Chapter 3:


Zero Access

   Nao hit the ground hard.


Pain shot up her spine.

"Ugh... Did I fall too far?"

She got up and looked around.

"I'm not dead... yet."

A cold wind blew across her face. She shivered.

She walked deeper into a tunnel.

Supposedly, this wasn't a place she should reach by falling. She was supposed to find this spot after going through multiple trials and passing various challenges.

There was something wrong with her path. She shouldn't have jumped at that time to follow the cat...

The cat...

What happened to the cat?!

Suddenly, Nao remembered.

"The cat? Where did the cat go? Is it okay?"

She stopped walking.

As soon as Nao remembered about the cat, she knew what to do next.

"I'll get it back! I'll make sure the cat doesn't die!"

With a determined nod, Nao began to run.


"Oh no... Oh no, no, no, no..."

Kagami lay on the ground, covering her head with her arms.

"It's too late... Too late..."

Her breath was ragged. Her chest heaved.

She couldn't keep her mind straight.

"That idiot Nao had jumped after the cat! She didn't even think twice about it!"

Curiosity looked around her. "I guess I should have expected that much from Nao..."

She breathed heavily, then continued, "I can feel the cat is still alive."

"But it's probably hurt pretty bad."

"I cannot tell how badly it has been injured. It is difficult to judge its condition..."

Kagami raised her head slightly. "So, what should I do?"

"Hmm... Hmm... As far as I am concerned, both you and Nao failed the trial. That means—"

"None of us should advance to the next level," Kagami said with a sigh.

She collapsed back on the ground and curled up. She closed her eyes.

The sky was darkening. Some ravens circled overhead.

"Ravens," Kagami mumbled. "How obnoxious."

One of the ravens landed next to her.

"You don't hide your feelings, do you, girl?"

The raven cocked its head to the side.

"So you both lost the trial."


"Yet somehow, Nao reached the final destination!"

Kagami looked up at the bird.

"Can you first change your appearance? Your feathers are really distracting."

The raven flapped its wings, and it changed form. It took a human form.

"How about now?"

"Much better."

The crow transformed itself into Kuro. Or was it Kuro who was disguising himself as a crow?

"I can't believe Nao made it to the final!" Kagami exclaimed. "What in the world does she have that I don't?!"

"Well, everything... You know, you're Nao's reflection. You don't have what she has. But you have what she lacks."

"What do you mean?"

"Just as the sun must be obstructed by the moon at night, so it is with people. Sometimes you see things clearly, and sometimes you only see them half-heartedly. This is why some people fail while others succeed."

"Huh? I can't understand."

"If I were to give an example..." Kuro smiled. "I would say that Nao knew that the cat could survive if thrown from high enough, while you thought it could die at any height."

"Oh... I see..." Kagami nodded.

"That's the difference between you two."

Curiosity looked away. "Your thoughts are twisted..."

She then, with a gasp, turned back to Kagami. "So, boss, what do we do now?"

Curiosity was simply tasked with organizing the trial. And she was also responsible for managing the group once they reached the final destination. Thus, she had nothing else to do.

"You should ask Kuro," Kagami answered. "He's the one who knows."

The crow disguised as a man or the other way around—whichever he was, seemed to be enjoying playing dumb.

Kuro stretched his neck out. His shoulders cracked.

"Why would I know anything?" Kuro asked. "I'm just Nao's subconsciousness."

"And the person who prepared all of this... You are the real mastermind here."

The smile on Kuro's face turned into a grin. He laughed. "Oh, I am not the mastermind behind this. I am merely a puppet."

"The cat..." Curiosity muttered.


"What about the cat?" Kagami asked, looking over at Kuro.

"Nao found the cat."


Nao was a normal person. Nothing special. No talents. No skills. Just a regular person.

She didn't have any friends. Not in school. Not in the neighbourhood. Not in her family. Even at church, she wasn't welcome there.

In fact, she didn't have many acquaintances at all.

People avoided her because they feared her father. They feared him for good reason...

Sure, it stung to be ignored like that, but at least no one ever bothered her.

When she was young, she didn't have much interest in making friends either. She just wanted to live in peace.

When she got older, that changed.

She became interested in the outside world. In learning new things.

Learning about things she couldn't find answers to on her own.

She started doing research and studying.

She learned about animals, plants, and insects. About the stars, and the planets.

She studied history and geography.

Then she read books. History books, and novels.

She read about science and technology, and math.

She even read about literature and art.

Everything she learned; she would write down on paper.

Her notes were organized into categories.

She was satisfied. She was happy.

Only a small feeling of regret lingered inside her heart.

It was a shame that she hadn't been able to make more friends.

But she had to take care of herself first. She had to study and learn.

No matter how hard life may get, she would endure.

Eventually, Nao grew up. With all the regrets and sorrows of youth gone, Nao was finally comfortable.

But not long after that, tragedy struck again.

Her mother passed away.

Nao was devastated.

She felt alone. Helpless…

She couldn't stop crying…

All of her sorrows returned…

She was sad. Sad that her mother was gone...

Sad that her father wouldn't come home anymore...

Sad that she didn't have anyone to rely on…

She missed her mother.

She cried until her tears ran dry.

Her mind wandered…

She wondered if she would die without ever finding happiness.

She thought about dying, too.

Would she go to heaven? Or hell?

Her thoughts were dark…

She felt lost…

The regrets of the past came flooding back.

She couldn't stand it…

Life with no friends was unbearable…

She didn't want to live like that anymore…

She had to change something…

She needed help...

She needed someone to talk to…

Someone to share her burdens with...

Someone to tell her the truth…

Someone she could trust…

A friend...

With that thought, hoping for a better tomorrow, Nao fell asleep…