Contest #66 shortlist ⭐️

Virtual Reality Show

Submitted into Contest #66 in response to: Write about a contest with life or death stakes.... view prompt

205 comments

Science Fiction Sad East Asian

Mihara leaps into the air, barely escaping the fireball that should have vaporized her. It blooms into a screaming marigold below her, coaxing water vapor out of the marsh.



It had to be Marshlands, she inwardly seethes as she splashes down in muddy water and tries to peer through the steam blanketing her vision. And of course I get matched with a pyromancer.



“Once again, Rōnin avoids getting flame-grilled by the skin of her teeth,” broadcasts the invisible announcer. “Had she reacted one heartbeat too late, she might have paired well with some Teriyaki sauce and a bowl of rice.”



Mihara’s fingers curl around her katana. She glares down at the sweat-stained brow and muddy cheeks glaring back from the blade, and thinks of how ironic it is that she chose the Player Name “Rōnin” when there’s someone she’s fighting for.



Someone that won’t last the end of the year if Mihara doesn’t win the grand prize.



“Show yourself, you cowardly motherfucker lover!” she yells.



The Automated Censorship System beats her to it, which gets a snide remark out of the announcer and an echoing laugh out of her opponent on the other side of the mist. It’s ridiculous how a game like Player vs Player clamps a gloved hand over pottymouths yet features about as much bloodshed as a slaughterhouse from the twenty-first century.



Not that Mihara is complaining. She pinpoints the origin of the laughter and launches herself in that direction, kicking up grimy water in her wake. The mist parts and there he is, a bearded face sitting atop flowing red robes. A hand dripping with flames rakes the air, so Mihara sidesteps it, the heat kissing her cheek. Her heart is a wardrum beating out a tune of fury as she cleaves his head clean off his shoulders, sending a crimson geyser into the air to rain back down on her.



Mihara’s world soon becomes thick with applause resounding from the packed arena seats and the announcer’s cry of “Rōnin advances to the next round!” 



Those words echo in her ears well after she logs off and rips the Virtual Reality headset from her face. She lies there with the stench of mildew in her dusty apartment, as long as it takes for her adrenaline-flavored breaths to die down. It’s not real, she reassures herself as sweaty fingers grip the bedsheets, even though she can still feel the flames dancing on her skin and the shadow of every blow she’s taken since her first match.



To think there was once a time when a decent VR experience required motion tracking and ample room for movement. Nowadays anyone with half a roof over their head can just lie down and upload their consciousness into whatever online simulation they please, every minutiae of sensation just as vivid and terrifying as their real world equivalents.



A sharp Ding! jolts her to her senses. She glances at her tablet. Seven new messages from the nursing home.



He’s getting restless. Please come ASAP.



With a sigh, Mihara wriggles into a jacket and steps out into the streets of Neo Tokyo.





🍜





Ty grunts as he rips one of his knives out of the fallen archer at his feet. The body disappears from the scorching hot sand a few seconds later; evidently, his opponent isn’t too keen on staying to congratulate him.



“Plague advances to the next round!” declares the announcer as the crowd goes wild. Ty chose a Player Name that strikes fear before the fighting begins, that burrows into his opponents’ heads like a disease. Like his assassin knives have done time and time again.



Before logging off, he greets his fans at the virtual lounge. Ty has drawn in viewers like ants to honey ever since his first match, no doubt because he’s the only contestant of foreign blood able to go toe to toe with the locals. It’s for the same reason he has just as many haters, and the fact that he’s a certain kind of American doesn’t help.



He removes the VR headset to find a cup of instant ramen on what passes for the coffee table. Fumiko is there, grinning expectantly, and how can Ty not scoop her up in his arms and give her a big wet smooch on the cheek?



“Daddy, eww!



“You’re the best, sugarcube.”



Fumiko scurries back to her makeshift bedroom in the kitchen. Ty fills the ramshackle house with the scent of chili oil and artificial pork as he slurps up the noodles. It’s always jarring to leave the virtual world and watch his muscles deflate with his superhuman reflexes. Sometimes he pretends that the arena is all he has, and there aren’t any duct taped windows or naked mattress springs waiting for him.



Or loan sharks. He still remembers how Fumiko was silent for three days straight after a drone followed him back home and shone a blood-red dot over her heart. Yes, a machine making threats—but the greasy voice that rang from its speakers was all too human. Ty had picked up Fumiko and relocated to another rank corner of the slums the day after. VR headsets don’t come cheap.



Ty props up his outdated tablet on the table and picks a live match at random. What he sees makes the broth go bland.



Life was simple until now, or as simple as life gets in the slums: he was going to blaze through the competition one by one, snatch the grand prize, and watch Fumiko’s face light up the way it used to when her mother was still around. But the way this woman clad in samurai garb is fighting, this Rōnin, twists a dagger of cold, hard doubt into his soul.



A chill skitters down his spine when the pyromancer is decapitated like a novice, which he clearly isn’t. Rōnin vanishes from the arena without even waving to the ecstatic audience. Ty loses his appetite.



He finds Fumiko lying on a moth-eaten mattress, her milk-bowl eyes gazing longingly into a portrait of the Governor. He knows she’s thinking of how good those robes would look on her. Lately she’s preferred that over the family portrait, the only remaining remnant of her mother.



Ty sits beside her. “All good, sugarcube?”



“Daddy, when do I get to go to school?”



“When Daddy wins the grand prize. You can be anything you want afterwards. Maybe even the next Governor.”



There’s a parental restriction on the family tablet to prevent Fumiko from being scarred for life, so instead of spectating Ty’s matches all she can do is sit quietly and... hope.



“Promise you’ll win, Daddy?”



Ty takes a deep breath. “I promise.”





🍜





Fifty billion. That’s how much yen Mihara will walk away with when this blows over. Every digit is painted in bright red across the ceiling of the training chamber so that she has a reason to get up every time she’s knocked flat on her back. Like right now.



“Worthless,” chant the computer-controlled opponents closing in on her. “Pathetic. Useless. Weak.”



Shut up,” she shrieks as she leaps to her feet and lets her katana dance through flesh. The faceless figures drop like zapped mosquitoes, liquid crimson pooling around their bodies.



Panting, Mihara surveys her work. All dead in a single stroke to a vital region.



But one of them makes her breath catch. She stalks over and watches facial features materialize over its disembodied head: a familiar chubby nose, vein-streaked cheeks, pitch-black eyes that plead for help through a shimmering curtain of moisture…



NO,” she yells, flinging the VR headset to the side. It takes a few breaths to gather that she’s in the dim waiting lounge of the nursing home; a few other guests shoot her disapproving looks.



“Is everything alright, Mihara-san?” asks a nurse that appears at her side.



“I… yeah. Can I see him now?”



“He’s not lucid at the moment, but maybe seeing family will change that.”



The nurse leads Mihara down a corridor and into a stuffy ward that reeks of antiseptic, even though it’s routine at this point. It’s been five gruelling matches since the pyromancer a few days back; she’s had to chop down several more elementals, fellow weapon-users and even a beastmaster. Mihara herself is the samurai class because she needs that simple sense of finality in watching a head being separated from a body, even though it makes her want to throw up every time. Visiting her little brother has been one of two things roping her sanity together; the other can usually be found at the bottom of a sake bottle.



His pitch-black eyes stare at nothing in particular, yet they seem to reach out to Mihara, urging her to hurry up.



The robot caretaker on the other side of the bed hums to life. “Status: deteriorating. Estimated life expectancy: less than—”



“Power down,” instructs the nurse before Mihara’s day is ruined. The machine fades away, and sometimes Mihara wishes the world would do the same.



“Don’t worry,” she whispers as she pecks a cheek strewn with veins. “I’ll win for us. We’ll get you cured. Heck, with fifty billion yen, we’ll do more than that. We’ll make you better, stronger, happier than ever before.”



Mihara likes to think that her words have gravity, that these visits are just as revitalizing for him as they are for her. When she gazes into his face she sees a bank account bled dry, a college tuition flitting away on tiny wings, a lifetime of family assets gone in a puff of smoke. Just like their parents.



She sees no other option.





🍜





Grand Finals is tomorrow, which means there are less than twenty four hours before Ty either makes Fumiko’s life or watches it shatter into a million hopeless shards. Tonight she insists on going to their favorite ramen shop to celebrate him making it this far, and of course he’s only happy to oblige.



“For Plague-san, on the house,” smiles the chef over the counter as he starts heating a pot of dashi. If only his reputation could get his daughter free tuition.



Ty relishes every broth-soaked noodle. This place is his favorite because it still believes in handmade cuisine, rather than the soulless concoctions vomited out by machines. It takes him back to simpler times, when he didn’t have a fanbase lapping up every drop of blood he spilt or have to cry himself to sleep without Fumiko noticing.



One wall of the shop is adorned by old school framed portraits, sweaty faces gasping for air above mostly empty bowls. Ty’s picture was taken back when his family of two was a family of three, and if he stares into it long enough he can feel the kiss she planted on his cheek after he annihilated the spicy ramen challenge. Of course he did; he grew up in Louisiana before travelling the world to find greener pastures, only to find love instead. For a while, the world was... perfect.



“I can always take it down,” offers the chef.



“No.” Ty flicks a teardrop away. “It’s fine.”



A young woman in a biker jacket removes her helmet and sits at the counter two stools away. Ty wonders if she recognizes him as well as he recognizes her. As if in silent reverence, the chef hands her a bottle of sake before disappearing into the kitchen.



“You’re not going to win,” murmurs Rōnin after a good swig. She never looks up, so Ty doesn’t either.



“And why’s that?”



“Because I have everything to lose.”



Ty glances at Fumiko, who giggles by the fish tank in a far corner as she watches colorful shapes dart about. “Me too.”



The two final contestants sit there in silence, not quite enjoying each other’s company but not quite resenting it either.





🍜





He’s fast. Faster than Mihara has seen in the match replays she’s scrutinized for hours on end, faster than she could ever have dreamed.



Faster than… she is.



I won’t lose, she seethes as a knife whizzes clean through her ear, and she has to grit her teeth against the pain to stop herself from screaming.



I won’t lose, she reminds herself as she deflects a second knife, only to have a third knock the air out of her lungs and a fourth cleave the katana out of her palm.



I won’t lose, she consoles herself as Plague towers over her, fresh knives materializing between his fingers.



“After a nail-biting struggle,” cries the announcer, “it looks as if Rōnin has finally been brought to her knees.”



Grand Finals transpires on a flat platform suspended over a black void. No muddy water or sand or special terrain of any kind; just two Players in a duel to the death and the electric roar of an audience crackling through the air. 



An audience that will never know the broken, battered girl cowering beneath Rōnin’s facade.



Plague wears an assassin cloak of pristine white, which bestows him an appearance seesawing between divine and incorporeal. The ghost of an angel, here to take Mihara’s life. He draws the hood back, and it’s then that she can see it in his eyes: the same resoluteness, the same fire fuelled by the fate of a loved one.



She gazes up at this man and sees… herself.



Not that it stops her from lashing out. “Go fuck love yourself.”



“That’s Rōnin for you, folks,” chuckles the announcer. “Swears like a sailor even when facing defeat.”



It’s a distant echo to Mihara, same with the cheering audience. The only thing she truly senses is the frigid kiss of a blade on her neck.



“Thank you, Rōnin.”



It’s the last thing she hears before her life gushes out of her throat and she’s sent spiralling down into the cold, cold void.



The pain doesn’t fade long after she wrenches the VR headset off and sobs until her lungs ache.





🍜





“Are we going to school now, Daddy?”



“Not so fast, sugarcube. We’re going to the award ceremony. Daddy’s about to get the grand prize; he promised he would, didn’t he?”



Fumiko giggles from her perch around Ty’s shoulders. “He did!”



It’s the morning after the match against Rōnin and the streets of Ikebukuro are brimming with fanfare. Before Ty gets anywhere near the podium at the center of the crowd, a tattooed woman whose left arm is a patchwork of cybernetic implants looms over him. He hands her his VR headset. She checks for his Player ID before waving him through.



“You rock, you know that, Plague?”



“Uh, thanks.”



The crowd that’s come to spectate is too big to only be comprised of those filling up the seats in the virtual arena; people that have been watching from their tablets at home are among those screaming for Ty’s autograph and making a point about how kawaii his daughter is.



He sees Rōnin perched on the second-place podium and misses a step.



“Daddy, be careful!” 



“Sorry, sugarcube.”



The young man in third place nods in acknowledgment; Ty ignores him as he assumes his place at the top. A medal kisses his chest and the same announcer dives into a speech about perseverance or something equally hollow, but Ty is numb to everything except the sight of Rōnin standing dishevelled like a tree one winter short of withering away. To think this is the same girl that declared war against him in a ramen shop, and glowed like a cherry blossom while doing so.



Get it together, man.



With a grin and a pat on the back, the announcer places a gift card in Ty’s palm. All that’s left to do is scan it with his tablet, and Fumiko’s future is set.



As everyone disperses, Ty’s gaze follows Rōnin’s path down the platform, where a gaunt figure in a wheelchair awaits her.



Ty freezes. He’s seen those pleading, lifeless eyes before, but on a different face. A face that was stripped of its beauty one patch of skin at a time as the veins set in. Fumiko has gone still around his shoulders and he knows she’s reliving the same cursed memories.



The gift card is cold in Ty’s palm, the medal heavy around his neck. He won fair and square, so why can’t he bring himself to redeem fifty billion yen?



“Daddy, put me down!”



As soon as Fumiko’s tiny feet find the ground, she snatches the gift card out of Ty’s grasp and sprints down the platform.





🍜





A collective gasp runs through the remaining spectators when Mihara whirls around to find a little girl holding out the grand prize.



Her gaze finds Plague still standing on the platform, ten paces behind the girl. His face is set as he nods.



Mihara wants to chuckle. Or scream into the void that has held her hand during her darkest moments. Instead, she settles for breaking down on the spot and letting years of anguish stream down her cheeks to pool around her knees. The girl falls into her and they embrace, two souls joined in silent understanding.



None of it’s fair. But Mihara sees no other option.





🍜





Ty feels strangely whole as he picks up Fumiko and gives her a smooch on the cheek.



“Daddy, eww!”



The audience is ecstatic, and it’s been a while since Ty has seen his daughter’s face glow like this.



For now, it’s enough.


November 04, 2020 02:23

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205 comments

Great job getting shortlisted! You deserved it! :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:43 Nov 13, 2020

Thanks Haripriya!

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Bianka Nova
23:00 Nov 04, 2020

So Black Mirrory 🤖 +5 points for action sequences +5 points for food mentions 🍜🙌 +5 points for funny sweary rayhanisms Once again, a very good submission, but I'm secretly happy to say that if your top stories were 10s, this one is more like an 8, as I can find some room for improvement plotwise. I would turn up a notch the life or death stakes, so that the reader could feel more for the helpless situation of the characters. One player doesn't have it that hard at all. The mother's already gone, so there's nothing that can be d...

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Rayhan Hidayat
23:20 Nov 04, 2020

Black Mirror is like the best show ever. When I was writing this I thought, Bianka is gonna love the sweary bits lol You have no idea how glad I am that you've been putting up with me for this long--using my other stories as a frame of reference is so helpful for critique. Agreed with you on all those points--the brother idea is awesome, and I might throw in something about loan sharks to adress how he has a VR headset even though he's poor. But I'll take that 8/10 (I assume that means my previous one is a 10 in your book then?) Love...

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Bianka Nova
09:32 Nov 05, 2020

Yes! As you know, I think that you are one talented mother(lover), so it always makes my day to read a story of yours. The ones I've read so far are all 10s in my book, maybe except for a couple 9s ("apple" and "only human", and they are 9-9,5 just to distinguish how good the other ones are). At this point I'm kind of addicted and I always come back for more. Yours is quality stuff. 🤪

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:54 Nov 06, 2020

Thaaaaanks! 😙 God I just hope I can keep satisfying your appetite lol Oh and I finally got around to your changes, there’s a new paragraph a bit after the first section break that hopefully clears some things up

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Bianka Nova
09:23 Nov 06, 2020

I like the changes. They are actually subtle enough not to interfere with the main line, but I do feel that this way the story may unleash its onion power and get some tears rolling 😊

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:29 Nov 06, 2020

Ahhh that’s good. Onion power is always a plus in a story of you ask me

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Greta Faignant
22:41 Nov 16, 2020

Mihara is trying to save her brother. That is who is dying. "Visiting her little brother has been one of two things roping her sanity together..."

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:54 Nov 17, 2020

Don’t mind Bianka, she was just helping me improve this before it got accepted! At first Mihara really was saving an older relative, and I then changed it to brother at her suggestion 🙂 Thanks again for giving this a read!

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Orenda .
13:58 Nov 05, 2020

i loved this to bits and pieces. Dude, your descriptions are fabulous! Can i have you impart some knowledge to me? Like, seriously? This story reminds me of Ready Player One and Troy (to some extent). These aren't even related to the story, but i just feel a connection :)) --Plague advances to the next round!” declares the announcer as the crowd goes wild. -capitalize the 'd' in 'declares'. and I believe the y in yen should also be capitalized?? I've seen it that way. I'm not sure, though. overall, this was amazing. Grrrreat!...

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:41 Nov 06, 2020

Oh stop it you ☺️ I definitely did take a page out of Ready Player One, both the book and the film are amazing. And I’ll gladly give anyone writing advice, just ask away! For a start, here’s a small tip: don’t hold back. If you can choose between a simile and a metaphor, always go for the metaphor because metaphors hit harder. Dialogue tags never start with a capital letter unless it’s a name! Weird, but yeah. 🙃 Check it out—> https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/fiction/w/character-development/6491/8-essential-rules-for-punctuati...

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Orenda .
03:29 Nov 06, 2020

yeahh it is. Themks for the tiny piece of advice 👌 I'll be sure to check that out. Very debatable, imo lmaoo... but whateva, I'll check. no problem! I love scrutinizing stories and making them uncomfortable. aightt, it's my pleasure and I have been meaning to read your stories, but I always forget. I'll read your others too. Aye Sir, good day!

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Rayhan Hidayat
03:48 Nov 06, 2020

Thanks, you too! 😙

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Orenda .
03:51 Nov 06, 2020

yessir 😙

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Ray Dyer
21:25 Nov 13, 2020

I just got to read this story, Rayhan, and it is wonderful. From the Automated Censorship System to the utter humanization of these two wonderful characters to the nickname "sugarcube" to the realization of all of these characters - you built two worlds at once for this story, and people to populate them who could walk out of the screen. I loved it all, the action, the drama, and the heartfelt conclusion. I was dreading that, in the end, we would find that the losers actually got fried by the VR system. I'm glad that wasn't the case! T...

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:33 Nov 13, 2020

Oh thank you so much for the generous comment! ☺️ Oh dear god no, I think these two have enough on their plate already to worry about getting murdered by their VR headsets—though that is a brilliant idea on its own, and I can definitely see that in a story!

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Zilla Babbitt
02:16 Nov 05, 2020

Love the new section breaks, they fit right in. I like how you mix food adjectives in with the sparring to create a fleshed out and intense world. A few awkward sentences that impede your style. "Dons her jacket," "causing pain to bloom," and "finds its way into Ty's palm." These are either passive voice or just deviating from your normal clean style. Intense, fun, and meaningful. Keep it up!

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:30 Nov 06, 2020

Thanks Zilla, I think emoji section breaks is my signature at this point lol I streamlined those phrases and also incorporated the plot changes suggested by Bianka, so hopefully my story runs a bit smoother now. Haha and I’ll gladly take “clean” as my style 😉

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Laura Clark
07:19 Nov 14, 2020

I don’t know if I commented on this originally but I think I’ve read this three times now. Congratulations on the shortlist! It was very well deserved and I had my fingers crossed for winner. I loved this so much because of the focus on both sides. The contest was extremely cool and the mechanics of the world were well explained and interesting, but what made this so special was that I honestly didn’t know who I was rooting for. Each bit of info reveal made me hope that you’d give a fatal flaw. Maybe one of them ate puppies or had a peop...

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Rayhan Hidayat
08:22 Nov 14, 2020

I definitely would’ve remembered if you already left a comment! Oh I’m glad you were divided—it was exactly my intention. I’m still reeling from the fact that this got shortlisted (especially since I hardly ever see winning/shortlisted stories with multiple POVs) but thanks so much for the comment! 😙

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Laura Clark
19:04 Nov 14, 2020

I’m not surprised it did (not surprised at all) because it is fantastic. Revel in your shortlist - it’s well earned.

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15:07 Nov 04, 2020

Beautiful work dude. Ya know what book this really reminded me of? It's called WarCross by Marie Lu, and it's basically the same concept as this (VR warfare, but a bit more developed)--might be worth a read. :) For critiques, I don't really have anything. The story absorbed me enough that I automatically overlooked any sort of grammar issues there might be, and I can't find anything with the overall plot and structure. Awesome job! Keep on writing!

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:12 Nov 04, 2020

Oh you’re too kind ☺️ Thanks for the recommendation, I’ve been in a sci fi mood lately and that sounds really cool!

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15:15 Nov 04, 2020

Yeah, when I first read that she took her VR headset off, my mind instantly went, "It's WarCross!" lol.

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:16 Nov 04, 2020

I just checked it up on goodreads and I’m surprised by how similar that is to mine, down to the Tokyo setting. I’ve never even heard of that book!

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15:28 Nov 04, 2020

The first installment of the series is well worth the read--goes downhill from there, but I'd still recommend reading it. ;)

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:41 Nov 04, 2020

Yep, I think I will!

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Radhika Diksha
07:47 Nov 04, 2020

Wonderful story, well-written concept, good choice of words, and a mesmerizing plot. What else can you say, to such a wonderful story? REally this a very special story. I have quite an absurd suggestion. I story is good but I have a suggestion. You know you could have made both the players fall in love with each other, hence the family too would have been complete and both of them could have used the money. Ya, I know it's an absurd idea.

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:38 Nov 04, 2020

Thanks! No, not an absurd idea at all—if this was a full length novel, that might be the perfect route to go down. But in 3000 words that’s a little too much stuff going on!

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Radhika Diksha
12:52 Nov 04, 2020

ok. Check out my new story and give your feedback on it.

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Waverley Stark
14:21 Dec 28, 2020

Okay, you're hilarious and I'm not just talking about this story. Your bio made me crack up! Especially the 'all night long' and the joke about Asian grades. :) This story was really fun to read-- I was a little puzzled in the beginning especially by the censoring, but after you revealed it to be virtual reality made so much sense and in such a fun way. The whole thing was well done, with a complex structure and a thought-out story in general. I also liked how you made this take place in Tokyo, since Japan is known for techy stuff and it g...

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Rayhan Hidayat
14:56 Dec 28, 2020

I’m glad my bio served its purpose 😉 Thanks a million! I think you’re the 200th person to compare this to Ready Player One but I don’t blame you, I definitely took a few pages out of both the film and the book (please don’t kill me but I don’t think the film was all THAT bad 😋) Haha thanks you seem cool too. And no worries about not replying, everyone has a life outside of Reedsy (I hope 🙄). Oh and don’t let my pfp fool you, I’m a guy 😂 That’s just Princess Chel, a character from the fantasy novel I’m writing

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Maya W.
00:34 Jan 04, 2021

Sorry to barge into the conversation, but the film was not good, and the book was not very good.

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:49 Jan 04, 2021

Haha it’s like a spectrum now, with you on one end, me on the other, and Waverly in the middle Personally I loved everything about Ready Player One because I’m a geek. I love video games, virtual reality, and sci fi dystopian settings, so the book/film speak to me on a spiritual level. And sure, it’s fine to have your own opinion, but c’mon, mind telling us why you didnt like it? 😉

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Maya W.
15:55 Jan 04, 2021

Too many 80's and 90's references for a kid who didn't live through the 80's and 90's. It was like every time there was a plot inconvenience, they had to distract you with a dated reference. But I am a total geek, too, so I thought the book was semi good.

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:11 Jan 04, 2021

It’s been a while since I read the book, so maybe a re read will change my opinion. But I remember being able to look past the references (not a 80s or 90s kid either) because I think any gamer could relate to easter eggs, extra lives, personalized avatars, etc. I get where you’re coming from though.

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Waverley Stark
18:17 Jan 12, 2021

The references are what make the experience! Pausing every once in a while to google the crap out of whatever crazy robot thing the author references or stupid movie or whatevs. That book funded my Netflix activity for a week because I was watching all the movies he talked about in there.

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Waverley Stark
18:16 Jan 12, 2021

Listen to the book on audio Maya it will change ur life

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Maya W.
18:26 Jan 12, 2021

Maybe I will someday!

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Waverley Stark
15:25 Dec 28, 2020

😳😳😳 Whoops sorry about that!! I tend to assume-- very rudely-- that most people on Reedsy are female unless stated otherwise. Funny thing, I did the same thing few months ago, accidentally called a girl a guy. She called me out for it too, though much less politely than you did. 😬 What?? That movie was trash. I mean, Samantha being all weird and touchy during the dancing? Stephen King as an eighties icon? H still looking suspiciously like a boy in real life so the audience might not catch the awesomeness of her playing a white man perfectly...

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:53 Dec 28, 2020

Oh no 😬 I don’t blame you though, it’s a pretty reasonable assumption—pretty sure the stats say most guys are too busy playing games to be reading and writing. And here I am writing stories about virtual gaming 😉 Oh dear, you’ll have to jog my memory a little about the film! I just remember the supporting characters in the book played much bigger roles in the movie, which I thought was awesome. But maybe a rewatch will bring me to your side of things! Thanks! My sister is very artsy fartsy and she was kind enough to draw her, since my own ...

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Waverley Stark
17:08 Dec 29, 2020

Haha, same on that drawing thing. I can... maybe do a frog? Or a green (american) football? My trees in particular are probably the worst thing you've ever seen, which is saying something cause it's basically a line with a bunch of other lines. I have three younger brothers, so I can't relate to you on that sister thing. I can tell you though, that even though they're all teenagers now, they still manage to be remarkably annoying. As for the film, there's pretty much two opinions of it. If you read the book first (always the best decision!...

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:43 Dec 30, 2020

Older sibling here too, one sister and one brother. I can confirm that they are annoying regardless of age or gender. Okay now I must be pure evil in your eyes because I did read the book first but still enjoyed the film 😝 I will say that what they did to the Hunger Games is unforgiveable though (splitting the third movie in two for a cashgrab? Go read the books!!) Also, bit random but I noticed you’ve been on Reedsy for AGES. Like, as long as Zilla. Surprised you haven’t snagged a win yet considering the quality of the one story I read.

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Kristin Neubauer
20:06 Nov 09, 2020

Amazing, Rayhan! Such a unique and creative twist on the plot. There were so many things to love about this story, but in particular, I liked how you kept juxtaposing their real world struggles with the life and death drama of the game. You did that so skillfully that it underscored the emotion and kept me devouring each sentence, wondering who would win and how that would play out in their lives. And the writing. Such gorgeous writing. This sentence in particular: A hand dripping with flames rakes the air, so Mihara sidesteps it, the...

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:18 Nov 09, 2020

Oh thank you so much! That kind of juxtaposition was exactly what I tried to convey so I’m glad it came through! 😙

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Scout Tahoe
20:03 Nov 09, 2020

This was complicated and somebody should just say it. It was also very creative and I loved reading every bit of it. The VR life or death contest seemed real at times and had me wrapped around its finger. Apparently the emoji breaks are you signature thing but they're funny too. I don't know, I just like them. The location, too, was interesting. I like how it was in Tokyo because it sets you apart from the other authors. Great job, keep it up.

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:15 Nov 09, 2020

Thanks Scout! That’s fair, I can see how this might be a touch bloated for 3000 words, will keep that in mind for next time! And yes who doesn’t love these 🍜🍜🍜 haha

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Scout Tahoe
21:19 Nov 09, 2020

Nobody doesn’t. It was amazing, really.

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Scout Tahoe
16:29 Nov 13, 2020

Ah, this totally deserved to be shortlisted. Congrats, Rayhan. Cheers to us both!

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:52 Nov 13, 2020

Omg, I haven’t checked out that story yet. And is it the first shortlist for both of us? I’m honestly flabbergasted you haven’t been getting the recognition until now. Thanks for the encouragement—I know this story might not exactly have been your cup of tea, but your comment was awesome and useful all the same. I’ll check yours out in a bit!

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Scout Tahoe
16:55 Nov 13, 2020

Yes, my first. :) You also deserve the recognition. You're welcome, and don't feel obligated to read, really.

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:57 Nov 13, 2020

No, Scout, not an obligation—a pleasure 😉

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Yolanda Wu
02:38 Nov 06, 2020

Wow, this was so intense, your writing had me hooked the whole time. I love the Tokyo setting and your incorporation of some Japanese culture. I love this description at the very start, "It blooms into a screaming marigold below her, coaxing water vapor out of the marsh." I also like how it's virtual reality, but it still feels like I'm sweating along with the characters - but of course, there were great, well-written heartwarming moments. You juggled everything so well. Currently in my school library where I should be studying, but I'm re...

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Rayhan Hidayat
03:28 Nov 06, 2020

Thanks! I’ve always wanted to do one set in Japan and this was the perfect chance. Oh lol. I’m technically in the middle of a quiz but here I am on Reedsy. I see you have a story out, I’ll get to it later today!

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Yolanda Wu
03:33 Nov 06, 2020

Haha yeah, can't resist Reedsy's temptation. Japan's great - my absolute favourite country to visit, just can't get enough of that ramen, lol.

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Yolanda Wu
21:37 Nov 13, 2020

Omg! You got shortlisted! Congratulations, Rayhan! You totally deserved it! I think I've already conveyed how awesome this story is in my comment before, but congratulations again!

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:49 Nov 13, 2020

Yes I’m so excited ahhhh 😝 Thanks for the encouragement as always!!

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Yolanda Wu
22:33 Nov 13, 2020

Of course! It's so exciting!

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Len Mooring
05:54 Nov 05, 2020

Wonderful story telling. I'm not familiar with virtual gaming, except a few extracts seen on a television show. However, you conveyed well the excitement that one would get by being involved. I liked your little comment that there would be resistance to a profane word whilst cheering blood spurting from a severed head. A bare breast, I suspect, would bring a contest to a halt.

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:43 Nov 06, 2020

Thank you, I’m glad you found something to enjoy all the same! 😙 You’re very right, even nowadays video games tend to censor nudity more than violence. It’s funny.

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Hoor Amin
09:14 Jul 14, 2021

Oof!! This is soooo goodddddd

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:18 Jul 14, 2021

Thanks Hoor! 😙

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Hoor Amin
01:45 Jul 15, 2021

You're welcome! :)

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Rachel Smith
13:42 Jul 10, 2021

Awesome. Dripping with emotion, action and a truly tangible world. I love your writing style, I'm taking notes.

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Rayhan Hidayat
17:10 Jul 10, 2021

I notice you're going on a reading spree through my profile, thank you for taking the time to do that, I'm very flattered :)

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I. F.
17:58 Dec 01, 2020

I'm so behind on your stories, but I just had to go back and read this one before I got to any of the newer ones. Had to see what all the fuss was about! Great job, it's clear to see why this was shortlisted. At first, I thought that it was going to be another futuristic, hunger games-style fight to the death, but instead of life and death, you had deep emotional stakes, which I thought worked much better. At first, I thought it was a bit strange that Ty could afford VR, but then you included that bit about the loan shark to explain everythi...

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Rayhan Hidayat
19:02 Dec 01, 2020

Thanks! Hey, no one’s asking you to read all my stories, but I appreciate it! I think I’m guilty of missing out on some of yours, so I’ve got that to do 😅

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I. F.
19:27 Dec 02, 2020

No worries Rayhan, I bet ya everyone here has got a pretty big pile of stories they want to read, at least I know I do.

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Vanessa Kilmer
15:47 Nov 20, 2020

Congratulations on being shortlisted. Your story was very immediate and interesting.

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:08 Nov 20, 2020

Thanks for the kind words Vanessa 😙

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Molly Leasure
22:19 Nov 17, 2020

I was late to the show, but HOLY CRAP this piece is beautiful. You got me tearing up on the last one and here again, I'm on the verge of tears. What a beautiful piece! It's a beautiful message (though I was thinking it might have been nice if they could, you know, share it? I don't want either of them to have a bad life!) And the way you switched between them was PERFECT. I loved getting a sneak peek into their minds and seeing what they were both striving for. Sidenote: does this have any influence from Ready Player One? I was getting t...

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Rayhan Hidayat
03:26 Nov 18, 2020

Now that you mention it, that ending would have worked. Like maybe Mihara gets a notification one day saying “25 billion yen was transferred to your account.” Ugggh why didn’t you get here sooner!! 😂 And yeah, about a million other people compared this to ready player one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take a few pages out of it 😉 Thanks so much as always!

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Molly Leasure
21:43 Nov 18, 2020

Hahaha! Well, it might have lessened the impact of the story overall xD. Especially if he stood in front of everyone and was like, "here, you can have...half. Final offer." HA, I thought so. I've never seen nor read that story, but I know the basics, enough.

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Greta Faignant
22:39 Nov 16, 2020

This was amazing! I held onto every word! In my mind, you are the winner. (:

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:44 Nov 17, 2020

Thanks so much, you’re too kind! 😙

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01:49 Nov 15, 2020

WHAAAAAAT!! SHORTLIST??!! CONGRAATTTS!👏👏 OMG I swear I felt this, it was during the week and I randomly thought of you and I was like "He's gonna win or get something close to a win soon" and I was honestly gonna comment and tell you this, but then I couldn't deal with the embarrassment if it doesn't happen! BUT IT DID! Congratulations Rayhan😭🤧!! This story was just so awesome as well as your other stories!!

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Rayhan Hidayat
01:57 Nov 15, 2020

Haha thaaaanks! 😝 I’m very surprised this got shortlisted, but hey, I’ll take that coupon. Couldn’t have done it without your encouragement!! 😙

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02:17 Nov 15, 2020

😂😂 Hehe I highly doubt it! but of course, anytime!😌

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Rayhan Hidayat
03:04 Nov 15, 2020

Oh no, don’t be modest! Even if you don’t leave critique, just the fact that people bother to comment is usually enough to keep me motivated to write 😙

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