Chapter 1: Bizarre Occurrences
It appeared to be a normal day in Tokyo. A young man felt the sun rays on his face and slowly stirred awake, before getting up from his bed. He was quite tall and had short black hair and shining amber eyes. His room was tidy, his shelves were filled with manga and on his desk a computer stood out.
As he finished his morning routine, he heard a familiar voice calling from the lower floor.
"Sato-chan! Sou-chan! Breakfast is almost ready!"
"We're coming, mom!" he replied as he began changing out of his pajamas, hearing another familiar voice replying the same way. As he finished changing into gray pants, a yellow shirt, and a black jacket, complete with black socks, he exited his room and was greeted by a familiar figure. A boy, shorter than him, bearing his same amber eyes and short black hair which partially covered the left side of his face. He was already dressed, as well, in a high-school gakuran uniform.
"Morning, Satoshi Nii-san!" the boy said, in a slightly tired tone.
"Morning, Soukichi." Satoshi replied, as he walked down the stairs with his little brother, heading to the kitchen, where their mother, a woman with long black hair and amber eyes, dressed in a turquoise t-shirt, a purple long skirt and a pink apron, was waiting for them.
"Good morning!" she greeted them with a giggle.
"Morning, mom!" the both replied in unison, one more tiredly than the other.
"Awww, why are you so tired, Sou-chan?" the woman said to her younger son "It's Friday!" Satoshi, being a little more awake than his sibling, chuckled at her mother's statement and at the cutesy tone in which she had said it, which had succeeded in putting some energy back in the shorter boy.
"And we all know how joyous Fridays are, right?" he replied as he fetched a pack of biscuits while his brother sat at the table.
"You have no idea, Sato-chan." their mother sighed, as a slice of bread was being roasted in a toaster behind her. "Everyone looks forward to the end of the week, after all. Even you!"
"Yes, of course!" Satoshi nodded, sitting at the table as well "Even though my schedule is more sparse than yours or Soukichi's."
"But no less stressful." his mother commented.
"Nope, not at all." the youth nodded once more at the remark.
"Well, I have no doubt that you're going through your course like a liner, Nii-san!" Soukichi commented, making his brother blush a little.
"W-Well, I've chosen the subject I do best! And it can still be quite challenging..." he objected,and in that exact moment, something surfaced in the shorter boy's mind, contributing to fully waking him up
"Oh, right! Tomorrow, we'll be going to-" but his attention was caught by an odd odor before he could finish his sentence. The smell was perceived by his older brother as well.
"What's this smell?" the youth asked, as his eyes wandered around the room and eventually fell on the toaster behind his mother, who quickly turned.
"Oh no! The toast!" the woman gasped in shock, rushing at the machine. Her face was contorted in an expression of disappointment and slight disgust as she removed the slice of bread from the toaster, but her expression turned into one of surprise in finding a perfectly made toast instead of a burnt slice.
"It's… Perfect!" she thought "But how? I had completely forgotten about it until I smelled that stench..."
"Was that my toast?" Soukichi asked, with some concern in his voice.
"Yes." his mother said with a smile, showing him his toast "It's ready!" Both the brothers were left speechless, since they were not expecting a well-made toast from that odor of burnt bread.
"If that smell wasn't coming from the toast, then what was it?" Satoshi couldn't help asking.
"Now that you mention it..." his mother noticed, as that nasty odor was no longer hitting her nostrils "That smell is gone..."
"Now that's bizarre..." the youth thought. His little brother, on the other hand, paid little mind to it and began spreading cherry flavored jam on his toast, with a big smile on his face.
"What were you saying, Soukichi?" Satoshi asked his brother.
"Uh?" his brother confusedly muttered, before remembering what he was about to say "Oh yeah! Tomorrow we will be going to the Tokyo Game Show!"
"Oh, right!" the youth beamed upon hearing that statement "Man, now I'm getting excited. I already know what stand I will be visiting first."
"And what would that be, Sato-chan?" their mother asked as he dipped a cookie in his tea and ate it, while his brother took a bite of his toast.
"I'll be going to the stand of Innocent World!" Satoshi replied "It's only fair, since I've been playing and throughly enjoying that game!"
"Hey! Don't forget about me, Nii-san!" Soukichi called "You know I love that game, too!" Their banter made their mother giggle.
"How long have you two been playing it, now?" she asked them, with a smile.
"I've been playing for a solid week, Soukichi for 5 days." Satoshi quickly replied.
"It's good to like games, Sato-chan." the woman said, her tone becoming more serious "But don't forget about real life! You have quite a lot of things to do there!"
"Mom..." Satoshi replied, with a reassuring look "As much as I love this game, I love my life just as much!" His words were enough to quench his mother's worries and sigh in relief.
"Innocent World is an online game!" Soukichi added "Nii-san and I enjoy meeting new people, and this game allows just that. That's one of the reasons we love it so much!"
"And we're hoping to meet some of those people in the flesh at the convention!" Satoshi concluded, winning a giggle from his mother.
"Well, this is what conventions are for, right?" she said, making her sons chuckle amiably at her words.
After they finished their breakfast, the brothers headed to the house door and, upon reaching it, put on their shoes, ready to go out and start their day.
"We're out!" They said as they left the house.
"Take care!" their mother saw them off with a smile. The two youths walked to the closest underground station, looking at the city around them. Soukichi saw a young man at a bus stop close by, tapping on his smartphone while waiting for his bus. From the business suit he was dressed in, he figured he was a salaryman.
Little did he know about what he was doing on his smartphone, which was playing at the game he and his brother knew and loved.
After the two youths had walked away, finding the underground station they needed, the bus came at its stop and its doors opened, ready to let new passengers in. However, the young man was deeply engrossed in his gaming session, and didn't take notice of the vehicle.
When he did, it was already too late. The doors closed and the bus began moving again. The young man was left with no choice but to hurry after it.
"Hey! Wait!" he called out as he panted, while running after the vehicle. However, something completely unexpected happened. He blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he was seated in the very same bus he was chasing. He looked around in disbelief, panting.
"H-How did this happen?" he couldn't help but think. To his luck, there were not many people in the bus, so no one had noticed the bizarre occurrence. The young man decided it was best to not make a fuss about what had happened.
In the meantime, the young brothers entered the Tokyo underground, ready to take the train that would have taken them in the area where their schools were located. They spent their time chatting.
"Say, Nii-san..." Soukichi asked his brother "Have you found any other players at school?"
"Some, but not so many." Satoshi quickly replied "What about you, Soukichi?"
"None. Zero." the shorter boy shook his head in disappointment. "I wish I had your luck..."
"Try to understand them." the youth explained "Many online games are known to have a great problem: toxic communities. Besides, not all these kind of games are gems..."
"But Innocent World is!" Soukichi protested "And its community is the farthest from toxic I've ever seen! Remember those kind senpai-tachi who had helped us when we had begun playing?" Satoshi chuckled happily at the memory as he and his brother boarded the train.
"Yes, I remember." he replied "We were so lucky to meet them!" The statement made his brother chuckle as well. As soon as they managed to find a seat, the train departed. The two youths stood silent for the duration of the journey, in order to not wake up the passengers who were resting there.
After two stops, the brothers reached their destination and left the train. While walking out of the underground station, they chatted, discussing about a variety of topics. Of course, their favorite game came up more than once during their chat. Then, the time came for them to separate and head to their schools.
"Good luck with today, Soukichi!" Satoshi said, offering his fist to his brother.
"Good luck to you too, Nii-san!" Soukichi cheerily replied, as he happily bro-fisted the youth "And remember to spread the word!"
"Will do!" the youth replied with a chuckle, before he and his brother went their separate ways.
It didn't take long for Satoshi to reach the Tokyo Metropolitan University campus. Once he reached the gates, he fished his phone out of his pocket to check the hour.
"30 minutes before the lecture starts." he notices, but he couldn't help but notice something that shocked him before putting the handheld device back in its place.
"Shoot! I had forgotten to charge the phone last night..." he hissed. The battery of his mobile phone was quite low. He shook his head in resignation as he entered the building. He found the room where his lecture would have been held and looked for a seat.
"Good morning, Yatsumura-kun!" his course mates greeted upon seeing him, and he always greeted them back with a smile. He managed to find a place to sit, next to a friend of his, a young man with untidy hazelnut hair and brown eyes, dressed in a light blue jacket, matching pants and a turquoise shirt.
"Good morning, Tsushima!" he greeted him upon taking his seat, catching his attention.
"Oh, good morning, Yatsumura-kun!" he greeted him cheerfully "How are you doing?"
"Doing good, thanks." he replied "What about you?"
"Feeling great!" Tsushima replied "I always feel great on Fridays! Have any plans for the weekend?"
"Yes, I do!" the amber-eyed youth answered "I'll be going to the Tokyo Game Show with my brother."
"Wow man, you too?!" his friend happily exclaimed "I'll be going there, too! There are so many cool games I want to try out! Also, there's no way I'm missing the hot cosplayers!" The last statement made Satoshi laugh.
"Of course..." the amber-eyed youth commented, expecting such a statement from him.
The other students were chatting as well, but the volume of the talking was lowered when the lecturer of the day entered the room. Satoshi and his friend were not happy to see him.
"Oh no..." Tsushima commented, in a low voice "That's Watanabe-sensei! The most boring lecturer alive!"
"This will be a long lecture..." Satoshi sighed, sharing his friend's disappointment.
"Yeah." his friend sulked "He'll ruin our day before the weekend..."
"Alright everyone! Silence, please!" Watanabe called in a stern, yet somewhat indifferent tone "The lecture is about to begin."
The lecturer was known for his inability to keep the interest of his listeners alive, and the poor students always had to exert an immense amount of effort to listen to him for a full hour without straying off or falling drowsy. Unfortunately, the lecture lasted two hours, and to maintain the attention focused on the boring professor seemed impossible.
Satoshi tried his best to keep himself focused as long as possible, but his energies had to reach a limit. However, right when he was about to give up, he felt something jolting inside him. He didn't know what had happened, but he felt more than capable to endure the boringly exposed lecture of the professor, and so he did. As soon as the most important part of the lesson was reached, the amber-eyed youth fished out his notebook and wrote notes that would have reminded him of the object of the lecture. Tsushima, who had long given up, could only stare at his course mate in disbelief.
"The lecture is over. Thank you for attending." Watanabe finally said, as if releasing the students from a session of torture. Everyone happily packed his bag and prepared to leave.
"How the hell did you manage to stay focused until the end?!" Tsushima asked his friend.
"Believe me, I don't know!" Satoshi replied "But what I know for sure is that a miracle had just happened!"
"Damn right, my man!" his friend enthusiastically exclaimed. The two students then got up from their seats and headed to the cafeteria to eat lunch.
As they queued up to buy a bento box and a small sandwich, Tsushima fished his phone out of his pocket and plugged his earphones in it, before beginning to use it. Satoshi decided to take out his phone as well, in order to check the energy left in its battery, but, much to his astonishment, he found a battery at full charge.
"T-the battery is at 100%?!" he thought "But it was really low, last time I checked! Which was more than two hours ago!"
"Oh, yeah! Shake it, baby~!" His train of stupor was interrupted by Tsushima, who was entranced and aroused by what he was seeing on his phone.
"Wh-What are you watching, Tsushima?" he couldn't help but ask, with a bit of a blush on his face.
"Look, Yatsumura-kun!" his course mate replied, showing him the latest music video from a renowned lounge techno artist. It featured a dancer with a lot of sex appeal, enough to make Satoshi understand the reason of his friend's arousal, and slightly darken his blush.
"Awesome, isn't it?" Tsushima said, putting the screen out of his friend's sight.
"Yeah..." Satoshi replied "But it looked like you were watching something else." Hearing the statement, the other student burst in laughter.
"Nah!" he replied "I'm not doing such a thing in campus!" It wasn't long before the two students' turn to buy their food came. They bought a bento box and an egg sandwich each and looked for a place to sit. While walking around, they came across an older woman with long black hair and sky blue eyes, dressed in a white, short-sleeved shirt, a black skirt, a matching jacket and heeled shoes.
"Good morning!" they respectfully greeted her.
"Good morning!" the woman greeted back with a warm smile, before passing them by and heading to an ice cream stand close by.
Eventually, Satoshi and Tsushima managed to find a free seat next to two other course mates of theirs: a young man with chin-length brown hair and green eyes, dressed in a dark blue jacket, matching pants, a bordeaux-red t-shirt and shoes of the same color of the shirt, and a young woman with shoulder-length pink hair and sky blue eyes, wearing a sleeveless yellow shirt, a pink skirt, white thigh highs and yellow shoes. They were sit across one another.
"Nakahara-san! Suzuki!" the amber-eyed youth greeted his friends happily.
"Hey there, guys!" his friend greeted as well, waving at them.
"Oh! Tsushima-kun! Yatsumura-kun!" Nakahara exclaimed happily.
"Hi there! Have a seat!" Suzuki invited, and their friends gladly obliged, sitting next to them.
"So, how are you guys doing?" he asked.
"We're doing fine, thank you!" Tsushima happily replied, before taking a bite of his sandwich "Besides Watanabe-sensei, of course!"
"Yeah, we could have had any other professor and the lecture would have been so much more successful!" Nakahara commented, puffing her cheeks in annoyance.
"But, somehow, we still got through it." Suzuki added, confidently "We have the weekend for ourselves, now..." he then gazed lovingly at her girlfriend sitting in front of her, making her blush. Satoshi smiled at their display of affection while Tsushima rolled his eyes.
And so, the youths began eating their food. Satoshi glanced at Suzuki's box, and noticed that it wasn't the kind provided by the cafeteria.
"Suzuki, did Nakahara bring you lunch?" he couldn't help but ask, to which Suzuki nodded "Mhm."
"Again?" Tsushima exclaimed upon hearing that.
"So, how is it, Yuuta?" Nakahara asked, expectantly, to which her boyfriend smiled brightly.
"It's delicious, Chitose." he replied "Your lunches are always amazing! You would make for a great wife."
"Yuuta..." Nakahara couldn't help but blush upon hearing that claim, as a sweet smile bloomed on her face.
"Um, Suzuki?" Satoshi couldn't help but comment, warily "I would be careful with saying such things, if I were you..."
"Overthinking, overthinking~" Tsushima murmured mischievously, with a smirk on his face, causing his course mate to blush brightly.
"Yatsumura..." Suzuki retorted, clearly not happy with the youth's warning "I appreciate your concern, but there's no need for it." he then turned to Nakahara, with a loving gaze "I love Chitose with all of my heart, and I hope that we'll end up like that in the future." Upon hearing those words, Nakahara clasped her hands together in delight as her eyes sparkled.
"Oh, Yuuta… I love you so much..." she murmured.
"Forget I said anything." Satoshi concluded, smiling at the scene with a blush on his face, while Tsushima snickered.
Some time later during lunch, the amber-eyed youth plucked out his smartphone from his pocket once more.
"Guys..." he asked while placing his phone on the table "You don't mind if I check in my account, do you?"
"No problemo!" Tsushima smiled, giving his friend a thumbs up.
"It's okay." Nakahara smiled sweetly
"Go ahead." Suzuki nodded.
"Thank you!" Satoshi said, before opening the Innocent World app on his smartphone and checking his dailies there.
"What are you playing?" Nakahara asked, out of curiosity. Satoshi simply smiled as he showed her and Tsushima the screen of his phone, showing his in-game avatar.
"Oh, it's Innocent World, isn't it?" the latter said "Man, that's an awesome game!" The former looked at the screen with interest. Satoshi knew that Tsushima played that game as well, and apparently had been playing it for a little more time than him.
"I don't know..." Suzuki objected "I wouldn't trust online games so much, if I were you."
"Don't worry, Suzuki!" Satoshi reassured "The community there is great!" Then, the four of them noticed someone passing them by. It was a tall young man with deep crimson eyes and short, tidy brown hair, dressed in a beige jacket, brown pants, a black shirt and black shoes. Some girls were looking at him with adoring eyes from their seats. Everyone knew who that young man was.
"Kirishima Kaname-senpai." Satoshi thought "He studies Law, while we study Anthropology, but he's quite popular among girls in the campus..."
"Man, I wish I had at least a quarter of that man's coolness!" Tsushima commented.
"I think every male student here would wish that, Tsushima..." Satoshi replied. Suzuki glanced at his girlfriend, almost as if he feared that the young man could snatch her away from him.
"Let's change topic." Tsushima embarrassedly said, before his voice took a more mysteriously excited tone "Have you heard the rumor?"
"Which rumor?" the amber-eyed youth asked curiously.
"They say Innocent World has a secret event which grants the players a 1 in a 10000 chance of being able to enter the world of the game!" his friend explained.
"Really?!" Satoshi exclaimed, stupefied.
"It can't be true, Tsushima!" Suzuki objected in disbelief "It's just a hoax."
"You sure about that?" his course mate cheekily replied "Some people in forums say they've begun experiencing strange stuff some time after they've begun playing, as if some invisible angel was helping them out." Those words struck Satoshi.
"Does that mean that the bizarre occurrences of today are because of this event?" he wondered, thinking about the events that had happened to him, which matched with Tsushima's description. "The toast, the lecture, the phone… For how bizarre it is, it would make sense..."
"Yatsumura-kun, are you all right?" Nakahara asked, noticing his pensive mood.
"Oh, I'm all right, Nakahara-san!" the amber-eyed youth reassured her with a smile, making her smile back in relief.
"Man, it's getting hot, lately." Tsushima proposed. "I was thinking, we could fetch an ice cream after lunch! What do you guys think?"
"Count me in!" Satoshi replied eagerly.
"Fine by me!" Suzuki agreed.
"Yay! I'd love to!" Nakahara exclaimed excitedly.
Behind them, the black haired woman was sitting at a small table, enjoying her triple-flavored ice cream cone. Suddenly, one of the ice cream balls fell from the cone, but, before it could touch the ground, it returned on top of the cone in the blink of an eye, surrounded by an icy mist, as if it had just been removed from the freezer. The woman blinked repeatedly in disbelief, but then smiled and resumed eating her cone with gusto.