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The Shark House - Chapter 16 - Fall of Romanum

Popuri's job at the ice rink was quiet for once although it didn't stop some fans asking for her autograph, on her break she was greeted by Dawn but she wasn't alone, with Dawn was a little girl no older than five holding Dawn's hand, the normally intense Dawn gave a much more pleasant aura. Popuri didn't know what to ask but Dawn started the conversation.
"Poppy, I want you to meet my daughter May" Popuri knelt down to greet May.
"Are you a princess?" The innocent May asked, this made Popuri blush as no one had ever called her that before.
Once all the greetings were done, Dawn explained why she needed to see Popuri.
"I owe you an explanation about Razzmatazz and why he acts the way he does, it was six years ago"
Six years ago, both Dawn and Razzmatazz were part of a video game team called Romanum, they had battled there way to the finals despite losing their team captain Lazeld to heart failure, they only had Slippy Squad to beat to qualify for the world championships, but on the decisive match day, Dawn didn't show up, that morning she found out she was pregnant, the father was Lazeld.
It was Lazeld who saved Dawn's eye sight by paying for her bionic eye implants, the two even planned to marry if they made it to the World Championships but it never happened, Romanum lost to Slippy Squad despite Razzmatazz's best efforts.
The defeat infuriated Razzmatazz, he called Dawn a traitor and never spoke to her again until Popuri showed up at Quarter Bros Arcade and kick started Bayside's tournament. Romanum disbanded two years later when Razzmatazz and Intrepid Cave Troll fell out following a failed crypto venture.
"I tried to call him after the qualifiers but he wouldn't listen and to this day, he still doesn't know about May. It's my fault he's like this and it's my fault that you're now his target for his pathetic revenge" Dawn bowed her head to Popuri.
"I have a bad habit of being caught in the spotlight, it's been happening my whole life, it happened at the Winter Olympics when I played for Canada Ice Hockey, it happened at the Summer Olympics when I was able to keep pace with the world's best marathon runners, I don't want to let people down and if Razzmatazz wants a battle, I'll battle" Popuri spoke with a maturity that had seen so much more than Dawn ever could.
"I'd be happier if I could battle you in the finals instead of Razzmatazz" Dawn's smile proved that her worries were easing but the peace was interrupted by an Ice Hockey player.
"Popuri Meadows, jersey 94 of the Canadian national squad, I never thought you'd be my first opponent" the tall girl with a strong Canadian accent approached Popuri and pointed a hockey stick at her.
"I Julia, jersey 9 of the Canadian national squad, challenge you to a one-on-one" Popuri knew Julia from the Olympics, Julia held up her phone showing the details of the match up which Popuri confirmed, a frenzy started building as the rink was setting up for their battle.

The Shark House - Chapter 15 - Always Second Best

A night in Giro's cafe always seems busier than it should be, the concept of a night time cafe seems backwards but with half the residents working night jobs it only seems right; the night before the first round of the tournament, Razzmatazz showed up at the Cafe, in just casual clothes, glasses and a cap in an effort not to be noticed he approached Giro at the bar.
"I guess you're not so famous that you'd visit your old home" Giro calmly said.
"Don't remind me, I'd rather not be here but I want answers, why are you and the Slippy Squad in the Tournament?" Razzmatazz kept his normally boastful voice down as he knew that Intrepid Cave Troll was watching his every move.
Giro just cleaned another glass, "not all of us are competing, Ascension Zero turned it down, Jester of Malice has family, Hidden Ace's job frowns on competitions and Jimbo Nix wasn't interested, not enough Halo" Giro still calm with his speech.
"You don't belong in a tournament, a waste of talent like you has no business in a competition like mine" Razzmatazz trying but failing to intimidate Giro.
Giro's demeanour changed. "I'm entering because you doxxed and threatened one of my residents publicly, not to mention you've poked all the pros who were waiting for you to snap"
Razzmatazz scoffed at the idea of being beaten, "let them come, I don't care if it's Firestorm, Speed of Light Suzuka, Blood Raven, Silent Viking or even you Cerulean Wizard, I will get what I want and only I will be recognised as the true King of Games" Razzmatazz finished his drink and left.
"Idiot didn't even realise Popuri was sat metres away from him" Giro just casually dumps the glass in the sink.
Luke walked up to the bar amused by the exchange, "wanker, he never changes, this will be the easiest money I've ever made; I didn't know he used to live at the Shark House" Luke surprised by that reveal.
"When you spend your gaming career always being second place it gets to you the longer it goes on, money seems to be a safety blanket for him. You seem confident of winning Luke" Giro smiles at Luke's comments.
"Got a prediction Wizard?" Luke spoke sarcastically.
"Dawn will probably kill Razzmatazz, as for who will win the tournament, probably Speed of Light Suzuka" Luke surprised by Giro's prediction.
"And here I thought you were supporting the Shark House princess" Luke looking over at Popuri.
"Well, we'll see if Popuri can make an impact"

The Shark House - Chapter 14 - Troll Hacks

"Explain to me why you've dragged me out of my apartment?" Freddy known online as the Intrepid Cave Troll was dragged to the cafe by an angry Dawn.
"You provoked Razzmatazz, so you fix it so I battle him before he ends up fighting Popuri, so get to it helpdesk!" Dawn was not messing around, the tournament starts at the weekend so Freddy was asked to manipulate the bracket, they gambled on Dawn's history with Razzmatazz to avoid him noticing the change.
"Hey Giro, anything you want to add?" Giro was just making a coffee and shook his head.
"What about you Dave? You want to change something?" Dave got up and walked over to Freddy, he handed over the black book and asked him to make it so his opponents were female.
"Say goodbye to that Audi Quattro you wanted, this is going to cost you" Freddy picked out a few random girls from the book, Dawn just stared at Dave with her intimidating yellow eyes, Dave just hid behind Freddy scared.
"Dawn ain't going to kill you" Freddy joked, Dawn just walked away muttering "simp" under her breath; Dave crawled out from hiding and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Freddy, you still have that troll statue you bought off Glenn?" Dave asked.
"Is he still complaining about that? My offer was fair and reasonable for that type of cave troll, if he wanted more money he should've had the limited release red shackles model troll. Take my advice for this tournament, you will not get to choose what type of game you'll play, it's where ever you find your opponent and whatever games are available at that location, for example Popuri's latest job is at the ice rink, if she finds her opponent there, her game will be ice related such as ice hockey or speed skating, so you can't always rely on driving for your game, this is what makes Bayside's tournament so fascinating; as for you Dave, your first opponent will be Sasha" Dave reacted to the mention of a girls name ignoring the rest of the explanation.
"Let's see what Luke wrote in here, Sasha is a theatre actress, she's fun and energetic but a little exhausting, she's easy to spot as she frequently quotes from her extensive list of roles shes played not to mention you can't miss her shocking pink hair and clothing that is a mixture of street wise and punk with a sprinkle of pirate thrown in. A quick look at the theatre programme and you'll find her in no time" Freddy throws back the black book, Dave bowed several times thanking Freddy and sets off.
Before Freddy could logoff, Barry slapped some dollars on the table.
"I want you to look up a particular incident" Barry shows a news clipping of "Hero school girl prevents school shooting", Freddy was uncomfortable looking up the story, he pushed the money back.
"Ask Popuri about it, I don't deal with this sort of thing. All I know is that whenever I try and bring it up, Hellcat immediately shuts it down, it's not worth risking my reputation over" Freddy packed away his laptop and returned to his apartment.

The Shark House - Chapter 13 - Two Tickets To Paradise

Dave had a lot to process following the previous night after the announcement from Razzmatazz but that had to wait as Chaos Engine had an emergency meeting, Dave was worried as to what leader Joel might say considering how much freedom he gave Lisa a few nights back.
When Dave arrived, Hellcat was waiting as well as Joel, Hellcat didn't look impressed while Joel had concern written all over him.
"I've just got back from the Bayside Motor Council, our team have been selected for the gold card for 2024" Joel explained.
Dave was excited, the gold card meant the team were exempt from all car and car related purchases for that whole year, along with a chance at millions from winning Razzmatazz's tournament, all of Dave's debts would be clear and he could finally leave Shark House, but why was Joel concerned?
"There is a catch, we receive the card at the Gracies Christmas Eve Charity Ball, attendance is mandatory for a couple, and me and my wife can't go as were expecting our first child in the autumn. If no one from our team arrives with a partner, the card will be withdrawn" Joel very thorough in his explanation.
"Can't Hellcat go? She's second in command" Hellcat frowned while holding her left shoulder at the mere suggestion of going to the ball.
"My sister will have to take command of the team for the second half of the year, I'm leaving this to you my highest ranked commander" Joel stood up.
"But I'm single?" Dave pointed out.
Joel opened his desk drawer and throws Dave a black book.
"I prepared for this, your friend Luke gave me this, there are 30 single women listed in that book, fully detailed from those who have dated them in the past, I'm sure you'll find one person to date you, at least long enough to clear the charity ball. As for Lisa, I'll leave her to Hellcat, don't waste time pursuing her, you are dismissed" Joel showed Dave the door.
Dave had a new goal to achieve but he was more worried about fitting everything in, not to mention his mind was still fixed on Lisa.
"Joel, I'm sorry I let grandpa down" Hellcat was upset but Joel was calm.
"You know our team law, parenting takes priority, our older two brothers went through the same thing, I'm just making sure you're ready to take over Zoe" Joel trying to comfort his sister.
"No, I meant the ball, I should be the one to go, not Dave Dreamer" Zoe ready to burst into tears, Joel petted Zoe's head to calm her down.
"It's the other thing you are hiding in Dad's old over sized pizza delivery jacket, we'll never ask you to reveal something so sensitive, grandpa would never forgive himself if he asked you to do that, you probably should go home sis, you're not fit to drive tonight" with a warm hug, Joel sent his sister home.
Dave returned to the Midnight Cafe reading through the Black book over a coffee.
"Damn it Luke, none of these explanations help and there aren't any photos of any of the girls, I need a miracle here" while Dave had his head on the table, Lisa walks passed unnoticed on her way to work.

The Shark House - Chapter 12 - All Eyes On Popuri

The midnight coffee house was busier than normal as a few of the residents of Shark House were active along with their friends, among the residents, Popuri was with Dawn, Dave was with his friend Luke while the regular occurrences of Nessa with her bridge club along with Barry and Quint kept things running like clockwork as Giro joined Luke trying to make a distraught Dave feel better.
"She was literally your passenger and you blew it" Dave could only bury his head in his arms as Luke points out his missed opportunity.
"To make things worse, I still haven't met my neighbour Lisa" Luke was about to point out something but Giro stopped him while shaking his head.
"Cheer up, there's more than just Lisa" Giro pointed out.
"Yeah Giro is right, Hellcat is hiding those huge assets, Nessa over there seems like your type and Popuri....... she's an option, that friend of hers looks hot as well" Luke charismatic in showing Dave some options.
Dave looked over at Dawn only for Dawn to scare him off with her intimidating yellow eyes.
"I swear Dave you always play in hard mode" Luke shrugs.
The sports programme Quint and Barry were watching was interrupted by a report from the streamer Razzmatazz.
"Hello Bayside, I am the hype that keeps this city going, the Razzmatazz" the interruption started to anger Dawn the most let alone Quint and Barry wanting their sport back on.
"Now then you know that Bayside is the city of competition and everything from gaming to driving is always competitive, well I'm putting a bounty of my whole fortune on the line for someone to win the greatest tournament Bayside has ever seen! Over a thousand players will compete in a tournament with one left standing to claim my fortune, I of course will enter as I wish to keep my fortune but I only have one condition, Popuri Meadows will enter otherwise I'll call the whole thing off, you have until 1st February to register, don't keep me waiting" Razzmatazz ends the broadcast.
The attention of all the customers focussed on Popuri as she tries to piece together what just happened.
"I don't care how much he's worth, it ain't getting me anywhere" Nessa indignant to Razzmatazz's offer as she continues her bridge game.
"There we go Dave, an answer to your problem, of course I'll enter as well" Luke pretty confident of his chances.
"Are you after Lisa as well?" Dave enquired.
"No offence, but someone who can casually buy a Ferrari has way too many red flags" Luke finishes off his energy drink.
Dawn meanwhile was begging Popuri not to take Razzmatazz's offer.
"Poppy don't do this, don't give that prick any satisfaction"
Popuri gently pushed Dawn's arm aside.
"I refuse to be the cause of any problem, I'll enter this tournament" Popuri being brave with her decision.
"Give the girl credit, she knows she wants out of Shark House" Luke called out.
Dawn stared down Luke.
"You think this is a joke? You honestly think Razzmatazz will just cough up the money? All he wants is to beat Popuri just to feed his twisted ego!" Dawn's eyes glowing yellow as she leaves a dent in the table after slamming her fist.
"Whoa now, someone has boyfriend issues, probably not wise to cause property damage in front of the cafe owner and a police officer, if you really hate this prick so much then beat him yourself, then Poppy doesn't have to indulge his inflated ego" Dawn knew Luke was right and calmed down, Dave was several tables away terrified of Dawn.
"Alright that's enough, Dawn your paying for the table damage" Giro cleared the rest of the tension as everyone went back to their drinks.
Popuri was upset knowing that she caused this to happen.