I had actually chosen the same response as yours. However, let's see how that kind of choice goes... After all, wouldn't it be better if we run in and defend ourselves from a person who is going to potentially "end our pain"? It's easy to deduce that this character might get shot! (Key word: MIGHT!)@hackata48:
Your response is interesting! I'm not going to lie, your response made me "r o f l". It's an interesting perspective that you have on running head on in order to save yourself from this man, but wouldn't it also be wise to see what he might be doing next? Not saying your choice of option is wrong since I would've done it too if I were in a state of pure panic. It's human nature to keep danger far away from us, after all!
[Poll Result]Look at what I chose, now I'm going to be a black sheep if people disagree with my option, cough.
[A/N]Glad to see that the poll option hasn't failed so hard that it needs to be removed from the series! Since it is New Year Eve for some of us already, I would like to give you all a gift to make up for my horrible part as a writer with an early update. Please look forward to this series, and as an additional feature, I will stop by the thread 3 days before the locking and finalizing the poll to have a discussion with everyone. With that said, I hope you all have a lovely holiday, and may the new year treat you all with better kindness than this year.
You chose to ask questions. You don’t even know who this man is, why you’re holding a sharp-bladed weapon, why you’re hurting so much from your surroundings1
, or even where you are. There’s was just too many questions bubbling up in a short span of time, and you needed answers fast. A wince escaped your lips as you began to ask your questions.
Everything came out. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those key starting words were attached to all of your questions. You might’ve asked a little too much in the state of confusion. You couldn’t keep count of the number of questions that vomited out of your mouth. There’s a small hope that you he could at least respond to one of them. Any answer, any clarification, anything to keep yourself from further spiraling downward in puzzlement.
A gunshot was heard. You felt your body involuntarily jerk, forcing you to take a step backward. You weren’t so oblivious as to not know what caused your figure to move in that fashion. A glance down was all it took to confirm your assumption. There is a hole centered in your chest. What should’ve been a stream of crimson liquid seeping out of the small abnormality were constantly washed away from the downpour. You directed your gaze back at the man. You still see him gently smiling at your direction. Surprisingly, the infliction didn’t hurt. The only effect you’ve noticed was how heavy your entire being felt. Like a broken doll, you slowly crumple to the ground as your eyelids slowly closed.
But just at that moment, you barely managed to catch his mouth move. What did he say?
You wanted to ask your final question. You tried to move your tongue and part your lips just one more time. Then, reality gave you the cruel truth by enveloping your entire vision in black, permanently shutting down all five of your senses. At least the anguish you’ve felt standing in the rain disappeared for good.
“Mayu… Don’t tell me you slept through lecture!”
A university student lulled her head on top of her arms, eyelids fluttering open. She blinked a couple times, brown eyes adjusting to the new surrounding that she now arrived to. Another blink till her vision became crystal clear. White boards, a professor standing behind the podium, packing his belonging to a suitcase, a student conversing with her friends about lunch in front of her, multiple rows of rooted chairs and tables nearby, and most importantly, her best friend sitting by her side. It really does look like class ended. She certainly didn’t expect for a nap to last for more than an hour.
Watanabe Mayu stifled a yawn as she finally raised her head up, a hand barely covering her wide open mouth. At said-sight, Kashiwagi Yuki raised an eyebrow.
“Isn’t this the fifth time it happened this week?” she continued to scold. “What have you been doing this entire week?”
A shrug of Mayu shoulders. “Probably gaming too much.”
“Sheesh… You need to tone down on the gaming, and focus more on your studies.”
. I haven’t gotten anything lower than a 90 in all of my examinations and quizzes.”
“For all of your classes?”
A nod. “For all of my classes,” she repeated.
Mayu clearly doesn’t understand why Yuki seems to be a worry-wart over her grades when she’s clearly doing much better than this student. The 20-year-old did put the 22-year-old to shame once a month of schooling was put in. Regardless, Mayu doesn’t think of her badly. **They’ve been good friends since last year.** Frankly, she’s Mayu’s only friend she can trust and confide in.
As the uniformed university student gather her belongings, the raven-haired female, still seated, leaned towards the other girl. This unexpected closeness forced Mayu to lean away from Yuki. Of course, seated right by the window, she can’t move away any further than she desired.
“You’re in my personal bubble, you know,” she didn’t hesitate to state the fact. “Could you please back off?”
“You’re my friend, but you’re acting so tsundere.”
“I’m not a tsundere, Yukirin.”
“Right right, but anyway, I need to ask you something… You heard anything about the ‘Human Advancement Agency’?
**The Human Advancement Agency? That’s a peculiar name coming from Yuki’s mouth. Mayu proceeded to compile her notebook, writing utensils,textbook, and workbook into one neat pile. Brown eyes still focused on packing up her belongings, she answered, “I’ve heard of them. They’ve gone viral on the Internet.”
Yuki’s eyes widen. “Are you serious? I know they’re a secret organization, but are they really exposing their experimentation to the world?”
Finally, Mayu’s eyes met with her friend’s. She gazed deep into the pair, searching for any particular emotions that could make the Biology major utter a ridiculous notion. Sadly, she could not find one. With a loud sigh, she got up from her seat and scooped up the pile on the two-seated table.
“Secret? There’s nothing secretive about them. Unless you’re telling me that mixing random energy drinks and soda is supposed to be confidential.” Yuki’s expression changed: eyebrows raised, eyes widening, and blinking as if she’s a deer in headlights. Looking as though she didn’t believe a single word that came out of the student’s mouth, she emphasized one point about this so-called Human Advancement Agency. “They’re a YouTube channel. You don’t even have to be a frequent Internet user like me to know who they are. Just think of them as young men and women who do crazy things for a living.”
When her expression remained the same, the Computer Science major decided not to repeat herself again. If Yuki isn’t going to understand, then there’s no point in doing so.**
Mayu then dumped the pile into her already-unzipped neon green and black backpack. Slight adjustments were made on the black straps before she slid her arms through from the back. A small jump was all it needed to keep the container in place. She turned to look at her friend once again with a small smile.
“You got another class, right? I’ll walk you to it.”
Yuki blinked. Then, she scratched the back of her head. “Sure, just like always.”
There was no point in asking anymore questions from the Biology Major student. She got her answer from Mayu. Her brows furrowed during the aftermath, hand lowered. Maybe at another time, Yuki could properly sit down with her close friend and have a conversation at their own pace. It was wrong of her to toss it out right after lecture, especially when Mayu just woke up from her nap.
Soon, the two were spotted leaving the lecture room. Hallways full of students, noise, light, smell, and physical sensations were amplified. Luckily, Yuki’s next class was in another building. She has an Organic Chemistry lab, so that furthered the walking distance. It would take about five minutes by foot to get there. It would take another five minutes to get there if Yuki chooses to walk outdoors instead. Considering the situation they were in, both agreed to leave the condensed inside. A breath of fresh air during the Fall season is always preferable over the small numbered sweaty, greasy and smelly students.
A calling. That was not part of their plan. Right as they were close to the glass double doors, the two college students directed their attention to the source. A young student ran towards their direction, looking out of breath. She barely has her loose-leaf notes, notebooks, textbook, and workbook secure at hand, the listed objects pressed against her chest for the sake of staying away from the ground. All accompanied by her newly disheveled hair, it was almost laughable, clearly coming out from an anime or movie scene.
Her head raised, she exclaimed, “C-Can… Can you both tutor me about this class? I’m really lost.”
“A lost cause, huh,” Mayu remarked. “Isn’t there someone else that could help you?”
“I’m sure you have friends in the class. Why don’t you try asking them?”
“Well… About that… they stopped coming to class since the first day of lecture.”
Mayu and Yuki turned to look at each other. As if in sync, they said, “Yep, she’s a lost cause alright.” Clearly they stated that fact with the intention of having the other student hear it. If her neighboring seatmates nor friends could help her out, she’s going to get eaten alive once exams roll around the corner. They’ve already had their first two exams, so shouldn’t she have learned her lessons already?
An exhale came from Mayu’s mouth. Glancing at her friend, she shot a small smile. “You should head to your class right now. I’ll take care of her.”
Although Yuki would want to help her out, she was absolutely right. She has an upcoming class, and she cannot be late for it. A hand raised in the air, the older student finally made her way out of the building without another word. Mayu didn’t need to have visual confirmation on the woman’s response. She knew what the answer would be from her friend.
Now that they were left alone, the pony-tailed female extended both of her hands out. “Give me some of your books. You look like you’re going to collapse if you keep holding onto them any longer.”
The student hesitated. “I think I’m fine--” Those words just left her lips when a notebook began to slide out of place. Her eyes widen at the sight. She desperately released a hand in order to grab it, but that allowed even more of her books and papers to slip through her grasp. All hope was not lost the moment Mayu’s extended hands instinctively snatched most of the pile. Straightening their backs, the young girl couldn’t help but flash a forced grin at the other.
“I, uh… Thanks, senpai.”
“If only you let me carry some of your things first, it wouldn’t end up like this,” she softly exhaled. Despite the trouble she was already causing, Mayu didn’t think of her as a bothersome or annoying individual. Since she already offered to lend a hand with her studies, they might as well get along with each other. “Let’s go to the library. I don’t have anymore classes today since it’s a Friday, so I can help you until you have your next class.”
“This is my last class for today, senpai.”
“That’s even better. We can take our time then.”
A young male standing nearby was kind enough to hold the door for the two ladies as they walked out of the building. After giving a thanks to the student, Mayu returned her attention back towards the other girl. It would only take two minutes to walk from their current location to their destination. However, two minutes of silence between them would be enough to warrant an awkward atmosphere. She definitely doesn’t want that to occur. Clearing her throat, Watanabe began to speak.
“So… I didn’t get your name.”
“O-Oh, I’m so sorry, senpai!” Flustered, the young girl lowered her head as they continued to walk straight ahead. She was so concerned that Mayu wouldn’t be able to accept her request that formally introducing herself never came to mind. “I’m Matsui Jurina, but you can call me Jurina. I hope we get along!”
A perky girl. Mayu couldn’t help but laugh in bliss as she gave a similar introduction to the girl. “I think you might already know who I am since you’ve approached me, but just in case, I’m Watanabe Mayu. I hope we can get along too.”
“So… what major are you going into?”
The young Matsui let out a small gasp. “Same here!” That dimpled grin… Mayu could not help but stare at that specific facial feature on the student. It reminds her of a puppy considering the type of personality, energy, and physical traits she emits so far. How contagious. She couldn’t help but grin along with Jurina. Did she ever have a friend who is this gleeful? Mayu couldn’t remember if she had anyone like that in her life. It was a nice change of pacing, especially during schooling at a university.
Once they arrived in the library, the two were able to reserve the last private room for a group study session. It was located on the fifth floor, far away from any disturbances that occurs in the other four floors. No one liked to go to the highest part of the modern building. There was just to much hassle to deal with. For Jurina and Mayu, it was the perfect spot to study.
“Let’s check and see if you’re truly lost in this class,” Mayu said as she settled the pile down on the circular table. In this small, but brightly white lit room, the table was able to hold about eight students. Two desktop computers on standby at another nearby table with its two chairs, this was the perfect spot for any student to do a group work. A click was heard in the background once Mayu took out her cellular device and its charger. Jurina approached by her side, dropping off her load on the same table as the older student used the outlets located in the middle of the furniture to charge her phone. Without looking at Jurina, she added, “Hopefully you know the basics of mathematics fundamental to signing up for this class in the first place.”
A chuckle came from Jurina as she plopped down on the nearest chair. Waving her hand in the air, Matsui gave a nod. “I know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and count all of the fingers on my hands. I think I’m good to go.”
“Oh ha ha, very funny, Matsui-san.”
She slipped the black straps off from her shoulders. The backpack landing on the navy blue carpeted ground with a thud, Mayu proceeded to unzip the container. Appropriate materials were whipped out and placed on the table. Soon, the Computer Science student sat near Jurina with her own notes. Mechanical pencil ready at hand, she used the lead’s tip to point at the textbook.
“Start with the review from Chapter 0. I need to see how much you need to catch up.”
“Right right, senpai~”
[4 HOURS LATER]
Pages were heard being flipped in the isolated room. Not a single sound were produced other than their quiet breaths, papers being shuffled, and the scratching of pens and pencils. Faint sighs and sharp inhales occasionally occurred as the minutes ticked by. Sometimes Mayu would lecture Jurina about a concept that has already been covered in class as she worked on her own homework for another subject. There were also times the two exchanged personal information with each other. Spoke about their friends, their courses, their interests, and, most importantly, exchanged their contact information. Of course, based on Jurina’s hyperactive energy that exerted from her own being, the entire session wasn’t much of a smooth sailing. They crashed into a few large boulders here and there. However, they managed to squeeze down three chapters without many small breaks in between.
Mayu’s arms were outstretched above her head, letting out a groan from the amount of time her butt has been planted on the seat. Her feet was close to falling asleep, so when she stood up, she nearly stumbled from the lack of blood flowing throughout her legs. Palm of her hand resting on the table’s surface, the older student gazed at the younger one.
“It’s good that you have the basics down. We’ve managed to cover almost three chapters in one go for today.”
Jurina, who was yawning and stretching all four of her limbs in her seat, looked up at Mayu. “If I didn’t know the basics, I bet we would’ve been stuck here for much longer than four hours, right?”
“No, we wouldn’t be here in the first place. I would’ve left you alone if you don’t even know how to do simple algebraic equations.”
“You’re so mean, senpai!”
“Am not.” Mayu gathered her belongings and stuck her tongue out at Jurina. “I would’ve questioned how you got into college.”
The other student followed similar action as her tutor. Since there were additional papers tossed into the fray, the ponytailed female took some of the young Matsui’s materials into her hands. It was the least she could do to assist aside from the grueling process of their earlier session. A sly smirk ran across Jurina’s lips as she shot a glance at Mayu.
“Money. It’s as simple as that.”
“You’ll be stuck in college forever if that excuse runs by. Plus, you’re not even guaranteed an acceptance based on money alone.” “It might be different in my case~”
“Only you would think of that.”
They began to laugh after the teasing remark. As if on cue, their stomachs rumbled at similar intervals. Everything was in sync for the next few actions. A blush crept on their cheeks, their brown eyes focused on each other, and another laughter erupted out of their mouth.
“We should go out and grab something to eat for dinner,” Jurina proposed. Index finger pointing in the air, she added, “I know this great place near my apartment. I’ll treat you to them.”
Mayu shook her head. “You don’t need to treat me, Matsui-san--”
“First, you can call me Jurina, senpai. Second,” she raised another finger to tally up the counts. “Please let me treat you. This is the least I could do to thank you.”
She wanted to argue back, but seeing how the other student is firm on her decision, she simply let out a small exhale. Based on the girl’s personality, it doesn’t look like the young Matsui will be budging anytime soon. A small smile formed on Watanabe’s face as she motioned her head.
“Let’s go then. Standing around here isn’t going to feed our stomach.”
“You got that right.”
Once again, they grinned at each other after grabbing the rest of their belongings. Any outsider would easily assume that they were close friends since their high school years. That’s not how it seems in reality. They’ve only met each other this afternoon. It was simply the result from Jurina’s cheerful attitude that created this sort of atmosphere.
Since it was nightfall, the two agreed to stop by a restaurant. There were plenty of them near the university, and since it was a Friday, there were a ton of students hanging around in this part of Shibuya. Large crowds and the lights from the district was enough to make the peaceful atmosphere within their university immediately erode once a step was taken out of the premise. Not like Mayu minds it, though.
“Wait, you’re telling me that you’re originally from Akihabara?” she asked the young girl as they waited for the go signal from the crosswalk sign.
Adjusting her hand on the school supplies with one hand, Jurina gave a nod. “Yep. Transferred here because my parents own a computer company here in Shibuya.”
“Did they force you to?”
“Nope. I wanted to come here.”
Mayu couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy. Jurina was certainly lucky if she shared the same hobbies as the older woman. All of the figurines and limited edition anime DVDs she could be collecting had she lived in Akihabara… There wouldn’t be any need to browse so much on the computer then. However, she also felt proud that Jurina came here on her own accords. It wasn’t because her parents forced her, but because she wished to lend her parents a hand in their business. There needs to be more people like this student, Mayu believes.
Another growling sensation came from the two ladies, but it wasn’t heard thanks to the bustling sound of their surroundings. Many civilians began to fill up their side of the crosswalk. Had the two classmates stood any closer to each other, the sporadic shove and push from certain rude individuals would’ve squish them into an uncomfortable distance. They only knew each other since this afternoon, so unlike Yuki, Mayu didn’t want Jurina to be anywhere near her personal bubble. The same could be said for Jurina. They knew the distance that had to be put between each other.
Light finally giving the walking symbol, the two proclaimed, “Finally!” out loud at the same time. They walked towards the opposite end, starting up another conversation about what food they should be getting near their apartments. It eventually led to another topic about where they current reside at. Mayu and Jurina were able to receive more information about where they were living, and they discovered they didn’t live too far from each other. It was simply a five blocks difference. Grinning, Jurina pointed out that they should visit each other in the mornings before class starts during weekdays.“That sounds like a good idea,” Mayu followed the idea. “Unlike Yuki, who lives much farther than me, I won’t have to walk alone anymore to school.”
“Yeah! The same could be said about me.”
“I’ll pick you up then--”
Jurina held out her hand, cutting off the older student’s sentence. “Nope, I’ll do the picking up.”
This almost made Mayu laugh again for the nth time today. An eyebrow raised, she placed one hand on her hip and adjusted her hold on the other books against her chest. “As someone older than you, I should be the one picking up my kouhai--”
A man in black passed by her. It was brief, but long enough for her visual sense to capture enough data about the passerby. Compared to most of the civilians who were wearing business attire, he barely stuck out like a sore thumb. However, it was like he intentionally slowed his walking pace when brushing by Watanabe. The golden badge on his shirt shone the title ‘HAA’.2
That was enough to halt the girl in the middle of the crosswalk, her blood running cold at the sight of the acronyms. Attention directed at the man, she couldn’t help but feel an impending doom falling upon her.
It was like chance. Luck is a foreign concept that couldn’t be explained by science, mathematics, or the supernatural. The randomest part of our life could be altered, and we would immediately refer to it as either good or bad luck. Heart racing, she kept her eyes plastered on the man’s figure. He continued walking. Could she have mistaken him for someone that evoked such reaction from her?
Then, he stopped upon reaching the end of the crosswalk. He turned around. Sunglasses concealed his eyes. Considering the time of the day, it was ridiculous to wear one right now. However, his face burned into her brain. She knew him. She knew who he was. No, it wasn’t to say that she knew exactly who he was. Rather, she knew where he came from.
The name on his badge screamed it all.
It was far, but she was able to spot him devilish flash his teeth at her direction. Mayu almost screamed in pure terror when she saw it. Instead, she pressed the books even harsher against her own chest in desperate attempt to slow her rapidly beating heart. She’s trembling like a fawn barely able to learn how to stand on its four legs as the man resumed walking.
“Mayuuuuuuuu… Did you see someone you know?”
She finally tore her gaze away from the man. Brown eyes touching upon Jurina’s, she stuttered weakly.
“I… No… No… No no no no no…”
Mayu looked back at the male’s direction. He was still there, the back of his head still visible from within the crowd. She squeezed her eyes shut, reopening them after a few seconds to see if he was still there. The man in black is now gone. However, it did not provide relief. A wave of nausea overwhelmed the student as she covered her mouth. It took every ounce of her energy to keep the bile in her stomach from lurching out. Sweat that didn’t derive from the hot atmosphere were produced on her forehead, brown eyes barely kept in focus.
This concerned the young Matsui. Not only did Mayu stop right smack in the middle of the crosswalk, but she looked like she was going hysterical. She attempted to look in the same direction as her senpai, trying to figure out the sole cause of the sudden reaction. Since Jurina had zero clue on who or what she was looking for, she was unable to draw any conclusion. A glance back at Mayu, she still saw her pale, frightened expression. Jurina reached out to touch her shoulder.
“Mayu? Is something wrong--”
“No, I… I have to get going…” The tip of young, athletic student’s fingers barely brushed her classmate’s shoulder when she backed away. Books that belonged to the young Matsui were still in her grasp, forcefully pressed against her chest as Mayu slowly uncovered her mouth. Based on the way she was backing up from the touch, it was as if Jurina had smacked her out of resentment. This pained Jurina’s heart, her hand retracting back to her side. Watanabe continued to speak cryptically and shook her head. “I’m… I’m sorry Jurina, but I have to get going.”
“W-What about dinner?”
“No… I… No, I don’t want dinner… I have to go back home…”
A loud sigh came from the short-haired female. She pointed a thumb from behind her as she offered, “Well… Do you want to crash by my apartment then? It’s just a block away.”
The older student hesitated. Who knows what might happen, but it looks like her classmate just offered a valuable option for the night. However, Mayu doesn’t want to trouble Jurina. After all, they had just officially met and spoken to each other today. How could she impose a trouble that she only knows to an acquaintance?
Biting the bottom of her lip, Watanabe Mayu decided to…
[ Stay with Jurina for the night ]
[ Go home by herself ]
Compared to the other variables, why is it that you're being hurt from your surroundings alone? Looking back at the prologue, it's consistent that what is supposed to be harmless is actually doing the opposite. 2
It's strikingly the same as the one in her dream... What exactly is the 'HAA' now that it's appeared in reality?