"Amazing. Absolutely nothing. I really don't know if I should be delighted or pissed off at such an anti-climatic turn of events." I heard senpai sighed.
"It is too quiet. Such a thing should make no sense in this place." The president responded gruffly. "God, how I despise this world..."
"How much further? We're close, aren't we?" Hideyoshi asked while he looked around.
"It should only be about 30m from here. And I'm still not detecting anything at all! Good damn, I'm feeling like a real idiot just for checking anymore." Mitsuhide-senpai laughed.
"Hey, maybe we'll be done with this before night back in Artificial. Ha ha ha!"
"Heh heh..." I found myself laughing along with senpai.
It was strange. The small moment of rest earlier have given me such peace, despite us still traversing this desolated world. I felt calm.
The smell of this world was still nauseating, yet it was not choking me anymore.
Of course, I was still uneasy.
With every little footstep and flickering of shadows appearing within my sight I could feel my heart jump, as I firmly gripped the coil gun in my hand,
but at the same time I felt slightly relaxed. There was now a strange sense of anticipation; to finish our mission and to return, but not like before when I first stepped into this world.
It was a much more positive feeling.
I looked over to Hideyoshi and sneaked a glance of him smiling at me.
"Something wrong?" He asked.
"No, nothing." I smiled back.
"Look at you two, so happy and relaxed. Hey, maybe you could spread some of that joy over to me to. You know, the one having to do the most work in this hellhole?" Senpai snickered.
"Stop being such a prick, senpai. That would be my first advice." Hideyoshi snapped back.
"Psh, dumb advice."
"Ah, that reminds me. Senpai, I know this might not be the best time, but could I ask you something?" I sudden asked.
"You might as well. Heck, we can even just sing some tunes now, cause this has pretty much just became a literal walk in the park. What is it?"
Thinking for a bit, I tried my best to express my curiosity and the question that had lingered in my mind for some time.
"Senpai, I've asked about this place, Eden, before, but you and the president told me that you do not know anything. Do you really have no information at all?"
"Huh?" I saw a look of dumbstruck, as if surprise by my sudden questioning of this matter. Scratching his head, it looked as if he was struggling to find a good way to answer me.
"Err...nope, none at all. Hell, we just recently learned the name of this world from you. Eden, was it?" He chuckled. "Good grief, that Alma person sure has a sense of humor.
I can't tell if it is a hilarious joke, or some terrible irony. Don't you think so, Kenjirou?"
"Hmph..." The president gave us a grunt in reply without even looking back at us.
"But...you were able to get information on Artificial.
How is it possible you did not find anything at all about this place?
It couldn't be that you never came to this world before, since it seems all of you knew enough to thoroughly prepare yourself for it."
"Unfortunately, you're right. We've been to these places more times than necessary, that's for sure." He sighed. "Isn't that right, Takuya?"
"More than necessary. And it never gets better." Hideyoshi grumbled.
"Heh heh. Well, to answer your questions, I'm able to get information about Artificial through the electronic networks within the city.
I've said that enough time to not have to explain how that works, but this place, I'm not able to find anything because there aren't any networks or terminals I can jump into.
In other words, this entire craphole is a dead zone. There is nothing I can do here."
"Huh?! But what about these streetlamps? There are lights and electricity...isn't there?"
Senpai let out another tired sigh, as if it wasn't the first time he had been asked such a thing.
"The electricity that power those things aren't the same as an electronic network. I can't just jump into to them, at least not without being killed." He said in a slightly irritated tone.
"I see..." I replied, a little perplexed. "I don't really understand but I didn't think know it would be dangerous for you."
"Think of it like this, in my electronic world, it's like the streets.
The places I could travel through, the network, is the sidewalks and each device with a terminal and outlet I can enter into is like a store or a building.
However, there are also the roads, which is the electrical currents. They move like a nonstop super-fast highway, and if I try to step into it, I'll get run over and die.
At least, if I stay too long without jumping out."
"How long is too long?" I asked curiously.
"Eh..., less than a blink of an eye. It is electronic waves, so they move instantaneously. Don't worry too much about it. All you need to know is that, there are places I can go and can't go.
To survive I need devices to jump into, like a cellphone, and I can get hurt as well." He suddenly started chuckling. "I guess in the end, I'm still human. Ain't that so, Takuya?"
"You're such a pain, senpai..." I heard him mumbled.
I thought carefully about what senpai had told me.
I had figure it was strange, that him being a being of data would even be possible to feel anything at all or that he was at any risk compared to the rest of us.
They told me he was trapped in his own world, yet I had assumed out of all of us, he would have the most freedom not being flesh and blood.
"Senpai, from the way you speak, you would still be able to move along in this world, although just slightly.
For example, a lightning strike or even a small spark of electricity, could still allow you to travel as long as there is someplace connected you can jump to, could you not?
Maybe even just a small burst of static as well?" I pondered, a little intrigue.
"Hmm...I suppose. Never really tried it, since that sounds risky as hell and I would prefer not dying."
"God forbid you have to worry about risking your life like we do, senpai." Hideyoshi chuckled.
"I AM risking my life! Just as much as you are." He snapped back angrily.
"Sure you are. That's why you installed all of that into your gun. I bet you could watch an entire movie in there."
"Oh shut up. There isn't nearly enough space in there. The best I can do is maybe a 20 minutes short video, but even that's pushing it.
Then again, like you would know anything about electronical processing or engineering."
"Try me, Mitsuhide-senpai. I can outperform you within a week."
"You arrogant piece of shi-"
"Either way," I quickly intervened. "It does make sense now why the coil gun you gave me have so much components compared to a more simpler one.
Not to mention, you're probably doing a lot of work just running everything and keeping us safe right now as well. You're very impressive, senpai."
"Heh, I am pretty cool aren't I? Compared to those two, I am the smartest." He boasted with his arms crossed, a big grin spread across his face.
As he laughed, I heard the sound of groaning from the president and Hideyoshi in response.
"But I still don't get how you could have no information at all.
When we were at that bookstore earlier, you were all surprised that there were even books with contents!
There is no doubt that if we search this place, I'm sure we could find lots of information." I said eagerly.
"I'm sure we could, if we had the same leisure as now without the worries of being killed by those monsters." Hideyoshi interjected.
"Ah..." The thought had nearly slipped my mind. "R-right."
"You really didn't think the way this place is today is how it normally is, did you?" Senpai giggled.
"Unfortunately, all the times we've been here, this place was swarming with those damn monsters. They attack anyone they could find, and nobody is safe. Yeah...nobody was safe..."
Senpai suddenly got quiet, as a sad look sprawled across his face. "Dammit... why is it like this today? Why couldn't it have been like this when we were with her?"
"Her?" The sudden mention of somebody piqued my interest. "Whose her?"
"Ah, you wouldn't know of course. I'm talking about our original club pre-"
"Mitsuhide!" The president interrupted. His sudden voice caused us to jump in surprise, as it nearly echoed throughout the empty ruins.
Turning back to us, I saw on his face a look I have never seen before.
"W-what is it Kenjirou?"
"Maybe instead of just yapping, you should focus. The same goes for all of you as well." He commanded while adjusting his glasses. "Now, how much further are we?"
"We're already here."
"Are you sure this is the right location?" The president asked.
"I'm positive. This is the exact coordinates that was given to us from the app."
"But...there's nothing here." I said.
The coordinate we shortly arrived at was no different from the rest of the areas we've been walking through.
As we searched around, looking for clues to the reason we were sent here, we found nothing.
The same ruined buildings and ominous flickering streetlamps that hung over us, with no sign of life anywhere to be seen.
"This doesn't make any sense. Takatora, did Alma tell you anything else about what to do when you arrived at this location?" The president asked me, slight wariness in his voice.
"Eh? N-no. All they told me was to go here and that I'll be given answers." I replied nervously.
"Hmm... Prez, something is not right."
We all turned to Hideyoshi. The entire time he had been silent as we were discussing the strangeness of our destination. He was scratching his chin, as if in deep thought.
"What is it Hideyoshi? Do you notice something?" The president asked.
"I'm not entirely sure but, senpai can you do a scan of the surrounding buildings for us? Check for its composition and internal structures." He suddenly requested.
"Why would I do that?" Senpai snapped but the president glared at him. "Err...r-right on it!"
"What's going on? Please tell us." I asked.
"Take a closer look at these buildings." He replied as we walked towards an abandon building. "Although from a distance they look the same as the rest of the environment, there's something strange about them."
Taking a more careful look at the buildings, he was right. None of the walls looked like they were melting. Infact, they looked almost brand new.
"These buildings, they're not the same as the rest we've passed by." The president exclaimed.
"But, how could that?" I gasped.
"Hey, I'm done with the scanning. I hate to admit it, but seems Takuya was on to something. All the buildings within a 10m radius, they're hollow!"
"Yeah. There is nothing inside them, almost as if they were just giant boxes. I also scanned the elements in them and compared to the rest of the other buildings, none of them match. It's almost as if we've wandered into a whole different world."
"What does this all mean?" I asked, completely lost.
"It means, this area isn't a part of the rest of this world." Hideyoshi explained. "Could it be possible, that this entire area was created by Alma for the sole purpose of meeting us?"
"I see... but if that was the case, then where are they?" The president pondered.
"Heh, maybe we just have to call them out. You know, a greeting to let them know we're here."
"HEY ASSHOLE! WE'RE HERE!" Senpai took a deep breath shouted.
"Senpai! What are you doing?!" I gasped.
"What? I'm sure the bastard already knows we're here. They could at least have the curtesy to show their faces if they're to make us wander through this craphole."
"Mitsuhide, that was a poor choice of decision. We don't know what await us, so it is still best to keep your volume to a minimum." The president reprimanded.
"What's there to worry? I have a full diagnostic of this entire area. Nothing can come up to us without triggering my scanner, so we're as safe as safe can be.
If anything, I'm pissed off that I have to strain myself dealing with all this crap, but our VIP still hasn't shown us their pretty little face yet."
"Senpai, doing something stupid like that is the fastest way to getting us killed. How about you not drop your guard just yet?" Hideyoshi snapped angrily.
"Oh shut up. I know what to do."
Preparing ourselves, we grabbed our weapons and kept our eyes peeled for anything, yet as we awaited we were met with only silence. There was still nothing. No signs of any changes at all, no signs of any life.
"See. Nothing. What a waste of time this all is." Senpai chuckled, sounding relieved. "So, what do we do now? Go home and get an earlier start on the pre-party?"
"God the things you say, senpai. It makes me almost grateful for being deaf... but yeah, what now Prez? It doesn't seem like waiting here will accomplish anything." Hideyoshi asked.
"Hmm..." The president was quiet as he decided on our next move.
"President, we mustn't forget why we came here in the first place. To protect the people of Artificial..." I quickly reminded him, my hands squeezing the coil gun tightly.
I could feel my heart beating rapidly. I knew our purpose being here, however the urge of wanting to leave was eating at me. It was such a selfish desire but more than anything right now; I want to go home.
"I haven't forgotten our original objective." He replied. "But even so, standing here isn't going to do us any good. As of now, even if there isn't anything at the moment, we're sitting ducks. It might be best if we make a swift retreat for the time being."
"We should head back to Artificial and monitor to make sure there hasn't been any changes or danger that might have occurred while we have been gone.
I don't like how quietly this place is right now, and makes me wonder if it might be some kind of trap to lure us away from Artificial itself."
"That's... that's a good point." I nodded my head as I thought about such a possible as well.
"Hmph... then, any objections?" He asked us.
I looked around to see that no one objected. Also nodding my head, I followed along as we made our way out of this area. But as we were about to leave, a voice suddenly came into my ear.
"You've kept me waiting, Takatora Ryuuko."
"ALMA!" I cried out, spinning around to the familiar voice.
The president and Hideyoshi immediately drew their weapons as they quickly jumped in front of me while frantically searching the area.
"No way! I don't see anyone anywhere!"
"Takatora, where are they?!"
"I-I heard their voice! They-they're here!" I desperately scanned the area but saw nothing.
A chill ran down my spine at the thought that Alma has been here this entire time, watching us, yet nowhere to be seen. Something is wrong; how...how am I able to hear their voice so clearly?!"
"Impossible! There's nothing showing up on my scanners. There's no way...wait...wha-WHAT THE HELL?!" Senpai suddenly screamed.
"Mitsuhide, what's going on?!"
"My system is not responding! I'm...I'm being hacked?! YOU'VE GOT TO BE FU%&^%#$!"
"Senpai!" I called out to him when his voice suddenly devolved into a swirl of incomprehensible gibberish. "President, what is happening?!"
"Calm yourself, Takatora. There is no use in panicking, you'll only tire yourself out." The president replied coldly as he adjusted his glasses. "But don't let your guard down."
"The prez is right. Don't worry, we got this." Hideyoshi chuckled. "So that bastard is finally showing themselves. About damn time!"
The both of them were surprisingly calm, as if they had expected something like this.
I was still in shock, my heart beating like hard drums as I was panicking on what to make of the situation.
"How...how are you two so relaxed right now? I don't understand."
"Takatora, remember what I told you about being flexible and ready for anything? Well, this is one of those time." He said with a big smile.
"Losing your head and acting like a dumbass isn't going to help. So Prez, what're we to do now?"
"Well, first off, I'm waiting for Mitsuhide to stop screaming." The president sighed.
"MOTHERF&$ SON OF A C#$ %$# &! YOU THINK YOU CAN $%$# MY SYSTEM?! I WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS YOU $%#!# #&%! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" Senpai cursed, screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Are you done?"
Senpai took a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm cool. Still pissed off, but I'm good."
"Then do you think you can pinpoint the location of Alma?"
"That's a negative. My entire system has been jammed to hell and I'm effectively blind right now. I can barely even locate a pebble on the ground, let alone some ephemeral asshole that slipped through my scanners with absolute ease.
However, you should be happy to know I was able to make a quick scan of the area we're in just before and can tell you that there's some strange barrier placed around us. We're pretty much trapped here, with no escape."
"You've got to be kidding me." I heard Hideyoshi laughed. "Then at the very least, do you think you can keep track of us and warn us of any sudden changes?"
"What do you think I'm struggling to do right now?! I'm fighting to take back control my system at this very moment and as soon as I done, I'm going after that bastard!"
"W-what are we supposed to do then?! We can't possibly just stay here and be on guard forever!" I exclaimed.
"Hmph... it is quite a predicament. I had expected there to be some sort of trap awaiting us, yet for them to still pull a fast one on us like this..." The president shook his head in disappointment.
"Curses...the best we can do for now is stick together closely. Takatora, that goes especially for you. Don't leave our sights."
"I've said before, but you're the one being most targeted among us. Stay close to us, no matter what." He growled.
I suddenly felt a vibration in my pocket. Carefully holstering my gun, I pulled out my cellphone. The app that Alma had given me was opened but unlike before, it was different.
Rather than coordinates or a map, instead there was now a picture of what looks to be a silver tree that covered my entire screen.
"Wha...what is this?" A strange pulsating feeling resonated in my hand, as my finger accidentally touched the screen.
"TEROS NOVAES' LINK ESTABLISHED. ACCESS GRANTED: WELCOME...EVE."
"KYAAA!" I screamed as a sudden pillar of light erupted from my phone and shot up towards the sky. A powerful gust of wind blew out as I watched the two boys around being thrown back.
A powerful gust of wind blew out as I watched the two boys surrounding me was blown back.
"Everyone!" I cried out in horror as they were thrown aside. They struggled to get to their feet, but it was as if they were being pressured to the ground by some mysterious force.
In my hand, my phone was shining. The brilliant light stung my eyes, as I struggled to even glance at it.
Then, I felt it. The embrace of a deathly cold hand.
I turn my head to see Alma standing beside me, a frightening smile on their face. A wave of fear spread throughout my body when I met with their terrifying soul-less eyes.
A chilling shiver went down my spine as I they slowly wrap their hands around my body.
"Let's go, Takatora Ryuuko." Came a whisper in my ear.
"No!" I protested as trying to fight back but I could not move. My body was completely frozen.
"TAKATORA!" I heard the president cried out to me; his arm outstretched as he desperately fought to get closer before being blown away. He was thrown into a nearby building, smashing into the wall with great force.
"P-president!" I called to him but my words did not come out.
The last thing I witnessed was the sight of the heavens above us shattering, like shards of broken glass, before finally being pulled away by an unknown force.