Chapter 1:

Hidden Beneath The Ocean


        It was the start of a summer vacation, and Aoi Matsumura – a third year high school student – was taking a supplementary class to make up for his low mark during the previous exam. Even with ceiling fans set on max ventilating the classroom, everybody felt the sharp heat piercing from outside.

"Ugh... Man... With this heat I can't even think about anything...", Aoi complained quietly to himself, trying not to let the heat get the better of him, while his seven other classmates had already given up, each laying their heads on the tables.

"And when blablabla did blablabla the byproduct of blablabla was blablabla...".

Even the words that came out from his teacher explaining something on the chalkboard becoming even more incomprehensible to him.

The subject was physics, his most hated subject. During the previous exam, he thought he could barely pass the grade just by playing russian roulette with the exam paper similar to how he had done it in the past. However this time was different.

* * * * *

"Eh...", Aoi muttered in confusion with a mix of panic whilst holding a piece of paper in his hand.

"What's up Aoi?... Hm?... ... Eh... Un... Unbelievable...", the one next to him was Kokona Satou, his classmate and also a childhood friend of him since kindergarten. Styled with simple straight black hair, she looked just like an ordinary teenage high school girl, nothing more, nothing less.

However, throughout the school she was well-known as a "Mad Robot". This was because she has a really high level of understanding with computers and electronic stuff. Whenever a student is in need of repairing a broken electronic device, they usually come to her. Of course, the service wasn't free, but her skill was truly reliable, which prompted the students to just ask for her help whenever they needed a fix on something. And for the "Mad" part,

"Ah! I know! How about I make you a device that can simulate real life physics. Like, you can experience how it feels to be hit by a car or something like that! This can be my first test run on that neuro virtual thingy. I'm sure the brain computer interface won't be that hard!", she said, suggesting the crazy idea with a proud and hopeful smile on her face. The statement was insane, but knowing her, Aoi thought that she might be able to do it, that is, in the next 7 years. However, ignoring the usual daily words from Kokona, Aoi was still frozen, knowing the fact that he is now obligated to take a supplementary class throughout the next week, which happened to be the start of summer. On his paper, a large red zero can be seen written on the top right corner of the paper.

* * * * *

Aoi holds his tear, diligently taking note despite understanding half of what his teacher was muttering on the front of the classroom. However, as he was thinking about his bummer start for the summer, a sudden thought reminded him.

(There's also that thing too...).

The thing that he was talking about was referring to a certain package that was placed in front of his apartment door this morning. At first, he thought that someone might have accidentally sent the package to the wrong address, however when he picked up the package, the label that was tagged to the side of it had his name and address written on it. However, as he was running out of time to school, he left the package inside of his apartment near the front door, thinking that it might have just been something from his parents. But as he texted them about it after arriving at the school, they don't seem to know anything about the package, which raises concerns on Aoi as he had already placed the mysterious package inside of his apartment. However, knowing that he won't be able to do anything just by thinking about it, he continued taking notes when another thought appeared.

(And the thing with Kokona...).

His annoyed face turned sour, now pondering, looking at the bright sky through the window.

* * * * *

It was last weekend, during the last day of school. The place was set on the school rooftop. Afternoon, where most of the students had already gone home after clubs and meetings. The soft breeze paired with orange sky sets the mood just right between the two.

"I like you!", Kokona shouted, leaving Aoi in shock. However,

"Oh yeah?... what is it this time?", Aoi replied already knowing where the conversation was going to go.

"I (would) like you to test out this new device that I had learned!", she continued, affirming Aoi's predictions while holding a VR headset-like device on both hands. She then extends it towards Aoi, quickly and unknowingly closing the distance between the two.

"Come on! Wear it! Wear it!", she insisted, forcing the headset onto Aoi's head.

"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Okay! I get it! Can you relax! Also, why the rooftop of all places? Geez...", Aoi asked, irritated by her sense of distance while still willingly taking part in her usual shenanigans. He carefully took the headset off her hand, inspecting it like it is some kind of time bomb.

"For better signal!", she answered, crossing both arms with a proud face.

"Man... You really are something...", he muttered before strapping the headset to his head.

"Also! Wear this!".

She handed over a pair of gloves with a bunch of thick wires attached onto it.

"Anddd... Start!"

Just as Aoi equipped the gloves, Kokona tempered with a tablet on her hand, starting the software connected to the headset. When she did that, the screen displayed on the headset warped, stuttering Aoi for a moment.

"Oh?... This is that virtual reality thingy right?", he asked, amazed by what he saw. Virtual guppy fishes floating around them with a mix of colour that somehow complements the sunset sky.

"Hm Hm! To be exact! It's augmented reality!", she corrected him, lifting up her right hand, she swung her index finger in a 'tsk tsk' fashion.

"Okay! Now try touching the guppies!", she continued, suggesting an action to Aoi who was still in awe. He then waved around his hand slicing through a group of guppies.

"Oh!", he shouted, bewildered by what he felt on his right hand.

"Woah! This feels... so real!", he continued slicing gently through the guppies, feeling the sensation of touching the virtual entity on both of his hands. With his response, Kokona ticked a checkbox inside her tablet. Experiments after experiments, they then continued for quite some time till the sun can no longer be seen. At first, Aoi worried that they might have surpassed the school's closing time, however Kokona reassured him, telling him that she had already got the principle permission to do her experiment on the school ground till seven. She was even given the key to the school rooftop. As time goes by, navy blue colored the sky, decorating it with shiny little dots of stars.

"You really are something Kokona...", Aoi muttered all of a sudden. Still participating in her experiment, but looking a bit down.

"I'm sure it would be easy-peasy for you to get into a fancy college or even a famous university outside of Japan...", he continued, with his voice hanging low.

"Haha. Thanks for the compliment. But you know, this really is nothing compared to what they are doing over there.", she replied, leveling her voice to his.

"Even so...", Aoi muttered to a sudden stop. Realizing this, Kokona halted what she was doing on her tablet turning her face to Aoi who were standing in front of her, where she could only see his back.


The silence consumed the air for a moment between the two.

"Okay! One last experiment for tonight! Get ready!" she shouted, breaking the silence and stuttering Aoi who was deep in thought. She then clicked a button on her tablet, activating the last command for the day. With a beep, a virtual text was displayed in front of Aoi.

"Surround Sound Experiment Commence?", he repeated the text in confusion. Second after, the surrounding sounds turned muffled. It was then replaced by the sound of a spacious yet relaxing deep ocean. Echo of bubbles, and resonance of the virtual fishes swimming around them can be heard.

"C#n yo# he#r me!?", Kokona shouted, however, to Aoi, her voice was overlapped by the sound of the virtual ocean, Yet, he was able to understand what she was trying to say by reading her lips.

"YEAH!!! A BIT BLURRY THOUGH!!!", he yelled, giving a thumbs up to Kokona while still immersing himself in the beautiful virtual underwater world. Staring towards each other for a moment, Kokona smiled, her lips muttered,

"I l#v# y##...".

Aoi froze.

"Eh?...", he stuttered, taking off his headset immediately. He then looked towards Kokona with a red face.

"Hm? What's wrong?", Kokona asked, still smiling with no concerns.

"Ah... nothing...", Aoi replied, still frozen in place.

(Wait, was that just me?), he sighed, looking at the headset in his hand confused.

"Well! That's that for today! I would say about 70% of the function passed the tests. Better luck next time I guess! Oh yeah, just put the headset and the gloves inside this box.", she said, offering a box to put the devices back in.

"Let me carry that for you professor.".

"Oh! how reliable!".

Aoi shook off the thought then proceeded to help Kokona carry the box filled with her devices and stuff that might have been related to today's experiment.


After checking the rooftop for anything amiss, she locked the door as the two proceeded to descend down the stair with Kokona holding a bright flashlight, leading the two to the school's shoe locker.

(Was it really just me? Just now...), Aoi thought with a tight face.

Indeed, the sound of the virtual ocean did overlap the sound from the outside world. But for some reason, he clearly felt like Kokona was saying something really important when they were on the rooftop. From the atmosphere, to her body language, to her expression and the movement of her lips. Everything felt way too "in-place". As if she purposely set up the mood just to say that.

"Let's go! Aoi!", Kokona yelled, already running towards the front gate.

"Ah! Wait a minute! I'm carrying a box you know!".

He looked towards Kokona running figure from behind.

(Did this girl... just confess to me?).