Chapter 3:

Life, Hugs & Rock & Roll

Crimson Core

Life.Bookmark here

Life is a miracle generated by a network of thousands of Sparks created within every living being each passing day.Bookmark here

To live is to feel. Bookmark here

Importance of Spark preservation falls into an importance of Life preservation.Bookmark here

Just like the ripples on a seafloor, one Spark activates the other, that one does the same yet again, until they break majestically on the shores of sand and stone.Bookmark here

Our goal is to focus on that single ripple that is so meager in an ocean of ripples, but it wields significance into giving birth to all the future ripples that will follow it’s example.Bookmark here

“Now, let’s do our best at the start of new school year!”Bookmark here

Ren finished her presentation with puffed chest.Bookmark here

The entire club was present for this small introduction. Boy dressed in a turquoise suit moved his gel-filled hair from one side to another while he was typing on a computer.Bookmark here

“I finished our online scythe!” Omi said while crackling fingers.Bookmark here

Across the boy, blonde girl with tiny top hat on one side of the head and spiraled drill made out of hair on the other dodged Shiki’s eyes with commendable precision.Bookmark here

He pretended not to notice it by doing the same and kept looking at the mountain-like Alp that stood like a guardian statue beside Ren.Bookmark here

“Now Kap, I will explain the entire procedure so you don’t get overwhelmed when a student knocks on our door.”Bookmark here

Shiki gulped the nonexistent saliva that made his throat even more sore.Bookmark here

Ren signaled Alp to clear the blackboard which he did in a matter of milliseconds.Bookmark here

“First. Active Shard carriers start interacting with an inactive shard carrier. In this specific case that is you Kappa, the Stabilizer and your partner Ume, the Fighter.”Bookmark here

Shiki did his best not to look away from the blackboard as the rising temperature across the table felt like a heat wave in the middle of winter.Bookmark here

“Inactive Shard is a person that seeks your help, of course. You combine your Shards with this device we call the Prism.”Bookmark here

Ren pulled a tiny round chip-like object out of her pocket.Bookmark here

“Second, after you two have established the connection, you need to bond together with a Shard type three. That will be a person, preferably the best friend of our Inactive Shard. This device will help you easily activate all of your Shards.”Bookmark here

Ren wanted to continue talking but she caught a glimpse of Alp that looked like he wanted to say something.Bookmark here

“I love that part! Everyone gets anxious and you get to be their strength!”Bookmark here

Alp flexed with his gargantuan hands which pleased Ren.Bookmark here

Shiki had already started to jolt down everything in his notes which caught Ume’s attention. From time to time she would look at him without changing her expression that seemed to have softened since yesterday.Bookmark here

“Prism will open up a portal that you will seemingly traverse after you close your eyes.”Bookmark here

Shiki flinched after hearing the world portal and Omi decided to intervene.Bookmark here

“You already passed through one after entering the academy cause I planted a Prism in your poketh.”Bookmark here

Shiki stared at Omi like he stole the final drop of water in a desert from him.Bookmark here

“Why are you looking at me like dath?” Omi defended himself by saying, “Pres made me do at.”Bookmark here

Energy levels surrounding Alp started to grow, so Omi dropped his look onto the computer screen yet again.Bookmark here

Even Ren detected his passion and started talking again before the accident occurs.Bookmark here

“Once you’re in a [World Within] you two are on your own. Every world has it’s own set of rules, in some we have forms of communication, in others we don’t. There are too many variables.”Bookmark here

Shiki’s mouth dropped on their own.Bookmark here

Sweat covering his face and palms became significantly colder.Bookmark here

What on earth have I put myself into? spreaded across Shiki’s mind.Bookmark here

“Your goal in there is, as I said, to collect [Loose Mana] and to stabilize the world. Ume already traversed through such worlds as a Fighter with Omi so she will be of great assistance to you.”Bookmark here

Shiki turned around at Ume and at that moment their eyes met.Bookmark here

This time she didn’t dodge the look. She just exhaled a tiny amount of breath and threw a comment.Bookmark here

“No fret hottie, I bet u’ll make a way better job than “last word case” over there ever did,” Ume pointed at Omi.Bookmark here

Omi jumped out of chair visible frustrated at her.Bookmark here

“I told you we’re not compatibell!”Bookmark here

Alp gave Omi a quick piercing stare so he just sat down quickly without adding anything else.Bookmark here

“That is a fact,” Ren finished the discussion and continued.Bookmark here

“Hopefully, you two will be more than compatibell, I mean compatible, with each other!” said Ren as the wind blew the curtains behind her back.Bookmark here

“That wind again.” Bookmark here

Thought lingered within the minds of everyone present, except of course in Alp’s who is convinced that wind only blows for Ren. He looked at her with glitter in his eyes.Bookmark here

“That is all. Any questions?” Ren askedBookmark here

Shiki touched his chin as if he was searching for a beard that is yet to grow on his face.Bookmark here

“Will we be attacked there?” Shiki asked.Bookmark here

“Maybe, maybe not,” Ren answered.Bookmark here

“If I get hurt in there, will I be hurt in real life?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Maybe, maybe noth,” Omi answered.Bookmark here

“So I can die in there?!?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Just maybe,” Ume answered.Bookmark here

“Anything other than maybe?” he asked again.Bookmark here

“Maybe!” Alp laughed.Bookmark here

Shiki became quiet after hearing all the answers. He waited couple of seconds and gave his final thought.Bookmark here

“Can I le…” his sentence was abruptly interrupted by a knock on the door.Bookmark here

Ren smiled from ear to ear and said loud and clear: “Come in!”Bookmark here

Short boy has entered the club room.Bookmark here

“Ummm… this is the psychology club, right?” he asked.Bookmark here

“You’re right! Kap and Ume will take care of you in a room next door,” said Ren. Bookmark here

Alp opened a door beside him that Shiki failed to see due to his mountaineous size.Bookmark here

“Don’t fret, we’re right behind ya,” said Ume to a quiet boy.Bookmark here

Her smile dropped when she looked at Shiki which only furthered his anxiety.Bookmark here

“Oh, and one last thing,” Ren said when both the boy and Ume had already left.Bookmark here

“Don’t think too much about anything you see in that world,” Ren smiled gently.Bookmark here

“I’ll try,” Shiki added, and walked out of the room.Bookmark here

The room next door was a smaller one with couple of bookshelves, a round table and two chairs on each side.Bookmark here

“Umm… it’s my first time here, and I couldn’t bring anyone…” boy shrugged his shoulders while averting gaze from Kin.Bookmark here

“No probs’ chief,” said Ume.Bookmark here

She jumped to the right side, towards one of the book shelves and grabbed a medium-sized flowerpot.Bookmark here

Shiki noticed how pretty Ume smelled when she passed by him but his moment of bliss was crushed immediately when she put a flowerpot next to the boy.Bookmark here

“Say hi to Muhi, he’s our friendly neighbourhood hungry hungry plant,” said Ume proudly.Bookmark here

Inside the flowerpot there was planted a big healthy venus flytrap.Bookmark here

Shiki and the boy both gasped in shock and it seemed like their spirits are about to be freed from their mortal cages.Bookmark here

“But...but… president said we need a pet at least,” said Shiki.Bookmark here

Ume angrily scolded him, “Hey! He’s ma' buddy!”Bookmark here

Shiki couldn’t really throw the ball back to her side of the field so he decided to reassure the boy instead.Bookmark here

“It’s okay, just a normal procedure,” said Shiki in a nervous tone.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s fine… I like plants,” said the boy in even raspier tone.Bookmark here

“Ya two are already gettin’ along real well,” said Ume while playing with her drill.Bookmark here

Boy looked at Ume’s unusual attire. Her outfit consisted of long dark purple dress decorated with few cloth bows here and there, topped with a tiny black tophat.Bookmark here

“Why are you dressed so ridiculously?” a tiny sound came from boy’s dry mouth.Bookmark here

“Wanna die bruh?” Ume burned the boy with radiation so he just backed down.Bookmark here

Shiki couldn’t believe the boy would actually say it out loud. Shiki kept for himself all the opinions about bizarre tastes of his club members.Bookmark here

Ume fixed her tophat and started talking.Bookmark here

“Aaanyways, tell us what’s on u'r mind”Bookmark here

Shiki realized what was boy about to say so he jumped in as fast as possible to prevent another clash.Bookmark here

“Why, why do you seek this club, I mean our help?”Bookmark here

Boy sighed and spoke up.Bookmark here

“I heard you are really good at helping people with all kind of problems so I decided why not, I have nothing to lose.”Bookmark here

Ume seemed tilted for one reason or another so Shiki completely ignored her and decided to carry the interview himself.Bookmark here

“Go ahead, you can trust us.”Bookmark here

“Ok. I had couple of friends, in my first year, but since classes mixed around, we won’t see each other so often.”Bookmark here

Round chip-like object in Ume’s hand began emitting pale blue-ish glow. She put it in the middle of a table.Bookmark here

“Ignore this, keep talkin’, ya doin’ fine.”Bookmark here

Shiki looked at Ume and read a clear sentence from her lips.Bookmark here

“Go for it.”Bookmark here

Boy became visibly restless.Bookmark here

“I know it’s just the first day, but I was worried about it entire summer break, and my fear came true, and how am I going to make new friends?”Bookmark here

The pale glow on the Prism rose into the air. Boy’s lips continued to move, but  not a single sounding word came from his mouth.Bookmark here

Shiki was perplexed.Bookmark here

He wanted to get up and leave the room.Bookmark here

He wanted to get up and leave town again.Bookmark here

He wanted to get up and run away.Bookmark here

“Hold my hand,” whispered Ume as she stretched her tiny smooth hand towards Shiki.Bookmark here

Her nails were painted grey which reminded him of a particular cloudy day.Bookmark here

Smell of rain preoccupied his attention.Bookmark here

A familiar muffled hum in a distance calmed his nerves.Bookmark here

It was okay.Bookmark here

Moment felt stretched like liquid glass.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“Kap,” said the voiceBookmark here

“Kap!” said the voice again, but this time it felt recognizable.Bookmark here

Shiki opened his eyes.Bookmark here

He was sitting on a bench at the train station. It looked like a small village train station since they were surrounded by a plain field where grass and various bushes grew.Bookmark here

Ume was sitting next to him, still holding his hand.Bookmark here

“Hey? Ya alive?”Bookmark here

“I think so… where are we? Am I dreaming?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Ya wish to dream of me? How nice of ya!” Ume joked.Bookmark here

“Nah, we’re in boy’s [World Within], let’s get busy.”Bookmark here

She let go of his hand inconspicuously. Shiki felt slight headache but recovered after a minute. His back hurt as if he was carrying a heavy bag.Bookmark here

“My back hurts.”Bookmark here

“Ya have a turtle shell, Kappa! It suits ya!” Bookmark here

Shiki touched his back and panicked. Bookmark here

He scratched it with his fingernails and pushed it from his body in hope it will go off but it didn’t.Bookmark here

“Are ya done? We don’t have all day ya know,” Ume stood up and walked around the station.Bookmark here

“Ok.” Shiki calmed down and remembered not to think too much about the things within these worlds.Bookmark here

On a first look, it seemed like an ordinary station. The afternoon sun shined bright on a single railway track that stretched far from one side of the horizon to the other.Bookmark here

Numerous crickets sang from the sunburned bushes which neatly complimented the summer feel of this World.Bookmark here

The air around them soon grew stagnant since nothing at all was happening. Bookmark here

“What exactly are we looking for?” Shiki asked after walking aimlessly for several minutes.Bookmark here

“You’ll know when you see it.”Bookmark here

Ume walked couple of meters in front of Shiki while constantly looking up, down, left and right without changing the order.Bookmark here

Shiki followed her diligently in a silence for the rest of the way, examining the turtle shell with fingertips.Bookmark here

They must have walked a kilometer already when all of a sudden Ume stopped.Bookmark here

“It stopped loopin’ with this bench over there,” Ume announced enthusiastically.Bookmark here

“Loop?” Shiki scratched the nonexistent itch on his nose.Bookmark here

“UP-crack in a ceilingBookmark here

DOWN-red gum melted on a floorBookmark here

LEFT-the only green bush among the burned ones Bookmark here

RIGHT- the benchBookmark here

The loop breaks with this bench, cause in it’s place should be crack on a ceiling, but behold, there’s no crack!”Bookmark here

Ume turned around and looked directly in Shiki’s eyesBookmark here

"It’s your average [Looped Entrance].”Bookmark here

Shiki looked at Kin with utmost admiration. Bookmark here

“Amazing! You’re smart!” even his nervous self couldn’t suppress the emotions.Bookmark here

“Please, ya can count on ma' brains,” Ume smiled preciously from ear to ear, showing her tiny teeth to Shiki.Bookmark here

“Now what?” asked Siki.Bookmark here

“Now we lay back on a bench and chill,” Ume hopped on a bench happily as her legs danced up and down excitedly.Bookmark here

Shiki followed her instructions and sat on the other side of the bench.Bookmark here

His nerves were breaking.Bookmark here

He was staring at his hands and played the hand-held console that his mind vomited just to cope with the fact that there is a girl beside him, with no one else in sight.Bookmark here

Ume slowly but surely without saying a word started to move closer to Shiki. As she moved closer, he moved further away until he reached the end of the bench.Bookmark here

Fat drops of sweat covering his frantic forehead started bathing him with unreasonable amounts of happiness and worry.Bookmark here

Ume opened her mouth like a bloodthirsty shark and grabbed the ends of her elegant dress.Bookmark here

“H..H...Hug me!”Bookmark here

Single line pierced through the atmosphere like a lightning on a clear day which made the winds rise from every side. Shiki’s mind didn’t have time to fully process her command since the strong winds blew all of his thoughts.Bookmark here

Suddenly an extremely fast train stormed on the tracks, passing in front of them.Bookmark here

“This is our train! Now jump!” Ume yelled at him.Bookmark here

Ume seemed sane and certain in her call, so for once in his lifetime Shiki decided not to analyze anything but to just do as he’s told.Bookmark here

He grabbed her hand, which she took by surprise and jumped towards the storming train.Bookmark here

Before they made contact with it, an invisible barrier held them in the air.Bookmark here

They stood still floating.Bookmark here

Shiki looked at the train that stormed like a violent beast a moment ago, now immovable.Bookmark here

He felt a light heat on his right hand, that held Ume.Bookmark here

Greek letter Kappa tattooed itself from nothing, radiating a pale bluish light.Bookmark here

When he looked up at Ume, a futuristic- looking weapon with a size almost bigger than her tiny posture materialized out of tin air on her back.Bookmark here

Their eyes met.Bookmark here

Her dangerous smile that burned with confidence gave Shiki courage he hasn’t felt perhaps ever.Bookmark here

Like a baloon of concentrated air it bounced them back onto the bench.Bookmark here

Force that bounced them was so strong they shattered the bench into pieces with their bodies.Bookmark here

Shiki rolled down on his turtle shell which prevented all harm done to him and Ume jumped on her new weapon with ease and landed safely while still standing.Bookmark here

Their eyes met yet again but without further ado she grabbed the giant launcher as it was made of wool and pointed to the horizon.Bookmark here

“Let’s Rock’n’Roll, hottie.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.