All Time High

by Tokidious
“Thank you for the hard work!” Akio exclaimed while maintaining a perfect ninety-degree angled bow. As the holograms of the other Soul Council members faded, he resumed a standing position and rested his chin on the back of his right hand. Deep in thought, he bore a striking resemblance to the Le Penseur statue.
The quarterly governance and board meeting had finally ended. ‘Hmph. That was pretty par for the course, just as I'd expect,’ Akio contemplated. Spirited debates, votes, and extensive reviews of the proposed changes and initiatives of Anime Metaverse occupied a majority of the grueling three-hour-long session. ‘No time to dwindle around,’ Akio reminded himself as he resumed his work.
The view of Akio’s workspace could only be described as daunting. A mix of statistical calculations, liquidity pool analyses, and user reviews occupied the screens of the six monitors on his table, dubbed affectionately as “The Command Center” by his co-workers.
Revered as a prodigious child, Akio excelled in various domains of academia, especially Mathematics and Science. Rising quickly through the ranks, he obtained his Doctorate at the young age of 20 (one of the youngest in history) and was appointed to lead a team of highly qualified analysts. While he was blessed with an astounding degree of good looks, his cold and logical demeanor had earned him the nickname of the ‘The Cyborg Ikemen.’
‘Everything and anything follows a predetermined set of rules. Deviances are mere statistical anomalies.’ - Akio
He mentally noted his schedule for the rest of the day after glancing at his calendar:
4:00 PM: Quarterly performance update at Meta-Bank 5:00 PM: University curriculum and tuition fee strategic planning 6:00 PM: Gym session: Leg Day 8:00 PM: Senpai - Kohai appreciation Karaoke Party After hours: Solidity programming lesson preparation
Wincing at the thought of leg day, he grabbed his coat and left his office.
While most employees would balk at a thirteen-hour workday, Akio prided himself on his efficiency and accomplishments.
Stressing out the Bank Manager with an expressionless stare while explaining the drop in $ANIMA deposits? ‘Check.’
The Bank Manager’s face lighting up after Akio presented the newly approved staking yield percentages? ‘Predictable.’
Questioning the efficacy of the University’s curriculum and $ANIMA funding with the Dean? ‘Necessary. After all, it’s not like $ANIMA magically appears out of nowhere.’
Searing pain from the Barbell Squats at the gym? ‘Mind over matter, pain is temporary.’
At exactly 7:50 PM, Akio stepped into the designated Karaoke bar mentioned in his email. Dressed in his Epic tier clothing set: “The Dapper Man,” his presence caused a momentary pause from the other patrons, a feat that he has long since learned to ignore.
“Good evening, I’m Akio with the two hour reservation for six, please.” he articulated in an emotionless manner. “A-Akio San! It’s g-good to see you again!” the receptionist said as she tapped the holographic screen nervously. “The deposit for the room will be five hundred $ANIMA!” Oblivious to her blushing, Akio authorized his payment and nodded, much to her disappointment.
‘System Notice: Deduction of 500 $ANIMA successful. $ANIMA Balance:…..’
As per his prediction, he was the first person to arrive for the company-mandated ‘Senpai-Kohai’ appreciation party.
‘To promote morale and cohesiveness!’ screamed the email in a font too gaudy for Akio’s taste.
‘Maji…’ Akio muttered as he swiped the holographic screen away. ‘When was the last time I actually came to a non-work-related Karaoke session?’ he thought. The piercing sound of his ring-tone snapped him back to the present. Recognizing the silhouette of the Company’s President forming on the holographic screen, he gestured at the “Answer Call” button on the screen.
“Akio-kun, I apologize for the sudden notice, but we have to cancel the appreciation night. An anomaly report just came in from the Central Energy Infrastructure team, and we have received orders to prioritize this investigation. It would be an excellent learning opportunity for the associate analysts, hence I’ve instructed them to handle this. As for you, please take the rest of the night off. I’ve noticed you've been working thirteen-hour days for the past few months.”
For the first time in months, Akio found his meticulously structured schedule disrupted, though only for the next two hours. Scanning through the song catalogs, it dawned on him that it had been over five years since he sang at a Karaoke bar. For once he was choosing and singing his favorite songs, not entertaining high-profile dignitaries and doctorates.
‘Let’s see…’ he mumbled to himself as he selected ‘Shunkan Sentimental - Scandal’ and pressed the play button.
‘Emmi-chan! Mite mite! Check out VIP Room 6!’
‘Wait, isn’t that the room where Akio-san is in?’
‘Kyaaaaaaaa! He’s so cool doing Air Guitar!’
Brilliant flashes of gold filled the interior of VIP Room 6 as Akio sang his heart out, matching the tempo of the catchy guitar riffs perfectly.
‘System Notice: Congratulations! Karaoke Score: GOOD!’ ‘FUN Gained ++’ ‘$ANIMA Credited ++’
After a passionate singing performance (and reluctantly agreeing to selfie requests by the receptionists), Akio stepped out of the Karaoke bar two hours later. With his luscious locks of hair tied up in a half ponytail and rolled-up sleeves, he bore a striking resemblance to the Japanese rockstar Hyde. This realization, however, did not occur to him as he ignored the stares and double-takes from strangers. Taking the company president’s advice, Akio took a slow walk instead of utilizing his weekday flying transportation mount.
“Ryota Nii Chan! Once more! Again, again!” A pleading voice caught Akio’s attention. “Sorry, Misae… Nii chan just ran out of Venarites, and I’ll need some time to earn more $ANIMA. But I promise you we’ll be back as soon as I have more!” the teenage brother replied.
Sniffling and holding back her tears, Misae nodded her head. It didn’t take long for Akio to piece the situation together. The handmade birthday hat and pained expression on the older brother’s face explained it all.
“Good evening and happy birthday to you Misae-chan!” Akio called out as he approached them.
The look of fear on their faces caused Akio to panic. “Please don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t help overhearing earlier. What’s wrong?” Akio said, quickly regaining his composure.
Hanging his head low, Ryota replied, “It’s Misae’s birthday today, and we really wanted to get her a nice stuffed teddy bear tonight. We have had little luck, and I just used my last Venarite,”
“Say no more, Ryota. We can’t let Misae chan spend her birthday without a present now, can we? Let me take care of this,” Akio said with a smirk on his face as he approached the brightly illuminated Starcrane machine. Forgotten memories of his youth resurfaced: his excited cries of joy when he got his desired rewards, and his curses of disappointment and laughter from his friends when the Starcrane refused to cooperate.
With his status as a C-level executive, Akio had long surpassed the days of “trying his luck” or, as he termed, “challenging probability”. With a vast amount of $ANIMA and resources, he was accustomed to purchasing whatever he needed through the Premium shops. However, the child-like spark of rebelliousness welled in him on this night. This phenomenon caught Akio off-guard as his rational, logical mind jostled with his surge of emotions.
After recovering from the shock at Akio’s $ANIMA and Venarite balance, Misae and Ryota huddled closely together and watched Akio’s steady hands operate the Starcrane.
“Thank you Akio-san!!” Misae and Ryota said in unison, hugging their brand new stuffed Teddy Bear and G-Mecha robot. “You’re most welcome!” Akio replied with a beaming smile.“Let’s get some ice cream for both of you, yeah?”
“Yayyyyyyyyyyy!” Misae-chan squealed as she skipped towards the shop with a giant oversized Ice Cream Cone for a roof.
“MISAE! What did I say! Don’t run off by yourself!” Ryota shouted as he chased after her.
‘Huh. This is the first time I’ve felt so alive in a long time. Must be the Karaoke.’ Akio chuckled to himself as he hurried after the both of them. “This isn’t so bad, afterall.”