Two days after the interference first appeared in the sky, we have finally gathered everyone and managed to agree on a time and place we can all get together and discuss the occurrences over the past week. Nothing major has happened since, but now the interference has covered the entire sky and it's starting to look as if we're living in a digital world.
And so here we are, in the student council room after classes on the last day of school before the weekend. All members we could find of the original SSS – Otonashi, Kanade, Hinata, Yui, Takeyama, Girls Dead Monster, and of course me. This is really a very small portion of what we had before, but I think it's already very lucky that so many of us ended up in the same school here. It's ironic that what used to be the room of our perceived enemy is now our room of operations.
"Welcome back to the former SSS. Unfortunately we cannot have a happy reunion as I'm sure most of you know by now that something strange is happening, and there is a very high chance that it is somehow related to the afterlife. Before going into details, I think it's better for everyone to share what they remember as most of you probably only recall fragments."
I start the meeting with the most fundamental problem common to every one of us. It is vital that we get everyone onto common ground so that there will be no confusion later.
"Wait, why is it the former SSS? Do we have a new name now?" Hinata puts in, raising one hand in the air.
"No, but we are not in the afterlife anymore so I don't think Shinda Sekai Sensen still applies to us. We don't know what we are actually up against or what we are even supposed to do yet so we don't have a new name."
With that, I get everyone relating everything they remember in chronological order, and by the time each member has had a turn, we have quite a complete picture of what happened before. Otonashi and Kanade also take turns explaining what happened to them this past week.
"But we still don't know what is going on and how. Does anyone here have theories or information on these recent events?" Hinata says.
"I think Takeyama-kun has a few things he would like to tell everyone. Takeyama-kun?"
"Please call me Christ! And yes, I have noticed a few things that should shed some light on the recent occurrences. As you all know, the afterlife didn't exactly work the same way our world does. Weapons could be created out of memories and earth, and in the case of Angel Player and the Shadows, computer data had a direct effect on the surroundings. I'm still not sure how or why it worked that way, but over a week ago I noticed that my computer started acting strange. It was showing some of the properties that the afterlife computers did, and I found some stray data that was similar to the kind used by Angel Player that I found when I was hacking into Tachibana's computer. From recent events, I think we can safely conclude that there is a direct connection with the afterlife.
Now moving on with theories and speculations. We never found out if our bodies worked the same way in the afterlife. Of course, we all continued to function the way we did when we were alive, but we were never sure if our bodies were really 'alive' in that sense. We couldn't die; our bodies would be reconstructed every time we did. What if we were made up of some kind of 'data' as well? Something that could be rebuilt from a blueprint of our original bodies if we sustained extensive damage. That would explain how Angel Player works as well – computers didn't work on abstract digital data but used the same substance as the rest of the world. That's how a simple program could alter the properties of Tachibana or turn NPCs into Shadows.
So, if we take that to be true, then I can come up with a theory on how and why our memories are so scattered. The afterlife itself could have been meant to send people back with clean memories, but as we know Yuri destroyed a computer bank that presumably housed the main Angel Player program. It's not unlikely that its destruction somehow caused the world's system to malfunction, leading to incomplete erasing of our memories. We don't know how long it takes after someone disappears to actually leave the afterlife altogether, so it's possible that everyone who supposedly left earlier was affected."
A long silence follows Takeyama's speech as everyone attempts to digest the load of information. After a while, it's starting to look like either everyone is taking it extremely calmly, or they are still having trouble understanding the technical explanation he provided.
"So… are you saying that we were basically nothing more than data in the afterlife?" Otonashi finally speaks up.
"You can put it that way. If we view it as data, then it would appear that the afterlife's data itself has somehow invaded our world. The sky seems to have been partially converted to the form of data in the afterlife over the past few days. I've been picking up larger amounts of it recently."
"Then our attackers were programmed as well?" Kanade asks.
"It's possible. They may have been something like the NPCs from before but programmed to be hostile. From the way you described it though, it sounds like their initial programming may have been incomplete, as they seemed to act quite mechanically. The second attacker sounds like he was more sophisticated, so either these attackers are improving themselves, or new improved attackers are being sent."
"But why are they attacking us? We seem to be the ones they have been targeting," Otonashi says, still looking confused.
"I don't know. It's probably not a coincidence that the ones targeted so far were all in the afterlife together, and were SSS members as well. I'm just surprised that Yuri has not been attacked yet."
"Wait, why do you make it sound like I must be a target?" I ask indignantly.
"You were the one who did the most damage to the afterlife systems. If this has something to do with us not leaving the afterlife the way we were supposed to, then you have to be the prime target. The heavy atmosphere surrounding the school is likely due to it being where most of the energy from the afterlife has been focused, and this is where many previous members are, including you."
I can't find a way to argue against that, not when I don't have answers myself. Everything Takeyama has said so far seems to be making sense, and given that we have no conflicting evidence, we'll have to assume it's true for now.
"So to put it simply, the afterlife itself is coming after us now? That shouldn't be a problem! We have experience fighting against the afterlife after all." I feel quite confident with the adversary we are facing as this is something we are all familiar with.
"Hold on. You need to remember that we spent most of our time there going against Tachibana. The only time we directly fought against something that can be considered part of the afterlife was with the Shadows, and those were a formidable force. The point is, we still don't know what its own defensive systems are capable of. It would be better to exercise some caution for now."
"There's another thing," Otonashi speaks up, hand in the air as if asking a question in class. "How much of the afterlife has actually escaped out here? Are we playing by our laws or by theirs?"
"I think the most important question on everyone's minds regarding that is: can we die? I honestly don't have the answer to that question, so I would say it's better to assume we can. We are in the real world after all, no matter how much of the afterlife has materialized."
"I have something to say." Everyone looks at Kanade. She's been so quiet that her volunteering of information has drawn everyone's attention. "Angel Player has appeared and is working exactly as before."
She proceeds to explain how she discovered Angel Player on her computer and how she tested it, coming to the conclusion that Angel Player works almost exactly as it did in the afterlife. Of course, this news causes a commotion in the student council room. A working Angel Player means we have our strongest weapon among us already – Kanade herself.
When some of the noise has died down, Hinata voices the one concern that has started to occur to everyone. "It's fine if Kanade has gotten her abilities back, as that makes her almost invulnerable again. But if the rest of us can die for real, how are we supposed to fight or even defend ourselves? We can't obtain guns as easily as we could before."
"And what about Girls Dead Monster?" Iwasawa asks. "We never did much combat training with you before, and I don't think our usual role of diversion will be of use anymore. Is there something we could do?"
I don't have the answer to those questions. It's true that we relied mostly on guns in the afterlife, and they could be easily manufactured back then. Right now obtaining just a single gun would be a problem, much less enough for the whole team. As it is now, only Kanade and I can fight effectively at close range.
"I have a solution," Kanade proposes. "I can try making abilities for everyone. Guns are not likely, but I'll see what I can do."
"Can you do that?" I ask, feeling some relief. "You have experience creating abilities with Angel Player after all. Try to create something that would suit each person's style."
"Is it possible to create something for us too?" Hisako speaks up. "Even though I can't imagine what we could do as our instruments are the only thing we are good at."
"I'll try to think of something," Kanade says reassuringly.
"Great! I guess that's most of our initial concerns settled. I think our next step should be to stop the afterlife's invasion, but we have no solid information yet. We'll need to do some investigation, but it's best that we wait until everyone can at least defend themselves before attempting that. For now, you should all stay alert. If Takeyama-kun's guess is correct, any one of us may get attacked at any time. We still don't know their plans or methods, if they have any. The student council room is now our official base of operations, so if anything comes up, report here. Dismissed!" I end the meeting with a sense of accomplishment. At least we've made some progress in trying to understand what's happening. Finally I feel that we're no longer hitting a brick wall.
I took liberties with what Takeyama is capable of here, because we don't get much info about Takeyama's true character. This chapter ended up being much longer than any previous ones, but don't expect this to become the norm. Thank you and look forward to the next chapter!