Guest Reviews:

Guest: Purple prose?! Do you mean wordy sentences?! Ah... I see... Got it. I can't guarantee that I'll be able to change my writing style overnight, but I'll strive to make it less wordy. Also, I can't cut off the audio-visual stimuli the character receives, else it'll feel oddly two dimensional. That's what I think about it... Still, thank you for stopping by to review. Hope you review the next chapters, too...

Thanks, whwsms-kun and Thecrack shipping guy for your support...

Also, thanks to all the readers who read the first chapter... So without further ado...


"Oh geez, wake up! Wake up, you dummy!" (Rinko)

"M-Mmm…" (Ren)

I hear a somewhat nostalgic sound. And this scent is…

"Next is Seiho Academy. Seiho Academy. All passengers who are departing… Now arriving at Seiho Academy."(Bus Announcement System)

"Wha—? We're there already?" (Ren)

"Geez… don't say 'already'."(Rinko)

Wow, to think that I would actually fall asleep for real… so much for 'faking' it.

What's even stranger is that the nightmares that have recently been assaulting me didn't rear their ugly heads. I actually slept soundly…

"C'mon, let's get off." (Rinko)

"…Yeah." (Ren)

I get off the bus, trying not to mind the reactions of the people around me.

This is Seiho Private Academy, a combined middle and high school for students with ability levels from 0 to 3. We graduated from the middle school section just this spring and entered the high school section.

While the ability requirement is low, because of the high tuition and admission fees, most of the students who come here are from wealthy families. Just one glance will tell that there's not an ill-bred person to be found.

In a sense, that's something to be grateful for.

"Yahallo~ Ri-chan~!" (?)

"Ah, good morning, Sayorin." (Rinko)

Rinko will greet anyone cheerfully and is always wearing that cheerful smile on her face. That's why she can make friends so easily.

Which is more than what I can say for myself…

"…" (Ren)

But I couldn't care less.

Rather than do something troublesome like spending time with other people, I spend my time alone. It suits me better.

"Yesterday was amazing, wasn't it?" (Sayori)

"Yea~ yea~! Such a great, romantic event in the sky…." (Rinko)

"Ah, so that's what you thought. Are you saying you watched it with your boyfriend over here?" (Sayori)

"Y-You're wrong… Wait, or maybe you're not wrong after all?" (Rinko)

"Ooh, you're making me jealous. Why you!" (Sayori)

"Hey, c'mon Ren, say something…" (Rinko)

"…Mmm. Either way's fine with me." (Ren)

It is true that we both observed the sky at the same time. Just not together at the same place.

"Heh ? Huh? H-Hueh?" (Rinko)

I'm not interested. My world is not connected to everyone else's. So, I don't care what they think.

"Oho~ I see now~" (Sayori)

"Huh? You've got it all wrong, you know that?" (Rinko)

"Now, now, you don't have to get embarrassed." (Sayori)

"Sayorin…" (Rinko)

The lines of zelkova trees sway along the gust of wind. They run for several hundred meters in the space between the middle and high school sections. In a sense, they are this school's tradition or spirit.

"The path of wind… huh?" (Rinko)

"Huh? What's that?" (Sayori)

"Oh, you don't know? The school building was aerodynamically designed as a path for students to leisurely walk down on cool summer days and warm winter days. The wind flows down the street perfectly, no matter the time of day or the season…"

That's fine and all, but thanks to that, you often see people who are not students taking walks around here.

It's an open campus. That's also the school's catchphrase, or promotional line if you may.

"Wow, you're well informed. As expected from a local." (Sayori)

"Oh right, you just enrolled in the high school on the strength of your entrance exams, right? Yep, you're a genius!" (Rinko)

"Th-That's not true. I just studied as hard as I could, that's all." (Sayori)

"Well, anyway, I suppose it is only natural that you wouldn't know about the path." (Rinko)

"You two came from the middle school section, right? Ah, what I'm supposed to say is that there's not a lot of people like me, are there?" (Sayori)

"That's right, that's right…" (Rinko)

Because it is a private academy, the entrance exams are a bit difficult. But if you're able to get into the middle school, then you can go straight to the high school, granted that you didn't mess up during middle school, or do something extreme.

"I really love walking down this way." (Rinko)

"Ah, could it be that you're a naturalist? You love walking that much?" (Sayori)

"Yep, I love it! Right, Ren?" (Rinko)

"…" (Ren)

To be honest, I'm sick of walking this path. I've been doing so for the past four years, after all."

"C'mon, you used to be no stranger to running down through here, right?" (Rinko)

"Really?" (Ren)

"Really. Oh geez…" (Rinko)

"Oh my, you guys are in memory world, population: you two, aren't you? Ooh, that's a harsh sight for someone who's all alone! Therefore, the third wheel shall take her leave. Later!" (Sayori)

"Huh? Ah, wait up, Sayorin!" (Rinko)

The girl waves her hand and jogs towards the school building.

For an instant, Rinko looks like she wants to chase after her, but she shrugs and heads towards me.

"Ahaha~ looks like I've been dumped." (Rinko)

"Hey, you know…" (Ren)

Although I said otherwise, memories are swirling around my mind.

It wasn't just the two of us.

In those days when we commuted to school, there was one more person who went with us. But now…

"What's wrong? Are you really not feeling good, after all? (Rinko)

My only friend since childhood calls out to me in concern.

"No, it's nothing." (Ren)

For some reason, I'm very sentimental today. I'm sure it's all due to that dream. I look up at the sky in order to avert my gaze, where the clouds have covered the sun, beginning to obscure the sunlight.

I'm depressed. These feelings of self-loathing start to multiply.

My feet mechanically move ahead.

I'm doing so out of consideration for Rinko, who hasn't a shred of ill-will.

If I'm with her any longer, I feel like the cracks in my mask will be revealed.

"H-Hey, wait up!" (Rinko)

I can't cry, feel sad, or get hurt.

I feel nothing. I think about nothing.

There's no difference between the mask and me. That's how I live.

At that moment, I see that among the crowds of people heading towards the school building is…

"Huh? No way… So, she really is…" (Ren)

…The girl who missed the bus. Unless she is an high-leveled teleportation esper, this doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Even if she ran as fast as was when I saw her, there's no way she could make it here on time.

But did our school have any innate Level 4s? Someone that powerful would be well known in this school.

But she can't be a low leveled esper either. After all, AIM Cloud doesn't help people do unproductive things…

There's no way the required power usage can be sanctioned in such a short time.

So, what's going on? What happened exactly?

"Where do you think you're looking at?!" (Rinko)

"Ow! You're hurting me!" (Ren)

It seems Rinko caught up to me without me realizing it.

But launching a sudden attack like that and pulling my ear… that's unfair.

"Hey, are you listening, Ren?" (Rinko)

"Yeah, I'm listening. I'm listening. So let g—" (Ren)

"Oh geez, first you try to leave me behind, then you suddenly stop dead in your tracks. Geez, just what in the world are you doing?" (Rinko)

I see, that's what's going on.

I'll try to clear the air a little.

"Th-That girl was…" (Ren)

"'Girl'?!" (Rinko)

"No, um, that girl's the one who missed the bus earlier." (Ren)

"Which girl?" (Rinko)

"That girl. Look… Huh? She's already gone." (Ren)

"I don't have a clue what you're talking about." (Rinko)

"I'm talking about the girl who missed the bus and came running after it…" (Ren)

When I reach that point, I remember that I was the only one who noticed the girl.

"I don't know what you're talking about. After all, you were asleep back then. (Rinko)

At the very least, Rinko didn't notice her.

"That's not true. It was just after we left, so I wasn't asleep yet." (Ren)

"Hmm…" (Rinko)

Rinko looks at me with a probing glance. She looks like she's been rattled.

Just when I feel like I can't bear the silence any longer…

"Then maybe it was an optical illusion? Or maybe they look similar. They say that for every person in the world, there are two others who share the same face as them." (Rinko)

"Hmm… No, I don't— Ow! Hey, let me go already. What do you think you've been doing to my ears the whole time? If you pull on them so hard it'll turn into a rabbit's." (Ren)

"Ehee hee. It's fine, it's fine. If that happens, then that'll be all more reason to give you even more affection!" (Rinko)

I feel shivers up my spine. She's serious.

If she gives me even more affection, then what will happen to my identity?

"I'm going on ahead." (Ren)

"Huh? Ah… Oh geez, stop leaving me behind, everyone!" (Rinko)

And that marks the start of a tiring day.

"…And so the inverse operation of squaring a number is taking its square root, written by placing the number inside a radical (√). But this is where we consider the square root of -1. In other words, what number would you have to square to get -1?" (Sensei)

√-1= i. i is an imaginary unit.

If you display real numbers on a one-dimensional X-axis that goes from left to right, with 0 in the center, the imaginary numbers will be displayed with a vertical Y-axis.

"It's possible to multiply every real number with i, forming the basis of Y-axis. These non-dimensional numbers are multiples of i and on the imaginary axis, hence the name imaginary numbers." (Sensei)

See, just as I thought. Next, he'll talk about the complex plane that displays complex numbers, which is what you get when you add a real number to an imaginary one.

"For example, numbers similar to the 3i+3 located in this first quadrant are called complex numbers. Here you can use all four mathematical operations for these complex numbers…" (Sensei)

Is this still high school level mathematics?

I mean… Natural numbers, integers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, real numbers, and imaginary numbers… stuff like that is basic elementary school mathematics.

They are the absolute basics of the Power Development Curriculum.

Without inputting imaginary numbers into Personal Reality Calculations, espers wouldn't be able to calculate any crucial parameters required to produce the powers that they easily do.

So, why is Sensei taking us on a trip down the old memory lane?

"You bundle them up together in parenthesis like this, and by multiplying them together, you'll reach the point where you can solve them easily. For example, in this practice problem..." (Sensei)

[Error! -Divided by 0- Cannot perform the calculation.]

No matter how amazing the computers developed by Paimont City are, they can't even do this equation. Will humans someday be able to solve what happens when you divide by zero?

Perhaps because of my nightmare, I'm extremely clear-headed, but my languid body can barely sit up at my desk. And today's class material is way too easy. Do I exist just to listen to things like this?

[-Welcome to the Cloud Shop Cyber Geek!-]

[We have a new recommended product for you.]

["Today's crossword puzzle."]

As technology marched on, almost all schools now have computers that connect directly to the Cloud. And as you might have already guessed it, Cloud was already an advanced form of the Internet.

Even in our school, all our desks have been converted into electronic form.

I tapped twice on my desk.

[-Thank you for your purchase. You have now 1024 points left-]

[Please enjoy your Cloud life!]

I pressed the purchase button without even thinking about it. It automatically withdraws money from my registered ID. Like many students here, I'm not exactly hard-pressed for cash.

According to the school's official stance, student desk computers can't connect to shops and adult sites. But tools to remove these kinds of restrictions are so common that you can find them anywhere.

A new window begins to unfold above the mathematics complex plane graph.

I close the installation and start windows, and when I do, a different kind of graphic composed of X and Y-axes appear.

What fills the window are boxes- not unlike those on a Go board- that you fill out by deriving keywords from the "horizontal clues" and "vertical clues".

This is way more formidable than those cakewalk complex numbers.

"11 letters. A method used to find inclinations for points on curved graphs."

Ahaha. This one's easy.

I type in "differential".

"7 letters. The phenomenon where the quality of energy decreases, and systemic disorder increases."

This horizontal clue shares the "r" in "differential". Another easy one. I type in "entropy".

"11 letters. The origin place of cybernetics and esper ability synthesis."

Hmm... easy.

The city where esper powers originated is a legendary place. Pity that no one knows where it existed.

I type in "AcademyCity"

"7 letters. The surname of the scholar off whose work Einstein based his Theory of Relativity."

A name hits me, and I use my fingers to count the number of letters in his name...

Yep, it's 7 letters. I enter "Lorentz".

"13 letters. Synonym for the gravitational radius of a black hole."

That's long. But it also considerably shortens the number of possibilities.

The seventh letter is a "z".

Then it's obviously "Schwarzschild".

Good, it's going faster and faster. Next is...

"12 letters. The name of the final Project by Dr. Kihara Gensei."

Of course, that's ...Wait, what... what kind of question is this?... And, who the heck is Kihara Gensei?

"Ren? Hey, Ren." (Rinko)

"..." (Ren)

"C'mon, don't ignore me!" (Rinko)

"Ow! What're you doing...?" (Ren)

"That's what I'd like to ask you." (Rinko)

She's my natural enemy in class, not the overly preachy teachers nor the walls of knowledge.

I wonder what karma caused my childhood friend to be placed in a seat next to mine.

"Just what are you doing?" (Rinko)

"What... Can't you tell by looking It's a crossword puzzle." (Ren)

"Again? ...Do you know what time it is now?" (Rinko)

"If we're going by schedule, it's Monday, 3rd Period, which means it's time for 'Math I'." (Ren)

"Then I'll ask you again. What are you doing?" (Rinko)

"A crossword puzzle." (Ren)

"Haaah..." (Rinko)

Rinko sighs very deeply, and looks at me with pitiful eyes.

"Whoever said 'The difference between an idiot and a genius is paper-thin' was completely right." (Rinko)

"Thanks for the compliment." (Ren)

"That wasn't a compliment, dammit! ...You really are an idiot, you know?" (Rinko)

"But didn't you say there's only a paper-thin difference between that and a genius?" (Ren)

"Then let me ask you this, Einstein. Why are you in this normal class? Why don't you skip a grade or two right now?" (Rinko)

"It'd be a pain in the ass." (Ren)

"What was that?" (Rinko)

"Besides, I don't want to stick out." (Ren)

"You already look out of place as it is..." (Rinko)

Yet again, Rinko's starting to criticize me like my sister-in-law.

The only self-defense strategy I have against this is to "half-heartedly play along with her".

If I just ignore her, the situation will keep getting worse and worse instead.

"Take your classes serious every once in a while. I mean, you never know when the teacher's gonna call on you, right? It could get seriously embarrassing." (Rinko)

"Not really. If I'm in that situation, wouldn't it be fine if I just answer the question correctly?" (Ren)

I understand the logic behind what she's saying.

But it's not like I'm a dunce at studies or I disrupt their lessons, so most teachers usually disregard me.

"Oh geez..." (Rinko)

"More importantly, what's Kihara Gensei's final Project name?" (Ren)

"Huh?" (Rinko)

"It's for the crossword puzzle. I have no clue who he is." (Ren)

"Why you..." (Rinko)

Rinko frowns, and she trembles in rage as she holds aloft her hand...

"Oh, Shirai, huh?" (Sensei)

"Huh?" (Rinko)

"Perfect, I needed a volunteer. Solve this problem."

"A-A-A-Ahahahaha..." (Rinko)

"..."

Geez, she's so helpless.

Rinko breaks into a cold sweat as an upset expression crosses her face, which seems to be telling me, "This is your fault, so do something about it."

It's at times like this I wonder how she even manages to get her Level 1 Electrokinesis to work.

"Shirai-san?"

"H-Hai?" (Rinko)

"Were you not paying attention?"

"N-No, that's not..." (Rinko)

"Then you can answer it, right?

From the bottom of my heart, I feel like Rinko is getting her just deserts.

But at the same time, this teacher's persistence is kinda pissing me off.

"Huh?" (Rinko)

{(3i+3)x(2i-5)=3ix2i-3ix5+3x2i-3x5= -6-15i+6i-15= (-6-15)+(-15i+6i)= -21-9i}

I type and send her the answer file...

"Whoa..." (Male Student #1)

"You serious?" (Male Student #2)

"Is this the whole...' the hero shows up to save the damsel in distress' thing?" (Male Student #1)

"That's quite difficult." (Male Student #3)

"...He wrote that much? In an instant?" (Female Student #1)

"Well done, Ren-tan. You're just perfect at everything, huh?" (Female Student #2)

"..." (Ren)

"Mitsubachi-kun..."

"There are three pages left in today's lecture. If you consider the time we have left, then wouldn't it be best to keep on going? Midterms are soon, after all." (Ren)

"Y-Yes... you're right..."

The math teacher perplexedly checks the time.

"Holy shit..." (Male Student #1)

"Amazing... No way I could do that..." (Female Student #2)

"W-Well then, everyone, use these essentials to try solving the next example. Those of you who finish, are to send your answer files via LAN."

The second he says this, I send my file full of answers to the so-called practice problems, which I had finished before I started the crossword puzzle. Now I can peacefully focus on important things again.

"..." (Ren)

I quickly look to the side, and see Rinko sitting there with an apologetic look and her right hand on her chest.

It probably means, "Sorry. Thanks."

I tilt my head to the side to silently tell her, "See? I've got it covered."

Once I saw the question, I had it solved in seconds. I don't need to prepare for any lectures or go to any study sessions.

Anyway, there's something more important I have to do right now.

Searching... Kihara Gensei's most famous Project...

"The Breakthrough Project."

Oh, is this it?

I'm suddenly taken aback as I realize the answer has not been registered as correct.

What's the answer, then? Just what could it be...? ...Also, is this the type of question to be asked in a normal crossword puzzle?

It's when the-

TRIIIIIIIINNNNGGGG...

-bell rings

"That was real bad, wasn't it?" (?)

"What was?"(?)

As soon as the bell rangs, all types of conversations began without any delay...

"Y'know, the lunar eclipse yesterday."(?)

"Oh, right, that." (?)

But the one about the lunar eclipse oddly drew my attention.

"I was complaining because my TV shorted and caught fire. And yet the fire department didn't come." (?)

"That's quite the dilemma. At that time, I had dived into {Eden}, so some of my data got messed up. I was seriously cryin', man." (?)

Oh, what were their names again? Yukimura and Saito, was it?

"'Eden'?"(Yukimura)

"Oh, ya dunno? It's the most popular MMORPG right now. It's friggin amazin'!"(Saito)

"Huh..." (Yukimura)

"It's so realistic, it feels like you're living a second life over there!" (Saito)

Oh, I see... so AIM Cloud is lately being used to develop simulated realities as well. The next evolution of old MMORPGs I guess... It should never have been possible on the old Internet.

But here on AIM Cloud, there's always an excess of computational space.

"Shouldn't you be worrying more about your first life right now?" (Yukimura)

"Agh, system scan... Hey, don't make me remember all that stuff, I'll get depressed, y'know. I've already too many nightmares about bein' chased by dragons as it is." (Saito)

"I'm telling you, that's just because you've been playing games too much. You know I'm right." (Yukimura)

Okay, now that the topic has derailed, I can't be bothered to stand listening to this.

I look at the other side...

"Today's horoscope for Leos is... let's see." (Sayori)

What? A horoscope? In this age?

"What, what, what?!" (Rinko)

"Good luck to come. You will soon cross paths with one of your usual companions. The tiniest bit of support will become the key in bringing you good luck. Your lucky color is green. Watch out for water... That's what it says." (Sayori)

I can't believe there are people who still believe this crap.

"Wow. That's some real odd luck there. the tiniest bit of support, huh?" (Rinko)

"Come to think of it, yesterday's incident was the start of the world's demise." (Sayori)

"What's that?" (Rinko)

"Someone on the street was giving a speech about that." (Sayori)

"I keep telling you, you've got to stop getting into these really weird things, Sayorin." (Rinko)

"But they said that it was a natural disaster brought about by the advent of a {god}, and that a couple of bigshot Level 6s had a huge hand in it." (Sayori)

"Oh geez, that's so anachronistic. If that's true, then where's that {god}, and why would a Level 6 even bother to do something like this?" (Rinko)

True, why would godlike espers that can destroy and remake the entire human civilization on a whim, ever want to resort to such tedium.

" .Cloud." (Sayori)

"Huh?" (Rinko)

"Like I was saying, that person was saying, thanks due to a certain incident, two Level 6s are opposing each other, and are competing for the complete control of the AIM Cloud." (Sayori)

"No way... there's no way there'll be something like that going on." (Rinko)

I had to stand with Rinko on this matter.

AIM Cloud was the culmination of all scientific technologies till now, including all esper powers. A single entity taking over such a system will basically be no different than becoming a {god}.

"Yeah... right?! There's no way other Level 6s will just lie around and let them usurp complete control." (Sayori)

Still, if it was true, then it'll be a greatly troublesome news...

"Right..." (Rinko)

"That was a rather indifferent response." (Sayori)

"Sorry, I'm just not interested in power-politics and the like. (Rinko)

"Oh, right. There was also a report from a user saying it was green aliens who came from a UFO, trying to warn humanity..." (Sayori)

This is pointless.

"But y'know, it seems like that was terrorism. Cyberterrorism, that is." (Yukimura)

"Ah, now that ya mention it, there's been a lot of those kinds of incidents lately, haven't there?" (Saito)

"And here's some information I got from a reliable source..."

What 'reliable source'?

At best, it's probably some post on the forum written by some anonymous poster.

People just take other's irresponsible opinions for their own.

As the information society grows, it's becoming more and more difficult to determine what exactly constitutes the "truth" out of all the data that's constantly leaking out.

No, it might not have anything to do whether it's the truth or not.

It's what people regard as the most convenient or enjoyable explanation for them.

"It seems like the culprit was some outrageous hacker. Earlier, without the use of any esper power, he broke through this top-notch corporation's main office security and planted some bombs. What is to stop him from doing the same in AIM Cloud, too?" (Yukimura)

"Yea... yea... Come to think of it, one of the exam questions involved a situation where you had your ability sealed by a hacker in AIM Cloud... Don't ya think then the culprit could maybe be one of the students here" (Saito)

"No way... On second thought, you must be the culprit!" (Yukimura)

"Huh? Me? I had no clue I was so amazing... Hahahaha..." (Saito)

"Hahahaha..." (Yukimura)

I'm getting a headache.

It's getting more and more intense.

I quickly leave my seat.

I can't listen to such a ridiculous conversation between two guys who can't tell the difference between a hacker and a cracker.

At that moment...

My cellphone buzzes that I've received a message. But who would it be from?

For some reason, I have a really bad feeling about this.

The title is "To Onii-chan".

The body of the message is short.

"are you there? i am here."

And below that is an unfamiliar URL...

Is this some kind of spam? Who's the sender?

...There's no sender name.

But I see several symbols in the sender's address column, instead...

#$%#$ R#$ $#I #$ $#N# $ #%

Picking out letters from all those characters, I get a name...

R.I.N.

"No way... That's f**king impossible!" (Ren)


Yay! It's not yet over for this week...It's a double release. Hurray! Twice the fun, lol!

The setting has changed a lot. Like they say change is the only unchanging fact...

Still, if something specific caught your eye, got some queries, got some pointers... Lemme know in reviews...

R&R,

Lex.