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. There is something fundamental about the way she is regarded by her fellow students – even those that befriend her – that baffles her.
Meanwhile, there is a computer virus running around, called White Shadow, that somehow infects the minds of computer users. Allison’s “uncle” seems to have a role in its spread, or perhaps he’s just another victim.
Seiji has just told his friends (a self-appointed committee bent on determining what Allison’s super-powers are) that the Wacky Old Monks have revealed to him that his troubles are just beginning.
If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
“You spoke to the Wacky Old Monks?!” Even Kouta was shocked by this news.
“It’s not such a big deal,” Seiji muttered. “They’ll talk to anyone who’ll listen.”
“Yes, and there’s a reason no one listens to them.”
“They caught me by surprise, all right? They snuck up on me.”
“They singled you out? They really wanted to talk to you! They must think you’re special.”
Special was the last thing Seiji wanted to be, particularly when there was a transfer student nearby.
“What did they say?” asked Kaneda.
“Nothing that made any sense.”
Kouta took control again. “What did you mean by chapter one?”
“I don’t know, it’s just something they said. But the way things are going…”
We’re going to need more than one backup city, Seiji didn’t say. “I just don’t like it, is all. This girl’s trouble.”
“How can you say that?” Kaneda said, “She has to be the most benign transfer student ever. Sometimes I almost believe her when she says she’s just here to study.”
“You’ve been reading too many wild stories.”
“Well, maybe she’ll save the city rather than destroy it.”
“She doesn’t look like the city-destroying type,” Kouta concurred.
“They never do.” Seiji wasn’t really concerned whether the city was destroyed or saved. When demons dropped out of holes to the next dimension, or killer robots descended from space, or the experiment in the secret lab under the school went horribly wrong (or if she was the experiment), there would be destruction, suffering, dislocation, uncertainty. Whether she was fighting to defend the city or destroy it was immaterial. What was material was that those close to the transfer student would be swept up in the maelstrom, to endure crushing personal trauma as well.
“Face it,” Seiji said. “None of us have ever seen a transfer student before, but they always seem completely innocent before the bombs start to fly. I’m sure the students in Kyoto 4 last year all thought that transfer student was perfectly harmless as well.”
“Can I walk you home?” Kaneda seemed simultaneously to be more fearful of Allison and more eager to be with her.
“Um… I’m going to stay here for a while, I think,” Allison said. “I want to get some stuff done.”
“Can’t you do it at home?”
“It’s… hard to concentrate there.”
“Gosh. It seems pretty quiet there to me.”
“Things are just a little strange, is all.”
“Strange… like how?”
Allison pulled her laptop from her backpack. “I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to get some work done.” She opened the laptop and typed a few keys.
“So are you good with computers?” Kaneda asked.
Allison didn’t reward him with an answer right away. She typed a few more sequences in repid succession, logging into the school’s wirelesss network. Kaneda’s eyes bugged out.
“You hacked into the school network?”
“Nah. I need to access the Internet, so I just asked the teacher if I could use his password.” Allison looked up from her work and allowed a ghost of a smile to cross her face. “To be honest I don’t think he even knew what his password was for. He seems pretty clueless.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, how he lectures on even when no one in the class is paying any attention at all, stuff like that.”
“Well, he is a teacher. What else is he supposed to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know… teach?”
“Oh, I see! You expected a clown teacher! Those are pretty unusual here. Do you have lots of them in America? I’d love to have a clown teacher.”
“A clown teacher?”
“Yeah, one of those guys who’s never in class and takes the students on all sorts of dangerous trips and somehow all the students get great scores. It must be great in America if all the teachers are like that. There’s probably only about five of them in all of Japan” Kaneda’s eyes lit up. “Maybe I should transfer to America!”
Allison was speechless.
Kaneda looked downcast. “Yeah, I know. Me, a transfer student. What a laugh.”
“I’m sure you could be a transfer student if you wanted to. There’s—”
“That’s nice of you to say, but be serious. I mean, look at me.”
“I don’t see…”
“Well, I’m a boy, to start with. Who ever heard of a boy transfer student?”
“And come on, get real. I’m just an ordinary guy. No one’s going to kidnap me and implant horrible disfiguring superweapons that leave me mentally scarred and unstable. Even if I was a girl I’d be too old for that by now. No, there’s just no way I’ll ever be a transfer student.”
Just when Allison thought they were talking about apples and oranges, he threw in a pineapple. Or maybe a hand grenade. She was saved from answering when her computer cleared its throat.
“She doesn’t understand yet, Kaneda.”
“What the—?” Allison turned and there was her uncle’s face dominating the screen.
“Who’s that?” asked Kaneda.
“That, uh… that’s my uncle.”
The image laughed. “That’s what I was, boy. But you know me by a different name.”
“Look closely and I’ll show you.”
Allison had a bad feeling about this. “Uh, Kaneda, maybe…”
Kaneda paid no attention. He leaned closer to the screen.
Kaneda moved in closer.
“White Shadow!” The screen switched to a shifting palette of color, seemingly random but hinting at a deeper pattern. Allison recognized it and tore her gaze away, even when she wanted with all her mind to discover the ultimate knowledge promised there.
Kaneda stood, frozen, transfixed, gazing into the screen.
“What an idiot,” the computer said with her uncle’s voice. “I can’t believe he fell for that.”
“What did you do?”
“I showed him the secret. Aren’t you curious what it is he knows now? Don’t you wonder where he is? Don’t you yearn to go there also?”
“No!” Allison said, but it was a lie. “Kaneda! Snap out of it!”
Her uncle chuckled. “There’s no snapping out of it, not for the likes of him. He’s not like us, Allison. He can’t rule the White Shadow.”
“NO!” In anger Allison slammed her laptop closed.
“Aaaaaa!” Kaneda curled into a ball and fell to the floor. “Reset! Reset!” He began to convulse and foam at the mouth. Allison remembered what had happened with Rei in the classroom, when his video game had been taken away. She opened her computer back up to see that her uncle’s face had replaced the colors once more.
“Quick! Bring the pattern back!”
“For you or for the boy there?”
“But he’ll die!” Kaneda’s breathing was becoming irregular and his eyes were bulging out of his head.
“He would not be of much use to the Institute anyway. He really isn’t terribly bright.”
“Surely you don’t think all those zombies are being taken there for a cure, do you? Come now, when does that ever happen?”
“He’s my friend! He was nice to me! Help him!”
“I will help your so-called ‘friend’, on one condition.”
“That you look into the pattern for sixty seconds.”
“Then I’ll be like him.”
“No, you won’t. You’re different. Trust me. This is only a taste, a sample. No symbols, no audio, just the moving colors. It’s the only way to save your friend.”
Sixty seconds. What could happen in a minute? She remembered standing in her uncle’s office, surrounded by moving images and sound, being drawn in. There was something down there, calling to her. It understood her, it needed her. Sixty seconds. She could handle that.
“All right,” she said.
“Hey, Tasuki, have you seen Kaneda or Allison?” Seiji tried to keep his question casual. He had been waiting in the diner since class, and it wasn’t like Kaneda to be so late.
Tasuki put down the burger she was eating. “No, not since class. Why?”
“Kaneda was supposed to meet me here after he walked her home, that’s all.”
Tasuki broke out in a big grin. “Ooooo. You don’t think…?”
“My, aren’t we sensitive.”
“It’s not like that!”
Ruchia chose that moment to join her friend in the booth. “What’s Seiji shouting about this time?”
“He’s just jealous because Kaneda is off somewhere with Allison.”
Ruchia’s tone was frosty. “Oh, he is, is he?”
Seiji sighed. “Look, I’m not jealous, all right? I’m just worried that something might have happened to them.”
“Like what?” Tasuki asked.
“Who knows? She’s a transfer student.”
“How do you know they’re not off somewhere on a date?” asked Ruchia. “After all, Kaneda is nice. Not like some other boys I could mention.”
Seiji rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on! It’s not like I did that on purpose…”
Tasuki intervened. “There’s something you’re not telling us, Seiji.”
Ruchia flared again. “You put Kaneda up to it, didn’t you? He’s being nice to her because you told him to!”
“For the record, I objected!”
“She was so happy that one of you guys was finally being nice to her, and it was a lie! You’re a monster!”
Seiji sighed. “No, he really did like her.”
“Did? You think…?”
“I hope not, but you know how these things go.”
Tasuki said, “Oh, Jeeze, Seiji. I’m sorry.”
Seiji nodded. “There is still hope.” It didn’t sound like he believed that.