-Chatlog: 23:36:58, 12/31/2054-
[HQ: Copy 3-1. All clear. Your mission is a go. Good luck.]
[Lex: Copy. You hear that? We're moving out.]
[Zoe: We better not mess this up, guys.]
[Ridley: Time to kick off the new year with a bang. Out.]
The hatch door opens, and it's accompanied by brilliant flashes of light in the night sky. I look out and see the fireworks have already started. I run out the open hatch fall through the clouds. At my sides my comrades were descending with me.
A magnificent view of the corrupt and crime-ridden city of Genlitch filled my goggles as we hurtled at high speed towards the ground.
We were on a mission to capture a man that was considered a high threat and then blow up his building.
I heard Lex's voice in my comlink. "Deploy chutes in three, two, one." I yanked the cord on the pack I was carrying and it let out a black parachute. The two handles on either side controlled my descent. I landed on a tall building and waited. The other four landed shortly after. We removed our goggles and masks and stuffed them into the bags with the parachutes and hid them. From there, we got a view of the whole area. It was beautiful. But not for long. When we're done, their sounds of cheering and joy will turn into cries of panic and terror. Oh what fun.
We silently entered the building through the rooftop access door. "Split up and clear the area," Lex commanded. "Meet outside the the target's office in ten." Zoe and I nodded and we went our separate ways.
Lex took the vents. Zoe took the elevator. And I had to take the stairs. Not a surprise they left the most tiring area to me. Zoe's claustrophobic and lazy while Lex thinks out loud and complains about staying still. I loaded my silenced pistol and stealthily walked through the floor.
It seemed to be mostly empty except for one room where there appeared to be a few people having a small party.
"HQ, this is Ridley." I whispered into my comlink.
"Go ahead, Ridley. What's the situation?"
"Three people. Unarmed. They haven't noticed me yet. Rules of engagement?"
"Eliminate any personnel with visible weapons or that have seen you."
"Copy, HQ. Out."
I walked past them quickly but quietly. Didn't want to draw any attention.
I came up to the stairs, but quickly retreated back to the shadows. Two guards. Armed with base MP5's. Light kevlar vests. Nightsticks. They stood there nearly motionless.
I had a variety of ways of dealing with this. I could snipe them with my Velociten, but the second I shoot one down the other will be alerted and could cause some problems.
I could use my Dragon to kill them both quickly, but the party people will hear that.
My pistol could probably break through their vests. I nailed one of the guards in the head and shot the other twice in the chest and once in the throat. I didn't want him to scream in pain. That would be bad.
I hid their bodies in a nearby closet and hurried down the stairs.
When I got to the bottom, there were bodies everywhere. Looks like Zoe didn't bother to clean up. I scanned the area for any possible survivors then headed to the target's office. I hope he didn't hear any of the gunfire.
Lex and Zoe were already there. "Ridley, stack up." Lex said upon my arrival. I took my place behind him. "What took you?" Zoe asked. "Trying to be as quiet as possible isn't exactly quick, pigtails." I responded. If you're wondering, yes Zoe was wearing pigtails.
"Prepare to breach." said Lex. I drew my Dragon and loaded it. Then Lex kicked the door down.
"Go go go!" He yelled. I ran into the room, and raised my dragon to shoulder length. There were two guards inside. They immediately opened fire on our entrance. While avoiding the stormtrooper-grade accuracy of their bullets I got closer to them then fired my Dragon at point-blank range, easily killing the guard. Zoe got the other with her rifle. The man that was being guarded was trembling in fear.
"P-Please don't kill me! I'll give you anything you want, I swear!" Lex watched him closely, then he said, "This is the wrong guy." Zoe seemed frustrated. "Are you SERIOUS?!" she exclaimed. "I used up all that ammo for nothing." I just sighed. "This is still the right building, though. Carry out the second part of our orders." Lex said.
We split up once again, and set explosive charges throughout the floor and the floor directly above ours. Once we finished, we headed back up to the roof. Lex called in our evac craft. I checked my watch, and it was just a few minutes till midnight.
When our gunship arrived, there was a soldier in the passenger bay to help us get on. "Hop on, fellas. It's a long ride home." We got on one by one, and I requested to leave the door open for a while.
"Get ready with your detonators," Lex said. "We blow 'em up on my count. Three, two one…" Then the clock struck midnight. And the top of the building we were just on exploded in a brilliant display of flames. The fireworks stopped and I heard people screaming. Just another day's work.
Happy New Year, you money-loving maggots.
My consciousness awoke and I was staring at the ceiling. I removed my RiftGear and rubbed my eyes. The time on my digital clock said 0:21. It wasn't that late. I yawned and walked out of my room into the shadowed hallway.
People outside were still shooting fireworks of all shapes and colors.
I walked into the kitchen and made myself a sandwich, then sat down at the table to watch. Some of them were real creative. A yellow star, a sparkly and fizzy purple thing, a pink heart, an extra large blue and green one, and…how in the hell did they manage to make a Pikachu…
After I finished my sandwich I went to the bathroom. I splashed water onto my face a couple of times, then took a good look at myself in the mirror. I was a 16-year-old teenage boy with what I considered to be average looks. I was a person of mixed race, my father being Italian and my mother being Japanese. I used to live in Milan, Italy, but his job brought us all here to Japan. I learned how to speak Italian first, then Japanese, and I'm studying English in school. Here in Japan, I am not Ridley. The way the Japanese pronounced it was bothering me, so instead they call me Shiraishi Ryouta. Shiraishi was my mother's last name.
I checked the time. It was already past 1:40. My parents were on a business trip, so I didn't have to worry about them nagging me to go to bed. I did feel tired though, after that whole thing with the exploding building. I went back to my room, covered myself in my blanket, and slowly fell asleep.
My alarm clock rang loudly, forcing me out of my slumber. I hated that sound, but I knew I couldn't get rid of it without waking up. I sleepily grabbed the pistol I kept by my bedside and shot the clock. The sound stopped, and I put my pistol back by my bedside. Even with the horribly annoying sound it makes, it was still a cool alarm clock. Shooting the center of the display with my laser pistol was the only way to silence it.
I washed my face, changed, all that morning stuff, then, after eating breakfast, I walked out the door. My school wasn't very far, about a mile or so from my house. Some people have to take a train though. That can't be pleasant. Japanese metro trains are so crowded, you could easily get the wind knocked of during a turn. Not just the hard ones, either.
As I walked, I heard someone call me. "Shiraishi-kun!" I turn around and see a girl catching up to me. Kokomi Michiko. 16. Lives four houses away from me. Cheery, outgoing, "pretty". Also the class representative. Ranked #1 on the boys' "Hot Girl List" for my class, her very presence makes most guys want to stop and stare.
"(Good morning!)" she says. I yawned. "Ah, (good morning), Kokomi-san."
"I told you before that you don't need that honorific at the end." she replied.
"You did? I'll drop it then. How are you today, Kokomi?"
She smiled. "Good! Hey, did you study for that big English test?"
I froze. "E-English test…"
I completely forgot to study and spent the entire weekend carrying out assassination contracts and buying new gear in EWO. The English test had completely slipped my mind.
"I forgot about it…" I said meekly.
A concerned expression showed on Kokomi's face. "You didn't study?"
"Ahaha…no." I said.
"That's not good!" Kokomi argued. "You need to study as much as you can before the test. Here, I'll quiz you on the way to school."
I looked around and the other guys who were walking to school were staring daggers at me. I let out a painful sigh and kept walking. It was like this pretty much everyday.
As I opened the door to the classroom, I was immediately swarmed by women. "Shiraishi-kun, good morning!" "Hey Shiraishi-kun, how are you?" "Did you get my message, Shiraishi-kun?"
I forgot to mention that because of my mixed race and the fact that I'm a transfer student that hasn't been here too long, I attract a lot of attention from the girls here. I let out another painful sigh. The boys were giving me death glares. Do you see my problem here?
"Hey, everyone cut it out already!" said Kokomi, attempting to shield me from the small mob of girls trying to get to me. I was already used to this, so I held up some money and nonchalantly said, "¥500 to the first person to break up this crowd."
Sure enough, five guys hurriedly got up and tried to sit the girls back down.
"Girls, girls, you must sit down and not cause a commotion for (teacher)." one of them said. "Sit down, you annoying pests." said another. Eventually they got the crowd to dissipate so I split the ¥500 among them then sat down. (Teacher) arrived soon after and started class.
"This formula is an extremely useful tool in the real world." Yeah, right. I thought as I listened to (teacher's) lecture. "Now if you combine these two properties then-" The lunch bell rang and students started getting up. I got up as well, and took my lunchbox up to the roof.
When I looked through the window on the roof access door, I saw someone who was already there, and decided not to eat on the roof. He could be one of those guys who appeared to be dangerously jealous of my current social position. I went back to the classroom and ate there instead. A group of agitated fellows greeted me upon entry.
"Shiraishi, how could you keep all the pretty girls to yourself?" said the one who appeared to be their leader.
I shrugged and opened my lunchbox as I sat down. "I thought you guys would at least steal one girl away that looked at me like I was a celebrity." I said. "Clearly, none of you are good enough to be able to do that."
This didn't really seem to please them. "Oh yeah?!" the leader said. "When we're done with you, everyone's gonna think you were hit by a bus!" They started approaching me threateningly. I sighed, then counted down silently. 3…2…1…
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" shouted a voice. I looked over and saw a girl standing in the doorway holding the doors open. Konami Natsumi. 17. Upperclassman. Charismatic, responsible, sharp as a knife. Student Council President. Ranked #1 on the boys' "Hot Girl List" for the whole school, which is why most of the guys voted for her.
"K-Konami-senpai!" the leader said. "We weren't going to try and do anything to him this time! I swear!" The others quickly did similar actions.
"Seriously…" started Konami, as she put a palm on her face. "This is the fourth time. I'm going to have to report you to the principal if this goes on."
"We're sorry, Konami-senpai!" said the leader as he ran off with the others.
Konami then looked to me. "And you, why are you always getting into stuff like this?"
I shrugged as I ate my sushi. "Apparently I'm…" then I made the quotation mark sign with my hands and said, "keeping all the pretty girls to myself."
"That's not a very good reason," Konami said.
"Well I've got to go back to my patrol. Shiraishi, if they bother you again, just tell me. Those guys have been annoying me for far too long."
"Wait until tomorrow, Konami-senpai. I'm sure they'll come after me."
"I'll be sure to pass by tomorrow then."
Then she left. I continued to eat my sushi. There weren't many people in the classroom, save for a few people who preferred to eat alone, like me. When I finished, people started coming in and the bell signaling the end of lunch rang. Time for next period. Physical Education. Yeah, no.
If you took a glance at the boys' locker room, you'd think it was a normal one, with neat rows of lockers and benches separating the aisles. If you go in there while guys are changing, it's a totally different experience. Lack of shame as they chase each other completely naked. Stealing of gym uniforms. Arrogance of how fit they are or how many girls they've supposedly charmed. Crazy dares in the name of fun and games. All topped with the heavy smell of industrial-strength deodorant. Yes, this was heaven for some. But it was hell for me. I can't count the number of times I've been threatened or disgusted in that place. I preferred to change away from all that near the back, but just hearing the sounds of all of it going on is enough to make you shiver.
I changed quickly as usual and headed out. Coach said today we would play football (soccer), and the two captains were the two people in my class who were part of the school's official football teams. Kokomi was one of them. The captains took turns choosing who they would have on their respective teams. I ended up on Kokomi's team, since the other team captain was a guy and we all know about why he wouldn't pick me. It was a bright, sunny day in here in Japan. The cool, spring breeze made the outdoors a bit more pleasurable. The turf-covered field had a natural shade of green. Clouds were moving slowly in the light blue sky. Once we arrived, we took our positions on the field.
"Ready?" the coach asked/shouted.
I took a quick look around, and saw that most of us were. Although, some of my idiot classmates weren't even paying attention and were chatting instead. I hoped the opponent would pass to them, since those kind of people were painfully easy to steal the ball from. They usually just went right back to chatting after.
"Go!" the coach shouted, and then he blew his whistle.
The ball was in the center of the field, between the two captains. When coach blew the whistle, Kokomi quickly kicked the ball away from the male captain and advanced towards the goal. Our strikers (people placed on the opponent's end of the field, also some of the people who can score goals) appeared at her side, ready to assist her. One of the enemy players suddenly did a slide tackle and kicked the ball away to one of his teammates. I was close by, and I rushed over to the ball and intercepted it before it could reach my opponent. A "Wow, Shiraishi-kun, you're so cool!" came from one of my own teammates. I sighed. It was like this all the time. Praise for doing something not really that big. I passed it to Kokomi-san and she was able to score a goal. My team cheered.
The rest of the game played out like it usually would. The ball was stolen about 14 times, and my team won 12-10.
"Thanks to Shiraishi-kun, we won!" said one of my teammates.
I didn't like being given compliments when I didn't even do much. No, I'm not being humble. I stole the ball thrice and scored once. And that was during the early parts of the match. During the rest I just followed where the action was happening. If anything, Kokomi should have the praise. She scored 10 times.
The rest of the school day passed by slowly, as usual. Learned about organisms in Science, started a project in History, took the English test and realized it wasn't that difficult, and some other stuff that I don't care much about.
After class ended I hurriedly picked up my bags and walked to my club. Right after class was the prime time to be confronted by one of the guys. Even with the laid-back yet lively atmosphere, brave souls who would stand up for someone being bullied or "confronted" as I've said before are hard to come across. I'd like to avoid confrontations as much as possible. They're hazardous to my health and are particularly annoying to get out of.
"Welcome back, Ryouta." said a girl reclining at the table as I opened the door to the Newspaper Club room. "You're early today."
"I guess so. The halls were a bit less crowded." I replied. The girl in front of me smiled. Kaizuha Suzuki. Daughter of one of my mom's friends. Childhood friend from my previous vacations to Japan. Light purple hair. Shining blue eyes. Playful, kind, also good at making tea. Her unusual hair and eyes alone are enough to get people to gaze at her in awe. Ranked #5 in the guys' "Hot Girls List"…? I'm not exactly sure but I know she's in the top 10. So apparently she was "hot" too.
"We've got a lot to work on today," she said. "You should start yours early."
"Alright," I said, nodding. "So I have to test out the new cafeteria hamburger, Avalon Fury, and…uh, Suzuki, what are oraboros?"
"Ah, oraboros are those things that Kanade Shuu-kun from class 2-1 is selling. Here, I bought two for you already."
She handed me two small boxes, each sealed with a bow.
"For some reason, they look like tiny presents. They're supposed to be able to determine your future or give you a piece of wisdom."
I unfurled the wrap, and the box walls collapsed to reveal a slip of paper. It read, "I am the fortune cookie king."
I placed it on the table, and opened the second one. This one read, "Don't open small presents. They will be disappointing."
Well it's not wrong.
Just then, Kokomi came into the room and said, "(Good afternoon~)"
Suzuki greeted her upon arrival. "Ah, Michiko, have any new stories for the paper?"
Kokomi shook her head. "Nothing interesting is coming up."
"Then just keep working on your current one then."
"(Yeah.) Uh, Shiraishi-kun, what are those?"
She motioned towards the small cardboard boxes on the table.
"Those are the 'oraboros' or something that Kanade Shuu from class 2-1 is selling."
"Ah, so what are they?"
"Small boxes with messages in them."
"What do the messages say?"
"Have a look for yourself."
She came over to the table and read the messages. Her face read "Really…" and she made a pitiful smile.
"Is that it…?" she asked.
"Yup." I replied.
"Then I'll just go and keep working."
Kokomi sat down at one of the computers placed throughout the room and started typing things for her news article.
The door opened again and this time Konami-senpai came in and said, "I hope you're all working. They changed the due date for this week to the 14th"
"That's Thursday, right?" asked Suzuki.
Suzuki sat up and made a salute. "(Roger that, President!)"
Then she spun her chair around to a computer and started working.
"Shiraishi-kun," said Konami-senpai, "how are your reviews going?"
"I've just started," I replied. "But they won't take very long."
"They better not."
This was the school's Newspaper Club. The room itself wasn't all that special, since the base design was exactly like all the other club rooms. But in this room, we had some computers, a TV, a game console, hot water heater, cups, and a few other stuff. I liked it. It has a really relaxed atmosphere. Me, Suzuki, Kokomi, and Konami-senpai were the only ones in this club. We don't have many other members because…well, no one else who joined could act normally. Every girl who joined kept asking me things and heavily distracted the other girls by not being quiet, while every boy who joined spent the entire time watching the girls and trying to tick me off. So it was really just the four of us doing any of the work. It was kind of tiring, but we had to. We were the only ones who could.
Each of us had a specific talent and task that we were assigned to. Suzuki and Kokomi were the two reporters. They found the best news scoops and knew exactly who to talk to. There are two of them because in my school, the boys and girls acted very differently when answering questions. Kokomi used her "charming" appearance to get the boys to talk, while Suzuki's curious aura was her way of getting answers out of the girls. I was assigned to doing reviews because of my ability to speak and write without bias and personal opinion. I did give my opinion sometimes, though. Konami-senpai was our editor who knew exactly what the student body liked and how they liked it. Her layout designs and editorial cartoons were flawless, and she's had that job longer than we've been at this school. So this was all of us. Four people working on a newspaper that was released once a week. I heard that it used to be everyday, but then it was changed due to costs and lack of staff. Occasionally, when something special happens, the paper is released the next day. I really wish we had more people.
After buying a hamburger from the cafeteria and judging it accordingly, I powered on the game console and inserted the disc for Avalon Fury. The black screen of the TV suddenly glowed with color as the game started up. From what I've heard, this game has a total 12 hours of main gameplay, along with an elaborate multiplayer system. I have to finish this whole thing in less than three days so I can make a proper review of it.
Apparently, there are complex puzzles and difficult boss battles AND visual novel-style cutscenes and dialogue. This was going to be…challenging. We were only allowed to stay until 6:30, and there were only 4 days until my review of this game was due. I have to play this through perfectly, non-stop, for the next few days so I can have about 2 hours to write my review.
I sighed as I opened the door to my house. It was 7 in the evening and I was starving. We really need to bring more food to the club room. I threw my winter jacket onto the coat stand and started the water heater in the kitchen. After going to the pantry and fetching myself a cup of instant ramen, I poured the hot water into it. Instant ramen was almost always my food when I got home. It's fast, it's easy, it's good, it's effortless. The only problem is that it's "unhealthy." After waiting for three minutes, I removed the lid of the cup completely and started eating. I also turned on the TV to the news. The ramen was tasty as always and I finished it quickly. I confirmed that I had no homework due the next day and went to room. Switching on the lights, the once-dark room was now filled with light. My RiftGear was sitting on the nightstand, right where I left it. I lay on my bed and lifted the RiftGear onto my head. It always felt comforting to put it on.
I selected End War Online from my games list and said to myself, "Are you ready to rock?"
[1/11/2055: Sovnlark, Near the Heaven-Eden boundary]
"Hey Ridley, you ready for the next mission?" said Lex as I spawned into our team's HQ. I nodded and looked around. There was a large screen on the wall, currently showing a map of the latest demon attacks. Zoe was sitting on the couch polishing her guns. An oblong holo-table was placed in the center of the room. Lex tossed me a folder containing the mission briefing. I opened it and examined its contents. There was a picture of what seemed to be a storage facility and a mugshot of a middle-aged man with short hair and a stubble.
"Erwin Zastrow. The original guy we were after on New Year's." Lex said. "We've finally found him. He's hiding in that storage facility and is being brought basic necessities by the workers there. They're all his men, so they'll try to protect him."
I leaned against the wall and asked, "So, how are we doing this? Burst in, guns blazing?" "Pretty much." Zoe said. "The storage facility is located a ways away from the city, so no need to worry about anything." She raised her gun in the air. "Just the way I like it."
"Zoe, we're infiltrating the base." Lex said.
"Standard infiltration. We'll be let off at the roof. Cut the power and get in from there. We'll have 20 minutes until they'll have backup generators running."
I nodded in reply.
A man in a white uniform opened the door. "You guys ready to go?" he asked.
Lex nodded, and the man led us to the aircraft hangar. As we walked in, the sounds of engines roaring and people scuttling became painfully loud. The man walked us over to one of the jets and showed us aboard. We were welcomed by a familiar face.
"Hey guys, just prepping the jet for takeoff." said a man sitting in the pilot's chair. Ren Freunhof. Angel. Ace pilot. This guy took us to most of our missions nowadays. He's the fifth jet pilot we've had since starting this job. The four before him were all KIA.
While he made final preparations for takeoff, my team was doing some gear checks. Lex was making sure all the tech was working properly. Zoe, being the most trigger-happy, was checking all the ammunition. I examined the weapons to make sure that none of them were damaged. Soon after that, we sat down and the jet took off. "Ow!" Zoe exclaimed as the force of the jet threw an emergency ration at her face.
I haven't properly introduced my team yet. Lex's full name was Alexander Darrensey. Tech wiz. Leader of the team Vector-3. Negotiations and demolition specialist. He was a guy I met early in the game and helped me to become as good as I am. The other one was Zoe Tethran. Trigger-happy, as I've said before. Enjoyed large battles. Not exactly the kind of person I don't want with me while sneaking around. Nevertheless, she is easily the most cheery person in the group, and having her around usually lightens the mood.
After a some 30 minutes of flying, Ren dropped us off on the roof of the storage facility and left to set the jet down in a safe area. After we cut off the power, Lex located the door and kicked it down.
"Real quiet, Lex," I commented.
"You know that I love kicking down doors," He replied.
"Well you could've maybe tried the knob for once."
"It could've already been unlocked..."
"Would you guys shut up and get in already?" Zoe interrupted.
I forgot to mention Zoe liked getting things over with.
We stealthily walked through the corridors of the dark storage facility.
"Activate night vision," Lex said.
We activated our night vision gear, and I saw two guys walking through the hall with flashlights on the ends of their guns. They hadn't seen us yet.
"Two tangos up ahead. They're mine,"
I run up to them and quickly throw a sword bayonet into the head of the guy on the left, making him fall backwards and his partner panic. He failed to notice me coming at him and sweeping his legs with a kick, causing him to fall over on his face. I took out my Dragon Mk.2 gunblade and stabbed his back, ending his life.
"Nice double kill, Amber." Zoe said as she walked past me.
"Is that my new nickname?" I say.
"Your eyes are amber so yeah."
I quickly put my hand on her mouth.
"Hmm! Mmmm mm mmm mm?!"
"Shush. Enemies dead ahead." I whisper. "I count six."
"Two for each of us." Lex said quietly. "Pick your targets and fire on my mark."
I sheathed my Dragon and pulled out my pistol, the SDM-Oculus, or as I like to call it, Carnefice.
"I could just take them all out in one go" Zoe said as she put away her machine gun, the Cyclops, and pulled out her Toppler, an SR-25 marksman rifle that she used for more silent takedowns.
"Your gun's either too slow or too inaccurate. Smoke 'em."
We all fired our weapons simultaneously at our targets. I nailed two guys in the forehead, Lex shot one in the chest and the other in the eye, while Zoe got one in the neck and the last in the cheek. We didn't bother to hide their bodies, since no one would come from behind us anyway.
After searching the bodies for anything useful and not finding anything, we moved on forward and found ourselves on one of the catwalks in a large room full of crates and boxes. There was a troubling amount of guards inside. I counted 20.
"Here's the plan. We go slow and steady. Take them one by o-"
Lex was interrupted by Zoe's cry as she dropped a grenade onto the ground below.
We heard the metal as it landed on the concrete floor.
"Hopefully the guards didn't hear that." Lex said.
Then Zoe made an embarassed smile as she held something up.
It was the pin for her grenade.
"Zoe!" I shouted as the grenade exploded, grabbing the attention of every single guard in the room.
Then the lights came up just as we started being fired upon. "Seems that we took too long." Lex said. "New plan! Kill on sight!"
"Got it!" I said as I swapped out my Carnefice for my Dragon and jumped down.
"Sorry!" Zoe said as she took out her Cyclops and started blasting lead at the guards.
As I landed, I was met with 5 guns shooting me as fast as they could. I was faster and I threw a horizontal arc of sword bayonets at them. Then I charged at the leftmost guy and shot his face off, then stabbed the next in the back and used him as a human shield as the remaining three recovered from the sword bayonets and started firing. After they ran out of ammo in their mags I tossed the corpse away and decapitated the closest enemy. The other two were shocked for a second and I used that opportunity to slash the next one from the shoulder all the way to the hip and fire a shot into the gut of the last.
"Five down!" I shouted as I charged towards the next group of enemies.
"Already?!" Zoe exclaimed as she was struggling to exit from her cover without being hit.
"Deal with it, pigtails." I say while cutting off the arm an individual who looked absolutely terrified at the sight. I then kicked him into his teammate and used my Carnefice to kill them both, with its incredible stopping power being able to pierce through a skull and not lose velocity or strength.
Zoe then ran across the catwalk and down the stairs, gunning down all who stood in her way.
"That's seven for me!"
I was distracted by this and was nearly killed by a grenade hadn't I noticed the sound of it hitting the ground beside me. I kicked it up then used my other foot to kick it into a cluster of nearby crates, blowing them up and exposing three guards who were hiding behind them.
"Last three!" Lex called out.
Those remaining three guards scattered and ran for their lives, but it was no use. Zoe jumped and kicked a guy in the face, then shot him in the head. I shot in front of the other, making him stop and turn around, then shot right in front of there, making him stop again, then jumped and landed on him with my Dragon in his chest. The the last guard in the center was running off towards the doorway, and I readied my Carnefice to kill him, but he tripped and fell on his face, making me miss my shot.
"Really..." I thought as Lex came over and shot the last guy's back.
"C'mon, Lex I had him!"
"You had him. And then you didn't," Lex said. "Alright guys, the rest of the base definitely heard that. They'll be ready for us now. Watch yourselves, use your distance to your advantage." Zoe and I nodded and we ran through the open doorway.
The rest of the building had already put up barricades and placed guard squads in the halls. We tore through each one, not letting a single guard live. There were a few rooms to check, but none of them really had anything important. Eventually, after clearing out the entire rest of the building, we came upon a large metal door. There was a control panel on its left side.
"Ridley, get that thing open." Lex commanded.
"Understood." I said as I headed over to the panel and started hacking through the encryptions in the door code.
Soon enough I opened the door, but what we saw inside was not expected. A towering mech, at least 30 feet tall, with gatling guns and missile launchers on its arms and shoulders, stood before us.
"Looking for me?" boomed a voice that seemed to come from the mech.
There was a middle-aged man inside the cockpit with short hair and a stubble. Erwin Zastrow.
"Actually, yes we are." I calmly said.
"Then come and get me!" he said threateningly, aiming all his guns at us.
"Alright guys, use Plan Comet!" Lex shouted.
"Roger!" Zoe and I shouted.
Zastrow's gatling guns started spinning just as we began to charge at him. He started firing, leaving a trail of bulletholes wherever he shot. Lex and Zoe were circling him and firing their guns at the mech's joints, trying to cripple it as much as they can. I however was not. Plan Comet involved Lex and Zoe being the main distraction while I charge up my Anima and destroy him when I can. I was an Angel hybrid, after all.
After gathering as much Anima as I could, I boosted up and shot forward with Feather Blink directly at Zastrow's mech, while charging up Anima in my hand. He noticed my bright stream too late as I drove my fist into the center of his cockpit window, making a large crack in it. He seemed terrified. I boosted myself into the air again, and this time flew around him, firing my Velociten sniper rifle from different angles. By this time, I could see him panicking and frantically trying to get the fight to turn in his favor. Unfortunately, he found what seemed to be the heat-seeking missile button and slammed it, sending a dozen heat-seeking missiles at us.
"Destroy the missiles before they destroy you!" Lex shouted, while dodging and rolling to avoid getting shot by Zastrow or hit by a missile.
I was flying around making sharp turns, making the missiles hit the walls and the ground. I soon realized that my Anima was running low and I wouldn't be able to go on much longer without falling unconscious and possibly dying. I turned my body around and fired at the last two missiles chasing me, blowing them to bits, so I could land without the risk of being blown to bits myself. After a firing off a few precise shots onto the last few missiles that were chasing, I had an idea.
"Zoe!" I shouted.
"What do you want, Amber?" she replied. "Kinda busy trying not to die here!"
"Don't destroy that last missile!"
"Don't destroy it. Send it back!"
"Ah? Ah. Ahahaha! Great idea!"
I expected her to run under the mech and send the missile into one of the mech's legs, but instead, she jumped onto it and then forced the missile to change direction as she ripped open the control panel and sent it towards Zastrow's cockpit.
"No!" he wailed.
"YAHOO!" she exclaimed.
She jumped off the missile just before impact, and the missile sent the mech's tumbling backwards and falling apart. But Zoe was falling and screaming.
"Zoe!" I cried as I jumped and kicked off the wall into Feather Blink, catching Zoe in midair. She had her eyes closed for some reason. I laid her down on the ground away from the crippled mech. It'll probably blow up soon.
"(Idiot!)" I shouted. "What were you thinking?!"
Zoe slowly opened her eyes just in time to see the mech explode behind me.
"Ridley...did you..catch me...?"
"Well, yeah! You could've gotten yourself seriously hurt!"
"H-Huh?! You...actually worried about me.."
A little blush came to her cheeks but that wasn't my priority at the time so I ignored it.
"T-Thanks." Zoe said.
"Just...warn me at least next time, alright?"
"Sure, since you know I will try that again."
Lex came over to us and was calling Ren for our evac.
"Good work everyone," he said. "Ridley, sending his missile back at him was a good idea. Zoe, friding the missile and nearly getting caught in the explosion was not a good idea." Zoe made an embarassed smile and rubbed the back of her head.
"Ahaha...it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing."
"Be more careful next time."
We located the front door of the building and walked out to see Ren and the jet waiting for us.
"Hop in guys, it's a sort-of long flight home." he said, welcoming us onto the aircraft.
When we were in the air, I noticed that Zoe was looking at me. When I turned to her, however, she hurriedly looked away with a flustered face.
Does she...no, it can't be...right?
[1/18/2055: Sovnlark, Near the Heaven-Eden boundary]
Zoe was acting differently.
Ever since we blew up Zastrow, she averted her eyes whenever I saw her looking at me, she got flustered more frequently, and got mad at me constantly. Well, not that she didn't get mad at me a lot before, it's just that she did it a lot more. I had a feeling that I knew what her deal was, but it really didn't make sense for someone like her, so I tossed the idea away. Her new attitude was starting to mess up our missions, so I decided to confront her about it.
"Kyah?! Oh...it's you. W-What do you want, Amber?"
"Is something wrong?"
"You're acting differently."
A bit of red came to her face.
"You totally are."
"What makes you say that?!"
She seemed to be ticked off.
"Why are you even getting angry?"
"I'm not getting angry!"
"Ugh, just shut up."
"This is what I'm talking about. Usually you would make it go on longer and try to insult me as best you can, but now you're actually just trying to make me quiet."
She was silent for a while, then spoke up.
"Listen, this new you is messing up our missions. If it goes on, this could put all of us in real danger. Now, tell me what your deal is so I can fix it. Or, you maybe could try to fix it yourself. Which do you prefer?"
She shot a glare at me.
Then she walked away.
This was going to be problematic.
I thought about it on the next day on the way to school. Hopefully it would help me ignore my "fangirls". I was looking up at the sky and trying to figure out all possible explanations for why Zoe would act like that.
"Shiraishi-kun, is something wrong?"
Kokomi was looking at me with a concerned face.
"Ah..it's nothing." I replied.
"Really? You look like you're very deep in thought."
"It's nothing, really."
"I hope so."
But of course, it wasn't nothing. I just didn't really know if Kokomi would be able to help, since she acts like the complete opposite. It occupied my mind all day during class. When lunch came around, I didn't bother to go anywhere and ate my lunch peacefully in the classroom. Then Suzuki came in.
"Hi!" she said as she threw open the door.
"Hi." I replied.
"I thought you'd be on the roof."
"Too much work to get there."
"Ah, I see."
She moved around a desk to face me and sat down there.
"I decided to eat lunch with you today." she said, taking out a bento box with anime characters designed on the cover.
I picked up a piece of chicken with my chopsticks and put it in my mouth, waiting for her to say something else.
"So, what do you want to talk about?"
I did not have anything to talk about. Then I remembered the thing with Zoe. Maybe she could help. She is my childhood friend, after all. I decided to ask her.
"I have this..friend, who for some reason gets flustered easily, gets mad at me a lot, and also whenever I see her looking at me, she averts her eyes quickly. Do you have any idea why?"
Suzuki looked like she was thinking about this for a while, then she said,
"Is it Michiko?"
"Do you really think she'd be like that?"
"Haha, I guess not."
"Wow, Ryouta, I didn't know you had friends outside of the Newspaper Club!"
Ouch. That was a hurtful thing to say.
"Can we just get back on topic please?"
"Oh, right. Um..."
Then she made a really dumb face and said,
"I have no idea."
She laughed again.
"Well, Ryouta, I do have an idea, but you'd only see that kind of thing in anime and games."
"I guess you're right."
Wait, Zoe was a friend in EWO, which is a game.
"But what is it?"
"Really? I thought you'd know."
"Apparently not. Tell me what it is."
That was the idea I had, but, no way. Not a chance. Never in a million years. Absolutely impossible. There is not a single reason why Zoe would like me. At most, I'm a rival that she wants to beat at everything. What would give her any reason to like me?
"Oi, Ryouta, what are you doing?"
I snapped out of my thoughts and turned back to reality.
"O-Oh. Um, I was just thinking about some things."
"You were really spaced out and distant for a while."
"Yeah. Your eyes were all unfocused and stuff."
We continued to eat our lunch, and Suzuki put back the desk she was sitting on. Then she waved and made a playful wink at me as she walked out the door.
After I finished writing things for the Newspaper Club that day, I headed straight home and into EWO. I didn't want to ask Zoe if she really did like me just yet, I wanted to see what she did a bit more before asking. We got a new mission, and Zoe got into the jet without saying a word to me. I hoped it would go well.
Usually we would get our mission briefing at base, but this time we did it in the jet.
Lex pulled out a small device from his pocket and tapped a button on it, creating a large holo-map of the city of Rampkev.
"So, what are we doing, chief?" I asked.
"Glad you asked," he replied. "There's a parade going through the main streets of the city honoring the gods of the sun and moon. It'll all seem festive and cheerful, but we've received word that there's going to be an attack on the city's mayor during the parade, who'll be riding in a large carriage. Our job is to watch the parade, but also makes sure that the mayor gets out alive and well."
He pointed to one of the skyscrapers.
"The jet is too high-profile to make a proper landing, so we'll be dropped off on the roof of this building. Zoe and I will make it to ground level. Ridley, stay on the roof as our lookout. Your sniping abilities should come in handy."
Zoe and I nodded at the same time.
"We're calling this Operation: Party Crasher."
"Cool name," I said.
Lex, ignoring my comment, asked, "Any questions?"
No one said anything.
"Then let's go."
It turns out that when he said that the jet was hovering right above the skyscraper he mentioned during the briefing. We jumped off the jet and landed on the roof, readying our weapons for combat. Zoe and Lex hurried down the roof access stairs while I took out Velociten and used my vantage point to scan the area. There were large crowds on both sides of the street, and lots of cheering could be heard, even from where I was. The parade was just starting to appear, and was moving really slowly.
"See anything yet?" I heard Lex ask through the comlink.
"No, the only thing that looks dangerous are the screaming of the crowds. I can hear them all the way up here."
"Heh. They just really love their fake gods."
"It seems that way."
I waited for a few more minutes of boredom before Lex spoke up again.
"Okay, we're at ground level. Ridley, can you see us?"
I scanned the ground with the scope of Velociten.
"Yeah, found you. Right by those two trees."
"Alright. First sign of big trouble, we apprehend it. Got that?"
"Right." I replied.
"Roger." said Zoe.
"But for now, enjoy the parade."
The parade went on for a while. It was nice, I guess. I didn't really give a crap about the gods they were honoring, but the performances weren't too bad. Then a bomb exploded during one of them, right in front of the mayor's carriage. Suddenly, a bunch of armed, ski-masked men came out of the crowds and started surrounding the mayor's carriage.
Lex shouted into the comlink. "Weapons free!"
I took aim at one of the masked men and fired a bullet through his eye socket, making him fall to the ground dead. The crowds and performers were dispersing very quickly, and masked men started firing blindly at them. I saw Zoe take out her machine gun and fire relentlessly, killing several of the enemies. I needed to up my game. Lex spoke into the comlink again.
"Change of plan, I'm taking control of the carriage and taking the mayor to a safe location. Zoe, get inside the carriage and prevent anyone else from getting in. Ridley, keep these guys off our backs."
I saw Zoe climb into the carriage, the mayor looking very surprised, and fire at the men from inside. Then the carriage sped forward through the street, giving both the men and me little time to react.
"I'm going to be exhausted." I complained, activating Feather Blink to jump over to the next building to chase the carriage from the rooftops and keeping the masked men from catching up to it.
After I sniped the last runner, the men then came on motorcycles, probably stolen from a nearby parking lot. Zoe was handling them pretty well. Her LMG was aimed at the engines rather than the bodies, making them explode and block the path for others. But then I heard the sound of a helicopter.
"How important is this guy?!" I screamed into the comlink.
"Let's just say he's one of the guys that keeps our organization what it is." Lex answered.
I shook my head with a grunt and Feather Blinked to the side of the copter, breaking the glass with my fist and throwing a Skysender inside. I kicked off the side and made a rolling landing onto a nearby building, then watched the helicopter explode and burst into a pile of flaming debris. After I was sure that there wasn't anything left to worry about, I used Feather Blink to get to the roof of the mayor's carriage and sat there for the rest of the ride.
"I thank you so, so, so, very much!" the mayor said.
"It's our job." Lex said. "Good thing we got that info."
"Yes, yes! Please, take the carriage as a gift of my thanks."
I looked back at it. It was 25 feet tall.
"That's not going to fit in the jet," I said.
"I see. In that case, I'll arrange for the money equal to the value of that carriage to be given to you by your boss. Is that alright?"
"That'll be fine." Lex replied. "Thank you."
"Nonono, thank YOU!"
Lex activated his wrist communicator and signaled for Ren to fly back and get us.
Meanwhile, Zoe was standing back, looking at the stars.
"Did I scare you?"
"Okay then. Good job out there."
"I-It's not like I was making an effort or anything.."
She looked back and smiled at me.
A little blush came to my cheeks.
She actually looked kinda cute in the moonlight.
"What?" she asked suddenly.
I snapped out of it.
"N-Nothing, just..that you actually kinda look pretty under the moon and the stars."
She blushed and looked away.
She...really was a tsundere, huh?
The next morning when I was eating breakfast, I got a call from my mom, saying that my cousins Aoi and Akane were moving near to our house and that they were transferring to my school. As a kid, I used to play with them along with Suzuki during my trips to Japan. Although they were younger than me, in terms of physical capabilities we were pretty evenly matched. Although, I haven't seen them for almost a decade. They've probably changed a lot by now.
When it was homeroom, (teacher) stood at the podium and said, "Today, we have two students transferring to this class. Momiji-kun, Momiji-san, you two can come up here and introduce yourselves."
A boy and a girl went up to the board. Everyone in the room (except the teacher) gasped. My eyes went wide with surprise. The boy had black hair and cool, teal eyes. He spoke first.
"(Hello everyone. My name is Momiji Aoi. Nice to meet you all.)"
The girl, who was his twin sister, had long white hair and fierce but calm crimson eyes.
"(Greetings. I am Momiji Akane. Please treat me well.)" she said.
I could tell these were my cousins by their eyes and hair, but I certainly didn't expect them to look like anime characters. Good-looking ones at that. After the two spoke, the class was silent for a few seconds. Then they were swarmed.
"Momiji-kun, you look so cool!"
"Momiji-san, was it? She's so pretty!"
"KYAAAAAA! SO CUTE!"
I bolted up from my chair and called out to them.
They noticed me immediately.
The class was silent for another few seconds after realizing that we knew each other. I used it to my advantage. I ran to them, grabbed their arms, and sped out of the classroom. As I was running through the halls, I heard an
"EHHHHHH?!" coming from my classroom.
"I didn't know Ryouta-kun was in our class." Akane said.
"What's happening?!" Aoi asked loudly.
"No time to explain," I replied. "For now, just run!"
I looked behind me and saw the swarm approaching. This wasn't going to be fun.
[1/20/2055: Kenbari High School, Osaka, Japan]
After checking to see if we were still being chased, I took in a deep breath and turned back to my panting cousins.
"Okay, they're gone." I said.
"What...was that?" Akane said, taking breaths in between phrases.
"We just got here and we're already being chased by a horde of people..." said Aoi.
I took another deep breath, and spoke again.
"Sorry about that. The people here go overboard with the ones they think are 'cute'."
Aoi sighed. "So that's how it is."
"Is this going to happen everyday?" Akane asked.
"More or less." I replied.
Akane sighed. "Honestly..."
I checked my watch.
"Ah, we should really get back to class."
The two nodded and followed me through the halls as we made our long way back to the classroom. The swarm had chased us for at least 10 minutes throughout the entire school. Aoi and Akane were mostly quiet the entire time.
Meet the twins, Aoi and Akane. They don't really look alike, but they do share the "good-looking" gene. They're almost always together, and very protective of each other. Aoi is the more talkative of the two, although "talkative" is an overstatement. He's not very social. Akane is even less. She doesn't talk much at all. But she is great at pretending to be someone she's not. Imitations and acting are her real forte. And she always has her signature umbrella wherever she goes. Even as a small kid, she had one. Although, the one she has now is different from the one she had when I last saw her. She had it clipped to her skirt. But doesn't that clipped umbrella make it easier to pull her skirt down...?
After navigating through all the shortcuts I knew at the school, we finally arrived at back at the classroom. I looked through the window, and the room was silent, seemingly anxious. I tentatively opened the door, and suddenly everyone's eyes shot over to it.
So, I closed the door. I looked over to the twins, who looked a bit confused.
"When you two get in there, they'll most likely swarm you again. There will be two empty seats beside each other on the left side of the class when you enter. I'll say something to calm them down or distract them, you two just make your way to those seats." I said.
They both nodded.
I threw open the door and yelled, "Go!"
As expected, the students inside immediately made a huge uproar as they went in. To divert the students’ attention, I announced, “I have no plans this weekend!” That got the girls away from Aoi and made the guys confused as the girls tried to swarm me. The teacher decided he finally had enough and shouted to get the class back in order and me safely to my seat. The rest of the school day moved slowly. Before lunch started, I passed a note to the twins telling them to follow me out of the classroom as soon as the lunch bell rang, because I knew that lunchtime would be the swarm’s next chance to surround them. I was right. The second the teacher left the room, the entire room stood up. I bolted into the hall, lunch bag in hand, with Aoi and Akane following closely behind. And behind them was the swarm. The students in the other classes noticed us and helpfully moved out of the way. Some joined the swarm though. To mess up the mob behind us, I ran in a loop for a few minutes before breaking off from my route and going out onto the roof. There we were finally able to relax.
“Ryouta,” Aoi said, panting. “does this happen to you everyday?”
I shook my head. “Not anymore. It used to though.”
“Why did it stop?”
“They eventually figured out that I would decline anything that was scheduled on a weekday, and most of them had other things on weekends.”
“Why’d you decline them?”
“I’ll show you the reason after school.”
And with that, he nodded, and continued to eat his lunch. I noticed that Akane was able to steal quite a bit of it while we were talking, though.
After classes ended, it took a few minutes to safely get Aoi and Akane out of the classroom and into the hallway. But when we were out in the hallway, we got the attention of even more students. We were surrounded. Suddenly, I felt someone grab my hand. It was Kokomi. We nodded in unison, and I told Aoi to get Akane and get ready to make a break for it.
“It’s the principal!” Kokomi shouted.
The crowd immediately dispersed and tried desperately to look like they were doing something normal. We took that chance to dash through the hallway and end up in the other wing of the building, where the students were less… swarmy.
“Thanks for rescuing us back there, Kokomi,” I said, panting.
“Ah, it was nothing, really,” she replied. “These two must be the new transfer students.”
Kokomi turned to face Aoi and Akane.
“I’m Momiji Aoi.”
Kokomi smiled. “Nice to meet you both! My name is Kokomi Michiko. Are you two having the same problems as Shiraishi-kun?”
The twins nodded.
“I see. Well, if you ever need help escaping a crowd, just look for me.”
Then Aoi turned to face me.
“So, Ryouta, you said that you would show us the reason you decline any invitations to do things on weekdays. “
“Oh, that.” I said. Then I pushed open a nearby door. “It’s in here.”
“The newspaper club…?” Aoi asked as the two walked in. Suzuki and Konami-senpai were already inside.
“(Welcome ba-) Oh! Akkun and Aka-chan are the new transfer students?” Suzuki asked, jumping onto the table.
“You recognized them that fast?” I responded.
“Yup!” Then she turned to the twins.
“(Welcome to the Newspaper Club!)” Suzuki proclaimed, almost falling off the table.
“Suzuki-san is here too?” Aoi asked.
“Yup.” I said.
“Two new members are joining today! How exciting~”
Konami-senpai looked up from a book she was reading.
Suzuki leapt off the table and placed her arms around Aoi and Akane.
“Akkun and Aka-chan, of course!”
“Eh?!” the twins exclaimed in unison.
“Do you like being chased all around like that?” Suzuki asked.
Akane kept silent, while Aoi responded, “Well, no but-“
“Then this is the only club where you’ll be safe! So? Are you joining?”
“(It can’t be helped.)” Akane said, sighing. “(Alright.)”
Aoi followed. “I guess I’ll have to join too then.”
Suzuki clapped. “(Wonderful, wonderful~) Konami-senpai, you’re going to let them join right?
Konami-senpai stood up and said, “Well, I don’t see any reason why not.”
Then she opened a drawer, took out two small laminated papers with clips, and held them out.
“Here are your press passes. You both are now officially part of the Newspaper Club. Welcome.”
Kokomi started clapping. “Congratulations!”
“Welcome,” I said, but without any clapping or clear enthusiasm.
“Thanks…?” Aoi said, slightly confused while Akane examined her press pass.
Since I didn’t have anything to review that day, I just played Avalon Fury in the clubroom while everyone else did their duties. The top story of the next paper was going to be about Aoi and Akane, so their first day as official newspaper club members was spend being asked an endless amount of questions pertaining to their activities, their likes, and their dislikes. At first they were fine with it, but after a while I could tell that Akane was getting annoyed and Aoi was getting tired. Avalon Fury had a local multiplayer function, so I invited the two to play. They immediately agreed, but were kept trapped by Kokomi and Suzuki for five more minutes before they were finally able to pick up a controller and play. After taking 30 minutes to design their characters, all three of us looked extremely dangerous. I started up a relatively easy multiplayer mission, and our characters spawned at the top of a skyscraper above a literal urban jungle. There were several tall buildings on all sides, but a lot of them were covered in vines and moss, and the streets below were full of trees and shrubbery. An orange message box appeared above our heads. “Eliminate all enemies!” It disappeared soon after, and I quickly told the twins the controls to the game. After they got the hang of moving around and attacking, I told them to follow where I go and attack when I say so.
I jumped onto the rooftop of a nearby building, and pulled my character’s weapon, a sniper rifle that was just like Velociten in EWO. Aoi took out a charge caster, weapon capable of being melee or ranged, by charging energy and launching it or directly hitting enemies with it. Akane unsheathed a thin rapier, but I recognized it as being one of the sharpest swords in the game. Soon, various mutant creatures appeared from the shadows, surrounding us completely.
“Attack.” I said.
Aoi gave a short laugh. “Heh.”
Akane simply said, “Roger.”
The mutants didn’t wait around any longer and starting charging at us with all their might, but it was futile. The three of us began killing them like professional mass murderers. Even after learning the controls a few moments before, Akane and Aoi played like they’ve completed the game several times. They had complete knowledge of their characters’ skills and movements, along with the fact that they were in perfect sync even without talking to each other. It seemed like one could always predict what the other was going to do then act accordingly, and vice versa. I wasn’t able to kill as fast as they were, however, since my weapon wasn’t very fast. I felt outmatched by the two newcomers. The area, which would’ve taken a pro team a minute or so to complete, was cleared in 30 seconds flat.
“Not bad,” I said, while surveying the area for loot drops.
“Well, yeah I guess,” said Aoi.
“If we grouped them up we could’ve killed them all in half the time,” commented Akane.
“These guys must’ve been playing with each other for an extended period of time. I bet they would be legends in EWO,” I thought to myself.
We moved on to the next area, then to the next, and the next. The three of us were unstoppable. When the enemies started getting more difficult with bigger health bars and base damage, that’s when I started racking up my kills. I knew the critical hit points on each one of them and lined up my shots perfectly, killing them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Akane and Aoi took some time to figure out their main weak point and started to slow down. When they did figure it out, though, they raised their score to parallel mine. There was one enemy left, but our attacks were cut off as a cutscene came on and interrupted our play. It showed a very large mutant come up from underground and devour that last enemy, stealing away our chance for a kill. I reloaded my rifle, and we all readied our weapons. It was spiderlike, and had orange skin with green and purple hairs on its legs.
“Final boss, guys. You ready?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” asked Aoi in return.
Akane spun her sword around. “Target: Spider. Attacking on command.”
The spider mutant let out a screech and its health bar appeared at the top of the display.
It started off by making a large smash with its legs, setting loose a small impact shockwave. We easily dodged it by jumping.
“Get the legs, and when enough are disabled, it’ll fall down and we can aim for the body and head.” I said.
Akane nodded and Aoi replied, “Got it.”
We charged at the spider mutant and began attacking different legs. I was firing as fast as my character could, Aoi was using energy-powered melee attacks, and Akane stabbed her sword into the leg and was running up the leg, creating an extra-large wound. After we caused enough damage to the legs on one side, the spider fell on that side due to lack of strength. Its health, however, was holding strong and had about 76% left. We attacked with all our might, using our strongest skills in succession to deal enormous amounts of damage in a short period of time. That was good enough to lower its health all the way down to 45%. At this point, it got back up, and raised its head high in the air. Several green markings appeared on the ground. It seemed we all knew what that meant, so we all dodged backwards and out of the green zone. The spider mutant then looked down and opened what was sort of like a mouth over the green area and spat out acid all over it.
“I guess you don’t have to be told not to touch that,” I said.
“Nope,” Aoi replied.
Then we went back to slaying the beast. Aoi started using concentrated energy blasts, and I switched to my incendiary ammunition. Akane started using skills in succession, as if testing them. We attacked the other side this time, which made the spider mutant’s leg support fail since the other side was already weak. Its health was at about 15%. With a full mana bar and a full clip, I got ready to lay the final attacks. It seemed that Aoi and Akane had the same ideas.
“This next part is the most fun you’ll ever have on this level.” I said.
Aoi smirked. “Oh yes.”
We charged our attacks for three seconds, then attacked in sequence. I used my recently enchanted sniper rifle to make ballistic portals in the sky that rained down bullets on the spider, and Aoi charged in and ran up to the beast’s head. Holding charged energy in his hand, and he punched down, sending an energy shockwave throughout the spider mutant and making glowing lines of blue illuminate along its body. Akane rushed to slice through these blue lines, where immense amounts of blood gushed out where she wounded it. I fired more ballistic portals and made them rain missiles and bombs, lowering the monster’s health even further. Aoi, still at the thing’s head, started to pump energy into the spider, making explosions happen along the wounds that Akane made, and also making new wounds as the energy burst through the giant mutant’s skin. After this light show of orange and blue, my portals ran out of ammo and closed, then Aoi sent a purple burst of energy through the beast, making it start to vibrate disturbingly. He and I then went behind the monster so it could finally be finished off. Akane leapt from the building, overcharged her rapier, and struck the center of the boss, pierced straight through, landing beside us, and leaving a gigantic slash after-effect, which split the spider mutant into half, each part falling on its side. A rain of monster blood started falling from the sky. The word “Congratulations!” appeared, signaling the end of the mission.
I put down my controller with a tired sigh, and looked over to the twins.
“Nice job, Akane,” Aoi said.
“Yeah,” Akane responded, smiling.
Aoi smiled right back and pat her head.
Honestly, to me, they looked more like a couple than siblings. I didn’t really care though. They were a pair of amazing people who could absolutely destroy a game they have never played before in complete synchronization and cooperation with barely any communication. They must’ve been playing whenever they got the chance, and playing through all kinds of games. It would be great if they played EWO, though.
[1/21/2055: Kenbari High School, Japan]
I yawned as I walked through the doors to my classroom and was immediately surrounded by the usual crowd of fangirls. I didn’t feel like spending ¥500 on separating the crowd, and Kokomi wasn’t here yet to bail me out, so I did my best to answer their questions and requests for autographs. They seemed to never run out of things to ask me.
I soon grew tired of standing and tried walking toward my seat. However, instead of preventing me from leaving, the crowd followed. When I took a step forward, the people in front took a step back while continuing to talk. I was able to get to my seat and sit down, with the crowd still surrounding me. The questions the crowd was asking me were becoming more and more shallow. I was growing very tired of them. Then I heard the door open, and saw Aoi and Akane standing in the doorway. Seeing an opportunity to get the horde off my back, I said in a disguised voice: “Look! It’s Aoi and Akane!”
Aoi’s and Akane’s faces showed a little more than surprise when they heard that. The crowd around me didn’t really dissipate. Instead, they quickly moved to the twins without breaking formation. It was like they were a hive mind. Akane clung to her brother, then I saw her steel herself and then do something similar to what I did, answer their questions and such as short as possible, but she did it in a way that was somewhat colder. Aoi acted normally (which was slightly embarrassed or didn’t like to be in the middle of large crowds), and looked to me for help. I just smiled mischievously at him.
“Ryouta, please, never do that thing at homeroom again,” Aoi said at lunch.
We were on the roof, as usual, eating our lunches together with Kokomi, out of sight from the majority of the other students. This time, Suzuki was here too.
“Oh, so you knew it was me? I should work on my voice acting skills,” I replied.
“Huh? Do what again?” Suzuki asked.
Aoi looked annoyed with me.
“The moment I opened the door to our class this morning with Akane, Ryouta made the overly-curious crowd move over to surround us instead of him.”
“It was irritating. One of them asked me-“ Akane held her hair in a strange way that made her strongly resemble one of our classmates. Then she said, “ ‘Hey, hey, Momiji-chan, what cup size you rockin’?’ “ in a voice that sounded exactly like that classmate. “and so I wanted to send him flying out the window.”
The rest of us except Aoi stared at her in awe.
“Could it be that you’re impersonating Kokubyakuin Guren…?” I asked.
“Ah, that’s the guy,” Akane replied.
Our gazes didn’t falter.
“Whoa. That was perfect,” Suzuki said.
Kokomi nodded in agreement.
“Hey Aka-chan, do me next!” Suzuki said excitedly.
Akane held her hair like Suzuki styled hers, and said with Suzuki’s face, in Suzuki’s voice, “Geez Ryouta, you’re so mean~. Keeping Akkun and Aka-chan all to yourself~” Suzuki squealed. “That’s it!”
“I’m doing Ryouta next.”
She fixed her hair to look like mine and said in my voice, “Hey, you guys, could you stop? I’m trying to eat my ramen.”
I was taken aback by it for a second. “That’s so accurate it’s almost scary.”
Then Akane held her hair in a ponytail and said in a voice that sounded familiar, “Come with me, Shiraishi-kun, and we can be together forever!”
“And who was that?” I asked.
“Take a guess.”
Kokomi suddenly screamed, “W-Who could that be I wonder?! Ohohoho…”
I noticed her face was red.
Akane winked and stuck out her tongue playfully.
Then I remembered how even though she’s so quiet and reserved, she had a playful side that really likes teasing people and embarrassing them.
Akane laughed for the first time I’ve heard it in a long time.
“You should stop while you’re ahead, or else Kokomi-san might do something more than just scream at you,” Aoi said.
I noticed Kokomi’s face was still red. Suzuki poked her and asked, “Hey, Michiko, are you okay?”
“Huh? Oh! I’m fine, I’m fine!”
Her face suggested otherwise.
When school ended, we all met in the clubroom like always. I had nothing to review, so I decided to look at how the others were doing. Kokomi and Suzuki were both writing their articles on Aoi and Akane, occasionally shouting out random questions to them. Konami-senpai, without any articles to judge, was looking at manga, which she quickly closed when she noticed my presence. Akane and Aoi didn’t have any particular jobs yet, so we just played more Avalon Fury to pass the time. Like last time, we killed everything in our path with relative ease. When it started getting late and everyone else was finishing up, I decided to ask the twins a question.
“Hey, have either of you two heard of ‘End War Online’?”
They looked at each other questioningly, and then Akane nodded.
“Yeah, what about it?” Aoi replied.
I relaxed a bit, knowing I wouldn’t have to really explain too much. “It’s a game where I think both of you would do extremely well in, since you’re so in sync and all.”
“We might take a look then. What’s it about?”
“It’s a VRMMO about Angels, Demons, and Humans fighting to take control. You don’t really have to participate in the war, though. There’s a bunch of other stuff to do.”
“Do you play this game a lot?”
“Pretty much everyday.”
“Must be really fun then. What do you do in the game?”
I hesitated to answer immediately, and gave a careful but relaxed-sounding answer. “I just go around doing whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes I accept missions from player-run companies.
I didn’t really know what to say after that, so I finished it with “It’s an amazing game, you should really try it.”
Aoi nodded. “Alright. I guess we’ll give it a go sometime.”
“Yeah. I bet you two would be known as legends in no time at all.”
Time passed quickly, and soon it was time for us to head home. I was packing my bag when Aoi approached me, asking if I wanted to go to their house for dinner. I thought about it, thinking of my amount of homework, my tasks in EWO, and how willing I was to make myself dinner. It would be manageable, so I agreed. Once I finished, I told them to lead the way and I followed them out. I told the twins that the main exit would probably have more people than the secondary exit, so we went that way instead. As we stepped outside, we were approached by a group of four large troublesome-looking students with mischievous smiles on their faces.
“Hey, look what we’ve got here,” said the one who appeared to be the leader. ”Two pretty boys and a doll. You three are in for something now that you’re here.”
Aoi held an arm protectively in front of Akane, and said, “We don’t want any trouble.”
“Trouble? There won’t be any, if you do what we say.”
I then noticed that they were discreetly taking steps forward, and we were instinctively taking steps back. They had us with our backs against the school wall.
“If you guys can give us your wallets and leave this pretty little one with us, then we’ll let you go.” He was referring to Akane.
Akane’s expression remained unchanged and she started listing off info like an AI. “Categorized as: Harassment. Life-forms involved: Seven. Perpetrator Number: Four. Victim Number: Three. I recommend you back off, Grass-brows.”
“Wha?! Grass-brows?! Getting a little cocky aren’t you?” The name ‘Grass-brows’ seemed to tick him off. “Just hand this girl over along with your wallets, and you’ll escape from this unscathed.” I thought I should step in, but Aoi was faster.
“Well then,” the guy said, cracking his knuckles loudly, “Take this!”
He threw forward a punch directly at Aoi’s face, but instead it made contact with the cement wall behind it and made the leader shout a cry of pain. ”Why you…!!” He threw a punch with his other hand, but Aoi caught it in midair and twisted it as hard as he could. The leader made another shout of pain, this time louder. Aoi turned him around and kicked him away, making the pseudo-tough guy stumble forward and making his friends angry. Akane unclipped the umbrella from her skirt and held it on her side like a sheathed blade.
The three other student thugs started attacking, but it seemed that they didn’t expect the twins to fight back. Aoi dodged a punch from the left, then countered with a sucker punch to his opponent’s gut. He kept the flow with two quick kicks into his opponent’s torso and a chop to the neck. His stunned opponent took a step back, and Aoi took the opportunity to grab his arm to throw his opponent over his shoulder and step on his chest. Akane caught a punch with her left hand and used the umbrella in her right to smack the forearm. Her attacker instantly retracted his arm, and Akane used her umbrella to smack the guy’s face and chest repeatedly. Finally, she thrust her umbrella into his gut and crouched down to sweep his feet and make him fall. The last guy idiotically tried hitting both Akane and Aoi at the same time with two simultaneous punches, and both were caught easily. Aoi and Akane took him down together with a simultaneous kick to the lower abdomen. The leader was enraged and charged at them, holding his fist above his head. He stopped before he reached them and punched, but it missed both of its targets. At that exact moment, I couldn’t tell for sure, but thought I saw Akane smile.
The twins then started hitting one after another, in perfect sync, just like in Avalon Fury. Aoi led with an overhand punch, directly hitting the guy’s head. Akane followed by slamming her umbrella into his side. The bully staggered back, and Aoi sent a spinning cross punch to his face. Akane hit immediately after with a thrust from the point of her umbrella, which made the guy bend forward from the force of the impact. Aoi continued the flow with a powerful uppercut, and Akane landed a roundhouse kick to deal more damage. The thug who started this whole ordeal looked like he was about to barf up his lunch. The twins looked at each other and nodded. Aoi charged into the leader with his shoulder, which opened a chance for Akane to use her umbrella to hit his cheek hard enough to make him face the other direction. Aoi kicked his knees in to make him fall, and Akane dealt the final blow with an umbrella strike to the back of his head. Unable to withstand any more pain, the leader fell forward on his face, unconscious. Akane and Aoi high-fived each other.
I was at a loss for words at what I had just seen. Their combat ability was impressive, they were still in sync, and they had just knocked four students unconscious. I knew I had to say something, at least.
“H-Hey, you guys…”
They both looked at me, and had faces that looked like they must’ve forgotten something.
“Don’t you think you went a bit overboard…?”
Akane tilted her head. “Overboard…?”
“Actually, Ryouta,” said Aoi in a tone that was more relaxed than I expected, “These guys are criminals that are wearing this school’s uniform.
That was completely unexpected. “How do you know that?”
“I saw them rob a store a few days ago through security camera footage that was uploaded onto the Internet. I’m calling the police now, so hold on.”
I took me a while to get used to the fact that Akane and Aoi had been able to easily down four actual criminals with their bare hands and feet plus one umbrella. Even with my experience with fencing, I had never seen such fierce and flowing combat. It was amazing. Aoi ended the call and put the phone back in his bag. “Okay, all done. The police will be here in about five minutes. We don’t have to be here anymore.”
I thought that Aoi and Akane must have some kind of telepathic connection.
“Come on, Akane, Ryouta, let’s get home.”
Akane nodded and walked by her brother’s side.
Lost in my own thoughts, I hurriedly replied, “Y-Yeah…”