Chapter 4 (or, “A Collision”)
Her eyes were closed, going through the mental library in her head. Which cards had she draws already? Which ones were still waiting for her to find them in her deck?
She thought through each and every one, thinking about their attack and plan patterns, even thinking about every crease and bend. These cards were her best friends, and together, they had been through the fire and flames many times. They had saved the day time and time again.
Erika jumped almost a meter into thin air. The entire class laughed as the teacher glared straight at her.
“I know today is a busy day, Tomoyaki-san, but please pay more attention. Your education will last longer than Digital Merge will.”
That’s what you think, Erika thought to herself as she turned her attention back to her plugged in tablet. She pressed the button next to Joliar, and her yellow rabbit navigator woke up, presenting her with an envelope. She pushed the button one more time, and it opened.
“I tried to warn you! :)”
Erika stole a glance toward the back of the room. Kyara Losule was waving, long brown hair brushing her dark blue sailor suited mimono uniform. Erika shook her head. If she had been allowed to wear her baseball cap in class, she would have gotten away with thinking about her deck. But no, hats didn’t conform to the uniform, and she was stuck -- until the bell rang, of course.
She could barely sit still. Today was the day she finally got to meet Noh Kee Moh Rhiannon, and also see what new Digital Merge products she had in the pipeline. And what’s more, the invitation was +1! Kyara wasn’t into Digital Merge, but she went anywhere Erika did, as Erika did with Kyara. Besides, she had sat through three shopping sessions in a row. It was due to be her turn.
She tried her best to stare out the window, which didn’t work as well as she had hoped -- the window was across the room. Instead, she forced herself to look down at her books again. Her mind wandered a bit to the Red Giant -- her favorite card, and one she loved using in her deck. When the Red Giant was on the mat, she knew she would be able to win. She knew every combination so that no matter what other cards were in her hands, she could save the day and win the game.
The problem now was...what new things was Rhiannon going to introduce during the meeting today? This could change the entire game. Erika would have to be prepared for anything.
Finally, after what seemed like years, the bell rang, and school ended for the day. Erika got up from her desk and immediately went over to Kyara. “You ready?”
“Ready for what?” Kyara asked, and Erika shook her head. Of course her best friend would have forgotten!
“The special Digital Merge promotion day. Remember? We’re going to the Cerulean Tower after school, Kyara-chan. That’s what I said earlier. You don’t remember at all?”
Kyara’s face changed for a moment, and then her eyes widened. “Oh! You mentioned something about the Cerulean Tower, but I don’t remember it being about Digital Merge. I think I was so focused on maybe seeing Niji~iro there.” And with that, Kyara gave off a happy sigh. “You think I might be able to see Nathan in person?”
“I think you’re crazy,” Erika muttered, but there was no way she was going to get through to her friend. Kyara was obsessed with the band Niji~iro and its main guitarist, American phenomenon Nathan Tyler. He was all Kyara would talk about most days. “Besides, it’s not like they’re playing at the Cerulean Tower today. We might get to meet Kiiroka Jaci, but definitely not Nathan Tyler.”
Kyara pouted. “You’re just jealous.”
“You should be the one who is jealous. I’m the one who’s good enough at Digital Merge to get us into this thing. Now, are we going to go home or not?”
Most students stayed after school for clubs, but Erika and Kyara had an exception today. Erika normally headed the Digital Merge and Other Card Games Club, while Kyara was in the Cooking Club, but getting to the Cerulean Tower was more important. They went to the locker rooms and quickly changed out of their school uniforms -- they didn’t have time to run home before they went to Cerulean Tower.
“Aren’t you excited?” Erika heard Kyara say.
She sighed as she put her baseball cap on. She was. That much she knew for sure. But there was more than that on her mind. She had been troubled by some strange dreams lately, dreams where the world was falling apart, dreams that reminded her of the big wars a few years back. Tokyo had been a warzone at that time, but Erika and her family, along with lots of other families who could afford it, moved outside Tokyo for a while. Erika was with her grandmother in Hokkaido up north when the fighting ended, but she couldn’t forget the images she had seen on the tablets...images that she kept recalling in her dreams.
She couldn’t tell Kyara. Kyara had needed to stay through the war, and she didn’t like talking about it. She didn’t take any sort of trauma well.
They exited the school together and took the train to Shibuya from Odaiba, following the lines on the ground as they walked. “Do you remember what time we need to be there by?” Kyara asked.
Erika looked down at her tablet. “I don’t remember. Hey, Joliar,” she said, speaking to her rabbit navigator, “can you pull up my calendar --”
Joliar never got to do so. Erika ran straight into something on the sidewalk and fell to the ground, dropping her tablet as she did so. She caught herself as she fell, then lifted her hat to see who it was. “Don’t you know to follow the arrows…”
The boy Erika had ran into didn’t look like he was from Tokyo, so maybe he didn’t know. He was definitely Japanese, but wasn’t wearing a mimono. He had blue pants on, made of some strange, shiny material, and tennis shoes -- Erika hadn’t seen tennis shoes outside of gym class in years. He had a striped Western-style T-shirt on, with alternating white and yellow stripes, but the first thing Erika noticed about him were the goggles strapped up in his hair. Yeah, he looked like he had come from the countryside.
She felt her eyes widen, locking onto his. “Are -- are you okay?” she asked.
The boy nodded, then got up from the ground. Erika did the same, and when she looked up, the boy was gone. “Where did he go?”
Erika gave Kyara a strange look. “What do you mean, who?”
“You took quite the fall there. Did you trip over your boot laces?”
“Kyara, I just ran into some boy. Did you see what he was wearing?”
“Me? No.” Pause. “Was he cute?”
“What? I was just asking.”
Erika pushed the incident to the back of her mind. “Can we just get to the Cerulean Tower, please? I gotta plug Joliar in and make sure it’s okay.” She checked the screen; it was unscratched, but the screen itself was off, and Joliar wasn’t appearing.
“Oh.” Kyara looked at the screen. “Yeah, that’s some serious business. Let’s get you to the Cerulean Tower so you can plug that in...and maybe see Nathan.”
Nathan’s not going to be there, Erika muttered to herself, but as she looked at her blank screen, her mind wandered to the boy whom she had ran into. Who was that guy?