Chapter 26:

Utterly Pointless




Steady are the strokes of a refined metal edge, joined with the song of cold steel as it hums through the still air. At the heart of a large, empty room with white polymer walls and flooring, the younger Kikaijima sister trains her sword arm. Beads of sweat drip down her brow amidst her heavy breaths.

The room projects holographic targets before her. Targets she’s quick to dispatch with swift strikes of her blade. Swift but not deliberate. The act comes with a certain… automation. As if pure muscle memory or reflex. In truth, her focus is somewhere else entirely.

What… did she mean by that?

“Utterly pointless.” Those are the words Charlotte had used. The statement and the sting of such sharp rejection settle into the wrinkles of young Rinko’s mind.

Another target appears and is just as suddenly scattered into a spray of pixels before her, albeit not as immediately.

I only asked because I thought she could help me get closer, but…

Another target, another arcade-style ping as it meets with the steel of Rinko’s blade, now slower to react than even the last time.

Then an image creeps into Rinko’s head. Those cold eyes leveled against her. That look of sheer contempt. The hooks in that image coil around her, dig into her. Their grip tightens, binding the girl’s body from within, dragging her further and further from the present reality until even her subconscious mind is consumed.

Another target appears with its loud blare that snaps the girl out of it. Having been so drowned in other things, though, her reaction proves too slow for the first time. The target vanishes before she’s able to strike it.

The buzz of failure fills the room and a list of numbers presents itself to the girl. The one that highlights itself stands among several other relatively low ones. Just a couple hundred. Nothing when compared to the numbers at the top. Thousands, all of them. All with her sister’s name beside them.

Rinko stares at her own latest number. Pitiful, even next to most of the others marked with her name. It brings a sigh out of her.

Maybe… she thinks I can’t be helped…

She sits there for a time, stewing in that thought. Finally, she shakes it off and huffs, sheathing her weapon. “No way. Quit thinking like that. I don’t even know Altair-san enough to go making assumptions like that about her. She… probably has her own reasons, right? All I should be focusing on, right now, is myself. Yeah.”

Then the girl turns her head up. “Re-run Progra-”

“Miss Rinko, “ an older voice cuts in from behind the girl, forcing her to wheel herself around. A gentleman in a suit, flanked by a younger lady housekeeper, both bowing when the young mistress takes notice of them.

Rinko blinks. “Benson? Kaede?”

The housekeeper unbows herself. “Our apologies for interrupting during your training, Rinko-sama. We’ve prepared your dinner.”

She dare not say anything aloud, but the interruption proves far from unwelcome to the distracted girl. Even if all it does is move her thoughts from one thing… to another.

Rinko nods and approaches the pair, handing her sword to Kaede with a smile. “I see. Arigatou. I probably would’ve gone the whole night without eating if you didn’t come find me. Will… mom and dad be there, by chance?”

Neither servant says a word, simply bowing their heads.

Not surprising.

“Right. They’re pretty busy, so that makes sense. Well, what about Nee-?” No. She falls silent before she can bring herself to complete that question, leaving the hired help waiting in suspense. Almost as if the question, itself, is some kind of taboo. “Nee… N-nevermind! Come on! I’m hungry!” Thus, she steps around the pair, making for the exit without looking back.


Dinner comes and goes in relative silence, Rinko being the only body at the table. No parents, no sister, only her. Tended to by a legion of help, of course. Not one of them says a word to her except to ask if she’d like another portion or more water.

When she’s finished, she departs from the table without a peep, making for her room where she plops herself down at her desk, her Link display pulling up file after file of study material. It’s all advanced, of course. East Lumos is one of the top schools in the city… and regardless of how she feels about it, she’s among its top students.


Thoughts of the crowned top student fill her mind, overpowering her drive to study. She flips through holographic screens, almost aimlessly, eventually stopping on another tab. A video. Of Kikyou. It’s during one of her sister’s speeches.

What it’s about doesn’t matter. The content doesn’t matter. Rinko sits there, absorbing the whole thing. When it’s over, she moves on to the next. And the next. Kikyou’s speeches, her performances in extracurricular events, even her combat training sessions. Rinko studies it all. Every tick. Every mannerism. Before long, the girl finds herself standing in the center of the room, trying to imitate it. Posture, body language, delivery.

After a time, a knock meets her door that pulls the girl out of her own little world, forcing her to jolt and freeze in place.


O’ the humiliation, had anyone actually come in.

“K-Kaede? Y-yes?”

“Whenever you’re ready, I’ve drawn your bath for you.”

“Okay! Arigatou, Kaede.”

With that exchange now behind her, Rinko drops onto her bed, staring up at the blank ceiling. Upon that blank canvas, though, her mind paints an image. Her sister, literally looming over her.

#1 First Year… I wonder… if it’s even possible. Or is it just…

“Utterly pointless...”


The next school day comes and goes almost too quickly. Before Rinko even knows it, she’s on her way from the classroom. No time for clubs or socializing… not that she has an abundance of people around that want to talk to her. Schoolwork, class rep responsibilities, studying, training. This is her life.

She answers her questions, scolds her peers, delivers paperwork, cleans the classroom, the whole nine yards. This time, though, each of those actions comes with a hint of… distraction. Her instructors having to call on her name multiple times. Her dropping deliverables in the hall after bumping into someone. Most notable of all, though, is exactly how long it takes for her to even think of lecturing her classmates, pushy as she tends to be.

It doesn’t go unnoticed. Not by them, and certainly not by her.

“Ugh… what’s wrong with me, today?”

After a full day of this, she makes for her shoe locker. Seldom, though, are her days uneventful. Today is no exception. Before she has the chance to round the corner to the entrance hall, a piercing sound beats out the typical background noise of chattering students, carrying about their day.


“What the-?”

It’s pretty distinct. A body, meeting those metal locker doors. Soon joined with the sound of two hostile voices, each competing to out-shout the other.

No alarm. No announcement. No… this isn’t an official match, is it? It’s…

Rushing around the corner, Rinko descends upon the scene of two First-Year boys just about ready to come to blows. One holds the other against the shoe lockers by his collar, sneering and snarling like a beast. The other glares back, gripping his assailant’s wrists with crushing force.

Rinko steps up to the pair, trying to separate them. “Hey! What’s the matter with you two?! This is no way to behave, especially on campus! Come on, break it up!”

Not one ounce of attention is paid to her. Worse yet, not another soul in that hall seems to have even the slightest intention of helping. Still worse, most of them seem far more inclined to egg the two boys on, stoking the flames of the situation, riling them up. Others ignore the situation altogether, passing by without so much as a glance. Then there are those who look upon Rinko herself, clearly amused by her efforts… not enough to do anything, of course.

These people… not one of them takes this seriously. Takes her seriously.

How… how am I supposed to-?

A thought.

Letting go of the boys, Rinko straightens her back, flips her hair and-


That noise. That familiar clack of a heel meeting the tile flooring of the halls. The sound that so many in the student body seem trained to. Every person in that hall snaps to it. Save for the bickering boys. Though their faces say it all. The second that sound bounces from the walls, fear overtakes them both.

Then a realization settles upon Rinko.

I… didn’t do that.

Yare yare…

Indeed. When she turns around, there stands the one responsible - Kikaijima Kikyou, joined by the other members of the Student Council. The Student Body President glares over the scenario with folded arms. “What is this pitiful scene?”

It’s a strange combination, this atmosphere. Not one soul has the will the respond. Silences on the one hand by sheer admiration… and hushed on the other by overpowering shame, all inspired by one person’s mere presence.

The would-be fight breaks up at once, the onlookers scattering to go about the remainder of their respective days. When all is said and done, Rinko stands there, watching her sister leave. No doubt for some important Student Council meeting.


“Ooooi! Kikacchi!”

“Heh? Wha-?!”

Fubuki. The spirited gyaru zooms right up to the mini-Kikaijima sister, coming to a screeching halt just in front of her.

Energetic as ever, this one.

A bit floored and just coming down from having to brace for an impact that’d never come, Rinko breathes. “It’s Kikaijima. What is it, Gundou-san?”

“Ahaha! Right, right, my bad! I’ll remember from now on! Promise!”

I definitely don’t believe you…

Then Fubuki leans right up into the girl’s face with her Link primed. “Hey! I saw that whole thing and it gave me an awesome idea for a story! The journalism club’s been strugglin’. We gotta start crankin’ out some way cooler stuff than we have been! Top score on every exam, 100% approval rating on the student council, winner of the last Royale?! It doesn’t get any cooler than your sis, y’know?”

Not an easy point to argue…

“Well… that’s… yeah, but…”

“Right! So le’me interview you!”

Rinko blinks. “Me?”

“Yeah! I wanna hear you talk about her! You’d know her better’n anyone else, right?!”

Such a carefree and straightforward girl, this one. How refreshing it must be to simply say what you mean without reservation. The thought puts a smile on Rinko’s face. That smile turns to a chuckle that arches Fubuki’s brow.


“My sister… is really amazing, right? Everyone I know admires her, so I guess it’ll feel really unfair of me to say this since I’m so close to her, but… I’ve always looked up to her. I wanted to be like that. For a long time, now. Kikyou is… my role model, you know?”


From elsewhere in the city, a pair of cold, green eyes watch the recording of that very interview in pure apathy. “Hmph. Liar…”

Charlotte closes the video, proceeding along the bustling city streets. People know from her demeanor to get out of her way. She keeps her head high, marching along with purpose in her steps. Soon she arrives at her destination - the Ortiz Family dojo.