. Well, I doubt you'll have much time to improve and you can't change your start anymore anyway. Guess, it is up to you to wrap this up, Mr. Commentary."

"Thank you, Momiji-kun." The purple ghost's claps were as usual quiet as he mimicked the gesture without a real body to make sound with. "Well, well, this talk today reminded me of the last chapter of Guardian of the Witch, though that one ended on the same very chapter we congratulated it for reaching. I don't know how long Build King will live, might be next chapter, might be ten or even twenty chapters away, alas, it seems clear it will not reach the heights I had predicted for it back then when we talked about its first chapter. Not that it makes it feat for reaching chapter 19 any smaller, so congratulations, Build King. You had the right ingredients to find success, but the cooking process got messed up. Maybe it was the start like Momiji-kun stated or perhaps too many characters shown too quickly like Banda-kun said or it could possibly just be the case that today's readers simply no longer like this kind of story. It's difficult to be wacky yet cool, funny but also serious, to find the right mixture a large amount of readers can enjoy at once. My own series had to feel that burden, same to many others like Agravity Boys, Bone Collection or now you as well. It's a shame, but that's life."

"All right then, thanks everyone for your points. I think we can cut it he-"
"Can't I please do my introduction for the new series already, Eiji-niichan?", interrupted Noah his leader. Big shiny blue eyes made it hard for Eiji to say no. Plus maybe this way the discussion could end on a more positive note than it had so far.
"Why not? Go ahead, Noah."
Noah picked a chair up and put it into the middle of the circle, standing on it like a speaker before his audience.
"Dear friends,", began Noah deeply serious, "today we speak about the newest manga of Jump - Blue Balls!"
Tamashiro hardly could contain his laughter while others also struggled with the sudden dirty joke from Noah. White immediately snapped her face in his direction. The red-haired teen tried his best to fake whistle his way out, but it was dead obvious who had given little Noah the idea for Blue Box nickname.

"I am not quite sure what sport Blue Balls is about, but Tamashiro said it fits the series so I guess it has something to do with Badminton." Upon Noah's continuation White eyes narrowed to slits, telling Tamashiro that after this discussion some sort of punishment was awaiting him. The boy in question chuckled nervously and hoped it wouldn't be too many weeks of clean-up duty, else the dirty joke wouldn't have been worth it.
Blue Balls is about a young teen named Taiki Inomata who got a crush on Chinatsu Kano who's a year older than him. He plays Badminton and she plays Basketball. She is a rising star i Basketball, he is...alright in Badminton according to his friend. Still Chinatsu has to leave school because her family is moving and Taiki helps her make up her mind what she rather wants to do. So she chose to continue school to play Basketball which led to her living with him at his home. And that's pretty much the first chapter. Before I start, remember: Say something nice first, before you say something not so nice. Give some suggestions where it might need improvement as well as your best guesses for its run and how much it will sell. That's it!
So, as for myself, I liked the art very much, it looked really cute and fitting for a rom-sport series. I dunno how big the sport part gonna be though since the first chapter was all about setting up their relationship and her living at his home. Hopefully we get more sport parts later on. I liked the main characters, Taiki is a dreamer and over-thinker while Chinatsu seems both cool and kind. Kyo, Taiki's friend, seemed a bit cold to me but then again we didn't saw much of him so far. Same for Hina who seemed to really enjoy teasing poor Taiki, no idea why she would do that. I liked that Taiki is actually trying to get into a deeper relationship with his crush even if he only managed to her know his name due his scarf. Him saying that you will miss 100% of the shots you don't take, is something I fully agree with. As for what I didn't, nothing comes to mind, really. As for its length I think it gonna run like 250 chapters and sells like I dunno 150k or so? I'm not that sure how much romance mangas are supposed to sell for to be considered a success. And with that I let Hajime-niichan take the reins."

Hajime had changed into his human form, shaking his head slowly at the innocence of Noah.
"Nothing bad, huh? Only a child with no knowledge in romance could say that. Blue Balls was all fine and okaish until that ending. Damn Taiki and his luck! Living with his crush together! This lucker! Ugh, anyway it was a pretty nice first chapter, good focus on the main character while having the main heroine got enough screen time to show why the MC is so in love with her. Ain't just that she's a beauty and a cutie but also talented, kind and determined. Girl got it all to be a big hit. Which is why it's so irritating that this guy hits it off so well with her right from the start with his cringe overly taking care for having a sniffle. Or his speech for going to the nationals. And this guy basically gets a two years home share with her including all the stuff you have to expect for such an arrangement - cooking together, sharing the bath, entering the room at a "bad time"... this guy has used up all his luck for a lifetime! Otherwise it was pretty unremarkable in my eyes, art's nice, development was as expected, best friend is a realist and childhood friend is another beautiful cutie with a devilish side. Also she's totally gonna fall for him as well, isn't? Argh, this guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuy~ As for length, like 180 chapters and sales somewhere between 70k and 90k. You get where I'm coming from, right, Tamashiro?"

The boy in question nodded sagely in response.
"Indeed, Taiki got everything handed to him and he's lucky she is such a nice girl taking on his cringe with an angelic smile. The good thing about this series are Chinatsu and Hina, they're super cute! The bad thing is Taiki, dude deserves a meteor to his head! Like they're different sports, which by the way is a good idea for a sports series, yet they still hit it off so well with no problems whatsoever. Even the moving away part was just a set-up for Taiki to get the goods delivered home! How much luck can an overly optimistic guy have? I hope his friend gives him a good rant in my stead. Also for its overall chapter amount, around 150 I would bet, sales at 60k. Mr. Commentary, you may take it from here."

The purple ghost chuckled.
"Well, well, jealousy ain't becoming of you boys. Taiki is a good kid. He works hard as he arrived second just after Chinatsu in the mornings. He is brave for when he got scared of talking to her he still did in order to help her get rid of the cold. He is a normal horny teenager who just happens to live with the source of his raging hormones at home now. Poor kiddo won't be able to find much peace at home, that's for sure. I'm interested in seeing how the sports aspect will be handled in future chapters since both Basketball and Badminton are both good sports to have plenty of series about them. A team sport and a solo sport is a good combination to have a wider range in readers interest. I'm also curious to see the part Kyo and Hina will take in this series as well as how many other characters will join the fray for Attention from the readers. Chinatsu is a really good character in my opinion. Having the determination to decide to leave your family for two years to pursue your dream is a pretty big thing to do at her age. Taiki will have to do a lot more than just admire her, be kind to her and live together with her to win the heart of such a woman. I bet he gonna aim for nationals himself to impress her. And I believe he will fail the first time around while Chinatsu will advance to the nationals herself. The idea to show a gap between a loving boy and his crush and to widen said gap is a pretty true and tried path, so if this series live long enough I expect it to take the same route. I feel like this series might have it to live for a long time though it will struggle to find as much success as the usual harem and ecchi romcom series in Jump. 300 chapters while selling below 200k, maybe 180 or 190, seems about right to me if they manage to hit it off with the Jump readership. What say you, Jackman-kun?"

The mascot suit tilted his head while crossing his arms, looking rather confused.
"I don't really get the whole romance genre, to be honest. I was more disappointed that the sport part took such a big step back in the first chapter, though it makes sense to establish the character setting first. I like Taiki's philosophy, for a child he got a good head on his shoulders. I haven't seen enough of Chinatsu to make up my mind about her, she seems a bit too perfect in my opinion. Maybe showing some of her flaws and more of Taiki's good points later on would be good. Otherwise I really just wanna see more sport, we've been really missing out on those in Jump since Haikyu! left. Overall, I found the first chapter pretty okay but nothing mind-blowing. A 100, a 120 chapters seems doable to me for its run, sales around 80k or so. Eiji, do you got a more educated guess than me? I mean, romance was an important part in your sto-ah."
Momiji had given Jackman a nudge in his side, but too late.
It was, wasn't it?

Absent-minded Eiji stared into the middle of the circle, before looking up with a wide smile. White, who stood next to Eiji, didn't liked it, from all the fake smiles she had seen, this was the most fake on his face yet.
"Haha, yeah, you could say so. Romance was quite the driving story behind me gaining my powers and standing up to the adults after all. Blue Box though seems more of a Slice of Life story of two teens growing up with their dreams and feelings. Who knows if Chinatsu will fall in love with Taiki or not? Who knows if Taiki will stay in love with her?"
Like how Akari would leave you despite being in love with you?
"What I'm saying is that Blue Box comes from a different genre than my series, so I doubt my own experience can play much of a factor here. But I get Taiki. Your eyes always follow the person of your love instantly, like an addiction."
Yet your eyes no longer can see her because she left.
"And I like how the creator showed Taiki's inner turmoil whenever he had said something cringe or done something embarrassing in front of Chinatsu."
Something which you will never have again.
"Chinatsu is really impressive in my opinion. I agree with you guys on that. Taiki got a huge gap to cross before he can see eye to eye with her in his own mind."
She does look a lot like Akari.
"So the whole first chapter was done well in the remark of showcasing both Taiki's and Chinatsu's good points and have the readers care for them and their relationship development. The whole sports stuff can come at later parts since I assume Mr. Commentary is right in his assumption of Taiki trying for the nationals as well. The two living in his house might seem a bit hasty but it does offer the creator a lot of opportunities to let the two hang out more with each other than just at the gym. Plus this whole deal will surely blow up at some point so there is no way there won't be some drawback for Taiki having this much luck. As for the series survival, might look quite good, there is also a demand for sweet romance and good sports manga, maybe if it can manage to juggle both demands Blue Box will have a future in Jump. 250 chapters and around 200k sales would be pretty swell for it."
You could go after her, see her again, hold her in your arms again, hear her speak your name, kiss her. Instead you waste your time here, talking meaningless crap. Why?
"White! Would you speak up next?"

Eiji's concentrated smile was thrown at the petite girl next to him. She didn't replied immediately. Her red eyes lingered on his face for a moment or two before she turned away, her hands hidden behind her back, speaking her piece.
"Blue Box was quite boring in my opinion. Until the ending with the girl living at his house, that is. I liked that surprise, it put a bridge on the gap you guys have been talking about. It's one thing to see someone doing their best at something they love and another to see them in their daily ordinary lives, Taiki will probably fall even more in love with her if Chinatsu is as kind and considerate there as she is in the gym. Honestly, she was the worst part for me. That girl was so perfect, she gave me a headache. I still respect her for her decision to live for herself, to not just follow her parents and bury her dreams. It takes courage to do so and since Taiki was the one who gave her said courage, there seems to be a good chance for him to find his way into her heart. I don't really care that much for its sport aspect though since it seems to be their main tie so far it will probably play a bigger part in future chapters. I see it lasting around a 150 chapters, selling for 70k. Glasses, you may continue."

Momiji pushed up his glasses as usual before talking.
"Hm, I really liked the art style actually, it was very cute thus befitting of a romance story. I was quite surprised how big the romance played a part in the first chapter. I expected a slower progress since she only found out his name via his scarf, not to suddenly live at his home for the next two years. I get where Hajime and Tamashiro are coming from. That ending had me also go all "This guuuuuuuuuy~", like how lucky can you get? So undeserving... Especially when you can already guess that Hina will play the part of secondary love interest in a love triangle. Which is pretty sad since I liked her devilish side. Same with Kyo giving the dreamer Taiki the real talk. I like both friend characters so far more than the two main ones. Taiki is too much of a happy-go-lucky guy for my taste to cheer for him and Chinatsu is so incredible that it's almost irritating. Maybe if the creator shows Taiki growing up and more of Chinatsu's vulnerable side, I might get to like both a bit more. So however, I'd rather see more of Hina and Kyo. 80 chapters and 40k sales. I think this one will live for a while but never manage to take truly off, thus having to make way for a new sport of romance series. Time for you to finish this, Banda."

Banda who had thrown some worried looks at Eiji since Jackman's mentioning of his romance, puffed out his chest before shouting out.
"Yeah, leave it to me, bro! So I was really hyped for the whole sports deal but first chapter had been pretty lackluster in that department. Still I enjoyed it because I liked Taiki. Dude is basically a love-struck fool but he is a brave love-struck fool. I think he is on the right track, good thing his friend talked him out of the marriage dreams into something more realistic and reachable, getting her to know his name. He achieved that and then got hit by the boss level already - Chinatsu living at his house, ha. You guys call him lucky and damn sure he is, but you can also imagine the dread he must feel each day? He probably won't be able to sleep properly the first couple nights. Let's give the poor kid a few more chapters before we wish him a meteor on his head. I really hope we get to see more sports in the next chapters. I want more sport, guys! High School Family can only do so many tennis or volleyball chapters after all. Otherwise, i found the first chapter more so mid-tier, it was good but nothing to be super excited about. Which might be something the creator might wanna work on, hyping stuff up, ya know. I give it 200 chapters and 120k in sales and end my case."

"Awesome! Thank you, Banda-niichan and everybody else!", thanked Noah his friends as he ended the circle's talk. "Before we leave, I wanna ask who wants to do Sakamoto Days 19th chapter congratulation discussion and the first chapter debate of Candy Flurry? Any volunteers?"
Hajime raised his tentacle as he had morphed back into his slime form. "I like to do Sakamoto Days."
"In that case I introduce Candy Flurry.", offered Mr. Commentary nicely.
"Good, good. Then I am looking forward to next week and see you all there! Dismissed!"

As the others dispersed, Jackman moved up quickly to Eiji to apologize as he had realized he might have overstepped his bounds with his question there.
"Eiji, I wanted to..."
"No need to apologize, Jackman.", interrupted Eiji him, anticipating the apology. "You were right to ask me, considering none of us really is from a romcom series and how prominent my love was in my series. I'm not angry at you or anything."
"Really, bro? You seemed a bit "lost" to me back then.", threw Banda his observation in.
"Dude, I'm fine. I just haven't expected that kinda question, that's all. Anyway, I'm off now."

"You got somewhere to be?", asked Jackman surprised.
"Yeah, today's the day the cast from Phantom Seers is leaving the city. I meet the guy Kurose from that series some days ago and I figured I might as well say good-bye to him before he is gone for good."
"Oh. Want us to accompany you, bro?" Banda's question was met by a shake of Eiji's head.
"Nah, it's fine. I-"
"I'm coming along though.", decided White who had been listening to the conversation.

White raised an eyebrow. "I have met Dandy as well. Why shouldn't I want to say good-bye to him?"
"Uhm..." Eiji didn't really had a good answer to that, he just hadn't expected her to care enough for Kurose to actually want to say her good-byes to him.
"Well, it's decided then, bro! See you and White in a couple hours then!", grinned Banda, hitting Eiji's back so strongly the pink-haired teen had to take a step forward to compensate for the force hitting him. Eiji rubbed his hurting back and sighed. There was no reasoning with them.
"Let's go, White."
"Led the way."

When Eiji and White were leaving Jackman pointed at them and opened his mouth to say something.
"Not today, bro.", refused Banda the unspoken attempt to another surveillance mission. "Let's lay low for a while. Talking about Akari is still a bit raw for Eiji, ya know. Wasn't a good time for him when she left, obviously."
"Sorry, I didn't knew that."
"Don't apologize, bro. After all, Eiji doesn't like to talk about it. Now lets get something to eat, I'm starving."

White and Eiji walked in silence. The streets were nearly empty as usual, except for a few characters walking to the park district or going to the sport center or the Game Arcade. White broke the silence first.
"When will you talk about it?"
"Aww, geez. Did Jackman's question really worry you guys that much? What are Banda and you? My parents? I'm fiiiiiiiiiine, really~"
White raised an eyebrow irritated.
"I was asking about about the offer Blindfold had given you when we were at the playgrounds. You never spoke of it ever since we returned home. Also me and Afrorilla? Yuck. Please refrain from such gross jokes."

"Well?", poked White again when Eiji didn't delivered an explanation.
"I wanted to tell everyone next week but maybe I should tell you first since you are our powerhouse."
"So it involves fighting?"
"It will most likely end that way, considering last time.", muttered Eiji darkly, raising White's curiosity. "Gojo-san asked us to enter the Underground City and look for some of the background characters that seemed to have gone rogue, stealing attention. He received an invitation after being knocked out in one of their motels."
White stopped in her tracks causing Eiji to stop as well.

"Are you for real?"
"Yeah, I know it sounds crazy for Nameless to do something like that, especially when they shouldn't be able to, but-"
"Not that! Return to the Underground City? Are you mad? Why haven't you refused outright?" White was seriously frustrated with Eiji. They had been to the City below the City of Towers only once and that had been more than enough for White's taste.
"He offered us 1000 Sunhearts, White."
"For each of us in the club, White."

White closed her mouth. That was a really generous offer, albeit one someone beloved from such an incredible famous series could easily make. Still a thousand Sunhearts, for each of them, that could last for a very long time.
"...That is a lot.", conceited White, fully aware of the worth a single Sunheart had to the U19 club members. But she wasn't ready to threw the towel yet. "However, the child monster Mr. Commentary fought might also be down there. And you know that thing ain't even the worst down there. Time Bubbles, Brokens, Body Snatchers, not to speak of the cannibals and Wraiths and other stuff you never wanna cross roads with. Said roads which can also be death traps itself. It was already a close call back then and you know how much the city messed with Poro and Ruika. If they hadn't looked into that mirror they might still be with us despite their creator's new series, just like Hajime today. Yet you still think about going despite the dangers?"
"Uuuuuuuugh!", groaned White frustrated. "Fine, tell the others and if they are also up for it, I will have no qualms with it either."
"Thank you, White. Your support really takes a load of my mind.", smiled Eiji as they continued their way to the city's center.

Word of the Author

Uff, change of plans. I cut off the Phantom Sayonara part and put in the Blue Box talk. I think Phantom Sayonara should get its own chapter aka 24.5 or so.
A bit too late since I planned an earlier release but I still consider 40 minutes after midnight to be part of sunday, so eeeeh, it's fine, lol.

5341 words in total. Hopefully I get my act together and start updating at a usual pace again. Man, once you take too much time off, it is hard to get back in. And I really wanna go into the Underground City arc, yet it is such a drag to get there in the first place , still we are getting there step by step.

Hope you liked the chapter and will look forward to next week ones.^^
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