Our story so far: Allison is an American high-school student who has transferred to a private prep school in Japan. From the very start things have been surreal. Kaneda has been assigned by a group of his classmates to be nice to Allison, to learn what her secret superpowers are. Because who ever heard of a transfer student without secret superpowers?
Meanwhile, there is a computer virus running around, called White Shadow, that somehow infects the minds of computer users. Kaneda has been “infected” by the virus, and now White Shadow has contacted Allison directly. In order to save one of the only people who is nice to her, she was forced to brave being infected herself. Now Kaneda has been rescued, but that doesn’t mean life is normal.
Rather than go home, where her weird “uncle” is slowly being entombed by a growing computer system that is somehow connected to White Shadow, Allison agrees to go to meet with her classmates at a local diner.
If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
Allison grabbed Kaneda’s arm as they walked into the diner, intimidated by the activity. She didn’t recognize anybody, it was all a rush of colors and noise. Kids were in every booth, looking almost horrifically cheerful. Waitresses flitted about, all young, all with tiny waists and large chests straining against their little aprons; their skirts were even shorter than Allison’s, revealing frilly petticoats underneath. Their stockings were decorated with lacy bows.
“Two more sodas!” one waitress called out.
“OK!” one responded from behind the counter.
“Two burgers and fries!”
Allison wondered why they needed waitresses at all; it would work just as well for the customers to shout out what they wanted. Still, at all the tables people were having conversations despite the racket.
Allison tightened her grip on Kaneda’s arm, searching for the courage to she needed to walk into this confusion. Maybe it had been a bad idea to come…
“Allison!” It was Ruchia, her best friend in class, the girl who sat next to her and who even made sense some of the time.
“Over here,” Kaneda said, guiding her gently with his arm.
They were seated at a booth in the corner, the only table with occupants who didn’t look like they were on happy pills. Tasuki was there, grinning mischievously as she looked back and forth between Allison and Kaneda. Allison felt her cheeks redden as she let go of his arm. Seiji was there as well, glowering under his bangs, his arms folded across his chest. Allison wondered if he had any expression other than scowling. Kouta sat next to Tasuki. Allison didn’t know much about him, except that he seemed to be the leader of the boys in class. She suspected that he knew why the boys never spoke to her.
Tasuki scooted over, pressing herself against Kouta, perhaps a little more than was strictly necessary. “C’mon, guys, squeeze in!” Kaneda sat next to her, leaving Allison no choice but to push in next to Seiji.
“We’re glad to see you’re OK, Kaneda!” Tasuki said. “We were worried!”
“How did you know…” he started, before Allison kicked him under the table. No sense bringing up their brush with the White Shadow; they thought she was strange enough already.
“Know what?” Seiji asked, his eyes burning into Kaneda. He didn’t look at Allison. “Something happened, didn’t it?”
“What? Oh, no! It was nothing!” Kaneda said with a wavering voice.
“You were on a date, weren’t you?” Tasuki asked. “I knew it!”
“No!” Allison and Kaneda said together.
“She was just… um… helping me with my English,” Kaneda said. A drop of sweat appeared on his forehead.
“You sure it wasn’t French?” asked Kouta. He was smiling as he teased them. Did that mean Kouta had finally accepted her? Everyone laughed except Seiji.
Ruchia elbowed him. “Geeze, Seiji, lighten up sometimes. You’re being a jerk.”
“Yeah, Seiji!” Tasuke chimed in. “You could at least say hello!”
Seiji took a long breath. “You’re right. Hello.” he never took his eyes off the table in front of him.
“Hellooo, Seiji,” the waitress said with a song-song voice as she hovered over the table. Allison thought she looked familiar. Had she been at the monastery? In class? She was looking at the brooding Seiji with wide, sparkling light-brown eyes, so light they were almost yellow. She didn’t seem to notice the other people at the table.
“Hello yourself,” Seiji said. Ruchia elbowed him sharply. “Ow!” he said, then with a slightly warmer voice, “Hello, Tomoko.”
Allison thought the girl colored when Seiji said her name. “Will you walk me home when I’m done with work?” she asked.
“I—” Seiji glanced around for an excuse, but no one was willing to help him. “Sure,” he said.
“Really?” she asked. “Super! See ya!”
“I’d like a…” Allison said to the space the waitress had occupied, but Tomoko had already turned and vanished into the confusion.
Ruchia leaned over to Tasuki across the table, as if she were telling a secret. “Tonight’s the big night, I bet.”
“You think?” Tasuki asked. “She’s gonna do it?”
“Yep. Tonight for sure.”
“Oh, how romantic!” Tasuke said. She turned to Kouta. “Don’t you think it’s romantic?”
“Uh…” Kouta sensed a trap, but didn’t seem to know what to do about it.
“First Allison and Kaneda, and now Seiji too!”
“What!?” The three people named said at once.
“Is there anyone you’re interested in, Kouta?” Tasuki pressed. Subtlety, Allison thought, was not her strength.
Kouta turned red and looked uncomfortable. Allison had never seen him look so human. “Um… I can’t say,” he said.
Tasuki took that for a ‘yes’. “Is it someone… close?”
“I guess you could say that.” He reddened further. Tasuke said nothing more, but she looked very happy. Kouta, Allison thought, looked more worried.
“It doesn’t matter,” Kaneda said.
Tasuki punched him in the shoulder. “What a terrible thing to say!”
Kaneda blinked. “What?”
“Take back what you just said!”
Kaneda looked confused. “Did I say something?”
The others at the table watched him closely, but he didn’t seem to be joking around. Allison thought about what White Shadow had told her. You may find your friend … changed. No doubt about it, the trouble was getting deeper and deeper.
Azusa stode down the hallway. The sound of her boot heels on the hard floor echoed off the stonework. She always felt like she was in a mideval Eurpoean castle when whe was in this building. Her red hair trailed behind her, the curls at her temples extending and contracting with her stride. Her face was set in a scowl, but that was not unusual.
She stopped at a painting of Murai Kunio, the founder of the academy. Mr. Murai had served overseas somewhere, no one was exactly sure what he did or with whom, but he had returned a wealthy man. He had spent his entire fortune on the Academy, but it was unclear just where all the money had gone.
Azusa knew part of the secret. “Fuyutsuki Azusa,” she said, and a laser scanner passed over her face. “Accepted,” a disembodied female voice said, and where before there had just been a blank wall, now there was a door. She entered, and went down a hallway to the Student Council chamber. The others were waiting for her. She never saw them in the hallway; she suspected they each had their own secret entrance.
They each sat in leather chairs, deep and comfortable with wings that shadowed the faces of the others, protecting their identies for a time when it was more convenient to reveal them. A fire crackled on an iron grate in the cavernous fireplace. She was always last, it seemed. Didn’t these other people have lives outside this room? Azusa took her seat. The student council was in session.
Their leader, a tall boy with pale skin and long, dark hair, spoke. “We have a transfer student.”
Another boy, shorter, his hair short also, said, “it is as predicted.”
A blonde girl spoke, “Pah. I have no time for silly prophesies. This is our chance to make our own glory.”
The leader frowned slightly at the insubordination. “Kenzo will learn about her sooner or later.”
All the members of the Student Council sucked in their breath sharply at the mention of his name. “We must move before he does,” the shorter boy said.
The leader nodded. “The transfer student has decided to take up fencing.”
“Yes, leader,” Azusa said.
“Interesting, don’t you think?”
“Yes, leader.” Azusa was thankful that her eyes were concealed; the leader liked to milk drama from things they all knew already. Azusa thought she could do a better job as leader, but the other was anointed by the Greater Powers. Only by following with absolute faith could she hope to advance.
“You will humiliate her!” the leader cried.
“If we break her, she will be ours to use,” the blonde girl said.
“So the Master has predicted,” Azusa said, “and so it shall be.”