Chapter 10:


Hello School;

As the graduation ceremony approaches, I don’t know what to do with myself. Suddenly, there’s no need to study anymore, and with Mr. Gary gone, there’s no point in going to the Shogi Club. Even just hanging out with Saori, Misu and Suzaku feels empty, since I can no longer shake the suspicion that they aren’t real. I also can’t do anything directly to try and figure out whether they are, since doing that with Mr. Gary was clearly a bad idea. I guess I’ll live for however long I’ll still be stuck in this world, doubting my own friends’ existence.

I also don’t know how to go about research anymore. Before, I tried looking into modern computer technology to question the feasibility of a large-scale virtual world, but now it seems that all of that information likely can’t tell me anything about the technology that is really being used. I can’t trust any of the information I can find.

Rather than trying to make sense of how, I should try and determine why.

The fact that I’ve been shown messages, presumably from the outside, for me to figure out that the world is not real, means that I should assume that I am a real person. So there must be a reason why I am in this world in the first place. A reason for a technologically advanced society to place a young person into a virtual world for a long period of time. Even this starting point feels wrong, however, since it’s possible that this body of mine is an avatar, and the real me isn’t young. It’s also possible that my perception of time or my memories have been altered.

Either way, how am I supposed to research anything to help me figure this out? Without any possible knowledge about the real world, I’ve got nothing but speculations.


Graduation day arrives. The atmosphere at school is an odd mixture of excitement and uncertainty, the kind you would expect if real people were saying goodbye to one another forever. Even Suzaku, Misu and Saori are more serious than normal, talking as if we are the ones graduating already. To me, it seems like the tradition behind graduation ceremonies has cultivated this feeling of finality, rather than the consequences of graduating itself. Why else would people feel different on this day when they aren’t the ones that are graduating?

I don’t let my thoughts show, though, pretending like I am also sad at the realisation that school life isn’t eternal. Of course, I’ve had this realisation long ago, but then again, I was never a fan of school life to begin with. The fact that the students who are graduating are probably not even real people doesn’t help my feeling of indifference toward the alleged importance of the day.

Fortunately, I don’t have to pretend for long, as we are soon called to the school hall for the ceremony. With the senior students absent, the rest of us trickle into the hall through the rear entrance.

The front half of the school hall is now lined with seats for the teachers and parents, so the students have to stand in the back. It’s more cramped than usual, but I luckily find a spot against the left wall. Although this provides me a bit more space, I won’t have a good view of the seniors when they march through the centre aisle towards the front of the hall.

The ceremony starts off the same as last year, so I soon find myself zoning out slightly. From my periphery, someone from the front two rows make their way toward the side entrance. I lean against the wall to get a better view, and notice that it’s Mr. Miyazaki. He must have someone to yell at or something.

The seniors soon start walking down the aisle. A lot of them are already in tears, making the whole scene look painfully cliché. Many students around me appear to join in the sobbing, though, so clearly I am the only one who thinks that. Of course, the fact that all of these tears are likely not real at all gives me a sombre feeling. I shake it off as the last of the seniors make their way to the front of the hall and take their seats.

The principal talks a bit about how ‘special’ the graduating students apparently are. This makes me think of Mr. Gary, and the fact that he’s no longer here. He played a role in how ‘special’ these seniors turned out to be, and yet he’s not even here to see them graduate. The fact that I spoke out caused him to get punished. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

My torrent of thoughts is interrupted when the principal calls up the valedictorian for the graduate speech. A short-looking girl gets up and makes her way to the podium. As she walks up the steps, all colour suddenly vanishes from my sight, turning everything around me into shades of black and white. I twitch, thinking that I’ve somehow zoned out so hard that my vision failed me, but everything around me is still in monochrome. Everything, that is, except the valedictorian girl. I look down for a second, noticing that my own hands and uniform also appear to have colour, contrasting with the dark grey floor beneath my feet. I look up again, the movements of the now vibrantly-coloured girl capturing my gaze. As she settles in behind the podium and gets ready to start her speech, colour returns to the world as suddenly as it disappeared.

Was that a message meant to get my attention? It clearly highlighted the valedictorian girl, so is she about to say something valuable that might help me figure out why I’m in a virtual world? Or is she an important person to be aware of? Could it be that she is also real?

I force away the barrage of questions, instead focusing on her speech. She talks about the start of her journey at this school, and how she felt back then. She relates this to the feeling of stepping into what she calls ‘the adult world’, commenting on how nervous the seniors all are about leaving school. In the same breath, she mentions that entering the unknown can also bring great deals of excitement - something she wholeheartedly seems to believe. While she speaks, she refers to the presentation on the screen behind her, but since it doesn’t contain much apart from some pictures and key points from what she’s already said, I pay more attention to her words.

She starts talking about importance, starting with first impressions between people, and eventually getting to the importance of planning ahead. This brings her to the importance of today, since it is the end of high school life for her and her peers. Today’s date appears on the screen, alongside a picture of a school building. 

While talking about the significance that today will supposedly have for the future of the senior students, the date suddenly flickers, displaying a slightly different string of numbers. In fact, the day counter just jumped back by three. For a second, I wonder whether it is part of the girl’s presentation, but once the date returns to normal with another flicker, I realise that such an effect would be quite difficult to do in the program she is using. She also doesn’t mention anything that might imply that it should be part of her speech. It must be another message, and the date that was briefly shown must have some sort of meaning.

Throughout the rest of the ceremony, I have to suppress the urge to ponder the two messages I got today. Instead, I focus on identifying any other possible messages, since this is the first time that I received more than one in such a short period of time. My search is in vain so far, though, since I don’t see anything that might be a message. I do, however, notice Mr. Miyazaki returning to his seat about ten minutes after the valedictorian’s speech.

I didn’t think much of Mr. Miyazaki’s absence earlier, but now I’m growing suspicious. About fifteen minutes after he left the hall, I got two messages, and I haven’t seen any messages since his return. I may be paranoid, but I also recall that he was absent when the clock fell at the start-of-term assembly. Is it a coincidence, or is he the one sending me these messages?

I decide to stop thinking about it, since I might be distracting myself and missing another message. The ceremony soon ends, however, and the parents and teachers start leaving the hall through the side entrances. I follow the rest of the students out, but I’m called to the side by Mr. Miyazaki, who is waiting right outside the door.

“I hope you were paying attention during the valedictorian speech, Mr. Shirase. That could be you next year, if you put in the necessary effort.”

I’m caught off-guard by him addressing the speech, but choose to give a diplomatic answer rather than to risk looking suspicious.

“Yes, sir, the speech was very enlightening.”

“Good, you’ll have to really give it your all next year.”

“I’ll do my best, sir.”


I can’t stop thinking about Mr. Miyazaki asking if I paid attention to the speech. It’s not particularly out of character for him to say, given his expectations of me. But given the fact that two phenomena happened during the speech, I can’t help but wonder if that’s what he was hinting at. More importantly, he wasn’t even present during that speech, so why would he bring it up? On top of that, it’s quite odd that he was also absent during the clock incident. He also wasn’t there during any of the other messages that I got, though he never really had any reason to be there. Still, if this is a virtual reality, and if Mr. Miyazaki is actually the one sending me messages, it would make sense that he would have to leave this world in order to do so.

Although, even if it is him, that doesn’t really change much. If he’s the one trying to help me, he’s only able to do so because he’s a part of the group who put me here in the first place. I guess I should still pay close attention to him, given the strong possibility that he’s involved with all of this.

Given that, I think about the couple of personal interactions that we had throughout the year. If he was trying to send me a message during any of those conversations, I guess it would be that achieving high grades is the most important thing in the world. So, is he trying to tell me that that is the key to getting out of here? Is that why he’s been pushing me to improve this whole time? The thought that he may actually care about me is too bizarre, so I push it away for now and change my train of thought.

What significance can the date message have? I might have even missed it if not for the flickering, since the only thing that changed was the day, and not by much. Nothing noteworthy happened to me three days ago, but I try to run through the day’s events in my head, just to be sure. Could it be that there was actually a message on that day that I happened to miss? If there was, it had to be far more subtle than any of the other messages, but I don’t remember any fine details from that day that stand out as abnormal. It’s not as if I wasn’t paying attention, either; I’ve been on my guard ever since I realised that these events were messages meant for me. I will have to look into historic events that took place on that day. Perhaps I will find out something that might help me figure out what sort of world I’m dealing with.

I do a good amount of reading up on the history of the date. It takes some time, since I choose to read up on global events as well. This seems to concern my parents, since they don’t understand why I would go back to studying when I’m supposed to have a break from academics. I brush that to the side, making a mental note to assure them that everything is fine later. For each major event I read up on, I go deeper, looking for anything that might stand out. I try to read from more than one different source as well, just in case a message is lying and waiting somewhere. I stop myself from going too deep, though, since reading through every single source containing information on specific historic events would be impossible.

I find many noteworthy events that took place on that day, but most are involved with something overarching like a war or a string of discoveries. I decide to put those lowest on the priority list, since such a specific date seems to imply something more direct, at least to my mind. There are also quite a number of birthdays of important people, so I plan to do a bit of quick reading on each of the people that came up. First, though, I read more meticulously through the one-day events that came up. Something about a prime minister getting assassinated, something else about an agreement made between two countries regarding trade routes, and many laws passed by different countries on that day. It takes quite some time to read through them thoroughly.

I made note of a few things, but nothing really caught my attention. I scan through the historical birthdays before giving in and going to bed. Only then do I realise that I never ate dinner. It doesn’t matter. It’s too late now, anyway. For a moment, I wonder whether it would be possible for me to die of hunger in a virtual world, but I fall asleep before the dangerous thought can grow any further.


I wake up feeling far more clear minded than when I went to sleep. It’s odd how I’ve adapted to remain calm, even under the assumption that the world and the people around me are not real.

I get out of bed, and on my way out to freshen up, I spot the school calendar I got at yesterday’s ceremony on the edge of my desk. Remembering the amount of date-specific research I did last night, I pick up the calendar and page through until I find the date that was shown through the message.

The event that is listed on that day in the calendar is my own graduation.

That must be it. My graduation must be what the message was about. It seems like such a simple solution, but nothing else that I managed to uncover last night felt like anything more than grasping at straws. I’m not sure what it is supposed to mean, but I now know that my graduation is clearly going to be an important event.

Having found some level of achievement, I choose to address the other phenomenon I saw during the graduation ceremony. The one that was far more noticeable - the time that everything turned monochrome.

Initially, I thought that that whole event was only to direct my attention towards the speech so that I would notice the date, but it does seem far too over-the-top to simply be that. Clearly, the fact that the valedictorian girl and I were the only people that remained in colour means that she’s an important factor. This is a bit worrying, since I don’t know her personally at all. I’ve seen her around and noticed her name atop her year’s academic lists, but nothing more. She seems like someone who’s down-to-earth, but also knows exactly what she wants and how to get it.

I know for a fact that I can’t simply go talk to her about this. On top of the problem that I wouldn’t know where or how to find her at all, there’s the Mr. Gary scenario, where something will undoubtedly happen to either of us if I do talk. For this reason, rather than getting too hung up on getting to know her as a person, I think of other ways that she might be important for getting the message across. Perhaps, rather than thinking about who she is, I should think about what she was supposed to epitomise at that time - the inspiring speaker, the representative of her year, the academic pride of the school.

Since we were both in colour, I’d assume that the important message would have to be some trait that we have in common. Or might have in common eventually. I think back to Mr. Miyazaki’s words, talking about how I might be in her position next year. I’m not the best speaker in my year, and though I’m a model student, I don’t believe that I’m an apt representative either. But it is clear that me and the valedictorian girl are both the academic prides of the school. When Mr. Miyazaki scolded me for my mathematics mark, he even addressed me almost directly as such.

It’s not just Mr. Miyazaki that seemed obsessed with my academic performance, either. Mr. Gary typically had a more relaxed approach, but even he highlighted the importance of my academic performance over and over. Even at the very end when I told him about my doubts, he told me that I should be focusing on my exams instead. Perhaps, if Mr. Miyazaki and Mr. Gary are both involved with this world, my academic development is a very important aspect of it. And now I know that my graduation is an important date as well. Maybe they’ve been trying to warn me to ensure that I also take the valedictorian position when the time comes.

I’ll have no choice, then. I’ll simply have to work hard.