Hello World 1.3

Chapter 3

D: "It's hot..."

K: "Yeah."

Kenji and Daisuke were starting to sweat a little as they ran side by side in their P.E. uniforms. The students of Class 1-6 were unevenly dispersed as they ran laps around the track. About half a lap behind the two boys, Ayane was jogging with a sour expression on her face. She didn't really like P.E. as it was, and running only deepened her distaste for the class. Daisuke put Kenji in a light headlock and jerked his thumb towards Ayane.

D: "Your girlfriend looks pretty irritated back there. Why don't you go cheer her up a bit?"

Kenji managed to break loose of Daisuke's hold and push him away; being that close to a sweaty classmate wasn't exactly an enjoyable experience.

K: "Shut up. One, she's not my girlfriend. Two, you and I both know I'll just end up getting myself killed."

Daisuke shrugged.

D: "I guess I can't deny that. You certainly do have a way with girls, don't you?"

K: "What, are you jealous?"

Not that Kenji was particularly proud of his trait.

D: "Not really. I'd prefer to focus all my attention on her."

Daisuke pointed to the girl in question. Kenji's eyes followed the finger's trajectory and fell upon Yuka, who was running at an admirable rate.

K: "...Wait, seriously?"

Daisuke looked hurt.

D: "What's with that tone? You make it sound as if she's out of my reach."

Wasn't she?

K: "Ah, so that's why you ate lunch with us yesterday."

D: "First impressions are important, you know."

K: "I don't think you're that great at first impressions. Nor at relationships with girls."

D: "You're one to talk."

Point taken.

K: "Why do you like her anyway? You just met her yesterday."

D: "Are you kidding me? The moment I laid eyes on Tsuzuko-chan I knew she was the one for me. I'm sure she doesn't think of me in the same way I think of her, but I have no doubt that I can change that!"

Daisuke clenched his fist with a determined look on his face as he stared off into the distance. Kenji patted him on the shoulder.

K: "Good for you. I have no idea where you get your confidence from, but I'm pretty sure everyone else thinks you don't have a chance. Good luck anyway."

D: "You sure are pessimistic today..."

The two boys ran silently for a while.

D: "So you really think it's impossible for me to hook up with Tsuzuko-chan?"

What little gears there were in Daisuke's head were whirring; Kenji could tell.

K: "I wouldn't say 'impossible'. More like 'highly improbable'."

D: "I see. In that case, how about we make this
a little more interesting?"

Kenji looked at Daisuke warily.

K: "How so?"

Daisuke grinned mischievously.

D: "If I do somehow get Tsuzuko-chan to become my girlfriend, you have to ask Mori-chan out to...I don't know, the school Christmas party."

K: "What, you mean to dance?"

D: "Since you mentioned it, why not?"

Darn it. Kenji sighed and rubbed his temples.

K: "Something tells me my saying 'no' will mean nothing."

Daisuke laughed.

D: "You know me too well."

K: "I think you're supposed to say 'Just kidding!' in a time like this."

D: "And why would I do that? It's not like I'm forcing you to do something you shouldn't do anyway, right?"

Kenji grimaced. Hearing about being with Ayane was starting to become more annoying than actually being with Ayane.

K: "Whatever. It's not like I have anything to worry about. I've already told you my opinion of your romantic endeavor."

D: "We'll see about that."

Y: "We'll see about what?"

Both boys jumped at the sound of Yuka's voice. It wasn't so much Yuka's sudden appearance that scared them as it was the fear that Yuka may have heard some part of their conversation.

D: "W-where'd you come from?!"

Y: "I teleported here."

Yuka's face showed all seriousness as she spoke. It certainly seemed as if Yuka had teleported; she wasn't breathing very hard and was barely breaking a sweat. Kenji just nodded indifferently while Daisuke stared at Yuka blankly.

Y: "I'm just kidding. Teleportation does sound really cool, though. No, in reality, I just caught up with you two."

D: "Weren't you in front of us, though?"

Y: "Still am."

Dang. She was fast.

D: "Oh..."

Y: "So, what were you guys talking about?"

The boys tensed up again. Crap, she hadn't forgotten. Kenji hastily thought up a cover story and clapped a hand on Daisuke's shoulder.

K: "We were talking about how badly Tonashida here is going to fail this year."

Nice save. Daisuke didn't like being put down—again—but it was better than exposing the truth.

Y: "Is that so? If you ask me, I think he'll do alright, so long as he fixes his work habits. And if he doesn't, I'll be around to either help him out or kick his butt."

Support? Threat? Daisuke couldn't tell.

D: "Th-Thanks..."

Y: "Which reminds me; don't forget to return my Japanese notebook when we get back to class."

D: "Yeah, I know. Thanks for letting me borrow it."

Y: "Mhm. Alright, it's about time I kept going. Catch you guys later!"

Yuka waved a hand and ran on ahead of the Kenji and Daisuke. The two boys breathed a collective sigh of relief.

K: "Borrowing notes already? You know you have a limit."

D: "I know, I know."

Daisuke grinned sheepishly, like a kid whose prank has just been found out.

D: "Actually, I only asked Tsuzuko-chan for her notebook so that I could see her cute handwriting."

Kenji nearly gagged. Daisuke was such a hopeless romantic.

K: "Y'know, most people would consider you a complete pervert for doing that. Perhaps even stalker-level creepy."

D: "Hey, it was worth it. Although..."

Daisuke trailed off and his expression grew troubled.

K: "What?"

D: "Well, I guess it's just that I wasn't really expecting it, but it turns out that Tsuzuko-chan is an...interesting person."

K: "Huh? What do you mean by 'interesting'?"

D: "I guess 'weird' would be a more accurate description. For instance, there was this one drawing in Tsuzuko-chan's notebook. One of quite a few, actually. Apparently she's got a lot of time to kill during class."

K: "Okay...and?"

D: "Anyway, it was a drawing of a cartoony daikon radish character with a giant balloon in one of its hands and a shopping bag in the other."

That wasn't so bad.

D: "There was a rip in the bottom of the bag and stuff had fallen out behind the radish. If I remember correctly, it was a pig, a brick, an oversized earthworm, a live squid, and a hot dog. Oh, and a leek too."

...Now it was getting weird.

D: "And then there was a really simple crow wearing a party hat perched on the side of the balloon. There was a speech bubble that said 'Woof' coming out of its beak."

And as if that wasn't weird enough...

D: "Oh, and the radish was walking towards a convenience store, only the store was on fire and had a bunch of superhero bunnies with lasers shooting out of their eyes flying around it. Yeah, I think that's it."

K: "That...is weird.... Actually, isn't it weirder that you even bothered to remember all of that?"

D: "The image kind of shocked itself onto my mind. That and it was Tsuzuko-chan's drawing."

That was believable.

D: "Honestly, though, I never would've expected something like that from her."

K: "Well, she did mention that she liked strange things yesterday."

D: "Did she? What was she referring to?"

K: "Konoki-san."

D: "Ah. Yeah, that would make sense."

Daisuke sighed.

D: "Man, for Tsuzuko-chan's beauty to belie such a strange personality..."

Daisuke's perturbed expression only lasted for a moment.

D: "No, what am I saying? I have to accept Tsuzuko-chan for who she is, weirdness and all! What kind of man would I be to abandon my dreams for such a petty obstacle as that?"

The flame of determination blazed anew in Daisuke's eyes.

K: "I'm pretty sure a girl's personality isn't just a 'petty obstacle'."

D: "Yeah, you're right, huh?"

Daisuke sighed and scratched the back of his head.

D: "What should I do..."

K: "You should stop before you decide to do something stupid."

D: "And miss out on the chance of a lifetime? You've got to be kidding me."

K: "I'm not. And you're not going to get any closer to her if you keep borrowing her notes."

D: "Jeez, you really are a downer today."

K: "Just being realistic. It'd look bad if the super-smart Tsuzuko was going out with someone of your standing, don't you think?"

D: "Tch, that's harsh. But when you put it that way, I guess I don't really have a choice."

Daisuke clenched his fist with newfound passion.

D: "Alright! I'm going to make myself a better person for the sake of the girl of my dreams!"

At least he was making an admirable effort. He clapped a hand on Kenji's shoulder, a wide grin on his face.

D: "You better prepare your speech for Mori-san. I think it's inevitable now."

K: "Don't kid yourself."

Daisuke just sighed pitifully and shook his head, palms to the sky.

D: "Why do I spend time with a deadbeat like you?"

Kenji felt that should've been his line.

D: "Well, whatever. My dream girl awaits!"

And with that, Daisuke took off down the track. Kenji watched him go and sighed. How had things ended up like this?

Five minutes later, Kenji found Daisuke on his hands and knees, gasping for breath, with Yuka leaning over him with a worried expression on her face.

K: "What did you do?"

Y: "Nothing. He came up to me all of a sudden and asked me to race him. We didn't get very far before he ended up like this."

Kenji looked down at Daisuke, who had since rolled over onto his back.

K: "Seriously? I told you not to do anything stupid."

Daisuke was too tired and out of breath to speak, but he had just enough energy to flash Kenji a thumbs-up.

K: "You're an idiot."


A: "We're coming in."

Ka: "Okay!"

Kasumi bounced out of her chair, schoolbag in hand, as Ayane and Kenji entered the room. Minoru, who was seated at the table, gave an absent-minded wave before putting away the book in his hand.

Ka: "Alright, let's go!"

Ayane's heart skipped a beat. She froze up, which inevitably caught Kenji by surprise. He bumped into her and they both stumbled forward.

K: "Jeez, weren't you the one yelling at me about stopping in front of other people?"

A: "Shut up. Besides, you did it on purpose yesterday. I stopped because of...because of...instinctive caution."

K: "Right..."

Ayane glared Kenji before turning to Kasumi, index finger extended accusingly.

A: "More importantly, where are we going? If it's anything like yesterday, I'm out of here."

Kasumi waved her hand in front of her face, smiling with embarrassment.

Ka: "No no, we're not visiting any Private Domains today. We're just going to a nearby café, that's all."

Ayane looked puzzled.

A: "A café? What are we doing there?"

Ka: "Just talking."

Ayane looked at Kasumi suspiciously but didn't stop her from leaving the clubroom.

K: "Jumpy today, aren't you?"

A: "Shut up."

Ayane tried to kick Kenji but ended up having to chase him out of the clubroom. Minoru sighed and picked up his schoolbag.

M: "Those two..."

A: "Alright, so what are we doing here?"

They were sitting in a booth in a corner of the aforementioned café. On the way there, Kasumi had given Kenji explicit instructions to have Ayane sit on the inside of the booth, against the two walls. Why she had give him these instructions was not immediately obvious.

Ka: "I told you guys yesterday that I'd be talking a bit about Virus history."

To Ayane, that was just as bad as going into a Private Domain. She tried to make a run for it, but found she was surrounded on all four sides. She turned toward the easiest barrier to overcome: Kenji.

A: "Move."

Kenji raised an eyebrow.

K: "No."

Ayane tried pushing Kenji off the chair as she continued whining.

A: "Come on! Move! Please!"

Kenji didn't budge a centimeter. It was amazing how he could put up with Ayane day after day. Kasumi felt obliged to save him; she already wanted Ayane to stay anyway.

Ka: "I think you should stay, unless you'd rather leave your life in Kenji's care in the event that you two are attacked."

Ayane froze again before quickly drawing away from Kenji.

A: "No way! Definitely definitely definitely not! I'd rather die before doing that! No, I'd definitely die because of that!"

K: "Stop saying 'definitely’. And if you're that worried then stay!"

...Crap. Either way was Ayane's loss. It was a matter of which choice would be the less damaging. With a defeated sigh, Ayane put her chin on the table.

A: "You guys are mean..."

K: "You decided to do this, remember?"

A: "Yeah, but still..."

A waitress came over to their table to take their order.

K: "Tell you what: I'll pay for one thing you order if you stay until Kasumi's finished."

Ayane perked up again.

A: "Really? Yay!"

The waitress took their orders and left. With Ayane finally secured, Kasumi could begin.

Ka: "So...since you've already expressed a rather strong distaste for history, I'll just go over the main points."

That alone was probably more than enough to make Ayane's head hurt. Kasumi rummaged through her bag and pulled out a holographical marker. She drew a long line across the table, capping one end with a short perpendicular line.

Ka: "We'll set this line as when this particular Public Domain was compiled. At first, there really weren't any Viruses present; there wasn't yet an efficient enough source of energy to spark interest. Then living organisms came into being."

Kasumi drew another short line not far from the first and wrote "Life" underneath.

Ka: "Better, but the energy potential of these organisms was still rather insignificant. It wasn't really until the evolution of humans that Viruses began to take a real interest in this Public Domain."

Another line, much farther out. Underneath it, Kasumi wrote "Humans".

K: "What's so special about humans?"

Ka: "Their souls. Human souls are different from any other souls in that they contain enormous amounts of energy. By absorbing human souls, Viruses found that their evolution potentials would shoot up tremendously. Thus, humans became the primary prey for most Viruses. Are you guys following so far?"

Kenji nodded. After some hesitation, during which she seemed to be doing some serious thinking, Ayane nodded as well. Kasumi continued. 

Ka: "From here, you get your demons, youkai, and what not. Your evil ones, at least. For some centuries, Viruses roamed through the Public Domain unopposed, attacking humans as they pleased. Many humans fought back, and a few actually killed some Viruses, but overall the human losses always exceeded those of the Viruses. Then came the discovery of Serka, a sublanguage of the code used to write out the Public Domain and later the Private Domains."

Yet another line, this one with the word "Serka".

Ka: "Serka proved to be the ultimate weapon against Viruses."

Ayane put out her hand to interrupt Kasumi.

A: "Wait wait wait. You're telling me that this Serka thing just appeared out of the blue? That's a little too perfect, don't you think?"

Ka: "To tell you the truth, no one knows much about Serka's origins. There aren't any records in that time period that refer to that specific occurrence, so we really have no idea how humans found Serka or how they gained the ability to use it. It's been on ongoing mystery."

Kasumi shrugged apologetically. Ayane looked at Kasumi dubiously but said nothing more, so Kasumi continued.

Ka: "Only a relatively small amount of humans actually knew how to use Serka to a useful extent, but it was enough. Unlike conventional weaponry, which only damaged Viruses, Serka attacked the Viruses' very existence."

A: "I don't see the difference."

Ka: "If you were to cut off a Virus's limb with a normal sword, the limb would fall off and just lie there. Should it be necessary, the Virus could reattach its limb with a relatively low amount of energy. If you were to attack it with a sword coded from Serka, however, the isolated limb would spontaneously convert itself into energy. In this case, the Virus could reconstruct its limb, but it would take considerably more energy."

A: "...I still don't really get it, but...whatever..."

Ka: "Serka also allowed humans to do the 'impossible'. Think of it like encountering an enemy in an RPG. If you had high 'Attack' and low 'Special Attack', you'd normally use physical attacks to defeat the enemy. With something like Serka, you could use a special attack and it would be more effective."

K: "So it could also be like a White Mage using Black Magic?"

Ka: "Yeah, that works."

Ayane looked back and forth between the two of them, confused.

A: "...What?"

K: "Don't worry about it."

Ayane would've done or said something in retort had the waitress not returned with the their orders: an iced coffee for Minoru, a peach green tea for Kasumi, a melon cream soda for Kenji, and a large ice cream parfait for Ayane. At this point Ayane was to preoccupied by her dessert to bother with Kenji. Kasumi waited for the waitress to leave and took a sip from her drink before talking again.

Ka: "Most importantly, Serka gave humans the upper hand in the fight against Viruses. Most Viruses evolved their offensive or energy collecting capabilities rather than their defensive ones and so didn't have a means of protecting themselves from Serka users. As such, Virus numbers began decreasing drastically. Most survivors went into hiding, only attacking the occasional unsuspecting human. Cut off from their primary energy source, Viruses could only evolve at a snail's pace, if at all."

Kasumi drew another line and wrote "Firewall" underneath it as Ayane happily nibbled on a cookie.

Ka: "Eventually, a group of humans who had virtually mastered the Serka language created a firewall around this Public Domain which prevented Viruses from existing within the Domain. Viruses were forced to either leave the Public Domain or go into even deeper hiding, holing themselves up in Private Domains where the firewall couldn't reach them. Thus, Viruses ceased to be a constant threat to humans. As the years went by, fewer and fewer people were aware of the physical existence of Viruses. Before long, Viruses were only heard of in myths, legends, fairy tales, and the like. Not long after its creation, the firewall was updated to prohibit the use of Serka in the Public Domain, establishing the 'normal' that most of us know today."

Kasumi drew a final line near the end of the timeline and wrote "Present Day".

Ka: "Now we get to our present-day situation. Any questions before I move on?"

Ayane was too busy eating her parfait to acknowledge Kasumi's question; everything Kasumi had said had probably blown over her head completely. Kenji gave a slight shrug. Unsure of how to interpret this, Kasumi looked at Minoru, but he also shrugged and gestured for her to move on.

Ka: "I'll continue, then. Our main problem at present is the abnormal rise in Virus numbers in this particular region of the Public Domain."

K: "And you were sent here to counteract that rise, right?"

Ka: "That and find out its cause, yes. The Viruses couldn't have come from outside the Public Domain because of the firewall, so the problem must be internal. It's highly possible that someone is manipulating or maybe even creating the Viruses, using them as distractions."

A: "Who has the kind of power to just create Viruses like that?"

Ayane had somehow pulled herself away from the parfait—which was almost gone—to shoot a question at Kasumi. Maybe she was listening after all.

Ka: "We don't know, which is why we're so concerned. This kind of event is unprecedented, so we're unsure as to what actions to take. The theory I'm backing concerns an incident involving two individuals a few years back. The details are hazy and the individuals are without identification, but the event raised some eyebrows in my home Public Domain. My belief is that this 'someone' is trying to find those two individuals. I don't know to what end, but I figured it would be better to try to contact them first and get some kind of upper hand in this dilemma, just to be safe."

K: "This is where Ayane and I come in, in theory?"

Ka: "I don't have any hard evidence to prove it, but yes."

A: "And you just happened to run into us that day?"

Ka: "That was a stroke of luck for Minoru and me. It's possible that the person who gave you the notes is the one we're looking for."

Ayane turned to Minoru.

A: "Now that I think about it, what's your role in all this?"

M: "As an exorcist, it's my duty to eliminate Viruses. Seeing as Kasumi was trying to uncover the troublemaker behind the abnormal Virus numbers, I was willing to help her out."

A: "Right..."

Ayane resumed her barrage of skepticism.

A: "So what's so important about Kenji and me? I'm not very special, and he definitely isn't anything worth noticing."

K: "Gee, thanks. Though I have to agree to a certain extent. I may be a little eccentric to some people, but I'm not so weird as to cause interest."

Unlike Yuka, as Kenji had found out earlier that day. Ayane pretended to stifle a laugh.

K: "Although a certain someone here is quite possibly clinically insane."

A: "Shut up."

Ayane stuck her fist in Kenji's cheek.

Ka: "Well, putting your comments aside, yes, you haven't displayed anything worth noting."

M: "However, that doesn't mean that you aren't special. I know it's cliché, but it's possible that there's something latent within you, just waiting for the moment to show itself."

A: "Or we could just be ordinary humans way in over our heads."

M: "Yes, or that. Nothing wrong with that, you know."

Ka: "Ah! That reminds me!"

Ayane shuddered slightly.

A: "Crap, now I'm really worried..."

Ka: "Oh, no, it's nothing bad. I just realized you two still don't have Serka compilers."

A: "Serka compiler? What's that?"

K: "My guess would be that it's something that'll allow us to write and run stuff in Serka?"

M: "You got it."

A: "But I thought Hiraya-san said only a few humans could use Serka."

Ka: "Only a few humans could use Serka well. Anyone can learn how to use Serka; it all depends on how good they get at it."

K: "Okay, so how do we get this compiler?"

Ka: "Like this."

Kasumi placed the tip of her index finger on Kenji's forehead.

K: "What are you—"

Kenji felt a jolt through his brain, followed immediately by a light headache. He sat stunned for a moment, which caused Ayane to start panicking.

A: "W-What did you do to him?!"

Kasumi tilted her head to one side.

Ka: "Huh, that's strange. That doesn't usually happen."

A: "What do you mean that doesn't usually happen?! Do you even know what you're doing?!"

Ka: "Of course I do! But you really should quiet down; you're going to attract people's attention. Egami-san, are you okay?"

Kenji rubbed his forehead.

K: "Yeah...I think..."

Ka: "Sorry about that. Sometimes the transfer doesn't go as smoothly as it should. If it makes you feel any better, it's more common in people with high brain activity."

Minoru glanced at Ayane.

M: "I don't think Mori-san is going to let you do a transfer that easily, Hiraya-san."

Ka: "Yeah, I can see that..."

A: "You've probably brainwashed Kenji, turning him into some mindless drone who'll obey your every command! This is how you plan on taking over the city—no, all of Japan, right? I knew this was a bad idea..."

K: "Y'know, for someone who was being skeptical about Kasumi's story, you have some pretty strange ideas. What's it to you what happens to me anyway?"

Ayane's cheeks reddened ever so slightly.

A: "Sh-shut up!"

Ayane glared at Kenji and pressed herself against the wall, maximizing the distance between him and her. She pointed an accusatory finger at him.

A: "You just proved my point. You're on their side now, see?"

K: "I thought we were always on their side, though I don't think this was ever an issue of who's on whose side to begin with. Honestly, you're overreacting."

A: "I'm not—"

Ayane lashed out at Kenji as she spoke, which he had been expecting. He parried the attack and gripped the sides of her arms, pinning them down. He shrugged at Kasumi.

K: "All yours."

Ayane squirmed, but to no avail. She squeezed her eyes shut as Kasumi reached out to her. Curse that Kenji; he was going to pay after this was over. Assuming Ayane was still alive then. Ayane felt Kasumi's fingertip on her forehead. Crap crap crap...

Ka: "Okay, all done."

A: "Eh?"

Ayane opened her eyes. Kenji tossed her back to her end of the seat before she could unleash any damage onto him.

A: "Wait, what did you do? I didn't feel anything."

M: "Isn't that good?"

A: "I...suppose..."

Ka: "Like I said, the mental shock doesn't happen very often. In most cases, as in yours, the transfer is completely unnoticeable."

K: "That must mean Ayane's brain activity isn't very high."

A: "Why you..."

Punch. Punch Combo x5.

K: "Hey, hey! What are you doing?"

A: "That was for holding me down just now. Jerk."

K: "What else was I suppose to do? It wasn't like you'd do it voluntarily. And didn't you want to learn how to fight for yourself instead of relying on me anyway?"

A: "Like I'd rely on you in the first place."

Ka: "Alright, alright. That's enough. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can go home, okay?"

A: "Fine."

Grumpy as always.

K: "Sure."

Ka: "Alright, so back to the compiler. Tanaka-san, would you mind explaining how it works? You're better at this kind of stuff."

Minoru nodded and took a sip from his drink before starting.

M: "A few things to clear up before I get started. One, your energy is limited, especially since you're both amateurs at this. So don't expect to be throwing fireballs anytime soon. Two, everything you execute in the compiler is executed mentally. No chants, no hand signs, nothing like that. Unless you really want to, but it's kind of useless and outdated."

K: "You used to have to do that?"

M: "Yeah, a long time ago, when the Serka compiler was in early development. They were what told the compiler to execute a program, but now you can do all that in your head."

Kenji nodded understandingly.

M: "Expanding on that, the compiler's linked to your thought processor, so anything you want to do related to the compiler—opening it, coding in it, running programs from it—can be done simply by thinking about it. Of course, you have to think about each action in certain ways; this just prevents accidental occurrences."

K: "If it's all thought-controlled, Ayane's screwed."

A: "Shut up."

Minoru ignored the two of them and continued.

M: "The Serka language itself is simply a programming language. For example—"

Ayane raised her hand to stop Minoru.

A: "Uh, I don't know a single thing about programming."

M: "No worries. I brought these just in case this happened."

Minoru reached into his bag, pulled out two external hard drives, and gave one each to Ayane and Kenji.

M: "This manual will teach you the basics of the Serka language. I suggest reading it tonight, if you've got the time."

A: "You just have something like this on hand?"

M: "Actually, they're copies of the manual my family uses to teach the younger generations. You guys can keep those if you want."

K: "Oh, right. I forgot you were an exorcist."

M: "Mhm. Yeah, so go home and play around with the compiler and Serka. You can't run anything, since you're still under the firewall, but that's probably a good thing. I just want you guys to be familiar with the language. We'll start actually trying to run programs tomorrow."

Ayane looked worried.

A: "But...wouldn't that mean we'd have to go into a Private Domain?"

M: "You got it."

Ayane grumbled but said nothing. She still wasn't quite buying all of this.

Ka: "Well, I think that takes care of everything Tanaka and I planned to cover today. Let's hurry up and pay so that we can go home."

Kasumi waved over the waitress for the check and paid for her drink. Kenji winced as he looked over his dues; he was starting to regret bribing Ayane to stay. He nonetheless paid, as did Minoru, and the group left the café.

Ayane slammed her pencil down on her desk and leaned back in her chair.

A: "Why does math have to be so hard?!"

Stuck, as usual. She looked at her computer screen, where her IM contact list was open. She opened up a chat with Kenji and began typing.

Ayane: Help me on math homework.
Kenji: Why?
Ayane: Because I asked you to.
Kenji: -______-
Ayane: What? Are you busy right now?
Kenji: Just reading that manual Tanaka-san gave us.

It's actually pretty interesting.

You should take a look.
Ayane: I'll take a look if you help me on my math homework. :D
Kenji: ...Fine.

Though you should be reading it regardless.
Ayane: Whatever.

Okay, so...

Kenji ended up helping Ayane do about half of the questions. Ayane logged off of her computer and flopped onto her bed, mentally exhausted.

A: "Finally finished..."

External hard drive sighted.

A: "Crap, forgot about that..."

She would've rather just slept right then and there, but she somehow felt bothered by breaking her promise to Kenji.

A: "Stupid Kenji..."

With a sigh, she got up and turned her computer back on, plugging in the external hard drive. She spent about a half-hour reading the manual and, to her surprise, understood quite a bit of it, boring as it was. She yawned and looked at her clock. Time to sleep. She could only hope that she wouldn't dream of fire-breathing cats that night.

The End

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