About the Author

Connie Choi

Connie Choi is a Toronto-based illustrator who recently graduated from the Illustration program at Sheridan College. She loves to draw characters and the worlds they live in. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Books by this Author
Anyone's Game (Cross Ups, Book 2)

Chapter 1
On screen, my dragon-cross, Kaigo, is locked in battle with Saki, the yeti-cross.
Kaigo breathes fire, but before he can melt the ice off Saki’s beard, Saki thrusts a snowstorm my way. The fire extinguishes, and Saki comes in for the punishment.
I’m playing my favorite game, Cross Ups IV. Kaigo’s my main. I play him so much it’s like he’s a part of me. Not the real me, of course. I’m just a skinny twelve-year-old who’s never been in a real fight. Kaigo’s the guy I am inside my head.
Kaigo wears kung fu gear and he’s totally buff. He’s super confident, probably because he can turn into a dragon and blow his opponents’ heads off with fireballs.
Most of the time.
Right now, he’s being shut down by Saki, who just unleashed a blizzard of punches. The yeti-cross is being played by my friend, Cali. It’s the second week of summer holidays and we’re playing online. Cali’s gotten good at Cross Ups since she moved to live with her dad in Montreal a few months ago. I mean, she was always good, but now she’s actually coming close to beating me. I’d better power up.
I go to throw my Dragon Fire Super but she’s faster. Her character transforms into a huge yeti and stomps across the screen. Ice flies everywhere. My Health Meter is down to a thin beat of red.
Not cool.
I jump in the air to breathe fire down her neck—a move she never blocks fast enough. But today she does. Before I compute what just happened, a yeti headbutt takes me down.
She beat me?
That’s not supposed to happen.
HermIone Tuesday , 4:08 pm
We’ve been playing for six hours, but I totally don’t want to stop. Not on a loss.
JStar Tuesday , 4:09 pm
HermIone Tuesday , 4:09 pm
JStar Tuesday , 4:09 pm
HermIone Tuesday , 4:10 pm
JStar Tuesday , 4:10 pm
She logs off before I hit send.
It’s not like Cali to run off just because she finally got a win. Is her dad mad at her for playing so long? Or is it something more serious?
Sometimes Cali’s like the yeti. She freezes me out.

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Tournament Trouble (Cross Ups, Book 1)

Chapter 1
I hammer the buttons on my controller.
Double fireball.
Miss again.
Holy crap, this guy is fast! I can’t land anything.
“C’mon, Kaigo … ”
“I know you always play Kaigo, Jaden, but the dragon-cross is only cool if his fireballs actually hit the opponent.”
“Thanks, Dev. You want to try?”
I’m in my living room with my friends, Devesh and Hugh. Like most of our gaming sessions, this one started out with us playing each other but ended up with them watching me battle random people online. On screen, two guys in karate gear are beating the crap out of each other. Fortunately, I’ve never been in a real-life fight. I wouldn’t have a chance. But playing my favorite game, Cross Ups IV, I haven’t lost a battle in four months. But then, I’ve never played against Kn1ght_Rage before.
I whiff another fireball combo when Kn1ght_Rage jumps out of range—again.
“Aw, dude, you almost had him,” Hugh says.
“Not even close.” As usual, Devesh is keeping it real. “No offense, J, but you’re getting owned. Who is this Kn1ght_Rage guy, anyway?”
“I see him online all the time,” Hugh says.
Devesh turns to Hugh. “Oh yeah? You ever play him?”
“Once . . . kinda. I left the match before it ended.”
“You mean you wussed out.” Devesh punches Hugh in the arm.
“No . . . ”
“Would you guys shut up? I’m trying to concentrate here.”
WHAM! The screen flashes a burst of gold and Kn1ght_Rage’s avatar, Blaze, transforms into a phoenix, flapping huge golden wings that send shock waves into me. “How’d he hit me with that Solar Burst? I was blocking!”
“Use your Dragon Breath,” Hugh says.
“I will—as soon as I can move again—stupid hit stun! What the … “” I drop my move when Kn1ght_Rage disappears for a second and then re-appears, attacking me from behind. “Ugh! I forgot Blaze can teleport. Take that!” I yell as I activate Dragon Breath. Kaigo transforms into a dragon and breathes fire, but my opponent jumps away just in time. “Aaah! I can’t get any moves in.”
I slam the back button to block the shock waves from the next Solar Burst, but for some reason I still take the punishment. “Why isn’t my block working?”
“Look at your Health Meter. You’re going to die from chip damage at this rate.”
“Shut up, Dev.”
“But hey, your Super Meter’s full again,” Hugh says.
“Yeah, go for it,” Devesh says. “But you’d better do some serious damage or it’s over.”
There’s only one move that can get me the win. Kaigo’s biggest Super: Dragon Fire.
I hear car doors slamming outside. If that’s my mom I’m so dead. I should turn off the game, but I can’t let my streak end like this. Panic makes me go nuts on the controller—a total button mash.
“C’mon . . . ”
Miraculously, Kaigo transforms into his dragon side and whirls into a tornado of gray smoke that cuts right through Blaze. Blaze crumples and his Health Meter dives. Now we’re both one hit from defeat.
I glance at the clock—6:22 p.m. I don’t hear any more noise outside. Maybe it was the neighbors’ car? I use my bread-and-butter combo: two crouching light punches back to back, followed by Dragon Claw.
“Whaaaaaaat!?!” My friends scream and jump from the couch.
Devesh points to the TV. “The streak continues!”
Hugh throws his hefty form onto the carpet at my feet, bowing and chanting, “You are the master.”
“Am I dreaming?” I let the controller drop to the floor. “No, seriously. Am I asleep? Someone hit me.”
Devesh and Hugh pile on top of me and pummel me with jabs.
“I’ve never seen that Super.” Hugh settles his glasses back in place.
“That’s because I’ve only ever hit it one time. The timing is crazy hard.”
Devesh helps me up off the carpet. “We’ve got to start streaming your battles. That was godlike!” His phone bings and he pulls it out of his pocket. “I gotta go. I was supposed to meet my dad ten minutes ago. He just texted me from the car in all caps.” He grabs his bag and walks backward out of the living room.
“Hold up. I gotta go too, dude. Think your dad will give me a ride?” Hugh grabs his things and runs after Devesh, breathing hard by the time he gets to the end of the hall.
“You live on the other side of town. Why you always asking me for a ride? Train your parents better.” Their voices trail off until the door slams shut behind them.
I’m still staring in disbelief at the TV. My arm muscles twitch like I’m the one who physically battled. Of course, those muscles are scrawny compared to Kaigo’s, rippling through his black kung fu uniform. His win quote at the bottom of the screen reads, "You need more confidence to beat me."
If I looked like that, I’d be confident too.
Just as my thumb descends on the power button a message pops up on the screen.
Knight Rage: GG JSTAR
Players don’t usually message after a fight, unless they’re friends. I hesitate but don’t want to be rude after the guy complimented me on a good game. I write back:
Jstar: THNX
Within seconds, another message:
Knight Rage:
Can I? I have no idea how I pulled off the Dragon Fire Super. But there’s no way I’m going to admit that. I type:
Knight Rage:
BATTL3 @ T3?
My thumbs tap the controller. The Top Tiers Tournament, or T3, is the biggest fighting game tournament in the city. Imagine, competing like Yuudai Sato? That guy is godlike. But there’s no way I can compete. With my mom, it’s not an option.
I write back:
Knight Rage:
My curiosity battles with the ticking clock—6:31 p.m. More car doors slam outside. That has to be Mom. Quickly I type:
The answer takes forever. When it finally comes, it just raises more questions.
Knight Rage:
A key turns in the lock and I automatically go into shutdown mode, powering off the TV and game console and sliding the controller under the cushion next to me. Then I flip open my math book and try to act bored, hoping my mom won’t notice my shaking hands.

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