Chapter 2:

Of Science and Gardens

Crimson Core

Shards.Bookmark here

Shards are crystallized forms of one’s feelings. Every living being possess one type of shard.Bookmark here

Active Shards:Bookmark here

Shard type one: The Stabilizer, marked by a Greek letter.
Shard type two: The Fighter, marked by the specific object.Bookmark here

Passive Shards:Bookmark here

Shard type three: The Compassionate, carried by a friend.
Shard type four: The Unconditional, carried by a pet.Bookmark here

Pair of three shards form a Prism which pulls the shard carriers into a special realm called [World Within].Bookmark here

Prism is formed around a person who’s Shard is inactive, meaning the one seeking help.Bookmark here

Pair of Shards have the ability to collect Loose Mana inside [World Within] and use it to stabilize the Spark.Bookmark here

Spark is in the center of one’s [World Within].Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“And with that I would conclude the presentation.”Bookmark here

Ren stood quietly in a place and enjoyed forced clapping coming from other members of the club. Shiki silently observed all the complicated terms and jolted down in the notebook everything he has seen.Bookmark here

“What a nearth”, Omi nudged Shiki’s hand.Bookmark here

“Oy snowflake leave him alone. Ya did the same when we recruited you, ya even pissed yer pants!”Bookmark here

Ume blurted out while fixing her eye patch.Bookmark here

“Calm down, pirate, I won’t touch your treassure.”Bookmark here

Omi hopped down on the chair and prepared himself for dodging maneuvers.Shiki ignored them as he was still fixated on the blackboard.Bookmark here

“Do you have any questions?” asked Ren.Bookmark here

“Million, probably,” sighed Shiki nervously and continued, “but this looks extremely interesting.”Bookmark here

He wrote additional notes in his notebook.Bookmark here

“Ya took it really well, hottie,” Ume addedBookmark here

“Minus the whole unconscious parth,” said Omi.Bookmark here

Shiki composed himself and tried to scrape together a valid sentence.Bookmark here

“I’ve played tons of games…. So I guess this is like that too.”Bookmark here

Ren liked what she hears and smiled proudly.Bookmark here

“I can promise you a really good game then, Kap”Bookmark here

Shiki finally observed Ren from head to toe for the first time.Bookmark here

She is a stunning beauty.Bookmark here

Her strong facial lines felt authoritative at first sight but at the same time her kind feminine approach gave him a valid reason to put his trust in her.Bookmark here

She treated every club member with the same respect no matter how dumb someone’s takes were or how childish they acted. It wasn’t too hard to imagine her in a colonel’s uniform, moreso, her look felt incomplete without it.Bookmark here

Students of some schools were obliged to wear a school’s uniform, but this one didn’t. One of the academy’ s policies was “self-expression”, so you could get away with all kinds of outfits as long as it’s not too revealing or too much.Bookmark here

Members of this club are the best example of how far you could push that boundary. President wore a well-knit jumper that looked home-made and army pants complimented with Martens shoes. This odd combination made her the most normal-looking of them all.Bookmark here

A lot of stuff that was going on at the blackboard seemed like a demented mumbo-jumbo, but at the same time it felt right, coming out of her mouth.Bookmark here

“So why am I a Kappa?” Shiki wondered.Bookmark here

Ren silently looked at Shiki as if she was trying to find the answers somewhere on his face.Bookmark here

“You possess features of a Kappa,” Ren concluded.Bookmark here

Shiki slightly opened his mouth cause he expected a 30 minute long explanation.Bookmark here

“That’s a pres for ya!” Ume laughed.Bookmark here

“He doesn’t look like a turtle to mii,” said Omi while fixing his extravagantly marbled tie.Bookmark here

Ren grabbed a chalk and started to write more things onto the blackboard.Bookmark here

“As I sad, we mark type 1 Shards with Greek letters, similar to how we name types of waves in physics.”Bookmark here

Ren started drawing differently curved lines and giving them names such as alpha, beta, delta and theta.Bookmark here

“Different waves have different frequencies which gives them different properties. Similarly to that, waves of your emotions will give you different properties when you end up in [World Within].”Bookmark here

Shiki followed Ren’s every step without blinking.Bookmark here

“Tis’ weird how stuff is super simple and super jumbled at the same time,” commented Ume while drawing curved lines on the air.Bookmark here

“Kappa is a joker, trickster and a prankster,” concluded Ren.Bookmark here

Shiki’s enthusiasm dropped significantly cause he expected something more heroic.Bookmark here

“Don’t bother with that interepretraintion,” said Omi.Bookmark here

“I know ya have a last word condition, but seriously dude, that’s just pushin’ too much,” said Ume while drawing circles around Omi’s head.Bookmark here

“I mean at!” yelled Omi and continued his thought, “it just means that you and Ume will be extremely compatibell”Bookmark here

Ume’s slightly red cheeks turned into a crimson red as she furiously threw the first thing that got under her hand at him.Bookmark here

“What are you saying out loud, moron!?” Ume jumped.Bookmark here

She grabbed the attention of everyone present. Even composed Ren couldn’t believe her ears.Bookmark here

“You talked normally,” said everyone at the same time.Bookmark here

“Shut up…”Bookmark here

Ume withdrew on a chair with pouting face.Bookmark here

“That is a fact,” Ren addedBookmark here

Shiki’s pupils enlarged exponentially. His face narrowed like a baseball bat, and eyebrows almost escaped his head.Bookmark here

“Ume will definitely become your partner Shard,” said Ren and continued with her lecture.Bookmark here

“Shard type 1, The Stabilizer, which is you, will be paired with Shard type 2, The Fighter, which is Ume.”Bookmark here

Ren drew tiny stick figures on a board, representing each of them.Bookmark here

“Together, you will connect with either Shard type 3 or 4 depending on situation.”Bookmark here

She drew even more stick figures that amused the audience. Omi silently giggled while looking at Ume who put a book over her head.Bookmark here

Shiki’s breathing seized completely. Bookmark here

He kept repeating words like “pairs”,”girl”,”shards” and “spark” without further explaining his thoughts on the matter.Bookmark here

“Look, president broke our new membar,” said Omi.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

It was already late in the afternoon. Sun was slowly setting and so did Shiki’s focus on this science lecture. At that moment, someone knocked on a club room door.Bookmark here

“You kids are still here?” asked Cyn and continued, “You should wrap it up for today, you have real classes to think about starting tomorrow as well.”Bookmark here

“Lady’s right,” said Ume and quickly passed by Cyn that stood near the door.
Bookmark here

“Wow, she’s fasd,” added Omi while trying to catch up with her, stumbling all the way.Bookmark here

Ren looked at the clock and agreed. She dropped her head to check on Shiki who was obviously still in delirium.Bookmark here

“I know you want to put him in action as soon as possible, but to him this whole scene still seems like a fantasy,” Cyn leaned back on the wall near the door.Bookmark here

“I apologize professor, I was just so excited when Omi told me he detected a brand new Shard 1,” said Ren while looking gently at confused Shiki.Bookmark here

“I understand you. Two years of failed tests with Omicron had a toll on you, as well as on Umeko, but remember the reason you put together this club.”Bookmark here

Cyn reached Shiki’s shoulder.Bookmark here

“I’m glad you decided to stay, but go home now and get some rest.”Bookmark here

Like a slug, Shiki stood up and left the room without a comment.Bookmark here

Ren tried to reach him with her hand but at the right time Cyn blocked her way and signaled not to do anything.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“What a strange day,” Shiki thought to himself. Bookmark here

Bathed in dusk, he walked slowly through the streets of Zarconia. Familiar shops of yesterday are now presented in entirely new light considering everything that transpired during this long day. He threaded carefully on the sidewalk while thinking about president’s words.Bookmark here

When he reached the crossing where the red strings attacked him, dots in head started connecting themselves.Bookmark here

“Maybe I was somehow pulled into that [World Within]?”Bookmark here

One question rose, just to be stricken down by a different one.Bookmark here

“But president said that at least three people are required for a session to occur.”Bookmark here

It didn’t help the fact that he was yet to participate in such session so he satisfied himself with a simple answer: “it was too soon to conclude anything.”Bookmark here

He continued to walk towards the grandma’s apartment still worried about the future.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“I’m home,” said Shiki.Bookmark here

“Shiki!” granny flew out of the kitchen towards the front door.Bookmark here

“I was so worried when teacher called and said that you are in an infirmary,” granny took Shiki’s hand with both of her hands and squeezed it with immense force.Bookmark here

Shiki was surprised by granny’s reaction cause he has never seen it before. Strangely enough, it really helped in this situation.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, a lot of stuff happened and I kind of passed out,” Shiki said while scratching the back of his head.Bookmark here

Force of air bellowed within granny and exploded from her weak posture.Bookmark here

“Passed out? Same as that father of yours! Passing out to him was as easy as sneezing!” she complained while walking out of the room.Bookmark here

Shiki nervously chuckled.Bookmark here

“What are you standing there for? Kitchen is over there, dinner won’t cook itself,” granny commanded in her standard tone.Bookmark here

Usually, Shiki would loath this kind of tone, but somehow it felt comforting this time around.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

After dinner, Shiki dropped on his bed.Bookmark here

“I’m beaten, even though I technically slept today in the infirmary,” he chuckled.Bookmark here

Few moments later his mobile phone rang.Bookmark here

It’s an old model that still used buttons even though everyone has a smartphone in this day and age.Bookmark here

“Hey Kappa. I found a phone number in your files at school and took liberty to pass it forward to other club members. You’re now friends after all. Cyn”Bookmark here

Shiki read the message which made him both happy and worried. He hasn’t thought of the answer and when he tried to type one, a new message arrived again.Bookmark here

“By the way, I forgot to mention that there is one more club member you haven’t met. Well he met you, but you didn’t exactly meet him. His name is Alp, he carried you to the infirmary. You should introduce yourself in the morning, he helps out in school gardens. Cyn”Bookmark here

“She writes long texts,” thought Shiki and fell asleep.Bookmark here

“…” Bookmark here

New morning woke in Zarconia. Fortunately for no one, it was completely cloudy and it looked like rain was coming.Bookmark here

Chilly wind that blew marked the start of another school year.Bookmark here

Hundreds of students arrived in Bohr Academy to ease up a path to university they desired. Shiki skipped principal’s introduction yesterday due to “club business”, but luckily for him, nothing of importance was mentioned.Bookmark here

“Why did I even come yesterday?”Bookmark here

“I always tell myself not to come on the first day of school, but I always do!”Bookmark here

“Haha you guys listened to that snore fest? I played Snitcher 3.”Bookmark here

Various remarks filled the school grounds. Some of them even arrived towards the sensitive ears of teachers who took great enjoyment into scolding them.Bookmark here

Shiki was not among them. He was behind the school where an awe-inspiring park presented itself in front of him.
Bookmark here

Formidable park was an important meeting place for many clubs such as Gardening club, Nature club and even Drama and Movie clubs. Hundreds of trees and various flowers sprinkled on a ground, different signs that showed the way and old-fashioned street lamps decorated this unexpectedly clean and quiet place.Bookmark here

“Gardening Club Greenhouse,” read Shiki on one of the signs.Bookmark here

Couple of meters down the road stood a giant greenhouse and what seemed to be some kind of commotion inside it.Bookmark here

When Shiki approached closer, he heard audible screams of girls that cheered enthusiastically. It wasn’t two or three of them, but an entire crowd was present.He looked closer and saw a giant mountain-like man with white transparent shirt carrying several pounds of fertilizer.Bookmark here

It was indeed a sight to behold, if I can say so myself.Bookmark here

Man dropped the bags on the ground and warned all the fan girls around him.Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t loiter around here if you’re not part of Gardening Club!”Bookmark here

Sentence ended anticlimactically and soon after, crowd dispersed. Shiki admired the power of man’s words which also implied that he is a high school student.Bookmark here

“Hey.” Bookmark here

Tiny voice escaped Shiki’s mouth.Bookmark here

Mountain turned around and Shiki was almost blown away by peer pressure man created.Bookmark here

“Oh, hey! You’re that light boy I carried. I’m Alp, nice to meet you.”Bookmark here

Man’s complexity softened dramatically which made Shiki feel like a pampered princess waiting for a dessert from her butler.Bookmark here

“Yes...sorry about that,” Shiki let out a nervous laugh.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, Ren always does this kind of stuff to others,” Shiki felt Alp’s laughter beneath his feet.Bookmark here

“When I joined the club, both Ren and Ume also put up a show for me, but in my case I got so scared I destroyed the table,”said Alp while moving bags from one side to another.Bookmark here

Shiki stood in one place quitely. He didn’t know how to conduct properly.Bookmark here

“All those shard this spark that, even now two years later I still have no idea what is that all about, but I trust Ren, she is smart as hell.”Bookmark here

Shiki admired Alp in this regard.Bookmark here

“Oh on that note, Ren is my partner.”Bookmark here

Without a second thought Shiki got completely wrong idea out of that sentence. Weird feeling inside his stomach culminated and wrinkles on his forehead became apparent.Bookmark here

“Not that kind of partner, I mean Shard partner,”Alp said with a smile on his face.Bookmark here

Shiki forced his brain to rewind all the things Ren talked about during her presentation but his mind went blank half way through so there was nothing to remember really.Bookmark here

“Oh, there she is, my queen!”Bookmark here

Alp lowered his boulder-like head and bowed unnaturally graciously.Bookmark here

The only face Shiki could produce is the one that describes a person who ate a pile of lemons.Bookmark here

With firm steps carefully landing on a ground and always backed with a breeze pushing her forward, Ren waltzed into a greenhouse and stood next to Alp.Bookmark here

“Good morning, my knight.”Bookmark here

The intonation, the look, the entire aura around Ren felt completely different than before. Shiki froze his lemon face onto the ground, trying to make himself disappear with strange incantation that consisted of tapping and sweating.Bookmark here

“Greetings, Kappa. Are you feeling better than yesterday?”Bookmark here

Ren’s lips gently bounced the words that swirled in the air between them.Bookmark here

Shiki barely muttered “Yes.”Bookmark here

“Don’t be late for your classes, the club room meeting will begin couple of minutes after the final class.”Bookmark here

The professional tone mixed with gentle aura around her put Shiki in a bizarre situation he hasn’t experienced before.Bookmark here

He gave a slight confirmation with his head and started walking away.Bookmark here

“Oh and yeah, prepare yourself cause you’re doing your first session today,” said Ren.Bookmark here

“Even if you pass out, I will take care of you every time!” blurted Alp.Bookmark here

Shiki nodded and made his way out of the greenhouse.Bookmark here

When he looked back, he saw Alp and Ren smiling happily while Ren ate some tomatoes that Alp gave her.Bookmark here

“Tomato...huh,” Shiki made a partial smiled that he squeezed out of his face.Bookmark here

One part of him was glad he got along with club members, but the other worried that the whole deal is so much bigger than him, which was an unmistakable truth. But it was too late for second thoughts. No matter how awkward he is, he would never back out at this stage.Bookmark here

He remembered a first run through the empty school corridors within the strange world. He swore he felt a familiar long-forgotten warmth, and decided to recapture it again.Bookmark here

Wind blew downstream and soft raindrops started breaking around him.Bookmark here

In a distance stood a mighty old tree that was noticeably different than others. Color of leaves was much lighter and trunk was marbled by a curious paysage.Bookmark here

When Shiki looked better, it seemed like it formed a smile.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.