The next morning, Surokawa-sensei entered the classroom just as the morning bell rang, signifying the start of homeroom. The Konoki sisters returned to their desks, leaving Ayane and Kenji to ponder over the previous day's events. As of yet, they hadn't told anyone about Hello World or the events leading up to its establishment. Not that anyone would've believed what they had to say.
"Class, your attention please. We have a new student joining us today."
The teacher's words interrupted Ayane's and Kenji's thoughts, and they looked up to see who this new student was. At 176 cm, the new girl, who introduced herself as Yuka Tsuzuko, was about half a head taller than Kenji. Her silky, mint-green hair flowed down past her waist, with some of her hair tied in two Chinese buns on either side of her head. Surokawa-sensei scanned through the seating chart, looking for a vacant desk for Yuka. He pointed at the empty desk next to Ayane's.
"You'll be sitting next to Mori there. I hope you don't mind sitting in the back of the room."
Y: "I don't mind."
"And Mori-san, if you wouldn't mind helping Tsuzuko-san out, at least for the first few days..."
A: "Sure, no problem."
Kenji looked dubiously at Ayane.
K: "You, helping someone else?"
A: "Shut up."
Yuka walked over to the empty desk and sat down.
A: "Hey, I'm Mori Ayane. If you need any help, just let me know."
Y: "Thanks. I'll try my best not to bother you too much."
The only basis for that statement was polite humility, since Yuka didn't really have to bother anyone. She took meticulous notes and answered questions perfectly; only once, during English class, did Yuka ask Ayane for help, and even then it was only to help her verify a translation. By the time the bell rang for the start of lunch, most if not all of the class had realized that Yuka was an exceptional student whose academic prowess could possibly match that of the Konoki sisters.
Y: "Would it be alright for me to eat lunch with you?"
Ayane looked up at Yuka.
A: "Yeah, sure."
Yuka thanked Ayane and slid her desk next to Ayane's, noticing that Kenji had rotated his chair around and put his bento box on Ayane's desk.
A: "Oh yeah, I guess you two haven't formally met each other yet. Kenji, you can introduce yourself."
K: "Gee, thanks."
Kenji turned towards Yuka as Ayane helped herself to some of Kenji's lunch.
K: "I'm Egami Kenji, nice to meet you."
Y: "Nice to meet you too."
K: "Did you just move here? I've heard of students ditching school, but not on the first day."
Y: "No, I wasn't ditching. My family just arrived here yesterday. I don't really know anyone here, so it's nice that I got to know Mori-san."
Kenji leaned closer to Yuka, pretending to whisper to her when Ayane could clearly hear his words.
K: "Something you should know about Ayane: she―"
Ayane smacked the back of Kenji's head hard before he could finish his sentence. Kenji hadn't really said anything substantial up to that point, but Ayane knew from experience that whatever he was going to say wouldn't have been in her favor.
A: "Shut up. Tsuzuko-chan, don't listen to a word this idiot says."
Y: "But he didn't say anything..."
A: "That doesn't matter. Just don't listen to him."
Yuka didn't really understand the situation, nor did she try to understand it. The relationship between Ayane and Kenji seemed to her a bit...complicated. Kenji grimaced and rubbed the back of his head; Ayane had hit him pretty solidly.
Y: "Are you alright?"
K: "Yeah, I'm fine. I suppose you could say I've built up a tolerance to Ayane's violent impulses."
Kenji gave Ayane a sideways glare, and something told Yuka that Kenji wasn't kidding.
A: "If you haven't noticed, I'm only violent towards you because you're such an annoying idiot!"
Ayane and Kenji continued their bantering while Yuka quietly listened from the side.
HH: "Looks like they're at it again."
Yuka watched as the perfectly synchronized twins slid another desk over, placed two chairs across from her, and sat down.
Hi: "Konoki Hikari."
Hu: "Konoki Hikaru."
HH: "Nice to meet you."
Y: "Nice to meet you too."
Yuka's calm reaction gave Ayane and Kenji reason to pause their battle.
K: "Oh? This is interesting."
K: "Most people would be at least a little bothered by Konoki's behavior, since they move together and everything."
Y: "Ah. Well, I kind of like strange things, so maybe that's why."
K: "So you like weird stuff, huh? I guess that's why you like Ayane."
Ayane planted her metal fist squarely in Kenji's face. In retaliation, Kenji pinched Ayane's cheek.
A: "Ow! Let go!"
K: "Get your fist out of my face first."
Even though Ayane and Kenji were fighting, Yuka couldn't help but get the feeling that they were closer than they appeared. She giggled a little, causing Ayane and Kenji to look at her.
K: "What's so funny?"
Y: "Nothing, just that you guys look really cute together."
Ayane's and Kenji's faces turned red, and they instantly withdrew their hands from each other's faces and turned away from each other.
A: "Cute? With this idiot? You've got to be kidding me."
K: "What could possibly be cute about someone like her?"
It was easy to see that their hatred of each other wasn't as deep as they made it out to be; their reactions were a bit too exaggerated to be authentic. Yuka, however, was still a bit worried by their reactions.
Y: "Did I say something wrong?"
HH: "No, you're fine. It's these two who are having issues."
Ayane and Kenji both glared at the Konoki sisters before preoccupying themselves with their lunches, taking large gulps of food to avoid talking. Yuka decided to redirect the conversation.
Y: "It seems like you guys have known each other for a while now."
Kenji swallowed a large bite of pork and rice before answering.
K: "Since primary school."
A: "Yeah. And to make matters worse, we've been in the same class every year."
Y: "Wow, that's really amazing!"
K: "Not really. What is amazing is how I've put up with Ayane for all this time."
Ayane hammered Kenji's foot with her own, causing Kenji to wince in pain. Again, Yuka just watched from the sidelines. She felt a little sorry for Kenji; Ayane's attacks certainly looked like they hurt. Then again, Kenji's insults definitely constituted punishment.
K: "Equally amazing is how I've survived until now..."
D: "You guys are friendly as usual, I see."
Puzzled, Ayane and Kenji looked up to see Daisuke move a chair next to Yuka and sit down, setting his bento box on the desk.
Y: "Oh, it's you!"
Ayane and Kenji were dumbfounded.
K: "You guys know each other?"
D: "Well, not exactly. Tsuzuko-san's family moved in a few doors down from my place."
A: "Heh?! No way!"
Daisuke lived in a pretty expensive neighborhood, so buying a house there was no small feat.
Y: "No, it's true. The only time I've seen Tonashida-kun was when he and his family came over to introduce themselves, though."
D: "Well, I hope we get to know each other better in the near future."
Y: "Me too."
A: "He probably just wants to get his hands on Tsuzuko-san's notes."
HH: "Most definitely."
D: "Hey, don't say those things while I'm still here..."
Yuka giggled again.
Y: "I wouldn't mind lending you my notes, provided you return them."
Daisuke looked like he was about to say something, but he instead bowed his head sheepishly.
D: "That would...actually be a big help..."
Ayane and Kenji sighed. Daisuke was such a hopeless student.
A: "I hope this means you won't be asking Kenji and me for our notes anymore."
D: "We'll see."
HH: "Not that it'll fix the main issue at hand, since Tonashida will still be relying on others to survive in class."
Y: "Hm...that wouldn't be good. In that case, I'll only lend you my notes three times a week."
Daisuke glared at the Konoki sisters; they were really getting on people's nerves today.
D: "So, Mori-san, Egami. Looks like I'll have to―"
A: "Not in your lifetime."
K: "Definitely not."
Daisuke sighed and sank down in his chair dejectedly.
D: "My life is over..."
Y: "It'll be alright. This is for your own good, after all."
D: "Saying that with a smile, it's as if you want me to fail my classes."
Y: "No, I wouldn't want that to happen. If you do crash and burn, though, I won't hold myself accountable."
Daisuke shook his head incredulously. This school year had just gotten a lot more difficult for him.
( T_T)＼(^-^ )
There was a clatter of desks and chairs when the final bell rang. Ayane stretched her arm out and began packing up her things.
Y: "See you tomorrow, Mori-san."
A: "Yeah, see you tomorrow."
Ayane waved goodbye as Yuka walked out of the classroom with Daisuke, who had been waiting by the door. Hikaru and Hikari were still sound asleep on their desks and probably wouldn't wake up for the next few minutes. Ayane grumbled to herself and rested her chin on her crossed arms on her desk, dreading the hours she would have to spend doing math homework. And that wasn't even the worst of her troubles.
K: "So, what are you going to do?"
She tilted her face up to look at Kenji, who was standing beside his desk, schoolbag in hand.
A: "About what?"
K: "C'mon, you know what. I know you're not that dumb."
Ayane glared at Kenji but took no other offensive measures. It was true; she knew full well what he was talking about. She sat up and sighed again.
A: "Yeah, yeah, I know. Are you going to come with me if I go?"
K: "Do I have a choice? Even if I said no, you'd still probably drag me over like yesterday."
A: "Yeah, you're probably right."
Ayane stood up and took her bag from its hook on the side of her desk.
A: "Alright, let's go."
They headed through the rows of desks towards the door, Kenji in the lead. He suddenly stopped, causing Ayane to crash into his back.
K: "Oh wait, we were closer to the back door..."
A: "Idiot, we're already at the front door. More importantly, don't just stop all of a sudden when someone's walking behind you!"
She shoved him out the door, making him almost crash into other departing students.
K: "Hey, watch it. You're going to make me run into people."
A: "You're one to talk!"
Ayane threw her shoulder into Kenji's side, launching him across the hallway.
K: "Jeez, do you want me to go with you or not?"
A: "I honestly don't know which is worse anymore."
Kenji grinned. He always got a kick out of messing with Ayane. Metaphorically speaking, of course, although he did often get a physical kick as well.
K: "Well, it doesn't really matter what you say; I'd go even if you weren't. I'm interested in hearing what Hiraya-san and Tanaka have to say. Aren't you?"
Ayane thought about the question for a moment.
A: "A little, I suppose."
The two of them stood outside the elevator doors and waited for a lift up. Most students were riding an elevator down so that they could either go home or attend sport practices. At the moment, only Ayane and Kenji were taking an elevator up to the fourth floor for club activities, if that's what they could be called. They were silent as they rode up the elevator; it was only when they found themselves standing just outside the closing elevator doors on the fourth floor that Kenji decided to say something.
K: "Last chance to turn back."
A: "Idiot, I didn't come all the way up here just to go back down."
K: "Yeah, I should've known."
They walked down the hallway. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. The sign above the seventh room was still blank.
A: "Don't you think it's odd that the school has an unused clubroom?"
K: "I was wondering about that. I'd ask the student council about it, but I don't know how well they'd take our story."
A: "I don't know how well anyone would take our story. I barely understand it myself."
K: "There are a lot of things you barely understand."
There came the physical kick.
A: "Shut up and open the door."
K: "Y'know, you could've just asked nicely."
Ayane scoffed as Kenji knocked on the door.
Ka: "Come on in!"
K: "Excuse the intrusion."
Kenji opened the door and walked into the room, followed by Ayane. Kasumi and Minoru were seated at the center table.
Ka: "I wasn't sure if you guys would actually show up. But now that you're here, we can get going."
A: "Going? Where?"
Ka: "You'll see."
Kasumi walked past Ayane and Kenji and out the door.
M: "You guys can leave your stuff here. We'll be coming back soon."
Ayane looked at Kenji, who shrugged his shoulders and put his schoolbag next to Kasumi's and Minoru's on the far end of the table. After some hesitation, Ayane did the same. As she exited the room, she hoped that wherever they were going was unrelated to the events of the day before; there was a limit to the amount of "weird" she could tolerate.
Ka: "I don't expect you two to believe everything I'm about to tell you, at least not right now. It just might make things easier to understand in the long run."
Ayane, Kenji, Kasumi, and Minoru were standing on the waiting platform of the train station. Kasumi and Minoru hadn't provided any details as to where the four of them were going, so Ayane and Kenji were very much in the dark about their current situation.
Ka: "If I remember correctly, you two don't know what a Public Domain is, right?"
Ayane and Kenji shook their heads.
Ka: "A Public Domain is a set of data that's open to most people, if not everyone; in other words, anyone can use a Public Domain. Granted, there are usually a few restrictions that limit the possible occurrences within a Public Domain. Take this universe, for example. Anyone can exist within this Public Domain or make changes to it so long as they comply with such restrictions as the laws of physics and spacial singularity."
Kenji scratched his head in puzzlement. He had a vague notion as to what an actual private domain was, but he wasn't sure if what Kasumi was talking about was the same thing.
K: "Did you just compare our universe to a set of computational data?"
Ka: "I didn't compare the two. Your universe really is a set of computational data, just not in a form you recognize as data. Understanding your universe as a Public Domain instead of as simply a vast system of space is the most important part of your training. Once you get that, everything else becomes relatively easy."
Ayane and Kenji were silent for a little while; the latter looked like he was in deep thought while the former just shook her head incredulously.
A: "You're kidding me, right? This must be some kind of joke."
Ka: "Like I said, I don't expect you to believe me right from the start."
A: "I'm surprised you actually expect us to believe you at all!"
Kasumi shrugged as a series of chimes sounded over the intercom.
"The train is approaching. Please step behind the yellow line."
Flashing red lights at the edge of the platform also signified the approaching train. The four students couldn't find any vacant seats on said train once they got on, so they had to be content with standing in the center aisle. The train jolted into motion, quickly picking up speed. It was almost at the next station before Kenji spoke up.
K: "Why did you say that viewing the universe as a Public Domain would make things easier to comprehend?"
Ka: "Because when something like this happens..."
Everything around Ayane and Kenji save Kasumi and Minoru froze instantaneously. An instant later, a spherical wave emanated from Kasumi and began expanding rapidly. Ayane and Kenji didn't feel anything, but everything within the wave's edge except for the four students turned different shades of gray. Then a similar second wave came. Ayane and Kenji watched dumbstruck as their surroundings melted away in a widening sphere around Kasumi. Within seconds, only the four students remained.
Ka: "...your brain, with its original way of thinking, really can't provide an adequate explanation."
They were standing inside a hollow white cube, the edges of which were easily fifty meters long. There was no visible light source, yet the four of them could see their surroundings clearly. Ayane looked around nervously.
A: "Where are we?"
Ka: "Earlier, I explained to you two what a Public Domain was."
Explained it, yes. Whether or not Ayane and Kenji had understood that explanation, however, was an entirely different matter.
Ka: "What we have here is a Private Domain: a miniature Public Domain, if you will. They're like personal hiding places for Viruses in a Public Domain where the existence of Viruses has been blocked for a while now."
A: "What, like a computer virus?"
Ka: "Sort of. I'll go into more detail about Virus history tomorrow, but basically Viruses are individuals who steal energy from whatever Public Domain they're hiding in and use it to either strengthen themselves or improve their Private Domains. A Virus left unchecked could lead to chaos in a Public Domain. That's why we're here; to destroy Viruses before they get out of hand."
A: "This just gets crazier and crazier..."
Kasumi shrugged and continued her talk.
Ka: "Most Private Domains house no more than five Viruses in order to minimize detection. The encryptions on Private Domains also make them both inaccessible to others and virtually undetectable through normal means."
K: "If that's the case, how'd you know this Private Domain was here? Moreover, how'd we get inside?"
Ka: "Good observation. While effective, Private Domain encryptions aren't perfect. Occasionally, a Private Domain's energy signature leaks into the Public Domain. Normal humans can't sense this leak, but for someone like me it's not too difficult."
Did that mean Kasumi wasn't a normal human?
Ka: "New Private Domains usually don't have this problem, but it gets harder and harder to contain the energy signature as a Private Domain becomes more complex. As to how we got in here, I essentially broke our way in. I cracked the encryptions surrounding the Private Domain and forced a path through before the encryption could rebuild itself."
Kenji nodded slowly while Ayane stared at Kasumi with a blank expression.
A: "I didn't understand a word of what you just said."
Kasumi blew out a sigh.
Ka: "Well, it's not something I can force upon you. We'll be spending a lot of time inside Private Domains, so the sooner you understand them the better."
At the moment, Ayane was still trying to comprehend what Kasumi had said on the waiting platform. The sooner she understood the better? It was accomplishment enough for her to just understand at all. Suddenly...
Ka: "It's finally decided to show itself. About time."
A large white bubble detached itself from the ground and hovered for a moment before popping and releasing a white cat. The four students were silent for a while.
A: "You're going to tell me that that's the Virus?"
M: "I...I'll admit that it's not the best first example..."
A: "I was expecting something more...imposing."
The cat was far from imposing. In fact, it reminded Kenji of the cats he saw in manga and anime. Its round head had triangles for ears, two black dots for eyes, and a small, almost imperceptible black line for a mouth. Its body was a smooth, oblong mass with stubby cylindrical legs, and its tail swished from side to side innocently.
M: "Looks can be deceiving. I'd be careful around it if I were you."
Ayane looked at the cat skeptically.
A: "Around this thing? What can this cat possibly do?"
She walked over to the cat, squatted down, and reached over to pick the cat up. Her fingertips were mere centimeters away from the cat when its head suddenly expanded and it opened its jaws, revealing row upon row of sharp teeth. At its expanded size, the cat's gaping mouth could definitely fit Ayane, who had fallen backwards in shock. No sooner had the cat opened its mouth, however, than Kasumi jumped forward and kicked the cat squarely in the side of its head, sending it flying through the side wall. The cat came bursting in through the opposite wall, catching everyone by surprise. Ayane clambered to her feet and got behind Kasumi.
A: "W-wh-what just happened?"
Minoru looked like a detective surveying a crime scene.
M: "If I had to guess, I'd say that this box we're in is all there is to this Private Domain's spacial make-up."
The cat got to its feet and shook its head, which was returning to its original proportions. It seemed a little dazed as it swayed precariously from side to side.
A: "Please repeat what you just said in a language normal people can understand."
M: "Basically, it's impossible to go outside of this cube. It's been constructed such that, when you try leaving through one of its faces, you'll end up entering the cube via the face opposite the one through which you tried to leave. It's also safe to assume that what happens to one wall will happen to the opposite wall."
Ayane tried to understand what Minoru had said but gave up the endeavor almost as soon as she began.
A: "Sorry, I think I'm even more confused now..."
At that moment, an array of rapidly spinning spikes shot out of the cat's mouth and zoomed towards the group. The spikes stopped short of their target, encountering an invisible barrier and shattering on impact.
Ka: "That was a shield, by the way. Tanaka and I'll try to teach you how to execute one tomorrow, if we have time."
Ayane and Kenji didn't know what to say, mainly because the sudden fear of being drilled to death hadn't quite left their minds yet. The fact that Kasumi and Minoru acted as if this was an everyday occurrence only made Ayane and Kenji more bewildered. Minoru noticed them staring at Kasumi and guessed part of their thoughts.
M: "Random stuff can happen in Private Domains. You get used to it after a while."
Ayane shook her head and let out a cry of frustration, startling the other three students.
A: "I thought yesterday was bad, but today's even worse! First there's all this talk about Public Domains, Private Domains, and Viruses which I totally don't get, and then there's this freak of a cat that can shoot spikes out of its mouth! I mean, what the heck! I have to be dreaming or hallucinating or in a coma or something like that for this stuff to even be possible!"
Ayane put her head between her hands.
A: "Gah, and yet somehow I know this is all real! Wait, does that mean I believe all this crap about Domains and stuff? Argh, what the heck is wrong with me?!"
With her last statement, Ayane grabbed Kenji by his shoulders and began shaking him violently.
K: "Hey, hey, calm down. I think you're overreacting just a tiny bit."
A: "Easy for you to say! I don't see how you can just stand there as if this kind of thing happens all the time!"
Ayane suddenly calmed down and stopped shaking Kenji, as if she had suddenly realized something. She hid behind Kenji and glared at the cat from behind his shoulder.
A: "I think I'll stand here and use you as a shield, in case that cat decides to do something again."
K: "Not to discourage you or
anything, but given what that cat can do, I don't think I'd be a very good shield."
A: "Tch, useless as always. Whatever, it's safer to stay here anyway."
Kenji sighed. He couldn't complain, though; Ayane's using him as a shield wasn't the worst that she could do.
M: "You know, for someone who's just had his life turned pretty much upside-down, you are pretty calm."
K: "Well, to be honest―"
Kenji was interrupted by a loud roar as a giant fireball hurtled towards the group and spread out against the shield before dissipating.
M: "What a talented cat. Sorry, you were saying?"
Yet again, Kenji―and Ayane, for that matter―had been shocked silent. He may be calm compared to Ayane, but Kasumi and Minoru were calm beyond comparison.
K: "Uh...to be honest, I've always wished my life were a bit more fantastical. Living a normal life just seems so boring, you know?"
A: "You've spent too much time on manga and anime."
Kenji gave an embarrassed smile.
K: "Yeah, maybe that too."
A: "Hey, I just thought of something."
Ayane directed her statement at Kasumi and Minoru, both of whom turned to face her.
A: "We're here to destroy that cat thing, right? So why have we just been standing here instead of trying to destroy it?"
M: "It's not like we're really in a hurry to destroy the Virus. Quite honestly, we could take all the time we wanted. But if it's really bothering you that much..."
Minoru walked to the front of the group and raised an outstretched hand.
M: "...I might as well just get it over with now."
A spear materialized in Minoru's hand. The spearhead was a large metal band with three slender blades; one on top and one on either side. Minoru twirled the spear around him deftly.
M: "Now then..."
The cat tilted its head at Minoru. Realizing that someone was finally challenging it, the cat lowered its body and gave a toothy grin, tail swishing side to side eagerly.
M: "Here I go!"
Minoru dashed towards the cat, whose left front paw had transformed into a hammer; it looked like a marshmallow to Ayane, though. The cat swung its hammer into the ground, throwing up a cloud of debris. It jumped down through the newly created hole with the intention of ambushing its aggressor from above, but Minoru had already seen through the cat's strategy. He directed his attention upwards, where the cat was speeding through the hole in the ceiling. Kasumi gave a satisfied nod.
Ka: "It's over."
Minoru jumped up, moving much faster and farther than Ayane and Kenji thought humanly possible. The cat hadn't been expecting Minoru's jump either and tried to use its hammer to block the attack. It was a futile effort; Minoru rapidly worked his spear around the hammer and sliced the cat in two. As Minoru dropped back down―slower than Kenji believed to be normal―the two halves disintegrated into spots of green light that soon faded away. Minoru landed on his feet as if he'd only dropped down a meter when he'd actually fallen about thirty meters.
A: "Wait, that's it?"
M: "Yup, that's it. It wasn't a very advanced Virus, though it was developed enough to use a few projectiles."
Needless to say, neither Ayane nor Kenji really understood what Minoru was saying. Ayane grumbled to herself while Kasumi took a final look around the box.
Ka: "Alright then. Looks like we're done here."
Spheres radiated from Kasumi again and the students found themselves back on the train.
"Now arriving at..."
Ayane and Kenji looked around in confusion as the voice on the intercom announced the train's arrival at the station; the station they had been arriving at twenty minutes earlier.
Ka: "C'mon, we're getting off here."
The four of them stepped off the train and crossed the platform to wait for their return train.
A: "Wait, what just happened? I was sure that we were about to enter this same station right before we went into that box―"
M: "Private Domain."
A: "Fine, whatever, Private Domain. So how is it that we were still arriving after we came back here?"
K: "We didn't go back in time, did we?"
Ka: "No, we didn't. Time runs much quicker in Private Domains than it does in this Public Domain. In fact, a hundred years in a Private Domain is equivalent to a second in this Public Domain."
K: "So that means we only spent around..."
Kenji tried to run the calculations in his head before realizing that the conversions involved were something even he couldn't do in his head.
Ka: "A little more than three-hundred and eighty nanoseconds."
Ayane and Kenji stared at Kasumi in amazement. This was the second time Kasumi had appeared to be...not normal.
A: "Y'know, I must be completely insane because I actually believe you."
Ka: "You're not insane. You're just opening up your mind."
Kenji begged to differ, but he decided to keep his mouth shut.
Ka: "Keep this up and maybe you can better understand everything Tanaka and I talked about today."
A: "If you haven't noticed, that's easier said than done."
Kasumi shrugged as a train arrived at the platform. The four students boarded and made their way back to the school.
K: "Hey, Kasumi. I've been meaning to ask you something."
Kasumi turned around as she walked into the clubroom.
Ka: "Yes, what is it?"
Ayane and Kenji looked at each other before Kenji went on.
K: "Are you...human?"
Ayane and Kenji were both a little surprised by the bluntness of Kasumi's response.
Ka: "Why, is it that obvious?"
K: "Well, you did kind of mention in the Private Domain that you weren't exactly a normal human being."
Ka: "Oh, you mean the energy signature stuff I was talking about?
K: "Among other occurrences, yes."
Ka: "Hm...I guess that would mark me as 'not normal'. That doesn't bother you, does it?"
A: "Not...too much. But if you're not human, then what are you?"
Ka: "I'm an android. See?"
Kasumi put her hands to the side of her head. There was a soft click before Kasumi detached her head from the metallic band on her neck. Ayane and Kenji were silent. Even Minoru showed a little concern at Kasumi's action, though not for the same reason as his two companions.
M: "I don't think it was a very good idea to take your head off so suddenly like that."
Ka: "Eh? How about my arm, then?"
There was a click as Kasumi returned her head to its place and another as she detached her arm at the metallic band just above her elbow.
A: "Ei-either way is bad! Just...just put your arm back where it's supposed to be!"
Ka: "Okay, okay."
Kasumi replaced her arm, much to Ayane and Kenji's relief.
Ka: "With everything that's happened today, I'm surprised you guys are still shocked by this."
K: "Even so, you should still warn us before you do something like that."
Ka: "Alright, I get it. Sorry."
Ayane and Kenji sighed with relief and turned towards Minoru.
A: "And that would make you..."
Minor put his hands up innocently.
M: "Just another ordinary human. Well, not exactly ordinary. I'm what you might call a modern-day exorcist."
K: "So you go around banishing evil spirits from the physical world?"
M: "That's what we just did."
M: "The question is, though..."
Minoru leaned against the table with his arms crossed.
M: "...are you guys prepared to continue with this? It's not too late to turn back and forget about everything that's happened."
Ayane and Kenji pondered the question for a moment. Kenji grinned.
K: "As crazy as all of this is, I actually kind of like it."
His tone became more serious.
K: "And if something really is out there trying to get us, I want to be as prepared as possible."
M: "That's good to hear."
Minoru turned to Ayane.
M: "And you?"
A: "Me? I..."
What did she want to do? Ayane thought about what she'd been through, the android and the exorcist in front of her, and the boy who'd been tossed into this mess with her. She made up her mind and faced Minoru.
A: "I'll stick around. Like Kenji said, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Even if it means believing in crazy things like Public and Private Domains and what not. Besides, I don't know what kind of mayhem Kenji could cause if I wasn't around."
K: "I could say the same thing about you."
A: "Shut up."
Ayane stuck her tongue out at Kenji.
M: "As long as you two don't try to kill each other, I'm sure we'll be just fine."
Kasumi clapped her hands together, an enthusiastic smile on her face.
Ka: "That concludes today's activities, then. I'll be seeing you two here tomorrow, I hope?"
K: "Yeah, sure."
A: "I guess so."
Ka: "Great! Tomorrow's the first real day of training, so be prepared! See you tomorrow!"
Kasumi dashed out of the room before anyone could return her farewell.
K: "She sure seems motivated."
M: "Well, Hiraya-san does look forward to training you two."
A: "Any tips for preparing for the training?"
Minoru thought for a moment.
M: "Get a good night's rest and eat a good breakfast and lunch, I guess. This is the first time either Hiraya-san or I have done anything like this, so I really don't know what to tell you."
That was certainly reassuring.
A: "A good night's rest, huh? I'll be lucky if I sleep before midnight tonight. Stupid math homework."
K: "The math homework doesn't seem that difficult."
A: "Says the geek that's actually good at math."
Kenji grinned, prompting Ayane to scoff in irritation. Minoru just shrugged.
M: "Do what you have to."
He walked towards the door.
M: "Make sure you guys turn off the lights before you leave. See you tomorrow."
K: "Yeah, see you tomorrow."
Ayane and Kenji were the only ones left in the room now.
K: "Are you sure about this?"
A: "About what?"
K: "Hello World, the training, all of that. In all honesty, I actually didn't think you'd stay."
A: "I wasn't going to at first."
K: "Why'd you change your mind?"
Ayane thought for a moment.
A: "Y'know, I'm not really sure why. Your idiocy must be rubbing off on me."
K: "You're welcome."
Ayane gave him a light punch―"light" by Kenji's standards, not by most other people's―and went to the door, where she stood tapping her foot impatiently.
A: "Hurry up. Unlike you, I actually need time to finish my homework."
K: "Yeah, yeah."
Kenji turned off the lights and followed an irritated Ayane out of the clubroom. He chuckled to himself as they walked down the hallway. One night's rest and two good meals were all they needed? Yeah, right.