|Accel World: The Untold Story Of The Disaster Armour
Author: Tusjecht PM
THIS STORY IS CANCELLED. It got blown into AU territory after I read V8 of the light novels, so there's not much reason left for it to continue. Rewriting soon; head to the forum to submit any characters you'd want to see! See Profile for details.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Family - Kuroyukihime/Black Lotus - Chapters: 3 - Words: 19,781 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-05-13 - Published: 01-09-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8891628
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Gift From The Little Bird
The colour of a Burst Linker determines his Duel Avatar's affinity. «Blue» avatars attack directly at close range, «Red» avatars attack from afar and great distances, and «Yellow» avatars utilise indirect attacks. «Purple» and «Green», being secondary colours, exhibit a combination of affinities. Also, there are colours that lie outside of the color circle, namely metallic «Metal Colours». Instead of offensive affinities, these are best at defense affinities.
-Kuroyukihime, «Duel Avatar affinities» explanatory mail
For the first time since I had begun schooling, I was afraid to step into school.
For the whole of last week, I had spent my days in a hospital ward. Not a bed - that would have been excruciatingly boring. I had been warded for psychiatric treatment.
As for why I needed the treatment, I will not say, except that it was probably a waste of my time. He knew pretty well I was not going to even talk about « that incident » and yet he still tried. I only respect him for having the determination to keep trying every day.
Talk is useless, I thought. Everything you need to know has already been recorded by the « Social Security Camera » in that alley. I don't want to talk about it.
Humans are social creatures. Stop talking, and nothing will get done; this reasoning has drove me to remain silent for nearly a week now. As if it'd last forever though. Silence is a poor protection in a class setting; classmates would attempt to talk to me, teachers would probe, and perhaps, the bullying that I've escaped for two years now will finally make me its target.
Not good. I thought. The bell will ring in a few minutes...I'll be registered as late...and people are going to talk about me again!
"Shove it, Kyousuke," I muttered to myself. "Just say you were badly sick. Just sick. Badly sick. That's all..."
The narcissistic encouragement did spur me somehow. Taking a step forward, I passed through the gates and entered Hiroo Elementary School.
"If it isn't the famous Mansaka!"
"Are you angry? Gonna hit us?"
Ryuuzugano, Akajime, and Arakaya. Three of the tallest, strongest, and most loud-mouthed boys in class, snidely remarked as they surrounded my table during break. Lowering my head to avoid the stares of everyone else, I quickly tucked the old textbook under the table and brought out a simple, prepared bento. Shit, things are unravelling!
My attempt to hide the book failed. Ryuuzugano reached under and fished out the book in a flash. Before I could stop him, he had tossed it in the air and flashed its cover for all to see.
"Ooh, what's this, Ma~nsaka?" Ryuuzugano asked with a mock air of amazement, emphasising on the first syllable. " « Newtonian Physics: Comprehensive Study and Questions » ? Wow Mansaka, I didn't know you're such a genius!"
This was really starting to irritate me.
So what if I could handle high school physics? That was my property and he had no right to touch it at all! Standing up, I made a grab for it, but Ryuuzugano held it just out of my reach.
"Give it back!" I wanted to yell. My voice cracked, however, and the result sounded like a pained gasp of a puppy.
"Eh, not so fast, Mansaka." Ryuuzugano cackled.
"Maybe he'll give it back if you tell us what happened two weeks ago!" Akajime interjected. A smile took hold of his blemished complexion and distorted an otherwise average-looking face.
"Yeah, we're dying~ to know all about it, Mansaka," Arakaya chuckled from behind me. "We don't know anything, the news never said nothing!"
Oh god, I'm being bullied with bad Japanese, I thought. Bad English is acceptable, but to use a double negative, it's just stupid!
Arakaya clamped my arms to the side. Ryuuzugano leaned in and bared his teeth for effect. Mint breath? I smelt. What are you, hipsters?
"Well, Kousaka?" He leered. "The book or the truth?"
Truth be told, the book was already scanned into my Neuro Linker's library. I could read it at my own luxury in the privacy of my own eyes anywhere. Every kid my age has had one since birth. But, there's something about books that always fascinated me. I found this book in Mr Izayoi's trash one day, and was seized by the notion that this book, which somebody must have gone to so much trouble to write, edit, and print, was going to get incinerated and transformed to ash.
Without thinking, I had kept the book and brought it with me everyday to school to read, leading to this « incident » . Now, I had to choose; give up this rare, paper-and-glue textbook or relate « that day » ?
Three men standing in the alley, sobbing sounds coming from behind my back. The man in the centre began to smile sinisterly-
My breath became ragged. I glanced this way and that, and blood pounded in my ears. I couldn't think. Curling my fists on instinct, I stared Ryuuzugano in the eye and-
"Let him go!"
A small, but strong girl's voice shrilled. All four of us froze and searched for that one brave soul who dared to interfere with the bullies.
The owner of the voice was the diminutive Aomizu Kotori, the quietest girl in the class. She, like me now, avoided attention by simply refusing to talk to others. The ponytail she kept draped over one shoulder, curiously, was not cleanly trimmed, instead having several wayward strands of different lengths. Some had speculated it had been burnt in a fire, although Aomizu had neither confirmed nor rejected these rumours.
Right now, the most unlikeliest of people was standing up on my behalf, despite even Ryuuzugano, the shortest of the three, standing a full head and a quarter taller. Shifting their attention, the trio swaggered over and surrounded her.
Aomizu, you nosy fool, I thought. No use getting involved in anybody else's business. With a pang of pain, I added to that thought: not even your own family.
Surrounded by three boys so much taller than she was, the faintest traces of fear began to appear on her face. Dilated pupils, unsteady hands: classic signs of fear. Ryuuzugano was never known to go easy once he had found someone to pick on. Yet, Aomizu stood her ground.
"Well well, seems like Mansaka has a little friend!" Ryuuzugano quivered in pretentious fear.
"Maybe...YOU can tell us what happened instead!" Akajime simpered. "Your dear Mansaka isn't telling us anything!"
Aomizu's face flushed red. "N-No, it isn't anything like that!"
I've had enough of this, I thought. I'll just grab my book and leave.
Ryuuzugano held the thick book loosely in his right hand. Standing up, I quietly stepped behind and snatched it back in a flash.
"Eh- wha?!" He realised too late. I already turned and fled the classroom before he could lay another finger on my book. I dashed past curious students in the corridor and up the stairs three at a time, stopping only when I reached the fourth floor bathroom. I stepped inside a shower cubicle and locked the door, still breathing hard.
I'm guaranteed to not be disturbed here. I found this place a year ago, virtually unused by students as it was tucked behind a section of wall with no sign to direct people to it. I had never needed to evade bullying..until now. At least it's still as private as ever.
I touched the power button on my Neuro Linker to power it up. Despite it being an incredibly useful tool for anything, I usually kept it on standby, keeping my vision clear of annoying semitransparent windows.
Tapping on the holographic buttons, I scrolled through my extensive files. Most of them were the scanned pages of the textbook, but in arrangement of last modified file order, two folders appeared. The first was « School » , in which I kept all my files pertaining to school and projects. The second was labelled « Vocaloid, Touhou and Stuff » .
Right now, however, I was not interested in music nor the collection of 2D and 3D danmaku games I had. Passing over the folder, I highlighted the newly-scanned physics textbook and tapped with my middle finger to right-click. Three options down, I stopped at « Open in FullDive » and lifted my finger; the cursor blinked twice, and my vision went dark.
Reading has come a long way since the printing press was invented. Thanks to the FullDive abilities of the Neuro Linker, even books can be read and written in a customised virtual space. Right now, I simply sat on a cushion in the default reading environment, resuming where I had left off on the aged textbook.
Something, or someone hit my real body, currently in a state of sleep, and forced me to exit FullDive abruptly. Having been rudely reintroduced to reality, I rubbed my eyes with clenched fists, and looked up at my assailant...wait, what?
This close, I never knew Aomizu Kotori actually had brown rather than black eyes. She was practically face-to-face with me, so close I could feel her quick, hot breathing on my cheeks.
"Ah, sorry for that! Umm, are you okay?" She timidly asked. "I...uh, needed to ask you something.."
Her timid face and expression were outright irritating me now. You just don't cancel someone's FullDive, I thought. It's my private time in the privacy of my mind in the privacy of...of the..
I don't know why it took so long for it to hit me. Aomizu had just forcibly cancelled my FullDive, and the fact that I was currently in the shower cubicle of the bathroom meant...
After my scream of shock and surprise had finished echoing and Aomizu had lowered her hands from her ears, she continued with her unfinished question.
"Umm...ahh, Ko-Kousaka-san..." Aomizu stammered. "Do you hate reality?"
Reality? Ge-n-ji-tsu? I wondered if I had heard her correctly. If this was some shounen manga scene, right now Aomizu would lean in and whisper some nonsensical stuff, like...
"...ah, um...ju-just that, I mean, do you want to escape from reality?"
"What are you saying?" I shot back. "Do you even know where you're coming from? You, sneaking into the boys' bathroom, cracking the cubicle door lock, forcibly cancelling my FullDive, and," I took a breath. "Embarrassing me!"
My voice had risen to a shout, and apparently Aomizu was just about as strong as she was tall. Cupping her ears, she shut her eyes and backed off to a more comfortable distance while I ranted. Kneeling in a corner of the cubicle, she tucked her chin to her knees as my voice echoed around in the small space. As I registered this, the scene struck me as familiar - painfully familiar...
Kneeling at the end of the alley, her bare skin against stained concrete, freezing rain poured from the skies and mixed with her hot tears-
A wave of nausea struck me and I stumbled. Leaning against the wall for support, I realised then, that Aomizu was frightened by loud noise. And seeing her in that fetal position was not doing my mind nor my stomach any good, so I reached out in an attempt to comfort her.
"Err...Aomizu-san...?" My hand touched her shoulder, feeling a feminine softness through the thin uniform fabric, and-
Aomizu moved faster than I expected, slapping my hand away and backing into the corner.
"Don't touch me!" She didn't simply say it, she stated it as though it was fact. Recovering herself though, she took several deep breaths, still looking very unlike the timid elementary school student I knew her to be.
"Anyway," she continued. "Some..someone asked me to pass on a message. That is...would you like to escape, and « accelerate » to a new reality?"
If I wasn't confused, then now I was thoroughly confused. What in hell was she talking about?
And yet, some of her words did come across as sincere. Her lack of confidence, stammer, and yet some degree of courage (or should I say, nerve) resonated with something deep within me. To me, it seemed as though she too, had been badly hurt by something in her past, and now only wanted to push it away.
Lowering my voice, I carefully gauged my words. I still had no idea what was she actually talking about.
"W-well then, Aomizu-san," My voice cracked slightly again. "I'll accept this...this offer of yours. But, you have to explain it to me clearly."
Had there been tears in her eyes, or was it just my imagination? Aomizu abruptly broke into a smile of relief. "I knew it..!"
Moving past me, she unlocked the cubicle door in a flash and stepped out into the empty bathroom. After all my shouting, it was some small miracle no one had come up to check. Just as she reached the doorway, she paused.
"Be here tomorrow at break. I...no, we will tell you everything."
We? I was taken aback. Aomizu has friends whom she would tell about this?
"And," she uttered softly. "Call me Kotori."
"No, no..just Kotori."
Colour rushed to my cheeks. This really was looking like a bad shounen manga adaptation!
"Well then, goodbye."
With a small swish if her skirt, she left me all alone again.
Shibuya is one of the busiest parts of Tokyo, with a large number of universities crammed into the rather tiny bit of land. Even though there are also numerous elementary and middle schools, I try to reach home as fast as possible, due to the overwhelming number of university students and lecturers in the area. That means avoiding shops other than Mr Izayoi's bento shop, before finally taking the bus back. Today, however, I walked back home, using the time to ponder the mysterious behaviour of Aomizu Kotori.
Bullying is common is schools; in my first few years in elementary school, I often saw the small, fat, or sometimes absolutely normal kids get picked on for no reason. Usually, the bullying took the form of monetary extortion: the victim would be coerced into paying for his bully's meals via the « Wallet » application for the Neuro Linker. Physical fights and punching was usually done outside of school, when the Social Security Cameras were no longer obligated to monitor their students.
I escaped the bullying at first, because I was of above average height, and my friendly personality used to deter bullies looking for an easy target. Once they had realised I wasn't going to play the same rules as them, I was left alone. Others, like Aomizu, were picked on, but few dared to help them to avoid getting dragged into the fray. Hence, when Aomizu intervened earlier today, it was unexpected for many in the school who bullied or were bullied.
The next question then, was why? Aomizu had nothing to gain from intervention except a bad reputation and making herself a giant target for the bullies. Of course, there was this strange thing she had been talking about: was it some way to « escape » from reality? If so, how? I scoffed.
Even FullDive applications are temporary, and except for browsing the local school network, the regulation is that students cannot use FullDive applications continuously for more than two hours at a stretch, nor can applications « trap » users for more than an hour. After the « Sword Art Online » incident in 2022, no public institution wanted to be seen as promoting FullDive addiction.
Hence, I came to two conclusions as I turned a corner and reached my apartment building complex. One, Aomizu had developed Chuunibyou (Middle School Second Grade Syndrome) early, and didn't know what she was blabbering about. The second was that Aomizu was offering an « underground program » , the type that ran afoul of the regulations for FullDive applications. Between the two, the first was much more likely.
Putting that train of thought on hold as I reached my apartment on the 17th floor, I keyed in the 7-digit passcode via Neuro Linker and unlocked the door. Modern technology had rendered regular lock-and-key systems nearly obsolete.
Entering the apartment, I spotted an alien pair of shoes on the floor, polished black to a bright sheen. A sinking feeling entered my stomach, only made worsened by a deep, baritone male laughter that mixed with the higher, warmer voice of my mother. Dispensing with a greeting, I slid off my shoes and walked in slowly.
My mother was at the sofa, holding a cup of steaming tea with both hands. Across from her, he too had a similar cup in his hands, not wearing his usual suit and tie for once. Maybe psychiatrists don't wear their suits all the time, I thought.
Catching sight of me, he called out.
"Ah, welcome home, Kyousuke!"
"I'm home." I replied back in a monotone.
Gesturing with his free hand, he continued as though my deliberate refusal to greet him first was of no issue. "Your mother and I were just discussing about some of the silly things you did when you were younger, why don't you join us?"
Over my dead body, I wanted to retort. Catching myself, however, I said as steadily as I could manage: "I'm going to take a bath first."
"Ah, I insist you sit down. You look tired, it must have been a long day for you?"
He just doesn't give up, does he?
"...and apparently even Shino knows some things your mother doesn't!" He chuckled softly, maintaining his attempt to get me to open up. He turned his gaze towards the side door, and as my gaze followed, it opened and a young girl with an asymmetrical ponytail stepped out - Kousaka Shino, my younger 8-year-old sister. Even as I watched, she gracefully walked over to the sofa and sat down, retying her hair - but it was him: the psychiatrist Kasugano Ouji, who gestured with his free hand for Shino to sit next to him. Draping his free hand on the sofa behind her, he turned and gave an innocent, perfect smile.
"Welcome home, Kyousuke!" Shino greeted. My eyes darted back and forth around this curious scene: Kasugano looking very much a modern-day father, seemingly with wife and daughter in a happy home. But, there's something odd about it...
"Kyousuke?" My mom, watching me this whole time, frowned in concern. "Kyousuke, is there..something?"
There. From the moment Shino had sat down, Kasugano's hand, already uncomfortably close to Shino, was steadliy inching its way towards her shoulder and neck. From my perspective, it looked like..like...
As though he's going to grab her by the neck. Devour her. Satisfy his hunger again.
NO! The very thought of it consumed me in an instant. My left hand clenched and unclenched. I took a step forward.
"Kyousuke, have a seat." He repeated himself again. Our gazes were locked; eyes boring into each other, staring the other down in a contest of superiority, a contest where the loser talks first. Just like all those failed counselling sessions, except that now, I lost it and I lost it fast.
Leaping over the coffee table, I grabbed Kasugano by the collar forcefully with my left hand. Clenching my right into a fist, I punched his creeping left hand and forced it back, away from Shino. This close, I could see everything: the reflection of my face in his glasses askew, the contracted pupils as his involuntary reflex in fear took over, and the tiny beads of sweat already gathering despite his initial lack of reaction. Time seemed to slow as I hauled him away from Shino-
"Don't," I spat. "Touch Shino!"
"Kyousuke!" My mother cried in alarm. "Calm down!"
"Listen to your mother, Kyousuke-kun," He grasped my left wrist, the hand currently holding a tight grip on his shirt - it was sure to wrinkle. "You aren't like this. You still can talk, can't you? Just calm down, just calm down."
Something warm and wet trickled down my leg. Piss? I pissed my pants?
"Kyou..Kyousuke?" Shino piped up, her voice trembling in fear. "Everything is..is okay.."
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally let go. My wrist and arme ached as the lactic acid burned from the weight of an adult man. Wrenching my gaze downwards, I realised it had been his fallen cup of tea that had spilt in the skirmish, darkening my pants and the living room carpet. The adrenaline left my arms and I finally realised how deafeningly silent the room was. No one moved, too afraid to speak.
"I..I'm going to take a bath," I mumbled. Twisting away, I nearly slipped on the tiled floor - my socks were still on. Screw it, I thought. I'll just remove them in the shower. Detouring to grab my house clothes, I reached the sanctuary of the bathroom and locked the door, still breathing hard. Hands still shaking and tingling, I clumsily removed my socks and sank to the floor.
What was that? I wondered. Except for « that day »..never have I lost control like that. I briefly wondered if that was even my own actions at all.
I touched my Neuro Linker's power button instinctively, and a handful of windows appeared, displaying the time and date, as well as a short list of homework for the day. Letting my hand fall, I resigned myself to the conclusion that I myself had reacted that way to Kasugano's innocent action. I alone had misinterpreted his action. Nobody had forced me, Kousaka Kyousuke, to attack Kasugano like that. Outside, the sounds of clinking glass and hushed voices sounded; probably Kasugano was trying to help clean up and score some points on Mum. Too bad for him, I thought. Mum may be newly divorced but she's not available.
It was 7.29pm. Stripping off my Neuro Linker and uniform, I settled for an ice-cold shower rather than a hot one. The cold water helped calm me down and relieve my fluttering heart. Later on, I completed my assignments and ate leftovers for dinner, but I couldn't remember when I went to sleep, only that I spent the rest of the evening in a daze.
The man in the centre advanced menacingly, his body blocking my view of the end of the alley.
"So..boy..is she your girlfriend? A little early to play, you know..." His hulking shadow was all I saw. Shrinking further back, I bumped into Shino, at the very back of the alley; nowhere to run. Fire crawled up my knees where raw flesh was displayed, a reminder of when I had slipped and fell.
The dream sharpened, and my heart jumped into fifth gear. I can hear everything: the soft patter of rain, the shifting footsteps of the other two men as they followed, and from behind me, Shino's panicked sobs as her tears hit the floor-
I woke with a start and nearly cried out in shock and fear.
Fortunately, what greeted my sight next was not « that man's » face, but the white, featureless ceiling of my room. My heart was racing like an engine and my shirt and sheets were soaked with sweat. Turning my head to look at the bedside clock, I received no respite to learn that the time was only 4.45am: after a nightmare like that, there was no going back to sleep for me. I briefly entertained the prospect of swallowing those bitter tablets Mum kept in the fridge, meant to soothe headaches, but it would be useless when the actual pain actually came from my heart. Taking in deep breaths to calm myself, I closed my eyes and tried to not think about the incident which had triggered said nightmare.
On the other hand, I thought. There's no better time than to get up and move around. No one is gonna bother you at 4.45am.
Swinging my legs out of bed, I staggered towards the door in darkness and quietly inched it open. As expected, darkness blanketed the house save for the blue lights of the refrigerator, dyeing the kitchen in a soft, pleasing glow. I turned my head to make sure the other two doors adjacent to mine were indeed shut: Mum, who was now sleeping alone in the master room, and Shino, who had asked for her own room now ever since that day-
No. I shook my head, trying not to think about it.
The floor tiles felt cold to my feet as I walked over and touched a recessed panel in the wall. Soft yellow lights strips along the cabinets and walls lit up, allowing me enough light to see and work by without actually turning on the ceiling light. Opening the refrigerator, my finger lightly traced the egg trays before coming to a stop at an unmarked plastic container. I brought it out and opened it, shutting the door behind me.
Inside, various neatly labelled bottles containing syrups and pills were arranged. I removed one blue-capped bottle and twisted off the top, and downed two pills with a glass of water. Sinking to the floor, I set down the glass and tried to relax. With my ear against the cabinet, I listened to nothing - no sounds being transmitted through the wood, no sound reaching my ears save for my slowing heartbeat. Listening to nothing relaxed me.
I awoke with a start. Sunlight streamed through the windows and I glanced at the clock in alarm. 7.30. Crap. Springing up, I hurriedly moved to shut off the lights I had unwittingly left on and nearly crushed my now-empty glass underfoot. Bending down to retrieve it, I cursed myself for not having set an alarm. Wouldn't have taken much effort to put on your Neuro Linker, right?!
I sloppily rinsed the glass and backed out to get changed. Deciding to bathe in school later, I grabbed my uniform and sprinted to the toilet-
Something hard collided with my chest, and I nearly fell over from the impact.
Still reeling, I bent over to pick up my uniform and froze. Shino, still rubbing her head where we had collided, was eyeing me with the same expression she had last night: a mixture of shock, confusion..and fear.
"Sorrysorrysorry!" I bowed my head and apologised as fast as I could. I really had no time to help her out or anything; instead, I retreated to my room, shut the door, and probably set a record for undressing and dressing.
Of all the mornings, I thought as I rushed out of the house, I screw up before it's even begun.
The bell for break finally sounded. It was only 2.00pm according to my Neuro Linker, but I mashed the power button, set it to standby, and dropped my head to catch five. After skipping breakfast, my stomach had been growling so loudly Mr. Tsubaki had looked round in confusion during Mathematics. At least Ryuuzugano and his gang left me alone today; rumour was going round some kid had confronted them and exchanged words.
Snuggling my eyes in the crook of my arm, I sighed deeply as I pondered whether to properly apologise to Shino, not just for knocking her down, but for my outburst last night. I never wanted to make her scared of me..did I?
Something brushed my shoulder; I shrugged it off as a stray bag strap, a misdirected wave. When it brushed again, and for a third time, it finally clicked in my sleepy, unresponsive brain that someone was trying to get my attention. Who? I wondered.
Lifting my head, I blinked several times in the bright afternoon sun, before meeting a rather familiar face.
"Hello, Kyousuke," Aomizu stared down at me. "Um..are you free now?"
"Huh?" was all I could manage.
"Just come with me!" She tugged on my arm with surprising force. With apparently no alternative, I played along and half-walked, half-dragged myself. Following awkwardly behind her, Aomizu reached the stairs - but rather than walk down, she went up - towards the less populated fourth and fifth floors. And on those floors, the only place that one could consider « private » was...
"Aomizu," I stumbled over the steps. "You're bringing me...there?!"
"Yes," she replied without looking back. "Someone wants to see you."
She finally let go of me when we reached a disturbingly familiar doorway - the fourth floor boy's bathroom. Curiously, someone else was there as well. I did a double-take, and then scrutinised her - no, his face, a face with such an androgynous shape, I only could tell he was a boy because of his uniform's shorts. His hair was a little longer than allowed, but it appeared relatively well-washed. His arms were crossed, and the reason for my double-take, it seemed, was the seemingly disproportionate bulk of his arms to the rest of his body. Not due to baby fat, but that was definitely muscle tone I was seeing.
This mysterious boy must have had ordered Aomizu to bring me here (and by any means, if I might add), because the instant Aomizu released me at last, his dark eyes remain unblinkingly focused on me. Or my eyes, to be precise. His cold, penetrating stare seemed devoid of warmth...or maybe it once had.
As if I had passed some unknown test, the boy finally looked away. I released a breath I hadn't realised I was holding. What on earth is this, I wondered. What's with everything?
They began to talk while I was thinking. It was about me, I soon realised:
"This is the guy?" the boy asked Aomizu. "Sure?"
What a truncated way of talking. This boy either doesn't talk much, or being rude is his specialty. To my slight surprise, Aomizu bowed her head ever so slightly, staring at our shoes.
"Yes, this is Kousaka Kyousuke, the one involved in the « Five-Party Assault Case » reported in the news.
My blood ran cold and I clenched my fists instinctively. How? I shouted wordlessly. How did they know?
Aomizu rose to face this boy and exchanged glances. This rude, silent, and apparently knowledgeable guy turned to face me again, his eyes a little softer as though seeing me in a new light. I backed off a few steps. Although the thought of running away outright had come to mind, the fact the he remained silent, rather than further probe for details, made me reconsider running away.
"Kousaka...that's a nice name." He finally broke the awkward silence.
"Wh..what do you want?" I finally managed to squeeze out. My heart was throbbing so loudly I was sure he could hear it.
"What I want?" He threw back the words at me. "I'm interested in your reply to Dra- I mean, Kotori's question. Did you accept it or not?"
It took me quite awhile to recall her question. The day yesterday..Aomizu distracted the trio..then she whacked me in this very bathroom..and then she said something. What was it? Oh right, her offer to escape from reality."
"Uh..huh. So what's this thing we're talking about?"
"Have you had your Neuro Linker since birth?" Completely ignoring my counter-question, the boy reached into his pocket and withdrew a coil of what seemed to be wire - until he handed it to Aomizu. Eh? It was a one-metre XSB cable for « Direct Connection » between Neuro Linkers. Aomizu accepted the cable and uncoiled it, plugging one end into her silver-coloured Neuro Linker's port.
"Have you?" He asked more insistently.
"Good." A shadow of a grin crossed his face for an instant, tugging at his lips, and then it was gone.
"To answer your question," he continued nonchalantly, "It's a simple Neuro Linker «application», which Kotori will send to you via Wired Connection."
Somehow, I had a bad feeling about this. Setting aside the disregard for privacy between Neuro Linker owners, some small part of me was wary about this «application».
"The application can only be installed once." He transfixed me with that cold stare again, rooting me to the spot. Aomizu plugged in the other end into my Neuro Linker, but I was still too numb to resist. The warning window accompanying the « Direct Connection » appeared, then faded away.
"This application will change you. It could heal you or it could break you. Your mind will definitely change. But maybe, most important of all..." his voice trailed off. Frozen as I was, I still noticed his arms coming together, encircling himself as though his body itself was about to break. The fragility of this image..something about it connected to me deeply.
"...for the lack of better words, you will understand yourself better." He finally finished, looking as though he had just woken from a deep sleep. "Give it to him, Kotori."
Aomizu deftly manipulated her Linker's interface. Of course, I can't see her windows, but I could tell she was opening her own folders, scrolling through dozens of items. Finally she double-tapped the empty air and pointed her fingers at me, initiating a file transfer.
In my window, a terse dialog box appeared.
File Transfer Security Message
Accept unknown application: ?
The program's publisher cannot be verified. It is recommended you do not install such programs.
I glanced at the window, and back to the guy. A faint smile was on his lips now, but i couldn't detect any hint of maliciousness.
One last absurd question made its way to my mouth, fighting through the crushing weight of feelings I was presently holding at bay. "Will this..this application, will it piece me back together?"
I regretted the odd choice of words, but this guy's expression didn't change the slightest. He only closed his eyes, as though mulling something within him over.
"I don't know. It's a question only you can answer."
Which means it can if I try. I finished the thought. If anything...I think I'm broken enough already. It's taking a superhuman effort to keep from breaking down now.
Slowly, I reached up with my left hand and touched the button.
Without warning, the school suddenly burst into flames, nearly making me cry out in shock. When Aomizu and this guy remain unperturbed, however, I realised they were merely holographic projections.
"You can see the flames too?" Aomizu, silent this entire time, suddenly piped up.
"Wha...what's with the flames?" My mouth was dry, and not because I was thirsty.
"A simple test to determine the brain's response times." The boy spoke quietly. He was still staring at me, minus the smile and reverting to his cold, businesslike demeanor. "Only those with fast enough response times can accept the application. If you don't see the flames, the installation fails."
The flames disappeared as though satisfied with their attempt to shock me. They retreated into a cuboidal shape, and then even those faded out. Left behind was...
"Bu..rei..Brain Baasuto?" I lamely tried to pronounce the english letters.
"Brain Burst," The guy responded. "That is the name of the application. Those who use it are called 'Burst Linkers'."
"Why?" was all I could weakly get out.
"You'll see." This time, Aomizu responded, as though I was being double-teamed.
The installer bar left behind filled swiftly, and more flames appeared, consuming the entire bar and the words. For a second, I thought the installation had still somehow failed, that I was no longer needed by this boy and Aomizu to do anything, if they had wanted to. Come to think of it, I thought, and glanced at the time. I haven't even eaten yet.
"Kyousuke," Aomizu piped up. "I can hear you, you know? While connecting their Neuro Linkers, users can speak via « Direct Connection Speech »."
I was about to react, to respond in indignation angrily, but more flames appeared, forming letters in my vision.
"Waru..Welcome To Za...The Accelerated World? What's this?" My voice quavered , half in fear and half in confusion.
The boy and Aomizu simultaneously let out sighs of relief.
"It means, Kyousuke, that you're now one of us." The guy whose name I still didn't know replied, unfolding his arms and putting his hands in his pockets. "You're now a « Burst Linker »."
"Kyousuke." Aomizu corrected the girl. "His name is Kousaka Kyousuke."
This guy raised an eyebrow, then lowered it. "Okay then."
"What..what am I supposed to do now?" Finally, I had achieved some semblance of calm by speaking normally.
"Go home," Aomizu simply said. "After school, go home. But keep off the Global Net, and don't remove your Neuro Linker. Even when you sleep."
"That's kinda uncomfortable.."
"But the installation hasn't finished." The unnamed boy cut me off. "Keep it on."
I raised my hands weakly in surrender.
The two of them left after that. Aomizu returned to class after break, but she didn't say anything else to me. Neither did I see the unnamed guy after that, nor did I even try to ask Aomizu anything else. I was just too tired and stressed to think about anything else, and school as it was is more than I can handle in that fragile mental state. The rest of the day passed in a flash, and even when I got home, I didn't even want to read my physics book; I just hit the shower, crashed and fell asleep early at 8.37pm.
The worst nightmare of my life soon followed.
end of chapter 1.
Longer than I expected and shorter than I wanted. Between writing, editing, and planning, I took way more time than I wanted to. I couldn't write very much because I usually wrote on my phone, and work usually left me drained the rest of the day. A good thousand, thousand-two-hundred of the last part was actually written in a two-hour burst of energy I just had earlier.
This is a complete revamp of my very first fanfic which I've since deleted, because it had more holes in it than swiss cheese.
I hope to continue to post good, plot-filled chapters like these, so please review and comment! PM me if you're too embarassed to! :P
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Edit: [10-1-13] Fixed typos, grammar, and awkward phrases
Edit: [13-1-13] What a nice date, lol. The identity of this nameless guy is a little ambiguous so I added some detail to nudge it over to something more concrete. Rest assured, I don't feel like creating many OCs to deal with, so many of the characters that appear subsequently are almost always canon characters. The relationships they have with each other, however, has a small probability of being non-canon. If by some miracle Kawahara Reki decides to expand on Volume 7, I'll edit this to include the AU tag.
Edit: [24-1-13] Altered the naming of all characters. Courtesy of advice from Catsy.