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“Now, Mr. Sergeant, I know you have worked here for quite the while, but I happen to be running short on raw materials.”

            The blond boy was terrified as the man wearing a surgical mask began to come closer to him. He struggled to break free of the straps that bind him to the cold, metal table but to no avail. The flicking of a lighter got louder as the man got closer. Such a sound gave the boy an adrenaline rush while his eyes rapidly scanning the room for some form of hope. Something that could release him from his bounds and allow him to run free. He could not just lay there, anticipating what could become of him. He suddenly felt the reality of his situation hit him. He had been a servant to this family for a long time. He had learned the dark secrets of this family and what happens to the “raw materials” brought into this home. Why did he think he was safe? Why did he think that he would not become like the “raw materials”? Why had he deluded himself? The blond boy shut his eyes tightly as the muffled giggling of the man with the lighter grew louder. He felt a warmth come closer and closer to his face. He was not sure what it was, but something told him to open his eyes. All he could see for a few moments in his right eye was an overwhelming yellow flame.

            “Wake up, Dio.”

             He jerked forward from his bed and gripped tightly onto his sheets. His eye still wide from the fear instilled by his nightmare. With a few deep breaths and a scan of his surroundings he was able to calm himself down. The blond boy awoke to the same white ceiling, the same teal walls, and the same beeping of his alarm clock. Though he often dreamt of a life where he served a family with the binocular vision he stopped yearning for years ago, he occasionally had nightmares where others or in tonight's nightmare, himself, were horribly disfigured, tortured and killed by the husband of the house. He rose from his bed and walked over to his buzzing alarm clock which he was thankful to as it woke him before the nightmare could worsen. With the beeping finally silenced he decided to head to the showers of the dormitory.

            It was quiet in the hallway but that was to be expected. He passed by the rooms of his sleeping schoolmates to the showers. He got up earlier than the others for a few reasons. It was quieter in the mornings and less busy. Not everyone was using the showers at once and he wouldn't have to wait on line to use it. Then there was the main reason. The reason that was visible in the mirror above the sink he stood in front of. The boy was blind in his right eye. He had been since birth. Monocular Vision Impairment is what the doctors called it. Due to it he wore a white eye patch at school. He wore the eye patch because of the other students' habit of staring at him when he didn't have it on. When he was younger he despised his right eye, however as he matured he simply stop caring about it. He accepted his right eye as it was and there was nothing he could but continue on with more important things in his life. He stayed focused on what he knew he had to do. He needed to finish school, go to a university, and get a job. However, he decided the focus on the present for now. He entered the shower, ready for the water to wash away the dirt from his body, the worries from his mind and any lingering feeling from the nightmare he had awoken from not too long ago.


 

            He had a habit of taking a long shower which is probably another reason he woke so early to take it. He found the water to be relaxing which caused him to lose track of time. By the time he exited the shower thirty minutes had passed. The blond wrapped a towel around his waist and quietly made his way back to his room.

            “Morning, Dio.”

            The one to greet him was Hiroshi who lived in the dorm across from him with Takuro. His usual well-combed silver hair was messy and his glasses laid loosely on his nose.

            “Morning,” Dio responded and opened the door to his room.

            “Wait.”

            He turned to Hiroshi who seemed more awake than a few moments ago.

            “Can I come in? I want to ask you something.”

            “What about?”

            “I'll explain inside.”

            With a simple nod Dio entered his room with Hiroshi following.

            “What's up?” The blond asked as he opened his closet and began selecting what clothes he would wear for the day. Hiroshi turned his back to his half-naked friend. His face slightly flushed, he adjusted his glasses.

            “I need help gathering some potential parts for my miniature robot. There is an abandoned factory not too far from the school that I want to check out.” As he spoke he could hear zippering which he presumed was of Dio's pants. The blond looked at him with a furrowed brow then proceeded to pull his head through the hole of his sweater.

            “I do not have the best arm strength so I may find some difficulties bringing such parts back to the school. I had asked Takuro but he's busy with Mika later. Takeshi is scared to go anywhere outside of school ever since his nightmare a few nights ago. Anna and Naoki have to take a family portrait after school and Shun said he had plans with Yosafire so...” Hiroshi stared at Dio as he drifted off.

            Dio sighed knowing there was no way out of this. “After school, right?”

            A small, satisfied smile crept onto his Hiroshi's face as he nodded. “Yes. Let's meet outside the gym.”


 

            Ib adjusted her red neckerchief in the mirror. She grabbed her knee-high socks which laid on the chair of her desk and sat on her bed to put them on. She looked over at the bed parallel to her own. She had been expecting a new roommate for quite some time now. A knock on the door forced the brown haired girl to hurriedly put on her shoes. She took a deep breath before opening the door.

            “Good morning, Ms. Kouri. I was afraid you had already left the dormitory since you always lead such an early start, but that doesn't seem to be the case.” Principal Guertena Weiss stood at her door with a suitcase in hand. Standing next to him was Ib's favorite teacher, Garry or Mr. Beaujolais as she had to call him, with another suitcase. In front of both of them was a young girl whose brown hair was in pigtails and had a pink flower hairpin on the right side of her head.

            “This is Ms. Chitose Furusato, your new roommate. I trust the two of you will get along very well.” He handed Garry the second suitcase.

            “Excuse me.”

            Ib stepped aside as Garry entered the room and set the suitcases down on the floor next to Chitose's bed. Chitose followed closely behind.

            “You both have twenty minutes before your first class starts. Ms. Kouri, I would like you to show Ms. Furusato around when you get the chance. Good day to the two of you.” Principal Weiss nodded at Garry for the two of them to leave. Garry smiled at Ib before closing the door and following the principal. It was silent for a few minutes.

            “Um,” Chitose began, “It's nice to meet you, Ms. Kouri! I hope we can get along very well!”

            “Ib.”

            “Huh?”

            “Just call me Ib.”

            “Huh? Oh! Okay! It's nice to meet you, Ib!” Chitose smiled.

            “It's nice to meet you too, Chitose.”

             “I guess I should unpack. I don't want to be late on my first day!” Chitose ran over to her suitcases and picked them up onto the bed one at a time. She seemed to struggle as she did so.

            “Would you like some help?” Ib asked which caused the girl's eyes to widen.

            “Ah, it wouldn't be too much of a trouble? Thank you so much!”

            Ib opened up the second suitcase and began to put the clothes into Chitose's closet. Chitose was humming a tune as she removed things from her suitcase and laid them on the bed. The girl couldn't be much older than Ib herself, fourteen at the least. If it wasn't for Chitose having the same schedule as her she would have thought her to be much younger. Chitose was too distracted by her unpacking and excitement of a new school that she did not noticed Ib's apparent staring. Ib sighed and continued unpacking. The unpacking didn't take too long since the two of them had been doing so.

            “Thank you for your help, Ms. Kouri! I really appreciate it!” Chitose smiled.

            Ib sighed. She couldn't have Chitose going around calling her Ms. Kouri. The whole student body already thought she was stuck-up as it is due to her high grades and aloofness. Ib was more of a reticent, reserved girl. She didn't speak her mind unless she had to and she rarely showed emotion.

            “Listen, Chitose, please just call me Ib.”

            “Ah, I'm sorry! I forgot. I'll call you Ib from now on!”

            Her bright smile wavered slightly and she appeared to become a little nervous.

            “We should head to class. First period is science with Ms. Ninomiya.” Ib stated as she turned slightly to face the door.

            “Yeah, we don't want to be late.” Chitose muttered as she followed Ib out of the room and down the hall. The science building was not connected to the dormitories like the other classes were. It was its own separate building past the administration building and cafeteria which Ib disliked very much. Due to her new roommate she did not get a chance to get breakfast, but that didn't mean she wouldn't encounter those three. That was the last thing Ib wanted for Chitose on her first day at Himmel Academy. Chitose seemed like such a soft-hearted girl. Those three would absolutely tear her apart.

            When it came for the time to cross paths with the cafeteria Ib warned Chitose to stay close to her and walk fast. Chitose simply agreed to Ib's words. This girl was too trusting. She could not have her meeting them. She knew she couldn't keep the girl away from them forever, but at least she could keep her safe for a day or two. The science building was in sight but Ib still kept her guard up. If she could only just make it.

            “Why, good morning to you, Ib sweetheart,” said a voice Ib regretfully knew too well. Ib slowly turned around to face the owner of the voice. Big blue eyes bore into Ib's red ones. The blonde smirked as she stood in front of Ib with two boys in back of her.

            “Good morning, Mary, Sal, Emalf.” Ib's right arm outstretched as if to protect Chitose.

            “Who's this cutie we got over here?” Emalf lower his sunglasses as if to get a better look at the girl Ib was guarding.

            “That's Ib!” Mary answered.

            “Not Ib! The girl behind her!” Emalf snapped which only earned him an angry glare from the blonde.

            Chitose stepped forward much to Ib's displeasure.

            “I'm Chitose Furusato! It's nice to meet you!” She gave a small bow then looked back up at the three with a smile. The three looked at each other and smiled back at her, but not exactly in the same friendly manner she had done. The blonde began to circle the new girl while the two males stood and watched.

            “Well lookie what we have here. Nice to meet you, Chitose. I'm Mary.”

            “Nice to meet you, Mary!” Chitose's smile slightly faltered as she began to feel a bit uncomfortable.

            “Um, Mary, can you please stop?” Chitose spoke up but not very loudly.

            “Stop what?”

            “Circling around me...”

            “Why?”

            “Because...”

            Sal and Emalf stepped forward.

            “I don't believe dear Mary is doing anything wrong, is she?” Sal says turning to Emalf.

            “Dude, she's not doin' anything wrong.” Emalf grinned as he tried to validate Sal's words.

            Click, click.

            “And in the latest news: the Terrible Trio is at it again by harassing the new kid before classes even start!” The green-haired photographer announced loudly causing heads to turn in their direction.

            “Harassing? Yosafire, that's so mean! We've done no such thing!” Mary exclaimed, feigning an innocent look.

            “Yeah! We did no such effin' thing!” Emalf yelled at Yosafire. Yosafire's happy-go-lucky attitude seemed to vanish once he spoke to her.

            “Ah, shaddup.” Yosafire, unamused, demands.

            “Yosafire, we need to head to class. We're going to be late.” Yosafire's friend who had been silently standing there suggested.

            “But do we have to goooo.” Yosafire groaned as she leaned against her blonde friend.

            “Yes, Yosafire. Now come on. We're going to be late.”

            “Ehhhh, Frooozeeeeeee.”

            Froze dragged Yosafire, who kept groaning at even the slightest thought of school, to the science building.

            “I guess we should be going too. I don't want father to get mad at me again.” The two boys simply nodded and appeared ready to follow her once she was ready to go.

            “I guess I'll see you around, Chitose. Bye, Ib.” The blonde winked and waved before walking towards the science building with the boys following. Ib was glad Yosafire had interrupted when she did. She was hoping the rest of Chitose's day would go a lot better.


 

            Akane barely paid attention to the material in front of her as she sat in her first period trigonometry class. She was too caught up in the girl she saw earlier that morning. The one she that appeared in her dreams so many times. In last night's case, however, a horrifying nightmare. The young girl whose name was Chitose appeared in her dreams many times. She occasionally accompanied Chitose and another girl named Kobato to get ice cream after school. Other times she would dream of first meeting Chitose and how cruel she was to her at first. Last night was the worst of them all. She was running with Chitose in her arms, barely alive from the stab womb she received from Kobato. The monster that had been chasing them caught up to them and brought them to some underground cave. The red head was forced to watch the monster throw the girl she was trying so hard to protect into a pit of lava. Now here the girl was. Alive and well. Akane wanted to talk to said girl but didn't want to freak her out. She would have to find some time after classes to talk to the girl.

            “Miss. Tachibana.” The voice of her trigonometry teacher had snapped her out of her thoughts.

            She jolted up out of her seat. “Y-Yes!”

            “Why don't you tell the class the answer to the question on the board?”

            Akane hated teachers like this. Yes, she wasn't paying attention but was that really a reason to humiliate her in front of the whole class?

            “One,” whispered her silver-haired classmate that sat next to her.

            “One,” Akane repeated.

            “Good. Can you please tell the class how you got that answer?”

            Her classmate slid over his work while keeping his eyes on the teacher. He was at the top of their class so she had no reason to doubt him.

            “The twenty-five reduces to five with an exponent of two. The fives cancel out and you're left with x+1=2. You minus the two by the one and get x=1.”

            “Very good. You may sit down.” That was exactly what Akane had done. The teacher shifted his focus to Hiroshi.

            “I hope you didn't give her the answers, Hiroshi.”

            “I did no such thing, sir.” The silver-haired boy responded.

            The teacher didn't seem to believe him but continued on with the lesson. Akane ripped a small piece of paper from her book and wrote the words 'Thank you' on it then passed it to her classmate. He simply nodded at her, mouthing the words 'Anytime' before bringing his attention back to the lesson at hand.


 

            More than anything in the world Hiroshi wished for this class to be over. The long awaited last class of the day was almost at its end and Hiroshi would finally be able to go to the factory. The factory he discovered was an on artificial island in the middle of a river. A bridge connected it to the mainland. From what he briefly viewed there the factory was used to make cars. Hiroshi ever so often glanced at the clock. While he wanted to go to the factory badly he knew his studies came first. Thankfully, the bell rung before he knew it and he was out of the door faster than anyone else. He already knew his destination. The entrance of the gym corridor. Seeing as his last class was in the science building, Dio was probably already waiting for him.

            And he was. When Hiroshi arrived at the entrance Dio had already been waiting for him.

            “Sorry to keep you waiting long.”

            Dio shrugged, “Let's just go.”


 

            Hiroshi opened up a manhole and climbed out of it with Dio following behind. They were on the bridge to the factory that Hiroshi spoke of. They entered the factory to discover they were on the upper level of it. To Dio's surprise the only way to get to the lower level was to swing down using the ropes in front of them.

            “There's no other way to get down?”

            Hiroshi shook his head. He wasn't quite fond of the idea of swinging down either but alas there was no other choice. Once down Hiroshi began walking towards the left but Dio did not follow.

            “What's wrong?”  He followed Dio's gaze to the elevator in front of them. Hiroshi saw no need to use it since his potential parts weren't there, but he never checked it out.

            “Where does this lead?” For some odd reason it seemed to completely capture Dio's attention.

            “I'm not sure,” Hiroshi answered truthfully. “Why don't we find out?”

            Hiroshi hit the button with the number one on it upon entering the lift. The lift, however, didn't move an inch. Hiroshi turned to Dio and shrugged. Besides the numbers was a box and when the cover was lifted a number pad was revealed.

            “It seems we need an access code.” Hiroshi sighed. This was more trouble than he had wished for. Without a word Dio approached the pad and began to punch in numbers. Hiroshi's eyes widened at the closing of the lift door and the sudden movement of the lift.

            “How did you...?” Hiroshi began.

            “I don't know.” Dio responded, staring at his hand.

            “Well, what did you put in?”  

            “1210. I don't know why but that number popped into my head.”

            Hiroshi adjusted his glasses and crossed his arms as he stared at Dio who still seemed mesmerized by what he had done. Just before Hiroshi could tell his friend that it was nothing to concern over the lift door opened. It was dark like the rest of the factory. Hiroshi took out his phone from his pocket and turned on its flashlight. What they found seemed to be some sort of computer lab. There was a rather large circular projector attached to the floor in the middle of the room. Next to it was an interface consisting of four flatscreen monitors and a keyboard. The main monitor is surrounded by three smaller ones positioned left, right and above it. All are angled towards the chair which the user should be seated. The two males approached it. Hiroshi attempted to turn the monitors on.

            “There's no power.” Hiroshi was disappointed though he didn't show it. He was somewhat interested in this computer as it didn't seem to be needed for a car factory.

            “I'm going to go check the other floors and see if I can turn the power on for the computer. You have your phone, right?”

            Dio nodded, taking out his phone for its use as a flashlight.

            “Good, I'll be right back.” With that Hiroshi walked towards the lift and disappeared with it. Dio was left in a dark room and an old computer. He sat down in the chair in front of him.

            Though it only felt like Hiroshi had been gone for a few seconds he must have already found the power for the computer. Suddenly the room and all the monitors lit up and the projector on the floor produced a holographic sphere. Dio leaned forward and examined the screens. On the main monitor a tab opened though it had remained black for a few moments. With the mouse Dio clicked the tab a few times and jumped back at the sight of a girl with long black hair. At first her eyes were lidded and looking down. The girl wore a sad, empty expression on her face. Her eyes seemed to regain life within them as the girl looked straight at him with her eyes fully open. She looked left and right and wrapped her arms around herself. Her attention returned to the eye-patched blond in front of her.

            “W-where am I?” She asked shakily. “Who are you?”

            Dio was speechless. There was no way he could answer her first question. He gulped and was going to answer who he was until he heard he third question.

            “Who am I?”

            “Hey, Dio. I think I got the power back on. I also discovered there are these body scanners on another floor. I'm not sure what they were used for. Anyways, is the computer...?” He paused once hearing a voice he couldn't identify then ran over to the computer.

            “What the?” Hiroshi removed his glasses and cleaned them. He put them back on only to discover what he was seeing was in fact real.

            “Who is this?” Hiroshi asked.

            “She doesn't even know.” Dio answered.

            The girl on the screen looked over at Hiroshi.

            “Can you tell me where I am? Who I am?” She pleaded.

            Hiroshi adjusted his glasses one more time before turning to Dio. “Can you get up so I can sit there? I might be able to find some information about this... girl on the computer.”

            Dio got up and stood behind the seat as he allowed Hiroshi to do his work.


 

            “So,” Hiroshi began, “I'm unable to answer who you are but I'm able to answer where you are.”

            “Really?!” The artificial intelligence, as Hiroshi had dubbed her, exclaimed.

            “Yes. You seem to be in a virtual world called Bit.” He answered.

            “How did I get here?” She asked.

            “That I don't know. What I do know is that this world has different sectors with different environments. Four in total. You are currently residing in a tower in the Forest sector. If you exit this tower, you could probably give us a visual.”

            “Your names are Hiroshi and Dio, right?” The A.I. didn't want to be incorrect.

            “Yes, I'm Hiroshi and the blond boy you first met is Dio.”

            The A.I. nodded.

            “Shouldn't we come up for a name for her?” Dio suggested from behind Hiroshi. The A.I.'s eyes seemed to light up with excitement.

            “Maria.” Hiroshi suggested.

            “I'm sorry. I don't really like that name.”

            “How about Novella?” Dio proposed.

            “That's a nice name!” The A.I., now dubbed Novella, responded.

            “Alright. Now that we've come up with a name for you, can you exit the tower and give us a visual of the sector you're in?”

            “Yes sir, Hiroshi!” Novella giggled and exited the tower.


 

            Akane sat on a park bench, looking up at the sky. Throughout the whole day she hadn't been able to get Chitose off her mind. It was just so surreal. She had dreams and nightmares of Chitose and Kobato. Nightmares where Kobato went missing and they couldn't find her. Nightmares where they were being chased by some large, tall monster. Then there were the dreams. Dreams where Kobato lived with her and they would wait for Chitose to get out of school so they could all get ice cream together. Dreams where they sat in her newly bought apartment and played video games together. Now one of those two girls were here. In this academy. Akane wondered how she'd approach the girl or if she would at all. She didn't want to freak Chitose out, she just wanted to be her friend. Oh god, she was bad at this. 

            “Look a bunny!” A voice pointed out excitedly.

            Akane lifted her head to the direction of the voice. Chitose was petting a bunny with the girl that she had accompanied this morning. Akane rested her head back but listened in.

            “Do you like bunnies, Ib?” Chitose asked.

            There was no response but Akane had assumed she nodded due to Chitose's giggles. At this time she wondered if she should approach the girls. The bunny could be a good conversation starter.

            “Ah, the bunny ran away.” Chitose mutters with a disappointed tone.

            Well, there goes her conversation starter.

            “That's all there is of the campus. Is there any questions you have?” Ib asked.

            “I don't think so.”

            “Then we should-” Ib was cut off by the scream of a student. Akane jolted up out of her seat, looking left and right for the source of the scream. A blond hair boy came running towards them with an electrical orb following behind him. The orb had three blocks on it. Two white ones next to each other and a yellow one tilted on the white block on the right. The blond hair boy seemed to attempt to tell them to run but his words could barely be made sense of. Akane ran towards Ib and Chitose.

            “We have to run.” She demanded and started running. She grabbed Chitose's and Ib's wrist so she would not lose them. As heard from the sound of a body colliding with the ground and the whimpering of a boy, the blond was no longer with them.

            “The bunny!” Chitose spotted it and stopped.

            “We don't have time!” Akane shouted. The orb which appeared to have grown larger was not far behind them and charging at them at an alarming speed.

            “Come on!” Akane pulled them but Chitose grabbed onto the bunny before continuing to run.


 

            Novella sat in the tower, waiting for her life points to fully regenerate. When she had exited the tower to give the boys a visual, she was attacked by two cockroach-like creatures. She ran back into the tower for safety and was now waiting for more information from Hiroshi. So far she had learned she was in a world called Bit which contained four sectors connected by these towers. She doesn't know how she came to this world but Dio promised her a way out of it. Apparently people from the outside world could enter Bit from scanners. They haven't tested that yet but they will when they get a guinea pig. Though people can be virtualized and devirtualized from this world, she cannot. If she loses all her life points she will die. She had recently learned, after being attacked, that something else inhabits this world besides her. An entity called R.T.P. Its symbol consists of two white blocks next to each other and a yellow one tilted on the white block on the right. It has activated a tower, which glows red unlike all the other towers which glow blue, in the Ice Sector though they still don't know what that means yet.  

            “Your life points have fully regenerated. Can you make your way to the Ice Sector so we can investigate the activated tower?” Hiroshi asks.

            “Yes. I'm on my way.” Novella says and drops off the edge of the platform in the tower.

            Hiroshi stretched his arms. He had been sitting at this computer for so long he had forgotten how much time had passed. He then turned to Dio and said, “We need to find a guinea pig, soon.”

            “I know. Once we know it's safe to travel there, one of us can go in.”

            “And how do you propose we decide that?” Hiroshi stood up from the chair and stretched more.

            Dio paused for a moment then suggested, “Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

            “You want to decide which one of us goes to this virtual world by Rock, Paper, and Scissors?” Hiroshi looked at Dio with narrow-eyes.

            “Do you have any other ideas?”

            “No, not really.”

            Hiroshi sighed when he lost, meaning if either of them would have to go to Bit, it would be him.

            “Ugh, alright.” He admitted defeat.

            Suddenly, the lift doors opened. Out came running three people.

            “Akane?” Hiroshi recognized her as his classmate.

            “Ib?” Ib was Dio's friend, though he hadn't actually gotten the chance to talk to her today. Dio recognized the other girl as the new student but didn't care to learn her name. “What are you guys doing here?”

            Akane explained she was resting in the park while Ib was showing Chitose around. They heard a scream from a blond boy, who Hiroshi identified as Takeshi, and an electrical orb following him. The orb chased them further into the park but they found this manhole. The orb continued to chase them until they ended up in this factory. They ran to the lift and frantically tried to put in a code. Ib put in the code '0227' and they seemed to have got the elevator to work.

            “The orb, you said it had a symbol on it, right?” Hiroshi inquired.

            “Yes, it consisted of two white blocks next to each other and a yellow one tilted on the white block on the right.” Akane answered.

            Hiroshi sat down at the computer. “So what you the encountered was a malevolent program and a multi-agent system called R.T.P. I'm unsure of what its goals are or why or how it started attacking in the real world, since that is scientifically impossible, but it is able to do so by activating towers.”     Hiroshi then gestured to the rabbit in Chitose's grasp. “We can use it to test if it's safe to go on Bit.”

            Chitose's eyes lit up with alarm and she held the rabbit a little closer to her. Hiroshi groaned and got up from the chair. He turned back to his blond friend, “You know how to work the virtualization, right?”

            “Yeah, I saw you work it out.” Dio responded and sat down in the chair.

            Hiroshi gestured for the three girls to follow him into the lift. At first he tried inputting random codes to see if it really mattered or not. None of his random codes worked so he used Dio's '1210'. He led them to the Scanner Room and finally explained to them what was going on.

            “Dio and I came to this factory to find parts for my miniature robot, but we found much more than what we bargained for. We turned on a computer and discovered a virtual world called Bit. On Bit lives a girl named Novella. She doesn't know how she got there or why she is there in the first place. She didn't even know her name until we gave her one. Anyways, something else inhabits that world which you've already encountered. As I explained earlier R.T.P. is a multi-agent system which can attack the real world by activating towers on bit. While I know with that information keeping this computer on is dangerous. However, we think we've found a way to bring Novella to the real world and with some time we think we can do that. Once we bring her to this world we can shut down the computer and rid of R.T.P once and for all. Any questions?”

            This was a lot for all three girls to take in at once and it was clearly evident from their facial expressions. Hiroshi entered an open scanner.

            “These scanners allow one to travel to and from Bit. Novella, however, cannot. We need a guinea pig to send to Bit to make sure it's safe.” Hiroshi took out his phone and messaged Dio to get ready to begin virtualization. Hiroshi grabbed the bunny from the still fazed Chitose and placed it into the scanner.

            Thoughts of what could happen to the poor creature if things went wrong filled Chitose's thoughts. If things went wrong this poor rabbit could die. The rabbit's family would never know what happened to it and would probably search for it constantly. She entered the scanner and picked it up. Before she could step out with it, it jumped out of her grasp and the scanner door's shut. She could hear the terrified shouts of Akane and the rapid typing of Hiroshi. Chitose shut her eyes as she felt air being blown from beneath her. She then felt heat on every side of her. It went up from her feet to her head. The air grew stronger and her body felt lighter. She felt as if she could let go of everything that was binding her to this very spot.

            When Chitose opened her eyes next she had landed in an unfamiliar place. Though the world appeared to be made of ice, she didn't feel cold in the slightest. She walked over to a large piece of ice that seemed to function as a wall. What was reflected was herself in a dress. It was a green and white Victorian dress with a bow sash and a multi-layered skirt. In her hands was a green parasol with white ruffles at the rim of it. An odd sound caused her to look up at the dark sky. Two figures appeared in the sky. They fell to the ground once they finished their virtualization.

            “Akane! Ib!” Chitose shouted as she ran to the two. They picked themselves off the ground and looked over at their friend whom they followed into this virtual world despite the risk.

            “Chitose! You're alright!” Akane said with a sigh of relief. “I was so worried.”

            “I'm sorry.”

            “It's okay. I'm glad you're alright.” Akane smiled.

            Akane appeared to be a knight, wearing silver armor and a helmet. Instead of a sword, however, she had a mace. Ib's long, brown hair was in a bun and she wore a red dress with a a puffy skirt which looked similarly to a rose. Her weapon was not visible for the time being.

            “Chitose? Akane? Ib?” A voice said but there was no visible owner.

            “Dio?” Ib asked, recognizing the voice.

            “Yes, are you guys alright?”

            “Yeah, we're fine.” Akane responded.

            “Good. Can you guys head north and meet up with Novella?”

            “Sure but what do we do after that?”

            “Help her get to the red activated tower, she'll be able to handle everything from there. Hurry.”


 

             “Over here!” Novella whispered as she waved both her arms above her head. The cavalry that Dio had mentioned just a few moments ago had finally arrived. Novella hid behind a wall of ice from the two crab-like creatures and four block-like creatures guarding the red tower. The three girls ran towards her and joined her, crouching behind the wall.

            “You must be Novella.” The girl in silver armor stated.

            “Yes,” Novella giggled, “And you are?”

            The Knight introduced herself as Akane. The Rose introduced herself as Ib and the Maiden introduced herself as Chitose.

            “It's nice to meet all of you!” Novella said, excited to have actually seen another being on Bit besides herself and R.T.P.

            “It's nice to meet you too!” Chitose responded with a smile.

            “What are those?” Ib asked, pointing to the creatures guarding the tower.

            “Dio called them Krabs and Bloks. They're R.T.P.'s monsters.” Novella informed them.

            “How do we get past them?” Akane whispered.

            “Dio said we have to fight them.”

            “Fight?!” Chitose exclaimed then covered her mouth when realizing she may have brought the creatures’ attention to them.

            “Fight?!” She said again but in more of a whisper.

            Novella nodded, “I don't have a weapon so I can't fight them.”

            Akane stood up. “You need to get to that tower, right?”

            Novella nodded once more.

            Akane tightened the grip on her mace. “Alright. We can do that. Chitose, you don't seem too keen on the idea of fighting these monsters but you can use that parasol as a shield, right? You can use it to protect us and Novella.”

            “I guess I can do that.” Chitose gripped onto her parasol then looked up at Akane with confidence.

            “Ib,” Akane turned to her, “What weapon do you have?”

            Ib was quiet for a moment and opened the palm of her hand. From it sprung a long stem and at the top bloomed a large red rose. In the middle of the rose was a gun, a pistol. The rose lowered itself so Ib could grab the gun with her other hand. She closed her hand from which the rose spawned from and it disappeared into pixels.

            “How did you do that?” Novella gasped.

            Ib shook her head. “I'm not sure.”

            “Well, at least we all know what weapons we have. Okay, here's the plan. Ib and I will fight against those monsters while you two stay here for a bit. Once we've beaten a few of them and the others are distracted, I want you to take Novella to the tower, okay?” Akane announced.

            The other three nodded.

            “Alright, let's move out.” Akane turned to Ib. “Let's go.”

            Akane wasn't actually sure what she was doing. This was all so crazy to her. All she wanted to do was talk to Chitose but now she's fighting alongside her in some virtual world? It just didn't seem to make sense. Now she was going to fight some monsters despite having no experience at all. She knew nothing about these monsters as well. She knew nothing of their capabilities or their goals. However, there was a few things she knew and knew she needed to do. She knew she had to get Novella to that tower and protect her comrades. With these thoughts her hesitation faded and she ran out from behind the wall. She had her mace in her hand and roared as she ran towards the monsters. They turned towards her and got ready to attack. The Bloks eye containing the R.T.P. symbol grew red as it began to charge its attack. Once charged enough the Bloks would release lasers. The Krabs fired lasers at them using their three eyes as a base for it. At the impact of the laser with Akane's shoulder she stopped running and stumbled back a little, grabbing onto her shoulder with her free hand.

            Ib swiftly dodged their attacks. Though she wanted to stop and check if Akane was alright, she knew she couldn't. She fired at one of the Bloks and hit the corner of it. Ib ran and hide behind a rock of ice. She replicated the Bloks and Krabs in her mind. They had to have some weakness. The Krabs had R.T.P.'s logo on the back on their heads and the Bloks had R.T.P.'s logo on their eyes so maybe...

            Ib snapped up and turned around. She ran out from behind the rock and ran towards the monsters just as Akane was.

            She shouted at Akane, “Aim for the logo. That must be their weakness!”

            Akane turned to her for a split second and nodded before focusing back on the battle. Unfortunately, in that split second she got hit by another laser. She charged the monsters again, finally in a close enough range to attack. She swung right with her mace, hitting one of the Bloks directly in its eye. She pulled at her mace but it was stuck in the monster. The Blok began to twist and turn then exploded into what seemed like million pieces. The explosion sent Akane back and her mace flying. She quickly got up and ran towards her mace. The monsters' attention quickly focused on the running Akane. They began to charge up their attacks to prevent her from retrieving her weapon. Ib took this opportunity to attack. She shot a few bullets into a Blok, however only one hit the eye and that wasn't enough. Two out of three remaining Bloks turned to take care of her while the two Krabs and other Blok focused on Akane. Akane ducked and slid towards her weapon, grabbing it. She pulled herself up and got ready to attack once more. She noticed Ib being chased by two Bloks, leading them west and away from the tower. If she could lead these monsters further away it would provide Chitose a perfect opportunity to get Novella to the tower. She turned on her heel and began to flee. Just as she had hoped, the monsters followed. Though she wasn't sure how long she could keep this up.


 

            Novella and Chitose watched as Akane ran past their hiding spot with monster following behind. They huddled closer together, hoping the monsters wouldn't spot them. Luckily, they didn't. They waited a few moments for Akane's monsters to be far enough.

            “Let's go.” Chitose said.

            The two girls ran out from behind the wall and towards the red tower. Ib was farther west from the tower but cornered as she reached the end. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Chitose heard a familiar sound. The sound she heard when Akane and Ib were virtualized onto Bit. A loud thud came from behind them. The two girls paused in fear. The tower, however, was only a few mere feet away from them. From the laser that was poorly aimed in between them, they could tell it was a Krab. Chitose opened her parasol and hid behind it with Novella.

            “Ib!”

            “Dio?” Novella asked out of concern, “Is everything alright?”

            They could both hear Dio run off and the sounds of the lift opening. Within a few moments the girls could hear Hiroshi.

            “Can you hear me?” He asked.

            “Yes!” Chitose squeaked. She felt her parasol grow weaker and weaker with every hit of the laser.

            “Your parasol will not last you much longer,” he stated, “Ib was devirtualized though she was able to defeat all the Bloks she had led away. Akane is still running, trying to get them as far away as possible. If you want to make it out of there and get Novella to the tower, you’re going to have to fight.”
            “But I can’t. I can’t fight...” Chitose murmured.

            “You have to. It is only a matter of time before your parasol gives out. If Novella loses all her life points, she will die.”

            “But...” Before she could continue her opposition her parasol gave way. More lasers than needed, hitting her torso, sent her backwards towards the tower and ultimately devirtualized her.

            “Chitose!” Novella cried out and ran towards her where she would have landed if she had still been there, only to be stopped by the laser that missed her by a mere centimeter.

            Novella felt her legs shake, as if they were to give out any second. She turned out, slowly, to face the monster that attacked her newly found friend. The Krab stood hovering just a bit above her. She found herself to be paralyzed and stuck in the direction of the charging laser. She closed her eyes shut and waited for the inevitable.

            However, it never came. She opened her eyes with apprehension mixed with confusion. She has seen the Krabs charged lasers before and it surely should have been fired by now, but it hadn’t. Instead, the Krab began to twist and turn until it exploded, signifying its defeat.

            “Novella? What happened? The Krab disappeared off my screen yet there was no one to defeat it. Unless, did you defeat it, Novella?” Hiroshi asked.

            “I don’t think so...” Novella responded.

            Novella looked around her in search for who or what could have defeated the Krab. In the distance she spotted two brown braids disappearing behind a rock. She did not say anything but she had a sense of familiarity.

            “Well, it doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out later. Get to the tower for now and deactivate it.”

            “Right.” She nodded and started for the tower. Though her gaze lingered at the spot where she caught a glimpse of those familiar braids.  


          “So what you’re saying is, this R.T.P. thing can attack the real world by activating towers on Bit and Novella is the only one that can deactivate them.” Akane rubbed her temples as she tried to gather her own thoughts. After all the fighting was over, Hiroshi had devirtualized her manually and they all gather in the “Lab”, as Hiroshi called it.

            “To give a simple summary, yes.” Hiroshi responded.

            “As long as the supercomputer is on R.T.P. will continue to be able to activate towers, however, if we turn off the supercomputer, we lose Novella.” Dio explained.

            “And you want to find a way to bring her to the real world, right?” Chitose reaffirmed.

            Dio nodded. “That is what I promised her.”

            Hiorshi stepped for and began to explain his proposal. “There is no doubt that R.T.P. will strike again. In events as of such we will need someone to come to Novella’s aid as she has no weapon and we have yet to program her one. We would like to ask for your help in this and if you refuse it is alright. However, we ask you to keep this a secret. While all of this seems scientifically impossible, we still do not want word of this getting out.”   

            His proposal was followed by a long silence. Dio and Hiroshi had already set their minds on this. They were going to bring Novella to the real world. Why they were doing this for an A.I.? Hiroshi was not exactly sure. Hiroshi, himself, had gained some type of an interest in this virtual world. Dio, on the other hand, seemed to genuinely want to help this girl.

            The three girls stood there in silence. Chitose had been the first to break it.

            “I- I’m not much of a fighter. I can’t do much but I’d still like to help. Living in that virtual world, it seems like it would be very lonely and very scary. So I want to bring Novella to the real world too.”

            Akane smiled. Though she had officially met this girl today, she demonstrated that overwhelming kindness that she portrayed in her dreams.

            “Well, someone is going to have to protect those two out there.” Akane spoke up.

            Ib sighed, though her facial expression did not change much. “I will fight alongside them as well.”

            Chitose’s face lit up with a bright smile. Dio had turned to the computer, to Novella.

            “Did you hear that Novella? We’re all going to be here with you from here on out.”

            “Really?” Novella beamed.

            “Really.” Dio responded with a small smile.

            “Oh, I forgot to tell you! I remembered my name!”

            All eyes were now focused on her.

            “You did?”

            “Yup! My real name is Aya! When I was deactivating the tower, my name came up on the screen and I remembered it to be my own!” Aya clarified.

            “That’s great.” Akane stepped forward, “It’s nice to meet you, Aya.”

            “It’s nice to meet you too!”

            For a while the six of them chatted. They discussed their first experience on Bit, their weapons, their clothes and the monsters. They exchanged phone numbers to keep in contact when R.T.P. decided to attack next. They discussed the impact R.T.P. would have on the real world and what they were to do if anyone were to find out about their secret. They discussed many things until they decided it was getting late and they had to return to their dorms. Aya was able to talk to Dio in his dorm via his computer and they talked a lot. He answered all her questions, or at least the ones he could answer. He talked about Earth and what it was like to live on it. It was strange to him. His dull life full of the devotion to simply get through it suddenly transformed into an interesting one. He and Hiroshi were not relatively close and those three girls were not something he could call friends. Well, at least not yet anyways. This is how their story began. How these six people were united together and their experiences on the virtual world called Bit.