Chapter 5 (or, “Enter the Longshore”)
The door to the Cerulean Tower swung open, and Canberra Longshore strutted in, his head held high.
Everybody's attention turned toward him when he entered. His step was sure and straightforward, like he owned the room already -- which he did. His long happi jacket, custom made, skirted the floor as he glided along, the only sound the tap tap tap of his geta on the floor. He stood tall, and his hair did as well, flaming red and reaching spiked towards the skies.
He smiled as he got to the front desk. "Are we all set for the green room, Secretary-san?"
The secretary behind the desk, a woman dressed in a simple black mimono, rolled her eyes. She didn't fall for Canberra's charisma. "To the left, thank you," she said, not once looking at him.
Canberra shrugged and sauntered off to the left. Forget her, he said to himself. If she couldn't see the brilliance that was Canberra Longshore, then she didn't deserve to be a part of this mass invasion that was taking East Asia over.
This meeting with Rhiannon Noh Kee Moh herself was the most important thing he had going on today, but it wasn't the only thing. He had an interview with Choi Leeteuk of the Korean News this morning, then had a press conference with the school he had been volunteering at. After this meeting with Rhiannon, he would head to the nearest arena for a special exhibition duel against Kouji Takakura, now officially the fourth highest ranked Digital Merge player in Japan. Who was this Erika Tomoyaki girl who had taken over? He didn't know, but he was anxious to find out. That and...well, he would have to get there on time to see if that would work or not.
He knew the Cerulean Tower like the back of his hand, so reaching the green room was easy. The conference room was huge, spacious, with a view of Shibuya outside. Rhiannon wasn't there yet -- and she wasn't either -- but a girl with a baseball cap and a blue mimono was sitting, talking with a girl in a green mimono. Also nearby were two American girls -- at least, they looked American -- and a younger girl with blonde pigtails. Canberra recognized the blonde girl as Arashi Yamazaki and one of the Americans as Liana Kouseki -- two of the raffle winners to be a part of this important meeting. The tanned girl with the purple mimono must be Liana's special guest.
He focused on the two girls he didn't know. "Excuse me?"
The girl in the green mimono looked up. “Are you the one who’s running this show?” she asked, with nearly no regard for Canberra whatsoever.
It peeved him off. Who was this girl? Did she even know who she was talking to? Did she even have an inkling of a doubt that the one and only Canberra Longshore was in front of her? This was most certainly rubbish.
The girl behind the rude one, the one with the baseball cap, touched her friend on the shoulder. “Kyara-chan, that’s definitely not Rhiannon, although you look Korean,” she noted. “You must be Canberra. I’m Tomoyaki Erika. I don’t think we’ve had a chance to meet before.”
Oh, This was Erika. The ignorant girl must be her guest. Canberra cheered right up considerably as he bowed to the girl. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, Tomoyaki-ssi.”
“Erika is fine. As for the things said, I’ll judge them when I hear them. This is my best friend, Losule Kyara.”
And it was now that the green mimono girl introduced herself. “Hey! That’s me, Kyara. Nice to meet you!”
Canberra tried his hardest not to roll his eyes. “Nice to meet you as well,” he muttered, scanning the room once more. A Chinese kid had stepped in, but no sign of her yet. The closer it got to five, the more nervous he got. What if she didn’t show? What if she had something else she needed to do? No, this involved Digital Merge -- she had to be here.
Thankfully this Erika girl kept him occupied while he waited. She asked him about his deck, which if anybody knew Canberra, he talked the most about his deck and how awesome it was. He got to tell her all about his favorite cards, starting with the Trio of Light Dogs, the Magical Faeries of Yore, and Rainbow Ryuuzaki, a card so powerful it could immediately win the game...if you had the right combination of cards in your hand. Canberra had only used it once or twice in gameplay because it was so hard to pull off.
In return, Erika talked about her fire deck and the Red Giant for a while, and soon, it was right before five. Kiiroka Jaci had arrived, surprisingly dressed modest for the occasion -- Canberra had a feeling the news crew had sent her and she was not here for her blog. Any moment now, and Rhiannon herself would step into the room and start the conference. That only left one thing --
The door to the Green Room opened again, and Yoshida Rikimo stuck her head in. Canberra’s nerves finally let go. She was here.
Rikimo had arrived in style, sporting the nevest Stars Shine mimono with black lace around the trim and long, wide, flowing sleeves. She wore black baggy jeans to go with it, as she always did, with old tennis shoes to complete the outfit. Nobody wore tennis shoes anymore outside of gym class, but Rikimo somehow pulled the look off without looking trashy.
Then, her dark eyeliner-set eyes met Canberra’s, and she rolled her eyes.
Canberra didn’t know what he had done wrong, but it was no secret among Digital Merge’s elite that she hated him. No clue as to why. It might have had something to do with the fact that they were the two most prolific stars in the game, always neck and neck in the rankings. They were often paired up for media together this way, appearing on television shows direct to tablets and digital radio.
It could also have something to do with the fact that Canberra had confessed to Rikimo two years ago, back when they had both just started at the game. They had been friends before that, but Rikimo had said no, and since then, she had avoided him like the plague. Canberra still didn’t know exactly what he had done wrong -- sure, he had tried to get over Rikimo, and it hadn’t really worked, but at least he had tried to still be friends with her. But Rikimo apparently didn’t like having friends. At all. Her friends were her cards.
They had used to duel each other back then all the time as well. They were so good together. Until they weren’t.
“How are you?” he asked. No calling her by name. No really giving her the time of day, even though he was elated to see her and was hoping she would make it on time. No, he had to keep ths as impersonal as possible.
Rikimo just gave him a nod. That was pretty standard for her these days. Canberra was lucky if he got Rikimo to talk. It was true, what they said about her on television. The Ice Queen. Canberra would feel better about that nickname if he wasn’t constantly beating himself up, thinking he had started it in the first place.
Did he make her this way?
Canberra felt like he would never know.
Before he could ask her anything else, though, Rhiannon stepped into the room, and the air immediately changed. If Canberra and Rikimo were Digital Merge royalty, then Rhiannon herself was God. or Buddha, or something like it. She commanded the atmosphere with her long skirted green hanbok and red tying ribbon, tablet under her arm. The room was silent as she walked to the head of the table. Jaci, in the back, set up a huge camera and started to record, and Canberra watched her focus it on Rihannon.
“Thank you all for being here today,” Rhiannon said with a smile, plugging her tablet in. “As is customary of these events, I have invited the press and the most prominent players to this conference. However, this is the first time others have been allowed a look into my world. Arashi, Henry, and Liana, thank you for your presence today. It will be just a minute as I set up, so your patience is --”
Rhiannon was interrupted by a knock on the door. Canberra turned his head to see a tall, lanky American boy stick his head into the room. “Oh -- is this where the Digital Merge presentation is taking place?” he asked in accented Japanese.
Canberra heard a gasp from across the room -- he saw Erika’s friend point at the guy. “Is that Nathan Tyler?” she asked out loud, drawing the attention of everybody else in the room.
Canberra sighed. Time to take the trash out, as they say. He got up from his chair and started to walk over to the boy. Wherever this person was headed, this Green Room was the wrong one for him.
But Canberra never got to the door.