Chapter 5:

Chapter 5 - Unknown Drift Into Moonlight | Part 1

Wings of Unity

The Moonlight Festival was an annual celebration we held in Funashina, the city I grew up in. Dedicated to the Day of Darkness, when millions of people lost their lives during the Harvester’s invasion of Earth, the Moonlight Festival honored those who had passed away, and looked towards a brighter future for humanity.

Celebrations included dressing up in a traditional Japanese kimono and attending a festival littered with lanterns at the end of the night. These lanterns were released into the night sky to bring honor and peace to the fallen.

I walked next to my best friend, Hisako Kagome, as we wandered through the festival ground’s – hearing the many voices around us of people who were enjoying the festival. I heard vendors yelling out for customers to come buy their food, mothers scolding other children to be careful, and everyone having a good time.

The warm breeze of the autumn night hit me, and I felt the soothing touch of the air bring me tranquility. I was brought back to reality by the thundering sound of my stomach rumbling, and I found myself rubbing my stomach with my palm to soothe it.

“Ki-chan,” I heard Hisako’s voice say. I turned over to her, finding her crimson-red eyes staring at me. “Do you want to explore some more? Or are you getting hungry?” she placed her finger on her lips in a quizzical manner.

“I’m fine, Hisako-chan,” I said with a smile to her. She brushed her black hair to the side and before I knew it, she grabbed my hand and dragged me along with her. “Whoa! Wait, where are we going?”

“I know when Ki-chan is feeling something!” she looked back at me as we continued to walk. “And you’re feeling hungry!”

“Wh-what?” I chuckled, feeling my face heat up.

Hisako gave me a smile and giggled as we walked through the festival hand in hand. We ended up stopping by a booth that sold udon noodles. We each ordered our own and found a place to sit down, and in a quick flash, I finished the bowl of noodles in seconds.

“I told you that you were hungry,” Hisako said with a smile as she tried using her chopsticks to pick up a

I took the chopsticks from her and picked the noodles out from the broth with ease, and I brought it closer to Hisako’s mouth. She ate the noodles and licked her lips in satisfaction.

“Yummy! Thank you, Ki-chan!”

I still need to teach her how to use chopsticks.

Smiling at Hisako, I continued to feed her the udon with the chopsticks I had in my hand.

Time flew by and once the two of us were done eating our food, we continued to walk around the festival grounds. Laughter lit up the air and it felt like the time of our lives.

We passed by the lanterns that were gathered in one place to be let go at the end of the night, and we found ourselves in a secluded part of the festival where there weren’t a whole lot of people.

Fireflies littered the air around us, buzzing about and shining bright before our eyes. I looked at Hisako and I found her lost in the view of the fireflies, her crimson-red eyes shining with each passing insect that flew around her.

“What are they?” Hisako asked me.

“I think those are fireflies, Hisako-chan,” I said as I looked at the insects flying around.

“Fireflies…” Hisako repeated, staring intently at the bugs. “They’re pretty! I think I’ve just added a new thing to the list of what I love in this world, Ki-chan.”

“They light up the world when it’s dark,” I smiled, finding myself looking at the bugs. “They shine a path for people to find when it’s too dark to find on our own.”

Hisako tapped my shoulder. “Hey, Ki-chan, what do you think will happen when we grow up?”

“Huh?” I raised a brow at her. “I’m not too sure, Hisako-chan,” I looked in the distance and I found a small hint of the Lightkeeper Forcefield far away. “We grow up… Become a part of the Alliance Space Command, and then we protect everyone?”

“I… I want to do that with you, Ki-chan,” she said. “Grow up with you. I’m scared of a lot of things, and when I think about growing up, I get scared… But I have faith since you’re here with me. Do you think we’ll be heroes?”

“Be heroes, huh?” I rubbed my chin. “Doesn’t sound too bad to me, Hisako-chan.”

“Ki-chan, can I show you something?” she asked me, holding her hand out for me to grab. “I think you’re going to like it… And I trust you enough to bring you with me.”

“Su-sure, Hisako-chan…”

I took her hand and she began leading me once more. I watched as her black hair flowed in the wind, and I felt my face warm up, letting out a smile.

True happiness.


Three women clad in sleek black armor stood atop a ridge overlooking the Black Wolves as they began retreating from where they were. They each bore an insignia of a samurai mask with two swords behind it in a blood-red color.

“Looks like they’re falling back, and they found the bodies,” one of them, a woman with a black ski mask covering her face – revealing her aqua eyes, said. “I knew it, Alliance rookies can’t handle this stuff.”

One of the other women, who wore a hooded black cloak and a helmet to cover her face, nodded. “We watched their recruits get slaughtered in what seemed to be the blink of an eye – getting past the Void Clearers won’t be difficult.”

“Why don’t we just kill ‘em already?” the other woman asked, looking at the hooded woman who stood next to her. “We all know Phantom over here would destroy those Alliance plebs with just a stare.”

Phantom turned to face her. “True.”

“Striker,” the third woman, who wore a black mask that covered the lower half of her face, spoke up. “You know the plan. We need to find a safe passage past the Lightkeeper Forcefield without attracting any attention whatsoever – this is a covert mission. The Black Wolves are bound to retreat from the Void, and that’s when we’ll slip in undetected.”

“Yeah, yeah…” the woman now known as Striker brushed off the comment. “If you say so, Firefly. We don’t even know the purpose of us leaving the Void anyway, so what’s the point if we make it across?”

“That will be revealed once we cross their Lightkeeper Forcefield,” the woman known as Firefly said. “For now, we stick to orders.”

“Bad news, Firefly,” Striker spoke up, pointing out the distance. “Take a look.”

The three women looked up at the dark, lifeless sky, and found fog beginning to set in towards their direction.

“What’s the situation, Phantom?” Firefly turned towards the hooded woman.

“I’m reading that a Harvester horde is approaching our position,” Phantom said as she looked at a device mounted on her wrist. “It’s not the same horde as the one who attacked their recruits, but this one is larger. Although it looks as if the horde is headed towards the Black Wolves instead of us.”

“How big is the horde?” Firefly asked Phantom.

“200 Runners, and nearly a dozen Stalkers,” the hooded woman replied.

Firefly narrowed her gray eyes and looked towards the fog. “If that horde reaches the Black Wolves, they won’t be prepared. If we intervene, we’ll be able to take down this horde before it can reach them. We don’t have much choice here,” she tapped into her communications device. “This is Team Seven, requesting permission to engage and neutralize the Harvester horde.”

“You are good to go, Team Seven,” a deep female voice reported back. “We’ll be monitoring you from here, out.”

“Helpin’ out those Alliance dogs?” Striker scoffed. “I think that’s called treason, Firefly.”

Firefly turned her eyes onto Striker. “I thought you wanted to get your kill count up?”

“Heh!? Hell yeah, that’s right, I do!” Striker’s mood entirely changed. “Plan of action, Firefly?” Striker asked. “We killin’ or avoidin’?”

Firefly nodded her head. “We do what we usually do – we kill anything that stands in the way of our objective. We must make it fast in order to keep up with the Black Wolves. Let’s go.”

Firefly and Striker exchanged nods and jumped off the ridge, leaving Phantom to watch them from the ridge.

The two ignited their jetpacks that were equipped around their waist and soared downwards into the fog below. They landed with ease and the two women faced towards the fog that was rapidly approaching them, seeing dozens of red eyes glowing in the near distance.

“I’m likin’ this plan!” Striker said, her aqua eyes filled with bloodlust. “Look at all of ‘em!”

“Don’t take your sweet time with them,” Firefly coolly said. “We’re in a time crunch here.”

“Ohoho!” Striker drew two swords known as ninjatō that were sheathed on her waist, her excitement rising. “Killin’ Runners and you want it done as fast as possible? You got it, Firefly!”

Runners appeared before the two women, and once the undead spotted the two, they began running towards Firefly and Striker as fast as possible – their claws drawn and shrieks filling the air.

“Carve your own path through, Striker,” Firefly ordered her companion.

“Do you want to keep count?” Striker asked, letting out a small chuckle.

Firefly scoffed at Striker. “Loser cleans the mess.”

Firefly drew her katana and cut down the invading Runners with ease. She activated her jetpack and pushed forward, slicing through the horde of Runners as if they were nothing. She drew her holstered H45 Pistol and fired multiple shots that hit her intended targets.

Meanwhile, Striker made another path through the horde with her dual ninjatō. She hacked and slashed, watching with enjoyment as the blood from the Runners flew left and right in the air. Striker let out a maniacal laugh as she continued to fight the undead.

Firefly hopped over a broken-down park bench and found herself running across a field of dead grass, turned gray due to being neglected for the past century.

More Runners attacked her with their claws drawn and she fired her H45 Pistol at them, watching the ammo counter slowly decrease with every shot fired.


A bullet went straight through a Runner’s head that resembled a young male wearing his school uniform.


Another Runner was downed.

Six. Five.

Two more of the undead fell to the ground, leaving only a handful left.

Firefly used her katana to cut down the rest of the Runners with ease, sending their body parts high into the air as she

“HRAAAAAAGGGHH!” an immense shriek sounded throughout the area. Firefly turned towards the source of the scream and found more Runners heading towards her. Underneath her mask, she gritted her teeth and holstered her H45 Pistol.


Firefly traced the tip of her katana into a giant cross in the air. From the cross that was drawn, a red pattern materialized out of thin air.

Cross of the Samurai!” she shouted.

She brought her katana back, and immediately jabbed it towards the red cross.

Out of the pattern that was launched towards the Runners, it split into three smaller crosses. The crosses hit undead, penetrating their skin and taking down most of the Runners – causing damage to the number of Harvesters.

Phantom hovered over her companions, watching their every step. She looked ahead of Striker and Phantom, and found Stalkers approaching her teammates.

“Incoming Stalkers,” Phantom reported to her team.

“Copy that,” Firefly nodded towards her hooded companion. “Get into position, I’ll give you the signal.”

Phantom returned the nod and hovered away. Striker appeared from the fog, running towards Firefly.

“I’m at sixty-eight!” Striker shouted as she appeared by Firefly’s side. “What about you, Firefly!?”

A Runner appeared in Firefly’s peripherals and she sliced towards the Runner, decapitating it.

“… Seventy-one,” Firefly replied.

“Oh yeah!?” Striker exclaimed. “Well, we’re not even close to bein’ done yet, so I got time to catch up!”

Firefly tightened her grip on the katana she held in her hand.

“Stay focused, I have a bad feeling about this.”


I looked over at Hisako as we sat on top of the rocks. She smiled as she stared at the full moon standing high in the sky. I let out a small smile myself, finding happiness in her enjoying her time. She had taken me far from the festival grounds towards the outskirts of the neighborhoods we lived in, and she called this place her secret spot for when she wants to enjoy the view of the moon.

I felt my lips curve into a smile, as I realized that with this situation we were in, Hisako had trusted me enough to bring me here.

“The moon is pretty, huh?” I asked her.

“It’s not just pretty, Ki-chan,” she replied to me, still staring at the moon. “It’s beautiful.”

I smiled again. “You really like the moon, Hisako-chan.”

“I love the moon, Ki-chan,” she looked over at me, and our eyes met. “It’s one of the few things in this world that I love.”

“I’m happy for you, Hisako-chan,” I said to her.

“Hey, Ki-chan,” she said to me. The autumn breeze flew by once more and her jet-black hair flowed in the wind. She brushed her bangs to the side. “Will you be by my side forever?”

I looked at her, and I felt my face heat up. “It’s a promise, Hisako-chan! I’ll always protect you! Forever!”

“Even… Even when we’re older?”

I laughed at her. “It’s forever, so of course, Hisako-chan!”

We both laughed together, and after more time passed by, we decided it was time to head back to the festival grounds to be able to watch the adults let the lanterns go to signify the end of the Moonlight Festival.

The two of us walked down a silent, dark neighborhood, with barely any streetlamps to guide the way.

“Are you sure we’ll get back to the festival faster from here, Ki-chan?” Hisako asked me, as she looked around in fright. “This path is scary.”

“Trust me, Hisako-chan,” I said to her in reassurance. “I’ve walked down this street so many times, I basically know it like the back of my hand!”

“If you say so, Ki-chan…” she said as she pinched the back of my kimono, holding onto me as we continued to walk.

We continued walking, and I felt nothing but sheer happiness in the moment.

Two people turned the corner ahead of us walking in our direction, and at first glance I thought they were normal adults, but as they grew closer with each step I saw that they wore sleek black armor. The one on the right, a male with short, black hair and an eyepatch over one of his eyes, walked with his right hand behind his back, as if he were hiding something.

By his side was a woman with a black headband and long, white hair.

I raised a brow, a bit skeptical at their appearance.

Maybe they’re just Alliance Space Command Troopers? No, they’re not, they wouldn’t be here. That’s what dad said…I have a bad feeling about this.

The male with the eyepatch showed us his right hand, which he wore a gauntlet with razor-sharp blades on the fingers.

I felt my eyes widen and I let out a gasp.

“Get behind me, Hisako-chan!” I shouted as I stepped in front of Hisako. “I’ll protect you!”

“Well, look at this,” the woman with the deep voice said as she and her partner walked towards us. “You two are adorable, would you like some sweets? If you come with us, we’ll make sure you two get a lot of them!”

“Ki-chan…” Hisako said as I felt her grab onto my shoulder, and I glanced over to see her cowering behind me. “I-I’m scared…”

“I’ll make sure nobody hurts you, Hisako-chan,” I balled my hand into a fist, narrowing my eyes down at the two strangers. “I promised!”


“RUN!” I shouted to her, grabbing her by the hand and beginning to run with Hisako back from where we came. We panted with every step we took, and I glanced over my shoulder to find the two people still walking towards us at the same speed they were before.

I looked back and ahead three others appeared around the corner, wearing the same armor the other two wore. My eyes widened. I came to a full stop with Hisako and turned back to the two strangers approaching us before, and I found more of them turning the corner behind them.

“There’s nowhere for you to run,” the lady said. “Allow us to introduce ourselves. I am Reaper,” she said with a devilish smile on her face that struck Hisako and I with more fear.

The male next to her played with the gauntlet he had on, clicking the sharpened blades together to create a noise that teased us. “The name’s Hunter.”

“We work for an organization called the Insurrection as Operatives,” Reaper said. She gestured to the handle on her hip, and she took hold of it, pressing a button that ignited a red sword. “I’m sure you two have heard of the Insurrection, right?”

I looked at their armor, and I saw a blood-red insignia samurai mask with two swords behind it on their armor – the mark of the Insurrection.

“Why… Why are you here?” I asked them.

“We’re here for you, Kitaru Ozaki,” Reaper answered me.

Hisako’s grip on me tightened. “Ki… Ki-chan, they know your name…”

“Unfortunately, we’re on a very, very tight schedule here,” Reaper said. “You, Kitaru Ozaki, are going to be coming with us. Now, I’m a nice woman, and I’m going to allow you to be given the easy way. Come with us, and we won’t have any trouble here.”

“No!” Hisako shouted. “You can’t take him away! I won’t let you!”

“… The easy way includes letting your friend here live, Kitaru,” Reaper said to me. “I wouldn’t even want to go into detail as to what would happen to her if you choose not to go with us. However, the choice is yours.”

I felt my heart drop and I looked back at Hisako, who began to have tears form in her eyes. “Ki-chan…?”

“Hisako-chan…” I gulped. “I can’t let you get hurt…”

“But! You promised me…” she said to me, her crimson-red eyes now flooding with tears. “You promised me you would always be by my side… Forever!”

“Cute,” Reaper mockingly said. She folded her arms across her chest. “Let’s hurry it up, yeah?”

“I’ll… I’ll go, but you promise me you won’t do anything to Hisako-chan?” I looked at the two Insurrection Operatives.

Hisako looked down, letting go of my kimono.

“Ki-chan…” she said in a sad whisper.

“Sure, sure,” Reaper waved me off.

As I was about to follow the two of them, Hunter looked past me and towards Hisako.

“Reaper, you’re forgetting something. This girl is a witness, what do you want to do?” Hunter asked Reaper, with Hisako and I remaining quiet. I looked over at her and I felt my heart begin to race.

“Kill her,” Reaper coldly said.


“I lied,” Reaper deviously chuckled. “No witnesses allowed.”

Hunter nodded and walked closer towards us.

“GET AWAY FROM HER!” I shouted and I brought my fist up to punch Hunter. He pushed me aside with ease and I grunted as I fell to the ground.

“Pl-please…” Hisako muttered as Hunter stood in front of her.

“Sorry, kid,” Hunter said as he brought his claws back, ready to strike her at any moment.

“NO!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. I pushed myself back up and ran towards Hisako, feeling tears begin to form in my eyes as I watched as time slowed and the claws grew closer towards her.

I jumped towards the claws, and I felt nothing as I fell to the ground.

I looked back up and found Hisako unharmed, and I felt myself sigh in relief. I looked back at her and I found her beginning to cry, and I raised a brow towards her.

That’s when a sudden pain hit me.

I winced at the immense pain that had suddenly come upon me, it felt like I had been hit by a train. I touched the part of my body with the pain, and I looked back at my fingers – only to find blood on them.

“Ga-gah…” I began to cough. I found myself coughing up blood and I looked at my chest, finding fresh claw marks across my torso from Hunter’s claws. “Wh-what…”

Nausea hit me and I laid back down on the cold street.

“KI-CHAN!!!” Hisako screamed loudly.

“Hunter, what the hell are you doing!? We were supposed to capture him, not kill him!” I heard Reaper’s voice shout. I felt my eyes begin to drift back and forth and my vision to brow blurrier by the second. In a second, I felt the stinging pain of the claw marks hit me, and I felt blood begin to leak from my cuts.

“Not my fault, he got in the way. It’s fine,” Hunter’s voice said. I turned towards Hisako and found her rushing over to me, and I felt her by my side. I held my hand out to her and she grabbed onto it, and I found my blood on her white kimono. Everything but Hisako became even foggier, and I looked at my best friend – only to find a frightened look on her face, with many tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.

“He’s going to bleed out by the time we reach the Director,” Reaper said.

“Ki-chan!” she said as she tightened her grip on my hand. “Get up! Please, Ki-chan!”

“We can just take her instead, it’s better than coming back empty handed,” Hunter’s voice grew closer and I saw a gloved hand grab onto Hisako’s shoulders.

“E-eh!?” Hisako flinched and she looked behind her, and the growing fear in her eyes hit me in my soul. “No! No, no, no! Ge-get away from me! Ki-chan!”

“Hmm…fine, we’ll take her,” Reaper’s voice said. “I detected majutsu within her when we first arrived, but we wanted Kitaru Ozaki…damn it, let’s go!”

I heard the hustling of the other members of the Insurrection.

Get up, Kitaru…they-they’re taking Hisako-chan…

Hunter began pulling her away from me and I watched helplessly as Hisako was taken away. She reached out for me and did her best to fight his grip, but to no avail. She screamed and cried as I watched my blood on her leave a trail.

I…I can’t get up…n-no…

“KI-CHAN!” Hisako cried out once more. “KI-CHAN! HELP ME!”

I held my bloody arm out towards her, seemingly as if I was reaching out to just get her, but Hisako just grew farther away from me with each second that passed by.

“N-no…Hi-Hisako-chan…” I said as I watched her get dragged away. Everything became a complete blur and I slowly felt myself lose consciousness. I felt my arm drop to the ground. I looked up to the night sky and found the full moon shining down on me.

Hisako’s cries faded away, and soon I couldn’t hear them anymore. The moon became nothing but a giant haze in my vision, and I found shining lights buzzing around me – fireflies that were around.

In the near distance I heard screams of celebration and soon enough, the lanterns soared up into the dark sky towards the moon. I felt tears roll down my face, and everything became cold.

I’m sorry… Hisako…

My eyes finally closed, and I let out a sigh, seeing nothing but darkness and a flash of Hisako.


I looked at Yusa and I let out a deep sigh, finding myself back in our room.

“And, that’s my story,” I said to her.

Yusa looked at me, her face blank. “I’m not too sure what to say to you, Ozaki.”

“You don’t have to say anything, Tachibana-san,” I smiled. “Thank you for listening to me, I appreciate it.”

“Hmm…” Yusa stretched before she let out a yawn. “It’s getting late, so we should get some sleep now. It’s only the end of the first day of school, but it feels as though it has been forever since I got some rest. We have a busy day tomorrow, so be prepared.”

“You’re right,” I nodded to Yusa.

She turned the light off, enveloping us into darkness so we could go to sleep. I heard her rustling in the bed next to me and I brought my head down onto the pillow, finding myself in a comfortable position albeit I was sleeping on the floor. I let out a sigh before I closed my eyes, preparing to fall asleep.


“Yes, Tachibana-san?”

“Thank you for sharing that with me.”

I felt my lips curve into a smile.

I soon fell asleep, and I dreamt.

Images of Hisako and the story of my past that I told Yusa flooded my dreams, and for the first time in forever, I couldn’t see Hunter or Reaper in my dream – haunting me as they did before. I could finally see past it.

Time passed by.

“Ozaki, get up,” I felt someone gently kick me.

My eyes shot open and I saw the blurry image of the ceiling. My vision soon adjusted to my surroundings and I turned over to see who had woken me up. I found Yusa standing near me, wearing her school uniform and her hands on her hips.

“Tachibana-san?” I called out to her, dragging my eyes towards the clock to find it to still be in the early hours of the morning. “Isn’t it a bit early? School doesn’t start for…another two hours…”

“Being the Student Council President, I have to see through it that I need to wake up early in the morning,” she replied, her voice filled with malevolence.

“I… I don’t see why you had to wake me up though…”

She scoffed. “The Headmistress said you were going to be helping me out with my duties for the Student Council. Do you not remember? Or are you just being an idiot as usual?”

“We-we just met yesterday and there’s already an “as usual’…?” I groaned, bringing myself up to a sitting position from where I was laying down. “Anyways… you’re right.”

“About being an idiot? I thought so,” she puffed as she looked away, looking at her school bag. I felt my face heat up and I frowned, but before I could say anything, she turned back to face me. She had a second schoolbag next to her own and gestured towards it. “I’ve already gotten your school supplies ready for the day.”

“O-oh…th-thanks, Tachibana-san…” I said, bringing myself up to my feet.

“Ozaki,” her voice, even more powerful than usual, said. “You will be dressed and ready in ten minutes. We’re going to do an inventory check on the weapons and armor we have for the semester, as ordered by the Headmistress. Is that understood?”

I nodded my head towards the silver-haired girl.

“I’ll be done in a jiffy, Tachibana-san,” I said to her.

I hurried to the bathroom, taking a quick shower and drying myself off. I walked over towards the desk where my uniform was laid out. Yusa was standing with her hands on her hips. Our eyes met briefly, and I passed her and made my way over to the desk, where my school uniform was laid out.

I turned towards the silver-haired girl and gulped, feeling a light blush form on my face.

“Y-you…might want to…”

She nodded and turned to face the other way. I sighed in relief and took off the towel that was wrapped around my waist, revealing my undergarments for a split second before I slipped into the gray slacks and the white button-up shirt. I tied the gold tie around my neck and threw on my navy-blue blazer. Putting on my socks and black dress shoes, I looked at myself in the mirror. My spiky black hair held the same position as it had been in yesterday, and I nodded approvingly.

“Ready, Tachibana-san!”

She turned back towards me and nodded. I could see a light blush on her face as she looked at me.

“We’ll begin by heading over to the Holographic Arena to begin our inventory check,” she said as she grabbed her schoolbag, wearing it as if it were a purse.

“Sure thing,” I nodded, grabbing my own school bag and slinging it over my shoulder.

She walked out of the room and I followed behind her. We walked silently toward the Holographic Arena – I felt a vague sense of exhilaration, knowing I was being given a responsibility beyond what would be asked of most other students. We eventually reached the Arena, opened the heavy door, and walked into the cavernous lobby. I heard Yusa clear her throat and turned to face her.

“I just want to remind you of having you on the Student Council and as my roommate…” she began. “… Will require us to be on temporary friendly terms, Ozaki. However, with the likes of you… I find that to be quite the challenge.”

“Hu-huh?” I raised a brow. “What do you mean, Tachibana-san?”

“I want you to know that, although you will find me cooperative on this mission, it does not mean that I’ve warmed to your deviant, mindless, pitiful manner. I’m still your superior in every sense.”

“Deviant?” I shot back. “You don’t mean you still think…” I saw her shoot a chilling glare towards me. “I thought you were a pillow, I swear!”

“Unnh,” she grunted, apparently uncertain. “Then, let me lay it out on the table for you. We are not friends, we are simply… working together to achieve a common goal right now.”

It’s going to be a long year…

I sighed. “Anyways… what’s the plan?”

“Last year, it was the same routine, and we here in the Student Council are the ones who make sure everything is ready to go for the school year when it comes to supplies and such,” Yusa said as we walked through the hallways of the Holographic Arena. “For today, before classes begin, we’re to see that all of the weapons and armor are accounted for distribution later on.”

“I see,” I said. “And where do we go from there?”

“The armory,” she responded as we came to a stop at a large metal door. She inputted a code into a keypad next to the door, and it released a puff of air before opening. The two of us walked in and I felt my eyes widen in surprise – a large room littered with dozens of racks holding various weapons in the arsenal – with a whole section split off from the rest dedicated to sorting armor by size.

“Wh-whoa… is this new?”

“As of last month, the Miyamoto Academy has been outfitted with this brand new, state of the art armory to keep stock of our gear,” she gushed, finding enjoyment in my surprise. “For the twelve combat teams here at the school, there’s a weapon and armor set for each student.”

“Where do we even begin?” I questioned.

She handed me a tablet and I logged in with my student credentials. I was brought to a screen that had three tabs on them – dividing the students into one of the tabs based on their year.

“We’ll start with the first-years, then move on to the second-years, and finish with the third-years,” Yusa said to me as she held her own tablet. “Each student has their own profile within the tabs on your screen, and we’ll assign them their weapon and armor – taking stock from the armory and physically accounting for it here.”

“You don’t want to sort them now?” I asked Yusa with a questionable brow.

She brushed my question off. “The rest of the Student Council will work on that after we’ve done our rounds.”

“Right,” I hummed, looking down at my tablet and pressing the first-year tab. “After you, Tachibana-san.”

We began to walk through the aisles of weapon racks and I found different variations of the guns we were permitted to use as students in the Holographic Arena – the standard M22 Assault Rifle given to every Alliance Space Command Trooper, the H45 Pistol that acted as a standard-issue secondary.

“Each student will be given an M22 Assault Rifle and H45 Pistol to start them off,” Yusa explained as she turned back to me. “Depending on their team leader and newfound skills acquired, they’ll be able to change their weapons throughout the course of the year.”

“Last year I never went past the M22 and H45,” I said to her.

She scoffed, as if she was poking fun at me. “Basic, huh?”

“Ye-yeah…” I frowned.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she added.

We continued, and I assigned weapons and an armor set to the first-years that came across my list. My eyes widened as I landed on members of the Blue Team, and I found myself smiling as I felt a sense of responsibility in assigning my first-years their gear.

“Hmm… that’s weird,” I observed, as I looked at the profile with Shadow on it. “It just says Shadow, and it won’t let me add a weapon for him – it says he’s stuck using the SR1 Sniper Rifle.”

“Probably an exception,” Yusa disclosed to me. “You’ll find that in a few students, it’s either their parents authorized them permission to use only specific weapons for the path they want their child to take…or it’s classified. Just keep going.”

I nodded, and I continued with my list. Erika Kyōyama came on my screen, and it showed a blacked-out portion for her weapons, and I raised a brow in confusion. Heeding Yusa’s words, I swiped on.

Time passed by and I found the armory to be completely quiet except for Yusa and I’s footsteps throughout the large room as we walked. I looked up at the silver-haired girl, and I found a chance to strike conversation with her.

“Hey, Tachibana-san, do you–”

“Focus on the matter at hand, Ozaki,” she cut me off with a cold attitude. “We must get this done before classes begin for the day. We don’t have much time for small talk, and quite frankly, I don’t have much to say to you in the first place.”

So… so cold… but I can’t just let her be like this.

“Eh…” I frowned, before looking at her once more and shaking my head. “So, you were on the Student Council last year? You seem pretty educated in what to do as the Student Council President, even though it’s only your second day on the job.”

“Hmm?” she turned back to face me. “Well, if you really must know, yes, I was. I started off as just a regular member, and I believe I’ve proved myself enough to warrant a promotion to being basically the head of the student body this year.”

“That’s amazing, Tachibana-san,” I said to her with a smile. “I admire you for taking on the roles you were given.”

Her face turned red and she looked away. “You and I weren’t really given much choice otherwise, and on top of that, I wasn’t supposed to be the President in the first place…a third-year named Hirano Nakamura was.”

“Oh, really?” I raised a brow. “And what happened to him?”

“… He’s now the Vice President of the Student Council.”

“You don’t say?”

She groaned. “Hirano Nakamura has proven himself to be a scoundrel who only seeks to better himself, not others. Comparing you to him, his smile is completely fake as he puts up quite the ruse. Yours, however, is genuine.”

“Did you just compliment me?” I laughed. “Gee, thanks, Tachibana-san, I didn’t know you had it in you.”

She narrowed her golden-yellow eyes at me. “Continue working before I report you to the Headmistress and see to it you’re the only one who has to sort the weapons and armor later.”

Looks like we’re getting somewhere.

In a matter of time we finished our inventory count for the entire school, and I found myself heading to class with Yusa. The school grounds were now buzzing with staff and students heading towards the school building, which was on the other side of campus from the Holographic Arena.

Birds flocked in the air and I could hear their chirps as they soared by.

“What class are you in, Tachibana-san?” I asked.

“Class 2-2,” she replied.

“I see,” I said to her.

Silence came between us for a few moments before I heard Yusa clear her throat.

“Hey, Ozaki,” she said. I turned to face her. “Why did you tell me about your kidnapping last night?”

“I listened to the words of the Headmistress,” I revealed to her. “She said that we need to trust each other, and I wanted to begin trusting you by telling you something I, well, have never told anyone before. Only my sister knows about it.”

“Hnngh,” she grunted. “I never thought I would be in this predicament with someone like you. But, as for your friend from long ago…what do you think?”

“Hmm?” I raised a brow. “What do you mean?”

“What do you think? Your friend from before is alive?” Yusa asked.

“I…” I looked up to the cloudless blue sky. “I like to believe in the fact she just might be out there still. If she is… well, I’ll find her someday. Unless she finds me first.”