Chapter 3: To Make the World a Better Place.
The love for idols seemed to be invigorated once again as Asagao continued to perform more and more. She had brought yet another avenue of happiness into the world and was met with passion and fervor by her fans.
All the documents I had scrounged through usually said the same thing: Music and entertainment was what gave people the most influence over others. As such, they served as the catalyst for societal change and could even be considered the driving force for the anti-establishment movement. Whether the people of the past actually believed such a thing was another story, but there must have been at least some truth to it.
These societal influencers came from all over. They could be comedians making some witty political commentary, a singer, or even a blogger. If I had to guess, they began their careers because they loved what they did, and just wanted to make it big. However, once they picked up steam, they would notice that their actions went beyond anything they had ever imagined. Whether it be singing, writing, drawing, or film making, they began to feel their influence change people. It was almost like an awakening for them, when they realized they held a great power even in the absence of military and political strength.
Again, it was important to note that this could come from anything. Regardless of the source, it would always resonate emotionally with the people, whether it be from some hidden anger from within them or an escape they had always longed for.
Music especially provided an unparalleled driving force that lit a fire within anyone listening. This fire, if fed with fuel, could become the symbol of any and all resistance against tyranny, persecution, dictatorship, and discrimination. That’s why sometimes in the past, all forms of entertainment were heavily regulated to the point of becoming propaganda. In the most extreme cases, some songs were outright banned.
Chiba wasn’t any different. The city’s constant state of turmoil would only serve to spread Asagao’s voice. With the sudden appearance of a never before seen idol, it was only a matter of time before she reached the hearts of everyone. It was going to be awkward at first, but through her persistence she would slowly start to get a following.
Her first performance only resulted in getting the few people who just happened to be there to talk about it, and it wasn’t like they were singing praises about her. She definitely got her fair share of criticism from them, but the main thing was that she put herself out there and people noticed. People noticed her sweet voice that seemed to tickle their ear and her slightly off melody that resonated with them. They heard the song’s cute lyrics and saw her even cuter outfit. They saw her unwavering smile that shot straight to the hearts of even the people making fun of her. Her resolve to finish the performance to the end did not go unnoticed, despite her nervousness and embarrassment that led to a slight breakdown in choreography.
Above all, she was becoming more masterful with each step on the stage, and it was quite enticing to some onlookers . As a result, there was a group who were rendered completely speechless during the later stages of that performance. So much so that they dropped all their initial negativity and replaced it with simple words like “cute”, “wow”, or “awesome.”
On the other hand, there were a good number of people wondering what the hell happened to her and why she was doing such a thing. They even dubbed the mesmerized audience as having an “Asagao craze.”
To be fair, that wasn’t too far from the truth. Even the most effective and modern medicines couldn’t cure this sickness if it was one. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were all somehow mentally hypnotized into having it. In any case, they had it whether they wanted to or not.
Soon, this craze would spread, and those who were infected would show symptoms similar to those infected of the past. They would start using the same vocabulary declaring their fandom, even resorting to calling themselves Asagals. They would go to every single one of Asagao’s performances, be on the lookout for any information relating to her, create fanart, and even use up their time and money to send her gifts. It was only a matter of time before she had a following big enough to fill up every one of her performances.
Once she got the momentum on her side, her name would spread like wildfire. Even small mentions of it would add up considerably, and she would soon take the city by storm. The fear of missing out is a powerful tool— Once more and more Asagals started to proudly identify themselves as such, others would want to join in as well. It wouldn’t be long before her fan community would explode to unexpected proportions. The Asagals would get more people to join in, and in turn they would get even more people and so on.
As Asagao grew her following, she would inevitably attract some female fans. Within them would be some who had an inflated sense of self worth among all the male fans just because they were female. And thus the notion of princess Asagals would be born.
With princesses now thrown in the mix, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Asagao’s following were almost separated based on “class.” Princesses aside, her followers would consist of commoners, knights, and even slaves to an extent. The upper classes would try to fight each other for her attention, and the commoners would just watch idly. During her performances it was like she was in charge of a small kingdom, with all her citizens waving their penlights as if they were casting some magic spells.
Well, it was my job to get them their wands. As Asagao improved, we also had to step up our appeal game. In the beginning, we were just handing out fliers, but now we had designed pen lights with her name printed on it. We also had many other goods along with that, including a wearable Asagal fan jacket, and they were all distributed before each performance for free. Manufacturing goods was what we were good at, after all.
Once everything was distributed, Asagao would have her performance just as planned. The bass would be low enough to shake your heart out, but that would be accompanied by the claps, cheers, and screams from the audience as the light show began once again.
These shows would go on for consecutive days and nights, and many times the audience would have to stand because there weren’t any seats set up. Despite that, they would still wildly chant Asagao’s name before each performance. Then, the theatrical smoke would rise from the stage accompanied by a blast of gold glitter. Lasers that seemed to slice through the dimensions lit up, and of course Asagao would jump out from the center of the stage.
“Everyone! Thanks for coming!” she would shout. “I’m already getting fired up!”
Words like these have long become her standard greeting, which she usually followed up with a sideways peace sign. It certainly did make the crowd go wild.
“Alright, gonna do a new song, okay~ It’s called, the Revolution!”
A wild violin intro started, and Asagao danced to its beat. Her dance skills left much to be desired as usual, but more importantly, it was cute. Her current crowd size dwarfed that of what she had in her initial performances, making it quite the sight to see.
With more people came more hyped chants, and it seemed that the synergy in the crowd was at an all time high. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Asagao had learned to expertly control the crowd after her many performances. In any case, this could obviously be attributed to her rising popularity, but also to her fans’ enthusiasm and energy.
In the front row, there stood a person worthy enough to be called her biggest fan.
“Alright everyone!” he shouted with a loud, hoarse voice. “Three… Two… One!”
That person was none other than Urushibara. He played a big part in recruiting more Asagals and gathered them all together for her performances. We decided that he was supposed to be a producer, but somehow he turned out to be something more like the president of her fan club…
As well he should be. He was the most devoted fan I had ever seen. With the information he gathered from the books of the past, he was able to create, edit, print, and distribute booklets containing his different shouts, hand motions, and claps to use during her performances. Even now he was leading the crowd with those shouts without missing a beat.
He really is amazing… Perhaps from now on I’ll start referring to him as Idol Lover Urushibara.
Once the song was at its climax, a huge bright light popped up in the midst of all the pen lights from the crowd. I had to rub my eyes to get my vision back since it blinded me, but it seemed like one of those red light sticks air traffic controllers would use to direct airplanes as they landed. In any case, it was much, much brighter than even those.
“YEAH TIGER!!” the people around the red light shouted in a strange voice.
Honestly, I had absolutely no clue why there were saying that.
“YEAH TIGER! FIRE! CYBER! FIBER! DIVER! YEAH!” they continued shouting.
I guess they only wanted to shout some words that rhymed, but they were so random that I wanted to know who they were. After taking a good look around, I noticed they were further than I thought.
They consisted of a tanned person with blonde hair and a nose piercing, a tattooed boy with dreadlocks, and a silvered short hair punk wearing a tank top and sunglasses. I recognized them as our enemies from the military… They were the ones with the weird names, weren’t they? Leo, Pietro, and Mars… I guess this kind of atmosphere was right up their alley, so I shouldn’t be too surprised they were here.
In any case, they were seriously hyped up and going all out. In fact, they were so noisy even the people around them were giving them dirty looks for being so annoying, but they didn’t seem to care one bit. If anything, they were shouting louder and dancing harder for each look shot their way.
From the looks of it, they could go on all night with those shenanigans, but suddenly I heard them quiet down. As I turned to see what was going on, I caught Urushibara running up to them from the corner of my eyes. There was a pause in between the songs, so I was able to slightly overhear them.
“Leo, hey man… I told you that those yeah tiger shouts are not okay, right? Pietro you too man, you can’t be shouting that here,” Urushibara calmly said to them. “Also Mars that big light stick has got to go.”
Urushibara spoke much calmer and colder than he usually did, so much so that he seemed like a different person. Perhaps this Urushibara was still in his idol fan mode, and that’s why he seemed different from his usual self… So I thought, but once Leo and crew started sneering at him I knew it was the Urushibara we all knew.
“Huh? Wait, wait a sec… Uru-uru, what do you mean we can’t be doing that here…” jeered Leo. “This is how we hype up the crowd even more, right? This is our obligation!”
“About that… You aren’t hyping anyone up with that,” replied Urushibara. “You guys are all over the place… At least try to do what everyone else is doing, okay?”
“Whatever, man,” murmured Pietro.
Off to the side, Mars grunted unpleasantly.
“Hey, you know…” snapped Urushibara. He was firm and resolute, unlike his attitude with them the other day. “If you aren’t with us, you’re no better than the newbies who know nothing at all. But at least those newbies aren’t as annoying as you guys.”
Urushibara spoke like the true idol fan he was and that resulted in a standoff between them. He sure picked a minor thing to argue about them with, though… Perhaps this was just how idol fans were, seeing that Urushibara was a die hard one.
He continued to yell some words like “I am the authority here” or “follow the rules,” and started to chase them out as if he was a wizard repelling the darkness. His fellow wizards quickly backed him up, and together they formed a blockade to block them out.
The three, perhaps feeling heavily outnumbered and overwhelmed, muttered some expletives under their breath and left.
I couldn’t help but smile. It was certainly an unprecedented event.
Asagao ended yet another song. She wiped her forehead before reaching out to the packed crowd.
“The next song will be the last~” she shouted out.
“Awwwwwwwwwwww!” the crowd shouted back. She always prefaced her last song with that, so by this point it was one of her expected lines.
Asagao took a quick drink of water and smiled.
Without a moment’s delay, the crowd simultaneously asked, “How’s the water?”
“It’s amazing!” she playfully responded with a giggle. It was amazing to see the crowd and her communicate with each other.
“Before that,” she continued, “I just have to say something, okay? Did you all know the election’s coming up for the next city head? And I’ve decided to enter that election! It’s gonna be a tough fight, and I’m sure some of you won’t like me as a candidate. But! I can’t give up! I need you all to forgive me just this once for being so selfish…”
Asagao rubbed her eyes as if she was crying, which made the crowd yell out words of encouragement.
“Good luck!” some cried out. Others shouted, “don’t cry!”
She seemed to be waiting for them to say that. Once they did, she took a deep breath into the mic before ramping up her energy once again.
“You can hate me all you want, but please don’t direct that hate at Chiba!”
It was a cheesy line with no particularly deep meaning behind it, but it did the trick. The crowd was moved to tears as they yelled out in support.
“I love Chiba!”
“You’ll always have our support!”
They threw out a mix of everything, but there was one thing for certain— They loved Asagao and would support her no matter what, almost as if she was their cult leader. They were that dedicated.
Thinking about it now, she did remind me of ancient leaders that had religious and political power over its constituents. Asagao already got the former done, and she was gunning to become the latter as well.
However, politics were the furthest thing from her mind right now. She concentrated on building her following so she could more easily spread the word about the election. Then, when she ultimately did announce her candidacy, she would already have a sizable backing just from her existing fans.
In essence, this was the “Spontaneous Idol” plan. Well, one part of it anyway.
“Thank’s so much! I’ll be sure to sing the next song even better with the energy I get from you all! Alright, it’s time! Here is, Let’s Go Chiba!”
She gave the crowd a playful look like the performer she was, and the crowd eagerly waited for what was to come. Surely, they had to know. For most of them this was certainly not their first time coming here.
Surprisingly enough, the sound that followed wasn’t from a drum or guitar, nor did it resemble any sort of rhythm or melody. It was a low rumbling sound that seemed to come closer by the second, accompanied by loud and annoying honking. The smell of engine exhaust also began to fill the air.
Suddenly, the entrance burst open to reveal Natsume’s right hand woman, black-eyes, leading the charge with a bunch of cars and motorcycles behind her. She had brought her own crowd with her. I guess it was Leo and crew that were the ones that called them out here.
With her signature black eyeliners, black-eyes stopped and glared out at Asagao’s crowd. She was intimidating enough to cause it to part out like Moses and the Red Sea, which gave her a clear path to stomp towards the stage.
She’s finally here, huh…
With everyone’s focus on black-eyes, I quickly made my way backstage. Once I was there, Renge whispered, “K-Kasumi… what should we do?”
I knew she was there to help prep for the next song, so I simply said, “Get ready to keep the electricity and the mic on at all costs.”
“What?” replied Renge, but I left without saying anything else and made my way around.
I could see that Asagao was still standing center stage. “Hey, Asagao,” I called out from the side. Once she turned around, I gestured to the mic.
Asagao nodded calmly— she knew what to do.
“Umm… Tsurube?” black-eyes shouted from below. “Sorry to say this, but can you like, stop? This has got to go away.”
She was standing firm with her arms crossed, and you could tell she was pissed just from the look in her eye.
“Why should I? Just because you said so?” Asagao shouted back, shrugging her shoulders. Unlike black-eyes, Asagao was smiling. “You know, I can’t betray all the people who took time out of their lives to come out here!”
“Exactly!” Urushibara yelled out. “Why did you guys even come here! Go back! You have no business being here!”
Urushibara jumped out in front of black-eyes to block her from advancing.
Black-eyes just sighed annoyingly. She turned behind her and muttered, “Do it.”
“On it,” responded Leo, nodding, as he quickly made his way to Urushibara. “C’mon Urururururu. Don’t get too ahead of yourself, YOU HEAR ME???”
He lunged at Urushibara and knocked him down with a punch to the stomach. Urushibara wasn’t able to fully take on the blow, so he stumbled back to his knees, gasping for air.
Pietro and Mars laughed maniacally behind Leo. With a shout, Pietro too leapt at Urushibara, but this time he dropkicked him right in the face.
“URUSHIBARA!” Asagao couldn’t help but scream once Urushibara took that kick, but he waved his hand out.
“It’s… It’s okay…” he said weakly. “I’m used to… this.”
He slowly got up and turned back to her. It was hard to see the extent of his injuries until he turned around, and boy was it serious. Just looking at his face got Asagao even more hysterical, seeing that his forehead was pretty much split in two with blood gushing out.
Asagao wasn’t the only one in hysterics upon seeing Urushibara in this condition. The crowd behind him who had been watching nervously went crazy as well— they shouted, screamed, and just got so loud I was sure they could be heard from miles away.
Hearing this, the three maniacs laughed. I suppose this was like music to their ears, and they were enjoying every bit of it.
“Idiot. You went too far,” black-eyes said nonchalantly, poking Pietro on the head. This time she turned to Mars instead and gave him a signal.
Immediately, Mars took a foldable chair next to him and chucked it at one of the support beams that held up the stage. He then went up to the stage and just started tearing it apart. He went at the speakers, the lights… he destroyed everything in sight.
I guess it was good that he chose not to use his [World]… Perhaps even he knew that would be going too far. Actually, maybe he just didn’t need to. He could mess up all up without using it, anyway.
When he was done, the stage was in shambles, and the audience started to flee all over the place.
“Everyone! It’s dangerous, so get back!” Asagao yelled into the mic. “Don’t get close to the them! Come to our branch for safety!”
The manufacturing branch members who received the orders ahead of time started to help the people evacuate. As they did, Asagao angrily turned back to black-eyes.
“Enough!” she yelled out. “You won’t get away with this!”
Black-eyes just scratched her head and yawned. She nodded towards Asagao without so much as a response to her. Immediately, the three jumped up to the stage and surrounded her.
Despite this, Asagao glared back at them without backing down, even though the situation turned rather grim for us. Leo was even showing off by threateningly punching the air around him, but that caused the crowd to yell all sorts of things back at him.
Asagao stood her ground during all this commotion. “This is… the military’s way of doing things!” she yelled out once again. “They know nothing but violence and brute force! Look at this tyranny! But me… I will not bow down to this! I will NEVER!”
The speaker was pretty damaged at this point, so occasionally it would play nothing but some static noise while she talked. That didn’t faze her, however. She stayed firm and resolute with her words.
“You go girl!” the crowd yelled back. Their voices may have been soft and shaky individually, but together they roared. They were each feeding off each other’s energy, and that made them a force to be reckoned with. It was as if single droplets of water combined to form a raging river.
Tsk. Black-eyes became frustrated seeing the crowd in such an uproar. She raised her hand to give another order, and quickly her own crowd of military branch members did roars and sneers of their own.
All hell had broken lose— it looked like the whole city was at war with each other.
“I will become the city head!” Asagao shouted into the fray. “I will give this city the change it needs! That’s why…”
“Can you all just shut up!” interrupted someone with a microphone. “Everyone, SHUT UP!”
Through all the incessant hollering and screaming, I instantly recognized the voice. Most people didn’t, so they searched around frantically to see who it was.
It wasn’t long before everyone knew what was up. A girl had walked to the front of the military crowd, putting the wrecked entrance and broken lights behind her.
It was none other than Megu Natsume. She held a large magnum handgun in her hand, which was probably her specialized weapon. The handgun was the largest I had ever seen— It was pretty much a huge lump of metal crafted to have as much firepower as possible.
In fact, looking at her hold that gun just didn’t feel right. The lump of metal was a far cry away from her beauty and grace. Or perhaps I was just afraid of it. After all, she was intimidating enough with that gun to make anyone freeze in fear.
For a split second, freeze in fear they did. That brief period of time was enough for Natsume to light up her handgun with a faint blue aura.
That aura was illuminated with the glow of [Worlds] as we called it— the essence of life and death. In this case, despite its beauty, it felt more on the death and destruction side. It was mysterious enough turn some of our fear into admiration and amazement, including Asagao.
However, the sight of Natsume wrapping her finger around the trigger quickly snapped her back to reality. “Everyone, get out of the way!” she shouted.
It was too late— The sound of the gunshot quickly drowned out her desperate voice. The muzzle flash from the gun illuminated so far out it touched the night sky, but it didn’t dim back down. Instead, the flash formed into a beam of light that jumped out from the barrel.
In the blink of an eye, the land around us was instantly decimated. Even when the smoke had cleared and everything had settled down, there was absolute silence. We were speechless from seeing everything around us get instantly razed to the ground.
In fact, the only sound came from half the stage finally hitting the ground after being blown away from the blast. Natsume managed to grind the commotion to a halt with just one shot. With her overwhelming power, everything was under her control once again.
She slowly made her way to the remnants of the stage of which Asagao still stood. Her presence alone was enough to get people to back away once again, giving her a clear path to the stage. I could tell that the difference between them two were like night and day. Asagao was covered head to toe with dirt, while Natsume didn’t even have a single speck on her.
Asagao’s knees wobbled until she finally fell to the ground. Just being near that blast was too much for her body, and her clothes evidently, to handle.
“I told you, didn’t I,” said Natsume, staring Asagao down coldly after getting face to face with her. “You’re powerless. You can’t do anything.”
She spoke the cold, hard truth of this world with such anger that she felt one step away from breaking out into violence.
“Do you understand now?” she continued. “This is what real power feels like. What can you do in this situation?”
Unlike last time, Asagao neither was overwhelmed nor did she even lose her composure. “Ah yes, real power, huh?” she said, staring Natsume back right in the eye. “You sure used it to really help out the city.”
The two wouldn’t budge one bit as they continued to silently stare each other down. It lasted for a while, but it was Natsume who averted her eyes away first.
“Next time I won’t go as easy on you,” she said. “Tread lightly.”
With that, she was off. She gave a quick “let’s go” to black-eyes and the rest of the military, although some of them still looked unsatisfied.
Her time here was brief, but destructive. Natsume left behind a battered Asagao and a silenced, yet frustrated crowd. Many people were still trembling at what just happened, though that didn’t stop them from feeling sympathy for Asagao.
She grabbed her mic and stood back up. “Sorry, everyone, for this,” she said, wiping the dirt off her face. “But there’s no way we can let them get away with this kind of stuff any more! They could say anything they want, but I won’t back down!”
She smiled, trying her hardest to hide her tears. No matter how much she had to endure, no matter how much she had been threatened, she did not lose that smile.
Her smile was met with joyful cheers from the audience, but there was something different about those cheers this time around.
At the end of the day, everyone who came made it home safely. As for us, we quickly figured out what to do with the stage and returned back to the office. Everyone except for Urushibara, obviously. Right now he was probably getting stitches on his forehead at the hospital.
“Sorry about this, Renge, but can you take care of this?” Asagao handed her the dirtied stage clothes she wore earlier and headed to the shower room. Even though she had changed into new, more relaxing clothes, she was still quite dirty herself. Even her forehead was sullied— a rare sight.
After Asagao left, Renge laid the clothes out and sighed. “What should we do with these…” she whispered. The once new clothes were now ragged pieces of cloth.
“There’s no saving them, so might as well get rid of them,” I said. “Maybe we should auction them…”
“N-No! Not that!” shouted Renge, pulling the clothes away from me.
The fact that she thought I was serious was more insulting to me than her not getting my joke. There was no way I’d do such a thing, and I thought that much was obvious.
“I’ll just toss it. The set may be the same for the next performance, but the stage clothes will be different anyway.”
“O-Okay,” nodded Renge. She paused. “Wait a second… we’re still going to continue having them?”
It wasn’t a surprise that she said that, as I was sure many other people who were there would have the same concern. After all, there wasn’t anyone that could stop them… One misstep and there could be plenty of casualties on our side.
But there wasn’t anyone hurt from yesterday, right?
“Asagao did say she was never going to back down, but I think she’s going too far…” said Renge, handing me the clothes. “Plus, I don’t want to continue putting our fans in that kind of situation again…”
“For the new clothes, can you just pick out whatever’s good in the wardrobe later?”
I tried to change the subject to what we should be focusing on right now.
“Okay!” Renge fist pumped the air and dashed off. She sure was really into it despite me telling her to do it later.
I smiled at the thought of seeing her so pumped up and went to toss the clothes in the dumpster. By the time I came back, Renge was already back trying out different parts on herself. The clothes were tailored specifically for Asagao, so it did fit a bit tight on Renge’s voluptuous body.
I guess my distraction worked a little too well.
“What’d you think about this?” she said, doing a little twirl with the miniskirt she was trying on. She did a peace sign with her right hand while holding the mic with her left. “Cute, right?”
“Ah, sure. Yeah, yeah, very cute, very cute,” I hastily responded. Yes, the clothes were cute, but I was more confused on what the hell she was doing. She looked so out of place doing this in the office that thinking she was cute was the furthest thing from my mind.
“Really? Like the cutest you’ve ever seen?”
“No, not the cutest,” I replied. My sister would always be the cutest in my mind, and nothing comes close to her at all.
“Really? What a shame,” murmured Renge, picking up another outfit from a big stack she had laid down earlier. “What about this one?”
She was cute, probably the second cutest thing I had ever seen, but at this rate it would take forever to go through all the outfits.
“They are all good,” I said, trying the most generic response possible. I wanted to wrap things up as soon as possible.
Renge pouted. “If they are all good then which one should I pick?!? I wanted you to pick it…”
I’m just as stumped as you are…
She picked up more clothes and kept posing with them around the mirror. Every time she did that, I went “wow!” or “nice!” and clapped.
But that did not last long. Before we knew it, we heard a voice go, “What are you two doing…”
Having come back from her shower, Asagao stood dumbfounded near the door. She had the same reaction I had when I first saw Renge with her shenanigans.
Night fell, and so had our energy with it. Renge had calmed down significantly after changing back to her school uniform. Asagao was just relaxing as well. She was wearing some very comfortable clothes and still had a towel wrapped around her head.
Every so often she would stretch out a little bit as if she was right at home. Perhaps she was too exhausted to put up her usual front.
“Ummm, Asagao…” Renge said softly. “Ummm… so… you don’t want to do any more performances, right?”
“Huh? What are you talking about? Of course I do,” snapped Asagao. She sounded a bit rude, but Renge wasn’t fazed because that’s how she usually talked.
“Okay…” she said. “But don’t push yourself.”
“It was no big deal. I knew they were bound to come sooner or later.”
Asagao shrugged nonchalantly. She sure wasn’t this calm back on the stage, even though her words indicated that she should have been.
“Uhhh… but you were crying…” said Renge.
Asagao smiled awkwardly. “I know, that was some great acting by me, right?” she said jokingly. She turned to me. “I played the victim well, didn’t I, Kasumi?
I shrugged my shoulders. As I expected, she understood what she had to do.
Asagao puffed her chest out triumphantly, but that only made Renge even more confused.
“What are you two talking about?” she asked.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” I recited. For some reason I began spurting out something I had read before. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“What does that even mean…” Renge said. “Also honestly that sounds kind of creepy.”
Asagao didn’t seem to take my words too kindly as well.
“There were some words like that in the Gospel,” I said. “I think either from Matthew or John, I don’t know. Well, the point is, why are good people always getting the bad end of the stick? According to them, it’s because the world itself is crooked.”
“Sounds like a whole lot of nonsense,” interrupted Asagao.
I smiled. “It really does… Calling the world crooked isn’t going to do anything for us. Apparently a lot people who eventually became kings had that mentality, though.”
There have been countless instances in the past where leaders rose to power by playing the victim card. Perhaps this came from values taught by religion, or just how politics worked in general, but people tended to support the underdogs, especially ones that played right to their emotions.
And that’s what our plan came down to. By really putting Asagao out there and showing how much she was being victimized, we could gather sympathy from the others and unite them as one under our cause. With enough support, we could begin our rebellion. It was no surprise that everybody wanted to root for the heroine against the big evil corporation, so we just had to play into that.
The biggest movements were the ones where people united as one. By doing so, everyone becomes shrouded in anonymity behind the cause, and they could fight back using their strength in numbers. In our case, we had to villainize the military to accomplish this. Without a bad guy to fight against, there could be no rallying cry to fight behind.
Asagao understood this and played her part perfectly— The election was the battlefield, and the military was the evil that had to be defeated. What a spectacular performance.
“It’s not the perfect underdog story, but at the very least we won over some of the people,” she said. “I do need to continue to gather support with the other branches again, though, and of course we need to keep this up.”
She really was determined to do this to the very end, so I had to be straight with her. “Asagao, you got a target on your back for sure. So this time it’s probably better to leave that to Renge. Maybe we can even use you as a decoy and fool them a bit.”
“A decoy, huh?” she said. “It doesn’t sound too appealing, but you’re right. Renge, you also have friends in the engineering and trade branches, right? Can you do it again? We’ll pull off some stunts to get their attention in the meantime.”
“Absolutely! My ex-military friends… Yeah, I’ll hit them up!”
“Alright thanks. You handle that, and as for the gifts…”
Once again, my great skills had not only gotten me away from the spotlight, but away from the negotiating table as well. This was probably for the better, anyway.
What else did I need to talk my way out of?
As I pondered that, I noticed that Asagao seemed to have something else on her mind.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
Asagao shook her head. “Ah, nothing… I was just wondering why Natsume would transfer students in the first place. Why doesn’t she just boot them out of the military like her sister? Urushibara certainly didn’t have the luxury of being transferred anywhere.”
Renge and I both looked at each other. I hadn’t really thought about this, but if Urushibara was in the military at one point, then it had to be under the previous head, Natsume’s sister. I guess if I was in the military during that time, I would have gotten dismissed right alongside him. The fact that Nastume took the extra steps to transfer us made me think she had something else going on.
“Whatever, I’ll just find out next time,” I whispered to myself.
But Asagao heard me. “How?” she said, eyeing me suspiciously.
As I was about to answer, the man himself suddenly came frantically crashing in on us. His forehead was wrapped up with all sorts of bandages, and from his expression alone I could tell he was in some extreme pain.
“Renge, you don’t have any painkillers do you?” Urushibara shouted on the verge of tears. “I actually can’t function with this much pain on my forehead. Let’s report this and get them a lifetime ban on our events!”
Asagao poked him on the forehead. “All reports are supposed to go to you, remember…?”
Urushibara winced in pain. Seeing this, Asagao just sighed, but her lips slowly crept up to a smile. I was sure she was secretly proud of him for what he did back there. I guess this was her way of saying thanks.
“Renge, go ahead and bring it out,” she said with a smile. “Also, can you get some refreshments? Kasumi, you go too. While we’re all here, let’s catch up on a few things.”
With a nod, Renge cheerfully got up and went to get the supplies, with me following right behind her.
Now in the office supply room, Renge took out some medicine from a glass cabinet and lined them up on the table.
While she did take some painkillers out, she also took out some aspirin, anti-inflammatory medicine, anti-depressants, and all sorts of other medicine. Perhaps curiosity got the best of her when she was looking through everything, and she just picked out everything that seemed like it could help him out. It was hard to tell which drugs were which with everything just thrown out there, especially since the names of the medicine were confusing. What looked like a painkiller could just as easily be a sedative.
One thing I could tell was that the medicine here were exactly the like ones I took as a kid. I knew because I recognized the packaging… I guess some things never changed. These were the medicine that I had needed and would continue to need in the future.
“Can I take some as well?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, sure,” Renge replied halfheartedly. She was so focused she didn’t even take her eyes off the table.
I grabbed some of the pills I recognized and shoved them into my pocket. I knew which ones to get, but did Renge? You couldn’t just pick out some medicine that looked right and give it to him like that. Sure, Urushibara looked like he could take literally anything, but giving him random medicine could put his life in danger. It could just be a waste too… We didn’t even know if any of these could help him.
“Urushibara’s injuries were all pretty superficial,” I said. “Are you sure its aspirin he needs?”
Renge threw out her chest triumphantly. “Yeah, he needs it! It’ll help with his headaches! Don’t know why though!”
She spoke with confidence, but I was not convinced one bit. Seeing my uncertainty dampened her spirits a bit.
“B-Because…” she continued, her voice noticeably less confident. “None of us knows much about medicine… We do manufacturing, but for medicine and all that we’re dependent on the Administration Bureau…”
“I see. I guess that’s expected… I mean, it would be bad if they just let us make our own. I certainly wouldn’t trust myself or any other student to make our medicine.”
“Yeah,” said Renge, “but making our own alcohol is kind of pushing that line a bit already…”
“That alcohol was the result of fruits that just happened to ferment in Kisarazu.”
Renge frowned. “Sure, sure it was.”
She didn’t press the issue any further, even though her body language said otherwise. Instead, she went to the sink to brew some tea. I assumed it would be the same tea that she had been brewing for the past few days, but I had couldn’t tell for sure because she did like to change things up a bit to get new flavors.
Renge loosened her tie and started unbuttoning her shirt while she waited for the tea to brew, so I instinctively turned the other way.
“It’s okay,” she said giggling. “I don’t mind if you look.”
“Yeah no, I can’t do that,” I said, eyeing her from the side. I caught a glimpse of her fine features, like her silky smooth skin and of course her breasts, but what really caught my eye was the small atomizer she wore around her neck. Inside that bottle was a small crystal that floated within all the liquid.
“Is that your specialized weapon?” I asked.
“Yeah. You heard about my [World] before, right?” she said proudly. “Here, I’ll show you it.”
Renge was a bit too proud of her [World], but I was also interested in seeing it in action. There hadn’t been a lot of opportunities for me to see other people’s [Worlds] after I was transferred from the military.
“Alright, let’s see it.”
“Feast your eyes on my [World],” she boasted.
She grabbed the atomizer and sprayed the empty air in front of her. The mist from it was glittery and sparkly, and she stepped right into it just as it began to diffuse into the air. The droplets seemed to bounce off her body with a sweet flagrance.
Once that was taken care of, she went to the herbal plants she brought out earlier and started whispering to them one by one.
“I have a favor to ask…” she whispered gently. “Please, I need you to be sweeter, more refreshing… Even a bit of acidity is fine… Okay? We’re in this together!”
She was like the herb whisperer, since the way she spoke made it seem like they were best buddies. I knew from before that Renge’s [World] was more like an appeal since she couldn’t converse like Asagao could. Nevertheless, her [World] did seem to get them on her side.
“Alright!” she said, standing up. She was satisfied.
“Was that it?”
“Yup, it’s all good now. It’s all up to them how they’ll respond, so I’ll keep a close eye on them… but for today, I have this!”
She took out a container from the fridge that had different types of herbs.
I clapped sarcastically. “Wow, that’s amazing. But you know what’s more amazing? If you had just brought that out from the beginning…”
“This isn’t something that can be bought just like that, so when I use them I have to get new ones prepared as well,” she said. She fired up the stove and put in the herbs.
As usual, she made the tea slightly differently than the one she made last time, and it wasn’t long before its refreshing fragrance started to fill the air. Renge then took out a spoon and tried a sip, and instantly I could tell that she was satisfied with it.
“Here,” she said, handing me the spoon. “You try this too!”
I took a step back. “Err, I’m good… My tongue gets burned easily…”
She didn’t have to use the same spoon, right? And why do I need to taste it?
While those thoughts crossed my mind, she blew on the spoon a few times. Once it was relatively cooled down, she handed it to me again.
“Fine then, here!” she said. She took a few steps towards me and grinned.
There was no way I could refuse now. There was also no way I could stop looking at her slightly exposed breasts, but I’d rather not mention that right now.
“I hope with my [World] it actually does make it taste better…” she said softly. She timidly scratched her reddened cheeks and smiled once again.
There was no way I could look away from that, so I did the next best thing and closed my eyes while I took the sip.
“Yup, it’s good.”
Honestly, I couldn’t really tell if it tasted good or not. I did, however, like its sweet and refreshing aroma— it loosened my body nicely.
Perhaps this tea was the secret to having nice and relaxing meetings…
Our impromptu tea time flowed nicely into the meeting that followed, and soon even that was over. Normally I would head home only to be shamed into doing overtime by Urushibara, but he was not here to stop me today. Plus, everyone was already tired from earlier, so I guess that was why we could all go home early.
With my work out of the way, it was finally time for me to do my own thing. I did tell Asagao I would find out why Natsume transferring people, so right now would be the perfect time to take care of that.
I quickly walked through the city. It was already nighttime, and the dry air made me shiver, so I put on my jacket and dipped into a back alley. Our dark uniforms were surprisingly good at helping blend in the dark. They were perfect in situations where I had to stay out of the spotlight… like right now.
There was no way I was going to be spotted sneaking to Natsume’s luxurious mansion, so the jacket was a must. Once I was there, I carefully snuck around and propped my ear onto the wall. I also needed to get information about what the military was up to, especially more about her movements, so I had no choice but to do this.
Yes, I knew that listening in on a girl’s room was a great sin, but it was just too easy to do with my [World]. After all, I could hear the voices of all things no matter where they were. There could be a billion things in they way and I could still hear it just fine.
That was just the nature of my [World]. Sure it defied the laws of physics, but that was just how [Worlds] were.
In any case, I started my usual ritual that I did every time I tapped into it. It wasn’t anything fancy like how Asagao touched her Qualidea Code with one hand and her specialized weapon with another since I didn’t even need a weapon in the first place. Unlike hers and many others, my [World] was always activated and always present with me.
That’s why unlike most people, I didn’t have to bring out my [World], but rather had to narrow it down. Instead of accelerating, I had to slow down. Usually this was all that I had to do, even during battles, but this time was different. I didn’t just need to slow down— I needed to stop completely. That was the kind of image I had to put in my head.
Luckily, I had just the right item to help me do that. I took out an aspirin and popped it into my mouth. Soon, I began to get more out of touch with my [World]… I guess this was my routine.
With that, I could release the limits I had put on myself, but now I needed absolute control over my [World]. I took a deep breath and slowly breathed out, focusing on the pill that I just swallowed. Starting from the sound of the pill dissolving in my own body, other sounds from all directions began to pour into me.
I heard my blood flowing, my heart beating, then the wind blowing, the leaves rustling, then came the footsteps, water flowing through the pipes, then a chime, whistling, the sound of water, a keypad being pressed, a knock on the door, the rustling of clothes, the elevator, the motorcycle, the door, and finally a cough, then a voice, then a conversation.
But it wasn’t just the conversation I heard. No, far from it. Noises from every direction imaginable came in from every way, shape, and form that it began to get unbelievably annoying. It was as if I was wandering within a giant mush of noise that was shaking me to my very core. Because I felt every inch of that mush, I could feel how vast it really was.
And then I could feel the pain. First came the headache that came in like a shock. It was an extremely sharp pain, but then it transitioned into more of a soreness in my head. Normally, I wouldn’t have this kind of pain even during battles, but this time I was trying to hear everything. I had to absorb and identify every single sound within the vicinity so I could hear what I really wanted to hear. Because of that, the burden on my body was many times more than usual.
If I had to describe it, it was as if I was looking at randomized strings of letters and numbers that were constantly being updated on the screen. Instead of appearing line by line, these strings appeared all over with different fonts and colors. They would constantly appear and disappear without notice, and some were even upside down. Many would flow across the screen and then pop out or disappear.
I focused all my energy to find a very specific letter. Even if I could hear all the sounds physically, I didn’t have the mental fortitude to process them at the speed they were coming in to me. As a result, doing this for long periods of time was detrimental to me both physically and mentally, so I had to finish this up quickly.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I heard her voice. Perhaps it had gone quicker because I was so used to her voice from the countless times I had heard it in the past.
“Natsume, did that go alright?” I heard a voice ask her.
I could tell that whoever said that was not in a good mood just from her tone alone. Her sluggishness made me think it was black-eyes.
“Yeah, it did. Sorry for dragging you into all of this,” a female voice responded.
There was no doubt about it— this voice belonged to Natsume. If there was anyone she would talk about her plans to, it would be black-eyes and no one else.
In any case, this wasn’t the time for my mind to wander off. I finally reached Natsume’s voice, so I had to concentrate on listening to her. Seeing that I was already barely holding on, any unnecessary thoughts would be a disaster.
Unfortunately, it seemed like their conversation was wrapping up.
“I really am sorry,” said Natsume said timidly. “I should have been there from the start, but to be honest I didn’t really know what to say… I just had to wing it.”
Black-eyes laughed. “You don’t need to apologize. Besides, we could have handled it fine without you, so don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah, I think so too, but Asagao is pretty stubborn so who knows. Though I am glad I could actually scare her a little bit…”
“There’s no way they would continue doing those dumb things after what we did, right?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Natsume said. She spoke like she was giving Asagao praise. “She’s always been strong.”
Black-eyes quietened up. She was probably rethinking Asagao’s strength considering what she just heard.
“But,” said Natsume, trying to change the topic. “If she tries it again, we’ll crush her again. Simple as that.”
She spoke with such ferocity that it was hard to believe that she had been doubting herself earlier. Black-eyes didn’t seem to notice this change in behavior. Instead, it seemed she was concerned about something else.
“But that…” she said with a sigh. “I just can’t understand you after you say all that.”
“Really? What… can’t you understand?”
“You seem to be really close with her, but at the same time you also seem to hate her guts.”
“It’s not that I’m close with her,” said Natsume. “I just want to do things the right way. As the subhead I have a certain standard I have to adhere to.”
“Ah, and in the military, that standard is to beat the hell out of her right? So you do hate her, huh.”
“No! We have to be fair and treat everyone equally…”
“Equally? Aren’t you giving her special treatment, though?”
“I-I’m not! I just hate how she’s doing this. It’s way too early for her to lead anything.”
“Ah, I see,” said black-eyes. “Yeah, she’s powerless to change anything.”
“But I don’t disagree with her…”
“Yeah, I feel you. Wait, sorry… no I don’t. What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I said,” replied Natsume, reverting back to her timid form. “I want everyone to live equally… I mean, aren’t we all part of the same city? I want us all to be a happy family.”
Natsume sighed. “But,” she continued, actually sounding a little depressed.”My older sister Kayane changed the system. Anyone useless was abandoned, and only the strong were promoted… Because of that we were able to compete with Tokyo and Kanagawa, but I feel like we’ve lost something very important in the process.”
“Hmm… Didn’t you kick a fair amount of people out, though?”
“No! I was transferring them away. They were all my friends… and will continue to be, even if we were no longer in the same institution.”
“Sounds like the same thing to me…” joked black-eyes.
Natsume paused— I could only imagine her pout. She took a moment to think about things, then spoke.
“I’ve always wondered why everybody’s [Worlds] are so different. Mine is suited for the battlefield, and that’s why I fight, but there are many of those who aren’t. But I’m not the only one fighting… everyone is one way or another. That’s why it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see how much more power we have. So, if everyone’s in the military, then we’ll all be equal, right?”
“Ah sure, sure. Yes, I see,” murmured black-eyes.
“You don’t sound like you do!” shouted Natsume.
The two paused before bursting out into laughter. Natsume was a good person and she certainly wasn’t foolish. She wanted change, but knew she couldn’t do it at the moment.
“Right now I’m quite limited in what I could do because I’m just a subhead,” she continued, “but if I can slowly get the other branches to work together, then I truly believe that one day we’ll be able to look past the branches we’re stationed in and unite as one.”
Natsume spoke directly from her heart. Even though she was the most powerful fighter with full control over the military, she still strove for peace.
She sure was quite the idealist, just like Asagao. The two both had aggressive dreams of their own, but Natsume’s was on a whole new level. Asagao only wanted to change the system and how points were distributed. On the other hand, Natsume wanted us all to change from within. She wanted us to get along with each other and view each other as equals.
There was no way Natsume’s wish could come true— at least not in any of our lifetimes. Her way of thinking was too naive, seeing that people were always against even the smallest of changes. The world wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There was no way everyone could become that accepting.
“Natsume, wow…” said a concerned black-eyes.
“Yeah, I guess I still have a long way to go…”
“Wow, that’s amazing! What a perfect plan. That means I can actually start going out with people from other branches right? Sick, I’m gonna have a blast! The guys here are such idiots, but going out with guys from other branches seems to be a step down for me no matter how good looking they are.”
Natsume chuckled. “What? That’s what you’re thinking of?” she said. “Well, whatever… We’ll see how it goes first… I guess…”
Natsume sounded a bit depressed when she said that last part. It almost sounded like she didn’t expect herself to go through with it and had already given up.
My heart sank upon hearing that, and my breathing became more labored to the point where it became hard for me to breathe. I had to take a deep breath to bring things back under control.
It was already hard enough to tap into my [World] like this, so I didn’t want to get emotional to make things even more difficult, but I couldn’t help myself after hearing her words. My fingers began to get wobbly and sweaty, and it was only a matter of seconds before I lost focus.
Despite that, I understood what she was up to, so my work here was done. It was time to get out of of here. I was starting to feel the backlash from overusing my powers too… It wasn’t long before I would be unable to hold myself together from all the pain that would inevitably come. The last thing I wanted to do was to get caught snooping around in that state.
I quickly made my way out while trying to get some more pills from my pocket. My hand was trembling so much that it was hard to actually grab them out, but eventually I managed to do so and quickly threw them in my mouth. It didn’t matter how many I took or whether or not I was supposed to take them since I just needed something. Physically, I didn’t think the pills had an immediate effect, but they did wonders for me mentally thanks to the placebo effect. Just the act of taking the pills was enough to keep me sane for now.
The [World] I envisioned was where every single sound could be heard naturally. Because of that, once I tapped into it, I didn’t have to put in any effort to be able to hear those sounds. Even picking up on a ton of noises at once was not a problem for me— in the physical sense, anyway.
The very act of tapping in and out of that [World] to find very specific sounds put a huge toll on my mental state. There was nothing in my [World] that could help me tap in and out, so my mind had no choice but shoulder that burden. Once that happened, my body would go haywire to indicate that something went wrong with my mind.
Even so, it was a blessing that it didn’t affect me on a day to day basis. According to some medical personnel, human bodies were surprisingly durable, even more so with the help of [Worlds] strengthening them both mentally and physically. That, combined with all the training we received for our powers, really lessened the damage done. With that being said, determining how much restraint was needed before the breaking point was really annoying.
At this point, I was done. I vomited my heart out and trudged along the wall. Even with the wall as support, it was hard to walk with since I had chills running up and down my body and a headache so painful it was messing with my vision. Still, I hurried back as fast as I could, even if it meant I had to drift in and out of consciousness.
Perhaps it was the side effects wearing off or my pills actually doing their job, but the pain resided enough for me to crawl back to my room. Instead of having the strength to simply walk through the door, I leaned on the knob and just collapsed as the door opened.
“Hey, what happened…?” I heard. I struggled to lift my head up, but once I did, I saw Asuha’s worried face staring straight at me. “Hey!”
“O-Oh hey… I’m home…” I responded, trying my hardest not to throw up. I wondered why she came to my place today.
Before I could say any more, Asuha rushed to my side. She lifted me up from the back and gently touched my forehead. We locked eyes— I could see that she was on the verge of crying. Just seeing her face like that made my day a lot better, so I guess that’s one good thing to come out of this.
However, her expression turned on the angry side the moment she realized what I did. “Did you use that…?” she asked. Unlike her usual indifferent self, she was really pushing for an answer.
“W-Well… You know…” I tried not to answer her question directly.
But Asuha had heard enough. She grabbed my collar and shouted, “You idiot! What were you thinking?”
This wasn’t the first time she yelled at me for overusing my powers. The last time was probably when I had used the very same thing for the military entrance exams. Seeing her in this state because of what I did made me swore never to use it except under extreme circumstances.
Yet, here I am. I made her cry again. I made her angry at me again. Even in my hazy mental state, these thoughts were as clear as day to me.
My body wouldn’t budge, so Asuha dragged me all the way to the sofa and hoisted me up on top of it. Even though I wasn’t seeing straight, I could catch glimpses of her face looking right at me and could feel her warm breath blowing against my face.
“You didn’t have to drag me all the way to the sofa…”
“Yeah I did,” she shot back. She took out a cold towel from a nearby cabinet and lightly placed it on my forehead.
“It hurts me every time I see you in this state… so please don’t do it again…”
“I even said the exact same thing last time!”
“It’s okay, it’s okay…” I said weakly. My head was still throbbing with pain, but I managed to crack a smile. “I wasn’t going all out. Besides, I had never gone all out in my life, and I don’t plan to do so anytime soon.”
Asuha wasn’t having any of it. “No, it’s not fine!” she shouted out, once again on the verge of crying.
Her sudden outburst was loud enough to make my head ring, and that caused me to wince back in pain.
“Oh, sorry…” she said softly.
I couldn’t bear to see her like this any longer, so in the calmest voice possible, I said, “Really, I’m okay. Forgive me this time… I’ll be much more careful next time.”
Asuha patted my head. “Please try not to have a next time…”
I reached out and held her hand to try to calm her down. “Once I sleep for a bit, I’ll be all better…”
“So you can head home now.”
“If you say so…” said Asuha, but she didn’t move an inch.
I thought that maybe she was waiting for me to sleep, so I closed my eyes in an effort to stress that everything really was okay.
But nothing was okay. The wave of pain started to come again, and all sorts of noises once again reverberated throughout my entire body. I could feel them bouncing around in my head and scratching at my skull. They were going up and down my nervous system, shaking my organs as they went.
I bit down hard on my teeth to help stabilize myself through all the pain and discomfort. As I did, Asuha went down and gently covered both my ears with her hands. She delicately stretched her fingers around my head and ran them down my cheek.
With just her simple gesture aided by the warmth of her fingers, the violent noises within me faded away to nothing and all my unpleasant feelings were gone in an instant. I even felt like I was was floating around on a cloud. My eyes got droopy, and a blanket of warmth began spreading throughout my cold body— I was finally at peace and I could finally relax.
It wasn’t long before I had drifted into the sleep I so longed for. However, before I was completely knocked out, I heard her whisper a few words into my ear.
This is the least I could do for you.