The Intriguing Chronicles of a Mundane Hobby

「平凡趣味の面白い物語」

Chapter 1: Welcome to the Club!

With a disheartened sigh, I hit "save" and turned off the console. It was already getting pretty late, and I did want to get a shower before I went to bed, since I have school tomorrow... Sulking out of my room with pajamas in hand, I made my way to the bathroom and turned on the shower. I've always appreciated the fact that a nice warm shower gives you time to de-stress and think about all the things you have on your mind. In my case, I've been thinking a lot about video games lately.

And I mean, that's fine. It's not like I have anything else to do. I almost always get my homework done in class, and on B days I have a study hall, which makes it even easier. So, by the time I get home, unless I have to go to work, I can usually just hole up in my room and play games until I have to go to bed. Which is fine... it's just boring, I guess. I've done nothing but work and play video games all summer too, and I was hoping once the school year started something would change. And yet, here we are, two weeks in, and I've still got the same old summer habits. I still haven't found any club that I'm interested in, and I don't really have any close friends to talk to. The only close friends I've ever had are... Emma Lancaster and Satsuki Ishikawa.

In 6th and 7th grade, Satsuki and I would go to watch Emma's soccer games together. Satsuki's mom would pick me up, and to keep us busy on the long car rides, we'd play road games like I Spy and 20 Questions. It was usually pretty fierce competition, but after a while we stopped playing I Spy because Satsuki would win every time. When we got there, Satsuki would lay out the blankets. She was very meticulous about it, being as neat as she could, and she'd always bring a few blankets because she didn't like the feeling of the grass.

We usually didn't get to see Emma before the game started, because she was practicing with the team, but when we saw her get out on the field, we'd cheer as hard as we could. Well, I think I actually did most of the cheering, but I could tell Satsuki was having fun too. At halftime, we'd meet up with Emma, and Satsuki would use her allowance to get us all salt and vinegar chips. For a while we just drank water with it, but then one day Emma brought a jar of pickle juice for us to share.

We were suspicious at first, and it took Satsuki especially a lot of convincing to even try it. But with Emma's insistence, and some encouragement on my part, she drank it. In the end, we all really liked it. As it turns out, the saltiness of pickle juice pairs well with salt and vinegar chips. So, every week Emma would bring pickle juice, and Satsuki would buy chips.

After the game, if Emma's team won, her Dad would take us out for ice cream at our favorite shop. They didn't have too many flavors, but we all really liked their cookie dough milkshakes. If we didn't have school the next day, Emma's parents would let us have a sleepover at their house, and we'd stay up all night talking, playing games, and just having a good time. Those were the days…

Unfortunately, Emma and Satsuki have been keeping themselves pretty busy lately, what with I have absolutely no clue... And besides them I don't really know anybody else. Maybe I could try making some new friends? I've never really had great social skills, but I gotta do something! Maybe, "Hi! My name is Kyoko Hanamori! Let's be friends!" No, that's too pushy...

I think I'll just wing it, it'll probably be fine. Besides, I don't necessarily have to make new friends anyways. I finished up my shower, put on my pajamas, and started brushing my long, blonde hair. People always complimented me on it, so I try my best to make sure it looks nice. The one good thing about having straight hair is that it's not too hard to brush and style. It just falls neatly around my shoulders and looks good that way without too much effort.

I climbed into bed thinking of the Monday to come, hoping it would bring an end to my boredom.

- The Next Day –

My alarm woke me up early as usual. I'm a really light sleeper, so I only need one alarm to wake me up. I picked out some clothes and got dressed. A simple pair of purple jeans with a pink t-shirt, a grey zip-up hoodie, and my favorite cyan tennis shoes. I guess I'm what you'd call a tomboy, but sometimes I like to add a little bit more color to my outfit. Besides, I might be meeting new people today, and I need to make an impression! It just makes me happy that my school doesn't have a uniform.

After that, I packed my lunch and switched out the textbooks in my bag. My high school has a weird flippy-floppy day system called block scheduling. You only have a few classes each day, but they're a lot longer, and since classes are scheduled over two days, A and B, you still have just as many classes as a high school using the period system. Basically, Mondays and Wednesdays are A days, Tuesdays and Thursdays are B days, and Fridays alternate between A and B each week. It's a little confusing, but it's not bad once you get used to it.

Once my bag was packed, I grabbed a bagel for breakfast and decided to check my social media accounts. I usually have a good bit of free time in the mornings since I wake up so early, and I'm still usually early to school, too. But I like it that way. People who are constantly running late really make me angry, so I try to be as punctual as possible. I'd rather be half an hour early than five minutes late.

I think I might text Satsuki, it's been a while since we really hung out. "Hey, could you hang out during lunch today?" No... I don't wanna seem desperate. I mean, I can just talk to her in person anyways. I don't know where she sits, but she has the same lunch as me, she can't be that hard to find. Feeling a little down, I started my walk to school with some good tunes in my headphones. Music always makes me feel better, and walking helps me ease my mind, so long as the walk isn't too long. I'd really rather drive to school, but they don't sell parking passes to sophomores for some dumb reason. At least I live close enough to the school that I can enjoy the walk.

After my walk, I arrived to the school about 25 minutes early, which is pretty early, even for me. I decided to look around for Emma and Satsuki, even though I knew they probably wouldn't be here, but I had nothing better to do. Satsuki is good about being punctual like me, but almost never gets here as early as I do. Emma, on the other hand, is the type to wake out of bed 5 minutes before the first bell rings, rush her way over to the school, usually forgetting something in the process, and usually being a few minutes late to homeroom. If she's lucky, she'll walk in right as the first block bell rings. "She's such a goof...", I giggled to myself.

On my absent-minded journey through the school, I happened upon a little classroom that looked like it wasn't used often, tucked away in the back corner of the upstairs hallway. I couldn't see much through the window, but the light was on. I thought it was strange, I'd never seen this room before. I know I'm only a sophomore, but I thought I knew the school pretty well. It'd be pretty embarrassing if an underclassman asked me where the room was and I couldn't tell them… Besides, I still have 10 minutes before classes start, I might as well. With my curiosity peaked, I opened the door and head inside.

The room was empty besides a few square tables with chairs set on either side of them, with a couple shelves along the walls, and a lockable closet in the corner. In the back of the room sat a boy who was playing with what looked like some card game. He was a little taller than me. I'm 5'5" and if I had to guess, I'd say he was about 5'7". He looked to be about my age, but he could be in a different grade, since I'm a bit old for a 10th grader. He had short, black hair and very striking blue eyes. He was wearing a black pullover hoodie with a logo for a game I didn't recognize on it, and what looked like khaki cargo pants, with some simple maroon sneakers.

As I got closer, I could see he wasn't really playing a game with his cards like I initially thought. He was hunched over the table, intently pouring over all the cards he had spread out among the table. It looked like he was going through a stack of cards and organizing them. Upon closer inspection, the cards themselves looked a bit peculiar. They weren't like playing cards, or any other card game I had played. They had lots of text on them, and the artwork wasn't drawn. Rather, it seemed to be very intricately designed pixel art, with a unique art style.

"Umm... So, what's this?" I asked him, now studying the cards just as carefully as he was.

"Oh, hi! I didn't see you sneak in here!" he replied somewhat surprised, taking a brief glance at me before turning his head back down to the cards. "This is Pixel Bit, a card game that my friends and I like to play." he explained.

"So... if you're not playing, what exactly are you doing with all those cards?" I inquired.

"Well," he said, taking a deep breath, "Pixel Bit is a trading card game, or TCG for short. Half the fun of games like this is building a deck that works well, both within itself and against your opponents. Unfortunately, my deck has been on a losing streak recently, so I figured I should pull some of the cards for better ones. The only problem is I can't seem to decide which cards to take out and which ones to put in..."

"Jeez, that sounds pretty rough. Seems like a lot of maintenance" I responded.

I never really liked games that took a lot of work to play. I want to enjoy the time I spend with a game, not feel like I'm doing a chore, so I've never actually played one of these games. My hopes of being friends with him started to die down. I mean, he seems like a pretty nice guy and all, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the game for me, and it kinda looks like this is his only hobby…

"Hey, wait a minute!" he asserted, finally taking his eyes off the cards again. "Aren't you Emma and Satuki's friend? What was it... Kiyoha?" he asked.

"Oh, um... My name is Kyoko, actually. How do you know Emma and Satsuki?" I asked, a bit startled that he knew me somehow. I'm not very popular or anything…

"Well, they joined my play group recently. Some of my other friends and I started a club for playing Pixel Bit, and Emma and Satsuki joined a few days after. They talk about you a bit, and they've shown me a few pictures of you guys together." he clarified.

So that's what they've been so busy with recently...

"Oh, and sorry I forgot your name. I'm really not good with names in the first place, and Emma and Satsuki insist on calling you Kyo-chan, so it got a little muddled in my head..." he apologized, with a sad look on his face.

"That's okay, it's not a big deal. Well anyways, thanks for the chat. I should be on my way to homeroom now, see ya." I said, turning for the door.

"Oh okay. Well by the way, my name is Jason! Jason Hayes! If you ever wanna come to our Pixel Bit club, we meet after school for a few hours on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays! It'd be great to have you there!" he replied bombastically, standing up from his chair with a big grin spread across his face.

"Oh, well-" before I could give my entire response, the release bell rang, and before I knew it the halls were crowded with loud, bustling students all going to their classes.

"Um... bye!" I gave awkwardly, hurrying out of the classroom. I only had a few minutes to make it to my class, which was all the way on the other end of the building, so I'd have to rush to make it in time. But honestly, I was more worried about the conversation I'd just had with Jason... That probably came of as rude, just saying bye and rushing off like that... Even worse, I'm not really sure how to tell him I don't want to join his club. He seems really passionate about it, and I'd feel bad after he went through all that trouble to be polite and explain things to me. With a sigh and a sinking heart, I headed into my first class of the day, just barely on time.

-After class-

With my first few classes of the day over, I eagerly headed to lunch. I knew I wouldn't have much time to eat and hang out, since I have a pretty long walk from the classroom to the cafeteria, but I was determined to find Emma and Satsuki and say at least something to them... After finally making my way there, I started perusing the tables, searching for my two friends. Within only a few minutes, I found them sitting in a rather barren corner of the room across from each other.

I guess I hadn't fully realized how long it had been since I had seen them... Emma had grown quite a bit, although she was still a good few inches shorter than me, probably around 5'5". Her curly ginger hair was still cut short, how she likes to wear it. Even if she did have a different hairstyle, I'd recognize those bright blue eyes and freckles anywhere. She was wearing her custom-made pastel pink and yellow letterman jacket, plastered with personally made patches and logos from her favorite video game and anime series. Beneath that was a nerdy RoboVoco shirt depicting one of her favorite artists, a plain white skirt with black tights, and none other than her limited edition sparkling purple sneakers.

Satsuki was wearing a long white cardigan and a grey blouse decorated with light flowery patterns, which contrasted her black hair well. She had a black floral skirt with roses on it, and some simple white shoes. Actually, now that I think about it, it looks like Satsuki has grown too, a lot! She used to be 2 or 3 inches shorter than me, but now she's way taller than I am. She's probably about 5'10" or 5'11" now…

As I had suspected, it looked like they were playing that Pixel Bit game Jason was talking about earlier. They each had a hand of cards, with what looked to be a deck at their side. Cards were laid out on either side of the table, and a board was set in between them with figures placed on a grid. Sat next to Emma was a short boy with scruffy, dirty-blond hair and rectangle glasses, with vibrant blue rims. He was wearing a navy blue sweater, with a simple pair of jeans and tennis shoes. He seemed to be watching Emma and Satsuki's game closely.

I took a seat next to Satsuki and started eating.

"Ah! Kyo-chan! I didn't know you were in this lunch section!" Emma shouted excitedly.

"Yeah! I didn't know you guys were in this section either." That was a blatant lie, but I didn't want to hurt her and Satsuki's feelings. "I usually just sit down at the first seat I see open and eat by myself, but I've been pretty lonely recently, so I figured I'd look around first today. I'm really glad I found you guys." I said with a smile.

"Ahh that makes sense. It's good to see you again, Kyo-chan." Satsuki stated softly, with that classic, easygoing smile of hers.

The boy sitting next to Emma finally turned his head away from the board to get a good look at me. "So, this is the friend you've been telling us about? Kyoko Hanamori if I remember correctly, yes?" he inquired in a calm, somewhat monotone voice.

"Oh, yeah! I'm surprised you remembered my name, but... Nice to meet you!" I answered.

"Oh that's right! I'm so so sorry we forgot to introduce you to Mako-kun!" Emma apologized fervently.

"My name is Makoto Kawano, although Emma refuses to call me anything other than 'Mako-kun', and I don't care enough to correct her." Makoto explained.

"Yeah, that's Emma for you." I laughed. "So did you guys meet at the Pixel Bit club?" I asked.

"Well, Emma did. I actually have a few classes with Makoto, and he ended up convincing me to join the club. He's very smart, and a great strategist." Satsuki clarified.

"Mhmm! Mako-kun's amazing!" Emma proudly declared. "He always beats me every time I play him. He's really good, but I think one of these days I'll find a way to beat him..." She claimed, giving a seedy-eyed look to Makoto.

"You both flatter me," Makoto said calmly, "but in truth I'm only as smart as the cards allow me to be."

"What the heck does that mean?" I questioned.

"Makoto says a lot of things that are metaphorical or proverbial. I wouldn't pay it too much mind." Satsuki stated.

"Oh, okay. So um, who's winning?" I inquired, turning my gaze to the board.

"Ooh, I know this one! It's me! Look at all my soldiers! I'll take down Sacchi's army in no time!" Emma proclaimed, pointing to figurines scattered around the board.

"Well, hmmm..." Satsuki pondered for a minute. "I'm not really sure who's winning. It seems to me like we're pretty even right now." She remarked.

"Actually," Makoto chimed in, "Satsuki is winning."

"Huhh? But I have a bigger army than Sacchi..." Emma insisted, somewhat confused.

"Yes, that may be true. However, the disparity in units holds no candle to the disparity in information." Makoto started to explain. "You see, although Emma controls six units and Satsuki controls four, Emma's hand currently contains only one card. If you look at this card here," he said, pointing to one of the cards on Satsuki's side of the table, "whenever Emma draws a card, she must reveal it to Satsuki. This means that she can anticipate with high accuracy whatever Emma intends to do." Makoto unfolded.

"Woah..." I uttered in awe. "I never knew card games were so complex. That's really interesting." I expressed, taking a closer look at the board.

"Do you like strategy games, Kyoko?" Makoto asked with a slight smile, turning his gaze back to me.

"Yeah, I love them! I recently got the newest Lightning Signet game and I've been playing it like, non-stop!" I responded. I was so excited to see someone as interested in strategy games as I am. "Actually... now that I'm thinking about it, Pixel Bit looks pretty similar." I noted.

"Yes," Makoto grinned, "I suspect you would be right at home in a game like Pixel Bit. If you're free after school, you should come with us to the club."

"Yeah Kyo-chan come with us! It'll be super-duper fun!" Emma exclaimed, staring at me with puppy-dog eyes.

"I must admit," Satsuki added, "the club has done wonders for taking the boredom away. Besides that, Jason and Sam are pretty fun to be around. I bet you'd like them." Satsuki posed with a wistful smile.

"Oh... Well... sure, why not! I might as well I guess." I said, a bit unsure of myself.

I still wasn't sure if I'd really enjoy myself, but the game did seem pretty intriguing. And of course, that would mean I wouldn't have to worry about letting Jason down anymore. I breathed a sigh of relief. Really, I don't know what I'm so anxious about though. Isn't this exactly what I wanted? I get to spend time with Emma and Satsuki, meet new friends, and take up a whole lot of free time I wasn't doing much with anyways. Yeah, this is gonna be great. Yeah! I'll have a great time! I started to crack an eager smile, newly excited for the afternoon to come. Suddenly, the lunch bell rang, and we started to pack up.

"Well, I'll see you later then." Makoto said, still grinning as he picked up his backpack and walked out of the lunchroom.

"Bye-bye, Kyo-chan!" Emma gave happily as she hurriedly stuffed her things into her bag and ran off.

"Oh, do you know where the club room is, Kyo-chan?" Satsuki asked as she was cleaning up her cards.

"Um. I think so. Is it that tiny room in the corner of the upstairs hallway? Room 2001 I think, right?" I questioned back.

"Yep, that's it! I'll see you there." Satsuki waved with a smile as she headed off to class.

With my spirits rising and excitement growing, I put my headphones in for a nice taste of uplifting music on my way to class. With a big, stupid grin plastered on my face, I set off, and let the catchy guitar riffs carry me away.

-At the End of the School Day-

As the final bell rang, my excitement grew, and in eager anticipation of the next few hours with friends, I quickly packed up my things as raced into the hall, trying to get to that little club room as fast as I could. Once I got there, I opened the door to see everyone sitting around one of the tables, chatting and having fun. In addition to Emma, Satsuki, Jason, and Makoto, there was one other boy sitting at the table, probably that Sam guy Satsuki mentioned earlier. He had straight, light blond hair that reached almost down to his shoulders, his bangs nearly covering his vibrant blue-green eyes on the right side. He wore a simple, black long-sleeve t-shirt with a Pixel Bit logo on it, and a pair of khaki cargo shorts with brown boots.

He got up from the table and walked over to greet me. "So, you're the Kyoko I've been hearing all about right? Welcome! My name is Sam Reed, and I'm the president of the Pixel Bit club. It's great to finally meet you." he said with a warm smile and a firm handshake.

"Ah, yeah. Kyoko Hanamori. It's nice to meet you, too." I replied, still a little nervous, but mostly excited.

"So, do you plan on joining the club?" he asked, pulling a chair up to the table for me and reassuming his own seat.

"Well, probably? Maybe... I'm not entirely sure yet, but I'm definitely interested." I answered shakily.

"Really, Kyo-chan? You will, you will?!" Emma chimed in excitedly.

"Well, like I said, maybe." I gave with a half-assed, unsure smile.

I do want to join, and I probably will, especially seeing as Emma and Satsuki seem so happy to have me here. I'm just a little worried... What exactly am I getting myself into?

"That's great to hear!" Sam continued, "The club is always looking for new members, and with six we'll finally have enough for a proper team."

"You guys do team events?" I inquired; my interest once again peaked.

"Well, we want to, but we don't have enough people. Luckily, none of this year's events have started yet, so we still have a little bit of time." Sam explained.

"Oh, well that's good." I replied happily. "I guess I just want to know a little bit more about the club and the game before I make my decision."

"Yeah, that's fine. So-"

As Sam started to explain, the door flung open and pompous-looking girl strutted in. She was wearing a long green dress with black flats. She had obnoxiously bright pink hair, with a smug grin and a defiant look in her bright green eyes.

"I'm Haruki Matsumoto, and I'm going to join your club!" she claimed proudly, standing firmly at the door.

"Hey! You can't just barge in like that!" Jason shouted, standing up from his chair to go stop her. Unfortunately, he was quickly sat back down by Makoto's hand.

"Umm, who exactly is that?" Satsuki whispered to Makoto, hoping he would have the answer.

"Haruki Matsumoto, if you listened." He quipped back. "But if you're looking for a greater description, she's an 11th grader, and quite the troublemaker. Last year, she was kicked out of 3 clubs for causing drama and fighting with the members, and she was just kicked out of another club last week." He clarified, shooting her a snide glance. Looking around the room again, Emma was unusually quiet. She seemed lost in thought…

"Why exactly do you want to join our club?" Sam interrogated firmly.

"Oh, come on! I need friends. I want some friends!" She answered bombastically, "But nobody wants to be my friend..." She continued, putting on an obviously disingenuous pouty face. "Oh, but it's okay!" She added, suddenly happy again. "You all look like you'll make great friends!" She laughed as if a plan was coming together.

We were all shocked. Sam looked like he had it together, but it also seemed like he had no clue what to do. Jason was staring at Haruki angrily, and I couldn't tell if he didn't know how to respond or was just holding back. Makoto looked as calm as ever, his eyes closed as if he was concentrating. Satsuki looked very nervous and uncomfortable, but I knew she was far more than too shy to speak up. Meanwhile, Emma still had her head leaned against her palm as if she was thinking about something, blankly staring into the distance. I had no clue how to respond, and was just waiting, hoping someone would say something to make it less awkward.

Suddenly, Emma stood up, pointing at Haruki. "I propose a match!" She shouted.

"Huh...?" Haruki muttered, confused.

"A match! If you're gonna join the club, you gotta prove you'll be useful!" Emma continued, unwaveringly. "If you can't even beat Kyo-chan, our newest member, in a one-on-one game, you have no right to join our team!" She explained proudly.

"WHAT, ME?" I yelled in surprise.

"Hmmm... I guess that's fair." Haruki stated with a somewhat defeated look on her face. "Just don't expect me to be a pushover, ya know?" she added, reassuming her snide smile.

"Okay, here are the terms: Kyoko and Haruki will play a one-on-one game of Pixel Bit. If Haruki loses, she cannot join the club. If Kyoko loses, Haruki joins. I'll give you each one week to prepare your decks, and the match will begin promptly at the start of the club meeting next Monday. Understood?" Sam outlined, playing along with Emma's idea.

"Well, I guess that's fine..." Haruki started, turning to leave. "Hey, wait a minute!" She yelled, turning back to the group. "You can't put restrictions like that on me joining! It says so in the Student Council Handbook! If you don't let me join right now, I'll report you to the Principal for club misconduct!" Haruki screamed, doubling down on her efforts.

"Actually, we aren't an official, school-sanctioned club yet. Therefore, we are not beholden to the rules outlined in the Student Council handbook. But thank you for trying." Makoto noted, with a cold stare at Haruki.

"B-but… t-t-the… you can't..." Haruki stammered, searching for an excuse. "AAARRGH! I'LL SEE YOU ON MONDAY!" Haruki shouted with a defeated look on her face before storming out of the room, slamming the door on her way out.

"Nice one, Emma!" Jason shouted as he offered her a high-five.

Makoto laid his head back and breathed a sigh of relief. Satsuki and Sam relaxed themselves as well, and everybody sat back down. I on the other hand, was more nervous than when Haruki came in!

"Emma! Why exactly did you have to volunteer me like that?!" I inquired nervously, nearly shouting.

"Oh! Sorry, Kyo-chan, but I had to prove a point to her. You are our newest member after all." She explained joyfully.

"Okay, but how do you expect me to win? I know almost nothing about this game!" I continued, hoping for a better answer.

"It's okay, Kyo-chan, I believe in you. Besides, I wouldn't have volunteered you for something if I didn't think you could do it!" She said, with a big smile spread across her face.

"Yeah! It'll be fine, Kyoko. We can teach you all the ins and outs and help you make a deck and everything!" Sam chimed in, giving the same, warm smile.

"You know, as someone already quite acclimated to strategy games, you really should be just fine." Makoto noted.

"Exactly! That Haruki doesn't stand a chance!" Jason added bombastically.

"Well, Kyo-chan, welcome to the club!" Satsuki offered with a soft giggle and a grin.

I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into, but it looks like there's no turning back.

-End of Chapter 1-

Next time- Chapter 2: Sam-Sensei's Pixel Bit Masterclass

*Author's Note*

The world depicted in this series is very similar to our current world, but not entirely the same. Your inspirations inevitably bleed into your works, and as such, this world will display some characteristics of both modern-day Japan and modern-day America. Thank you for understanding.

Pixel Bit is a completely fictional card game created by me.