[Crimson Resonance] is a number that represents a strength of a bond between the Active Shard carriers that form an Active Shard pair. The higher the number is, the more [Loose Mana] can The Stabilizer collect in order to ignite the [Crimson Core].
It is a lot easier to ignite [Crimson Core] if there is a lot of Mana to collect so it is of upmost importance that connection is established between pair with high CR number.
Finding out the CR number is too complex and involves a continuous usage of words such as “quantum”, “relative” and “infinity”, so the entire mathematical process won’t be covered within the pages of this book.
However, luckily for us there is a shortcut in form of a sharp dressed boy named Omicron. The sign of Omicron has the ability to detect other signs in their vicinity.
Additionally, they are able to tell if a pair’s CR is high or low based purely on observation of the pair. While watching a movie, reading a manga or a light novel it is often obvious that two people like each other even though the two of them aren’t aware of that themselves.
Just like that, Omicrons are the ones that are able to read the novel of other people’s lives.
It’s both curse and a blessing in knowing that your partner is better off with someone else.
Couple of days had passed since Shiki’s first session into the [World Within]. Now he has been spending time lazing out in the classroom like every other high school student.
Math and Science classes in Bohr Academy were harder than his previous high school so he focused on those as much as he could. On the other hand the language class and history were much easier so he could relax a bit during those classes.
He was in the same class as Alp and Ume, while Ren and Omi were in completely separate ones.
Occasionally a small flyer made of paper would hit Shiki’s hand or chest or sometimes even head, that flew from Alp’s seat. He would ask him if he’s feeling okay, feeling bored or needs a refreshment from cafeteria.
Teachers would surely notice the flyer flying from the first row to the right, but nobody wanted to scold Alp. They knew his intentions are positive and that was good enough for them.
Ume was usually unexpectedly quiet, sitting in the opposite end of the classroom compared to Shiki. She just drew some cartoon creatures, minding her own business.
That changed a bit few days ago when she just stood up, announced to a girl that was sitting in a desk next to Shiki that it’s “her spot” and a poor girl just swapped seats with her.
Not even teacher could stop her cause Alp gave them “the look”. From this point onward, Ume was sitting next to Shiki and did the exact same things as she used to.
After the class, Shiki would go to the club room where Ren and her wind waited for him, with Omi dressed in suit nobody else would buy or even think about wearing.
Nothing of significance was happening, until one day, Shiki went to the club room…
“Hey Omi, where is the president?” asked Shiki while closing the door behind him.
“Hey Kap, she’s with Alp next door, they are having a seshion.” said Omi
“Oh, is it something serious?”
“I don’t know, there are girls from gardening club, Alp wanted to take care of it himselve,” Omi replied.
“I keep thinking about stuff we’ve seen out there,” Shiki started talking about the session for the first time,”those things we destroyed to get mana.”
“Shallows?” Omi asked.
Shiki gave him a confused look because now he wasn’t sure if they are really called shallows or it’s the last word thing Omi has going for him.
“What are they? Ume mentioned them being memories or something like that,” Shiki did his best to elaborate the question.
“They are, but at the same time not rilly,” Omi stretched his hands behind his head and continued, “they represent what a person did, what they wanted to do and specifically in your case what he wanted to keep doing indefinetelly.”
Shiki listened quietly and shook his head in affirmation.
“Cyn knows way more about this stuff, but from my experience it really is best to do what pres told you, not to think too much about at,” he placed his hand on a chin, clearly containing himself from saying more than he should.
“I see…” Shiki remembered that yesterday Ume sent him a text message, thanking him for not talking about [Crimson Core] and that he should forget what he saw in that train.
Silence filled the room. Omi was still scratching his chin while looking at the single spot at the far end of the classroom. He was wearing his static expression like a mask and didn’t budge, even when a fly landed on his other hand.
“I should probably talk to Cyn then...” Shiki turned around and headed towards the exit.
“Take care of Ume for me, Kappy,” Omi added when Shiki grabbed the handle.
Shiki gave a quick reply and left the room.
He walked slowly to the end of the hallway looking at various paintings on the wall. The hallway itself was much darker and wider compared to the first time he ran through it. He noticed that the paintings changed from various fruit back to various shapes.
“Why fruit of all things?” he muttered to himself while going downstairs, refusing to make a connection with Umeko’s plum symbol.
He passed by a big wooden board which had readable flyers and posters this time. The Psychology Club pamphlet was missing.
“Guess we’re not recruiting any more,” he continued down the hallway to the infirmary.
He knocked several times and entered the room.
Cyn was smoking a cigarette at the open window while looking at the vast academy gardens. She noticed someone has entered the room so she quickly extinguished her cigarette and threw it into a plastic glass filled with water.
“Oh hey Kapptain my Kapptain, I was wondering when would you show up,” said Cyn with gentle face.
Shiki had no idea what to do with his legs inside the infirmary, but luckily Cyn pushed a chair towards him and offered a seat.
“Tell me, is it about your first trip to [World Within]? Ren told me most of the details, but I would like to hear it from you as well.”
Cyn looked straight at Shiki with her pale-colored eyes that stood out from anything he had seen so far. He got to know her as a kind and thoughtful person but her eyes gave away her mysterious and almost cold-blooded second nature.
I better look away before she starts to magically read my mind, he thought. Sometimes even the mind of people with strong analytical background can produce poor conclusions.
“We started on a train station in the middle of nowhere and I had that big turtle shell on my back and it was really scary and…” Shiki squeezed out everything that came to his mind and even repeated couple of things he already said.
Cyn listened to his every word carefully and started talking when he finished.
“Umeko deducted correctly. When a [World Within] has few details that seem to constantly recur, it’s most likely a [Looped Entrance]. Detecting an “intruder object” in that case is crucial and she did so flawlessly,” Cyn explained while cleaning small particles of ash off her black jeans.
“So those “loops” are a common thing?”
“As common as human’s tendency to constantly rewind and play the same clip in their heads over and over again,” replied Cyn as she put away couple of files from the top of her desk to the bottom drawer.
He already got the answer for shadows that was somewhat acceptable, but something else bothered him more.
“Is it possible to take the specific object into the [World Within]?”
Shiki thought about a napkin that Ume gave him. It was the same one that found it’s way into his pocket.
“No, not really. Everything within the [World Within] is generated based on inactive shard’s feelings. That is why you keep the same clothes, because in the shard carrier’s mind, those clothes represent who you are and are reciprocated onto the world,” Cyn leaned a little to the right, thinking more about the problem at hand.
She tapped her knee with tops of her fingers and averted her look towards the beds on the left.”
“The only possibility is that if you aggressively waved with an object in front of an inactive shard carrier, but even then, people tend to ignore such things when they are too busy with their inner battles.”
Shiki became vividly anxious, instead of an answer he only got more questions. Cyn noticed his awkward reaction and decided to probe him further.
“You managed to transfer something?” Her eyes shined with a special glow, a characteristic that share all knowledge-starving scientists.
He was taken aback. This is why he refused to talk about the subject for days. Feeling like he did something wrong or even illegal filled his thoughts. On the other hand, if Ume somehow took a napkin from him, that would mean that she did something wrong, not him. He was the victim in this story, not the wrongdoer.
“Actually….” Suddenly Ume bashed through the doors of the infirmary.
“Turtleboy, we have a code red, let’s go,” commanded Ume and completely ignored Cyn that was sitting right across Shiki.
“Oh what? I mean ok,” Shiki found himself bewildered of how impeccable Ume’s timing was.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the infirmary.
Cyn took one cigarette from the box and lit it in the corner of the room.
They ran through the hallway as fast as they could. She held Shiki’ s hand tightly and gave his weak legs even more energy than they ever had.
They kept running until the last atom of strength abandoned his legs but somehow he still kept going.
Soon after, his steps became heavy as if he was forcing his way through the snowstorm.
At some point his movement seized completely.
He caught a glance of paintings on the wall. Again, they changed from shapes to fruit. But all the fruits were colored in wrong tones. Apples turned to deep green, bananas turned to purple and oranges became blue as the sky.
Not to mention they weren’t nicely placed within the wooden basket. They were scattered around the painting.
“I’m stuck within my own world again,” only one plausible explanation came to Shiki’s mind.
As he looked closely, he noticed that Ume’s appearance has changed as well.
Her hair grew to the length of her back and turned form gold to black. Her height was now a bit shorter and she gained some weight.
She let go of Shiki’s hand and in the space between them, strings of red cloth emerged from her ever distancing palm which started to weave around Shiki.
His motionless corpus waited to be engulfed into a soft sea of red yet again.
Girl in front of him stopped moving as well.
He recognized her figure from behind but couldn’t spell her name with his lips.
He was afraid.
He forgot why he even started running in a first place.
Cocoon left an opening on it’s top, as well as one on the bottom.
Ir reminded him of a turtle shell.
He closed his eyes and imagined a muffled sound of thunder.
It was there, somewhere in the distance.
If only he was able to reach it.
A single thought sparked through the mechanism of his mind. He created a landspout once, maybe he could do it again.
He reimagined a feeling that fluctuated through his body.
Faint scent of plum filled his nostrils.
He opened his eyes and realized that he is being led by Ume’s hand to the entrance of the club room.
“Here we are. As I said, prez took this session real bad so we have to hop in,” Ume tried to catch her breath.
“Umm...Ume?” Shiki looked at her like he sees her for the first time in his life.
“What? Stop makin’ that look, it’s creepin’ me out, let’s go inside,” Ume quickly opened the door to the club room.
Ren was sitting with her face covered by her hands, and Alp was right beside her comforting her.
Omi stood at the entrance to a neighbor room.
“Pres took this session really bathly,” he said with a pale face, “this is a really tough one, two shards share the same [Crimson Core], probsably.”
Shiki still felt dazed from the spontaneous entering into his own world, as he would call it when thinking about it, so he didn’t quite understand the predicament his club members were a part of.
Ume quickly entered the other room and started yelling at two girls that were sitting there.
“What have you done to her?! Say it!” she couldn’t control herself even though she knew all too well the risks of traversing such places.
“Ume, calm thown,” Omi held her tightly by her hand, “Ren was aware of the severity of this case, but still went in fully knoewing.”
“Don’t touch me!” she let go of Omi and sat across the two girls without a word.
“I’m sorry, we’ll leave…” one of the girls started talking as she was slowly getting up from the chair.
“And cancel all the hard work pres put in to help you? Not a chance.”
Ume yelled Shiki’s name and commanded him to sit next to her. He stumbled with each step as if he walking over a pile of eggs till he finally sat besides Ume.
“I need you right now Kap, stay with me,” Ume glanced at obviously nervestruck Shiki that tried to keep it together.
In reality he didn’t really think about anything. Like a village after a heavy thunderstorm, his feelings got washed away with the rain. One could argue he was in much better shape to enter [World Within] than the last time.
“Tell me, what is going on?” Ume switched her tone, completely focused on helping Ren.
One of the girls started talking, “me and my friend A..” Ume quickly stopped the girl by warning her,” no names please.”
Girl, clearly shaken from what happened took her command to her scaredy heart and complied to the request.
“We fell in love with the same guy. But in time it got really ugly...we did bad things to each other behind their back and…” as the girl spoke, chip like object started emitting pale blueish light.
“Kappa, close your eyes,” Ume whispered gently as she grabbed Shiki’s hand.
Warmth of her hand reminded him that a small bizarre-looking girl was indeed his partner.
A partner that he almost ratted out to Cyn.
A partner that he almost fell in love with.
A partner he took away from Omi.A partner that changed her shape into a girl he once knew.