Our story so far: Allison has never seen an anime in her life, but now she finds herself in that Japan. On top of that, she’s a transfer student. Had she ever seen anime, she’d know that transfer students always bring confusion, suffering, and destruction on an epic scale.
Her classmates are adjusting to the certainty that the school, and probably the entire town, will be destroyed. That’s how it is with transfer students. Is Allison a demon or an escaped lab experiment? A killer robot, perhaps? In the end it doesn’t matter. She’s a transfer student.
Meanwhile, there’s a deadly computer virus on the loose. By a remarkable coincidence (yeah, right), it seems that Allison is not merely good with computers, she is a talent without peer. It has fallen on her to stop White Shadow and rescue her friends from the Institute.
However, rather than stop White Shadow, Allison has taken control of it, and the incredible power it carries.
This episode may be even more confusing than most (which is saying something), as I’m trying to reconnect with a couple of characters. If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
Allison reached out with her new her awareness. On the other side of the heavy front door stood a woman, alone.
You said you would not surrender to them if I gave myself to you! White Shadow’s voice in her head sounded like her own, now.
“No. I said I would not destroy you.”
This woman is dangerous.
“Yes.” Allison said. To her expanded perception there were many women out there, yet only one. Different possibilities played through time, making their mark on the present. The woman wore a t-shirt and jeans, then moments later she was in black leather, then a slinky evening gown with her black hair cascading over one eye. Always her eyes were hard as diamonds.
Allison opened the door to find the woman in a perfectly-pressed military uniform, complete with short, tight olive skirt and shiny black pumps. Time expanded and contracted, as if the universe were breathing, and Allison couldn’t shake the feeling that they had met before — though perhaps it had not happened yet. Allison touched the river of information that flowed around her and tried to sort through it all, flying at light-speed through countless databases, hoping to learn more about the woman standing in front of her. She found… nothing. A palpable nothing, a measurable hole in universe where the woman should have been.
“My name is Lancia,” the woman said, assessing Allison frankly. She didn’t look impressed with what she saw.
“I am Allison.”
“Yes. You will come with me.”
“To the Institute?”
The woman’s eyes narrowed as her smile widened. “Of course. There are some old fools there who are quite eager to make your acquaintance.”
“They want to kill me.”
The woman shrugged. “Not if they think they can use you.”
“And you? Do you want to kill me?”
“If I wanted you dead, you would be.”
“What do you want, then?”
The woman paused before answering. “You have something that belongs to me.”
White Shadow is mine, now.
It didn’t feel as if she had spoken aloud, but Lancia laughed softy. “So I see. Think of me as… your mother-in-law. I only want what’s best for my progeny.”
“You created White Shadow?”
“As much as anyone did.” Lancia took a step back from the door. “Shall we?”
Allison touched the communications system of the soldiers outside the house, instantly knowing all they said, all they thought. “There’s a sharpshooter,” she said. “His orders come from someone else.”
“Takenawa?” Lancia asked. Allison nodded. Lancia brought a small walkie-talkie to her mouth and said, “Blue-26.” She didn’t wait for an answer.
Allison felt the shift in the configuration of the men outside. “Ok,” she said, “it’s clear.”
Lancia turned and Allison stepped to follow, only to be brought up short. Between the two women and the cordon at the perimeter of Seiji’s front garden stood three men, bald, dressed in draping orange robes, one very tall, one very short, and between them one of medium height. Allison blinked to confirm they were there. To her new senses, they were completely invisible.
The tall monk laughed, a withered, breathy sound that ended with a wheeze. “Numbers,” he said.
“Too damn many of them,” the middle monk said.
“More than you can count,” the short monk said. He pointed to the communication device that Lancia still held. “Is that an abacus?”
“No,” Lancia said. “This is a restricted area. You are ordered to leave.” She started walking again.
The monks laughed. “Restricted!” the tall one said.
“Area!” The short monk howled, redoubling his laughter.
“Yes it is,” the medium monk said, pointing to Lancia’s comm.
“Is what?” Lancia asked, stopping again.
“That’s right!” Allison said, excited to understand the metaphor for once. “It’s an abacus and a radio. A digital computing device and a wireless connection. That’s all.”
The monks abruptly lost all cheer and stared at Allison with hard faces. She swallowed and shied back a half-step. “I mean…”
The tall one spoke, his voice gruff. “That’s all, she says.”
“An abacus,” the short monk grumbled, rolling his eyes.
The medium monk closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose. He regained his good humor. “Abacus is power,” he said, winking at her.
“Abacus is life,” the short monk said.
“Abacus is death,” the tall monk intoned.
The monks laughed. “But you know that,” the short monk said. “You are abacus.”
“But she doesn’t count!” the tall monk said. His grin was missing several teeth.
“Others count on her,” the short monk said.
“Let’s go,” Lancia said. “These idiots are giving me a headache.”
“It’s not the idiots,” the short monk said.
“It’s what they say!” the middle monk roared. The three laughed heartily and walked away, passing jokes between themselves that Allison could not make out.
“Come on,” Lancia said, snapping Allison’s attention back to the here and now. “Let’s get out of here before the world ends.”
Kaneda woke to the patient rush of waves. He opened his eyes and held up his hand to block the bright sun.
“Wh–where am I?”
Where do you want to be?
The sun was warm on his skin. Somewhere nearby he heard the excited squeals of girls playing on the beach. They would be pretty, he was certain. “This is all right,” he said.
Who do you want to be?
“What do you mean? Who are you?”
A shadow fell across his face. He looked up at the girl who had eclipsed the sun. She looked like… “Misumi Mountains!” he exclaimed. He sat up abruptly and twisted to look at the pop star who was standing beside him. Her hands were clasped in front of her. Her tiny bikini did nothing to hide her remarkable, gravity-defying breasts.
“Yes,” she said. Was that a blush coloring her pale cheeks? “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“You are more beautiful in person than even on TV!” Kaneda blurted out. He struggled to gain control of his racing heart.
She smiled shyly. “You are too kind.”
Shit shit shit! Don’t blow this, you idiot! “I’m sorry! I was forward!”
She laughed. “You’re sweet. I wonder… may I ask you a favor?” Her eyes were huge and round.
“Anything,” Kaneda choked out, and he meant it.
She knelt in front of him and handed him a bottle of lotion. She turned her back and with a long, slow pull untied the lower string of her bikini top. “Can you put lotion on my back?”
Kaneda’s hands shook so badly he had difficulty opening the bottle of tanning oil. The bottle slipped from his fingers as he squeezed out a portion, landing in the sand with a soft thud, much quieter than the sounds his heart was making. His nose began to bleed. Her skin was soft and flawless, warm under his fingers.
“Your hands are so strong,” Misumi Mountains said as he began to rub the lotion into her skin. Kaneda reminded himself to breathe, wondered if his heart was about to explode. “I could stay like this forever,” she said.
“For… ever,” Kaneda echoed.
Tasuki exercised in the blackness of her cell, alternating between sets of push-ups and lunges. Her body knew the dimensions of her confinement exactly now; she could push off from one dank stone wall and stop herself perfectly on the opposite one.
She was gasping for air, her muscles burned, her heart hammered in her chest, but it was still not enough to stop the voices.
You were the fastest, before the transfer student came.
Kouta was beginning to notice you, before the transfer student came.
You are second. The transfer student will always be first.
Ruchia was your best friend, before the transfer student came.
The last was the most painful. But what can you do? That’s just how transfer students are. And she was never going to meet someone nicer than Allison.
She can afford to be nice. She has everything.
“No…” Tasuki ran circuits of the room as fast as she could, until her feet were pushing against the wall rather than the floor. She looped around the room, faster and faster, climbing higher and higher on the wall. “Allison… did… not… choose… to… be… that… way!” she said with ragged breath.
That doesn’t change anything. The transfer student has taken everything.
You know it’s true.
There was no arguing with the voice. It was right. She ran harder.
Faster, higher, until her foot landed on… nothing. She cried out as her other leg buckled and she hit the wall hard, stars dancing in her eyes as her head glanced off the roughly-hewn stone — and skidded over the top.
Desperate fingers slipped over the sweating stone as she rolled over the top of the wall and fell into the nothingness beyond.
Then, there was nothing but wind.
“Please, Seiji, help us. Help me.”
With every passing moment the woman interrogating him looked more like the pictures he’d seen of his mother. Seiji swallowed and looked into her eyes, trying not to think about how she had pressed his hand to her chest. “I… I…”
“You are concerned for your friend. That’s very noble of you.”
“It’s not that she’s my friend…” Seiji struggled to find the words to express his relationship with Allison. “She’s a transfer student.”
His interrogator nodded, smiling sympathetically. “It’s never simple, with them.”
“It’s just that… that… there has to be someone. The one.”
She nodded. “There always is.”
Seiji raised his hand abruptly, but his gesture was cut short by the manacle that connected him to his cold metal chair. “Exactly!” Too late he realized he’d broken contact with the silk of his interrogator’s blouse.
“And you want to be that someone.”
“What? Are you stupid?! No!”
The interrogator cocked her head. “Really?”
“Oh, jeez, not you, too! Do you understand the special type of hell the Friend of the Transfer Student goes through? It’s not an ordinary hell of pain and suffering, though there’s plenty of that. It’s the humiliation.”
She smiled. “I see. You are a brash denier.”
“WHAT? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! I’m not the one! Kaneda is! He’s seen her underwear!” Instantly Seiji felt sick. Good guys didn’t sell out their friends. Ever. “I mean, did I say Kaneda? I meant Kenzo. Kenzo is the one.”
His interrogator tried without success to hide her surprise. “Kenzo’s back?”
“Apparently. He picked up her books for her on the first day of school.”
“Interesting. And you think that makes him the one?”
“The One never chooses to be The One.”
“Yeah, well, I chose long ago not to be the one.”
The woman broke eye contact and looked modestly at the table top. “Your father is a great man.”
Seiji worked to follow the sudden turn in the conversation. “My… wha?”
“Your father. I admire him greatly. Sometimes…” she turned away, blushing. “Sometimes I imagine he is my father.” She turned back to him, her cheeks filled with color. “But then I would be your sister. That would be a awkward, wouldn’t it?”
“…” Seiji struggled for words.
“Your father says I remind him of your mother. That’s not a problem, is it? You wouldn’t feel weird if we… kissed?” Before Seiji could frame an answer she rose and leaned across the table. Her skin was cool and perfect as she brushed her lips against his. Her hand shook slightly as she brushed it across his cheek. “Seiji,” she sighed. In her breath he smelled heaven.
Seiji’s heart was playing his ribs like the xylophone. He was about to pass out but couldn’t inhale.
She bowed her head, her raven hair cascading over his cheeks in luminous waves to conceal her face. “Seiji.” Her voice was barely audible, even this close. “Choose me.”
The blood rushed from his head and went southward, leaving his vision blurred by desire. He wanted to choose her, wanted with all his heart. Or at least with all his dick. “I…” he said. She waited. “I choose…” He was almost there. Just one more word, and he would be free of the transfer student forever. “I choose y—”
An explosion rocked the building, and the lights went out.
In the confusion that followed he thought he heard her say, “Remember your choice, Seiji. My name is Lancia.”
Ruchia walked softly down the center of the deserted street. On either side of her buildings rose, gaping with empty, stupid eyes. Nothing moved; even the newspapers drifted up against the derelict walls lay limp and untouched by any breeze. The click of her heels on the pavement was the only sound.
“Hello?” she asked. “Is there anyone here?” Her timid voice did not carry far.
Motion in the corner of her eye. She wheeled and found a familiar face in an abandoned storefront. “K—”
Kenzo was in front of her now, his finger on her lips. He shook his head. She could drown in those deep violet eyes. He leaned closer. He smelled violet, a beguiling scent that almost made Ruchia forget her own name. “They don’t know I’m here,” he whispered.
“Why…?” Ruchia was having difficulty putting sentences together.
Kenzo laughed silently. “I like explosions,” he said.
The shock wave crashed over her and she took refuge in the tall boy’s arms. She felt the heat of the blast, felt fragments of glass cut into her skin, but she knew that Kenzo would protect her.
Allison hurried to keep up with Lancia as they walked to the waiting helicopter. Lancia faltered for a moment and then increased her pace. “There’s trouble,” she said.
“At the institute?” Allison could see the building on its hilltop at the center of town. It pulsed red with frantic communications.
“Of course. The four horsemen of the moronocalypse have decided to be decisive for once in their lives.” She jumped through the sliding door in the side of the helicopter and turned to grab Allison’s arm to help her aboard. The engine was already winding up and the skids were skittering across the ground as she hauled Allison into the belly of the helicopter. A uniformed soldier slammed the door closed as they rose from the pavement.
“Where’s the fire?” Lancia asked.
Allison realized the woman was looking at her, as if she would know the answer.
And she did. “Detention block C,” Allison said.
Lancia nodded and grabbed the headset off the copilot. She held it to her ear and began barking a string of orders.
I could change those orders, she realized. It was as if all the data in the world passed through her, as if it was her blood.
Wait, White Shadow counseled. She wants you to reveal yourself.
Lancia shot a glance over to Allison, her eyes narrowed, her lips tight. After a long second she returned her attention to her unseen minions at the institute.
The institute is divided, White Shadow said. Or was that her own thought? We shall destroy them.