Chapter 4: For Her to Change the World
My keyboard clattered throughout the office cell as I continued to type. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t been in the battlefield for so long, but I kept writing, then deleting, then writing again, then deleting again.
In the end, I was only able to kill that one <Unknown>. It was just as I expected, though. I was so far behind the front lines that I never even expected to encounter any enemies in the first place.
The military was all about the kill count. For the time being, my one confirmed kill would get approved, and then during the evaluation period, I would obtain the appropriate amount of points. I didn’t expect to get a lot of points for that kill, however, and certainly nowhere enough for a promotion. Back in the day, I would sometimes get a decent amount from a battle, but for the majority of the time I would get almost nothing.
On the other hand, fulfilling my quota for the manufacturing branch was a slow, but steady way to get points, though the amount was obviously much lower than that obtained from constantly fighting on the battlefield. For people wanting to get ahead, fighting in the military branch was always the best bet. Despite that, I preferred working in the manufacturing branch because I was able to utilize my intelligence over my strength.
I continued to daydream a bit while typing up my report. Suddenly, I heard a beep as the security lock on the door was unlocked from the outside.
“Who could still be here this late?” I thought as I turned towards the door. As I did, the automatic door slid open and out stood Asagao.
Asagao blinked a few times as she looked at me, confused. “You’re still here? You can go home, you know.”
“Well, my work here is still not done,” I said. Speaking of which, you were the one who told me to stay in the first place… I showed my displeasure as I glanced back at her.
“Even so, please go home,” she said calmly as she took a seat on the desk. She started fidgeting with her pen and then looked straight at me. “It’s just not worth keeping the office running overnight and doing all the overtime paperwork and stuff.”
“Well, I wasn’t even going to stay here overnight…” I said. “But if my work is not finished, that would be troublesome, right?”
“Can’t you just do it at home?”
I looked at her in shock. “You can’t be serious…” I said, wondering why she could say that so nonchalantly.
However, for some reason, Asagao was shocked as well. “There is a cost for keeping the electricity, maintenance, and security systems running, you know…” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “But you working at home… now that’s free.”
“That’s not right…” I said grimly.
“Well, I guess it’s not exactly free. We do pay you every month for your work, huh.”
“And you will work me every bit of the way for that amount…” I grumbled. “Besides, that’s not what I meant, not at all…”
Asagao just playfully laughed at my complaints, though she ended up yawning as well.
“If you’re tired Asagao,” I said, noticing her yawning. “Why don’t you go home?”
“Yeah, I’m going back soon,” she replied as she exhaled deeply and arched her back, stretching her entire torso. She sluggishly straightened her hair a bit with her fingers and sighed deeply. “… Even so,” she continued after a pause. “You were great on that battlefield. I can still hear the sounds ringing in my ears.”
“It takes a while to get used to,” I said. “Well to be fair, in the end even I couldn’t get used to it…”
I only really started fighting on the battlefield in the first six months after I became a high schooler. Even in those battles, I was only sent there to deal with the stray enemies. I had trouble joining in on the battlefield because everyone fought selfishly in order to rack up those points. I was soon transferred to the manufacturing branch, so there was no way I could have gotten much experience on the battlefield.
But Asagao, who just recently experienced her first battle, was thinking of something completely different. She quickly spun a chair around towards me, sat down, and asked, “Kasumi. Why did you leave the military?”
“Umm… I was told that I had to be transferred?” I said softly. “For now, I technically am still with the military, though…”
“Why were you transferred though?” Asagao adamantly asked again. “From what I saw, you were plenty strong, right?”
I sighed. “Compared to the top elites, I’m nothing… The other fighters… they could easily drop ten or twenty without breaking a sweat. Now compare that to the numbers I get when dealing with the leftovers…”
“That’s also important though!” shouted Asagao as she rested her chin on her hands. She scowled in disgust.
“Not necessarily. It only takes one person to do it, and it’s really more waiting than fighting. Snipers are valued pretty lowly when dealing with the <Unknowns>.”
“Well, for one, snipers deal with a lot of behind the scenes stuff. We not only deal with the target straight up, but we also value understanding its thoughts so we can fully utilize that to our advantage.”
Through mainly their tactics, snipers instilled fear into the enemies. They constantly made the enemies worry that somewhere out there, someone could be targeting them. Enemies would always be scared of making careless moves, because to them, one wrong move meant certain death. As a result, their movements were usually very limited. In fact, the best sniper teams could put so much pressure that even a small platoon would be frozen in fear.
Asagao’s eyes widened. “Wow, you sure are knowledgeable about this.”
“That’s nothing to be surprised about…” I muttered.
The Chiba military branch as a whole felt pretty similar to a gang. They were full of punks, and people who didn’t act like them felt extremely out of place. Those people were even humiliated and picked on. The punks followed a strict code: Those who were good at academics were bad! Those who fought using their heads were cowards!
In any case, they valued strength above all.
“But still, snipers are still needed, right?” asked Asagao with a doubtful look.
“Back then, yeah,” I replied. “That’s only because the enemies were humans, though. When dealing with these monsters, our tactics become completely useless since they literally have no thought processes. It’s impossible to read them.”
Asagao stroked her chin as she thought long and hard about what I just said. “I see,” she finally said. “<Unknowns>, huh? It’s true we’ll never be able to understand those monsters…”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why the previous city head chose to just go for all out annihilation. It was probably much easier that way.”
“The previous? You mean Natsume Kayako, right?” she asked meekly. “Natsume’s older sister, huh…”
“Yeah, her,” I said, nodding.
In a sense, Natsume Kayako was a revolutionist. Only up until a few years ago, the main forces against the <Unknowns> consisted of two groups: the Tokyo and Kanagawa militaries. Tokyo specialized in aerial combat, while Kanagawa specialized in naval combat. On the other hand, Chiba, who specialized in land combat, had a hard time fighting due to the fact that the <Unknowns> almost always appeared in Tokyo Bay. As a result, they lagged behind the other two cities and ultimately ended up as a mere backup force.
In this world, people’s very existence was determined by their results on the battlefield. Taking away people’s opportunity to fight was the same as leaving them out to die. The previous city heads, fearing their inevitable demise, strived to change Chiba for the better. To accomplish that, they kept pushing the military to newer and newer heights. The turret train, for example, was just one of the many things implemented by them.
Within all this, Natsume Kayako enacted the biggest changes of all. She aimed for about ten percent of the population to be part of the military branch, and within that ten percent, she picked a few out to be part of the elites. She constantly advocated fighting with overwhelming firepower from afar, and engrained that belief into our heads. Those who were weak and useless were allocated to the back lines or transferred out. On the other hand, anyone who was strong was able to participate in the front lines. Age, affiliation, or beliefs— none of that mattered if you were strong. In fact, it was due to this very change that my sister was sent to the front lines even as a middle schooler.
At the same time, the snipers, who really didn’t have much to show in terms of results, were slowly forced into the back lines.
“Well, if the city head decided all this, then there’s not really much we can do,” I said. “We’re part of this system, so we have to obey their orders.”
“That’s true,” contemplated Asagao. “Only the city head can change this system. Speaking of which, your sister is amazing…” she said, looking up at me. “But I think you already know that…”
I looked at her and grinned smugly— of course I already knew that. I’m glad she finally realized how awesome my sister is.
“Ughh, don’t look at me like that,” she said, disgusted. She lightly bit her lip. “But just from seeing what she did in that battle… she could be the city head one day. I mean, anyone who saw that overwhelming display of power would be in awe. It’s a bit frustrating, but the military always seems to be showing off its power.”
“What’s frustrating about it?” I asked with unease.
Asagao nonchalantly tilted her head. “Well at this rate, I won’t be able to win against Natsume in the elections.”
“What??? You… you want to participate in the elections?”
She can’t be serious… It’s always been customary for the head and the subhead to come from the military elites. This way, the new leaders would be accepted by even the stupidest of idiots. After all, with so many idiots in the military, having the most powerful fighters on top was the only way to maintain any sort of organizational hierarchy.
I continued, trying to speak as lightheartedly as possible. “I mean, isn’t it impossible? The election’s probably rigged for Natsume anyway. I bet they just pretend to have an election…”
Asagao was dead serious. “Even if it’s impossible,” she said softly as she looked straight at me, “I’m doing it. That’s what I have decided.”
When people tried to act tough, many would just end up being all talk. They would try to create an intricate web of lies to prevent others from finding out about their empty words. I’m sure there were many idiots in the military who did this, and I’m sure they constantly lied to keep up their false bravado.
However, Asagao was different. She may have spoken her words softly, but her eyes looked as serious as ever. She was not the type of person to joke about this kind of thing, as she truly believed in it from the bottom of her heart. That’s why she spoke so softly— she was smart enough to know that it would be a long and arduous task. Her voice may have trembled a bit as well, but at least her words were full of conviction. And, those were definitely not empty words.
“I guess so…” I thought to myself. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a proper response. It was easy enough to encourage, make fun, or go against her, but none of those seemed appropriate. Most importantly, she definitely did not want to hear any of those things. So, I just stared straight at her without saying a word, and the room quickly turned silent.
Suddenly, the security lock beeped once again, and we both instinctively looked at the door. As we did, we saw Renge struggling as she tried to carry a big plant into the room. She had on a backpack, and the plant she was trying to carry was as tall as her. On top of that, the plant had a thick trunk, and its branches stretched out considerably. I noticed that there were numerous apple-like fruit hanging off of it as well.
Surprisingly enough, after a bit of difficulty, Renge managed to carry the entire thing into the office. She sighed and wiped her forehead after doing so.
“Woah, Kasumi?” she said as soon as she saw me. She waved.
“O-Oh, yeah…You’re still here?”
Renge gave me a smile. “Yeah,” she said, nodding cheerfully. “I was just at the lab.” With a grunt, she picked up the plant again and plopped it down in front of Asagao. She rummaged through her backpack and pulled out an apple.
“I wanted you to try it,” she said as she handed the apple to Asagao. “Here you go!”
“Thanks,” said Asagao. She carefully took the apple and started to examine it. “Hmm… The color and shape looks good. But I need to check its taste…”
“Okay!,” nodded Renge, “I’ll cut it now.” She took out a pinafore apron out of her backpack and quickly wore it on top of her school uniform. She grabbed the ends of the apron and began to put apples onto it. When she was done, she headed to the office kitchen, but stopped right in front of me and said, “U-Umm, Kasumi? Did you want one too? I’ll also some tea….”
“Ah, is it okay?” I asked. I’d imagine that the apple probably wasn’t a new product they were rolling out. If it was, I wouldn’t be allowed to touch it, much less try it. I glanced at Asagao for her approval.
She gave me a nod. “We needed a taster anyway,” she said as she fidgeted with the apple. “I don’t mind either way.”
“Okay then, sure,” I said, nodding at Renge.
She wrapped her apron even tighter around the apples. The apples looked like were about to spill out, but she squeezed even harder and lifted the apron even higher to prevent them from doing so. “Alright, leave it to me!” she exclaimed as she disappeared into the office kitchen. Her apron, now filled with apples, swayed around as she walked.
“♪May we be blessed with its flavor♪,” she began to sing, albeit out of tune. “♪Apples are the forbidden, for~bid~den~ fruit♪, ♪so they’re sweet♪, ♪so they’re sour♪, ♪they’re sweet and sour! ♪”
“The hell kind of song is that?” I thought to myself. Her song was so out of place that I sneaked a peak into the kitchen, and saw her humming softly to herself as she held a kitchen knife. Clearly, she was in a good mood. She quickly cut out the core and peeled the apple. Her singing may have been a bit off, but her skill in the kitchen was right on.
“♪And the apples go round and round♪. ♪You can’t escape from us♪,” she continued to sing. “♪In just the blink of an eye♪… You’re done!” She brandished the knife and swung down hard on the apple. She put the slices on the plate, and soon they began to pile up. She then boiled some water for the tea.
Seeing that, I returned back to my desk. For some reason, I felt like I just witnessed something amazing. “Wow those apples…” I said in awe as I unconsciously looked at Asagao, “they’re amazing, right?”
“Hehehe,” she smugly laughed. “You don’t know the half of it.”
“Huh…” But I wondered whether or not Renge thought the apples were amazing as well. After all, she was surprisingly in high spirits. Actually, was it because she was always energetic and happy? Or maybe it’s because I said I would be down to eat some? No way, that can’t be it… I’m probably just overthinking things. I glanced confusingly at Asagao.
“Of course the apples are amazing!” she said triumphantly as she crossed her arms. “They are a cut above the rest! Actually not just the apples, everything produced here is just on a whole new level!”
“I-I see…” I muttered. I wondered how they produced such foods in the local plants, but all I got in response was Asagao’s smug smile. “Now that’s a smile I want to protect,” I thought to myself.
“Those apples were developed by me and Renge,” said Asagao as she blushed a bit. She looked at me with pride, almost like the look parents would give when bragging about their children. But suddenly, she cleared her throat. “They’re my… weapons,” she said uncomfortably.
“Huh… weapons you say,” I said. I jokingly imagined the apples being thrown at the enemies. I mean, technically with enough power, it could be lethal.
Asagao smiled. “Well, you’ll understand once you eat it.”
Asagao was always confident about the things she said, but she sounded much more confident than usual when talking about the apples. She did rise to the top from her development skills alone, so it’s not like her confidence was misplaced. But just how good would the apples have to be for her to be this proud of them?
“It’s done!” shouted Renge, pushing a tea cart out of the kitchen. The cart rattled as she pushed it next to our table. She lined the plates up and started to make some black tea. “Here you go!”
Asagao and I moved closer to the table. The aroma from the black tea started to mix with the apples, and as a result, it smelled a bit like apple tea. It only grew stronger as I moved closer to the plate.
“Well then, here I go,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief. I took a slice and popped it in my mouth. Instantly, I tasted its sweetness, and its beautiful aroma soon filled the air around me. The more I bit into the slice, the more its juices started to flow out. “Woah, it’s so sweet and juicy!”
That slice was probably the sweetest thing I have ever tasted in my entire life. Compared to regular apples, this one was like the next generation fruit. Actually, it’s so good it could be the generation after that. Kind of like an apple 3.0? In any case, if our manufacturing branch could make this, then that’s actually so impressive…
Renge trembled with excitement. “I know right?? And look here! The apples here are sour, you know!” She took the other plate of apples and stabbed a fork into one of the slices. “Here you go!” she said as she tried to feed me the slice.
“Ah! No I’m good…”
Renge would have none of it. Once again, she offered it to me. “C’mon!” she playfully said. “Just eat it!”
I took a closer look at her and was instantly mesmerized. Her long, slender fingers delicately clung onto the fork. Her pleading eyes stared straight up into mine, and her seductive lips gave off a certain allure. All this combined with her charming voice was more than enough to draw me in. But, Asagao soon cleared her throat, and I quickly returned to my senses.
“Ah, no it’s really okay,” I murmured. “I don’t really like sour stuff, so… I mean I like sweet stuff a lot more, so like, you know!” I laughed a bit to lighten up the tension.
“But it’s so good…” pleaded Renge as she puffed up her cheeks. She was clearly not satisfied with my answer.
Asagao was a bit drawn back as well. “What kind of excuse is that…”
Renge, now discouraged, offered the piece to Asagao instead. “Here you go, Asagao!” she said as she tried the same thing with her.
“No thanks, I’m good…” responded Asagao as she motioned a no thank you.
But, Renge was even more stubborn this time. “Come on, eat it!”
“F-Fine…” Against Renge’s pleading voice, Asagao had no choice but to comply. She sighed, and reluctantly ate the slice. “Well, this one is also not bad,” she said after eating it.
“Thank goodness,” said Renge, relieved. She grinned happily at Asagao, and Asagao’s face soon turned as red as the apples she just had. She quickly turned away to hide her embarrassment.
“This one is doable,” she finally said, nodding.
“What do you mean by doable…” I asked. I really had no idea what she meant.
However, Asagao just walked back to the desk without answering me. She took out some sort of spray bottle and squatted down next to the plant that Renge had brought in earlier. “Lemme take a look at this plant,” she said. She held the spray arms-length away from her and pointed it at the plant.
This was no ordinary spray. Mysterious crystals floated within the bottle. These crystals resonated with the <World> within us, and functioned as an output device for our powers. It is said that the dreams we saw in our cold sleep caused our powers to manifest, so by recreating the <World> we dreamed about, these devices could materialize our powers into the real world. Depending on the device, our powers could also be amplified to great extents.
In a sense, <Worlds> represented our very own desires. After all, these <Worlds> weren’t something that just happened to appear in our dreams. No, these <Worlds> were created by us alone, forged by our imaginations. They stood for what we wanted in life and were phenomena that could only be described as miracles.
The fact that she brought this out meant only one thing— that she was about to use her <World>.
Just what kind of <World> did she possess?