With the ring of the email notification sound, Akizuki Renji opened his eyes.
Reaching his hand out from under the sheets, he activated the smartphone's screen.
'I'll kill you.'
Simply put, this was a clear murder announcement.
Such a stimulating mail so early in the morning.
"Shit, this is bad…"
He abruptly got up from bed, while scratching his hair he looked at his alarm clock.
It was 7 a.m. The alarm was supposed to go off two hours beforehand, but it appears Renji forgot to set the alarm clock.
Eyes still half-closed, he deleted the mail with well-trained movements as he had done many times before.
The screen dimmed out after a while and Renji found his sleep-mussed face staring back at him.
Even though he had just enrolled into high school three months ago, the old habit of frowning every time his mind wandered never really changed. Other than the worsening eyesight, he had no discerning trait from other boys his age; not his height, not his weight.
Ever since he was a child, he never stood out. He grew up as an ordinary boy.
You could even say he looked every bit like that failure of a second son called Akizuki Renji.
“Lately I've been oversleeping and ditching class too much…”
He let out a deep breath, and from his bed he set his smart phone down.
Renji's room is small. A bed, a desk, and a television took most of the six-tatami room and the scattered clothes, comic books and game consoles left almost no room to put your feet down. His little sister called his room an 'Hell' and didn't even want to get close to it.
He got out of his room, descended down the stairs, crossed the living room, and faced the dining table in front of the kitchen.
"Renji? You're taking it easy today?"
His father, who had earlier sat at the table, noticed Renji. His father, who is employed at a construction company sales department, was a fat normal middle-aged man who wore glasses.
“Once in a while, resting is important, but every day…”
Renji, sitting across from his father with a serious look, replied.
"Yeah, more or less."
A strained smile appeared on Dad's face as he put down his coffee cup. He averted his eyes to the television in the living room.
There, the never changing morning news channel was being aired.
"With the end of rainy season coming close, the shopping district is decorated in various colors to celebrate Tanabata*. This event was cancelled for the last two years, but we hope to enkindle the fire once again---"
TLN*:Tanabata is a traditional event in Japan, where they celebrate the reunion of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). It is held every July 7.
“Renji, doing whatever you want is good but you should study, okay?”
Renji's mom spoke, as she took out Renji’s rice bowl. Renji’s mother, unlike his father, was very skinny. She worked as a housewife as well as doing some translation jobs from a publishing company she had worked for before marriage.
“And once again, even though you don’t have to be ranked number one in school, at least get an average score on the test and study. Because one day, I don’t know whether or not I’ll be in this country.”
“I know already!”
“Oh— Ren-kun is here?”
A girl clad in shorts and tank top appeared and took a seat next to Dad.
“How rare! You didn’t go running this morning. Did you oversleep?”
It was his younger sister, Asahi. Asahi was an 8th grader and was 170 cm tall. She’s the type of self-conceited sister that was capable of ruining her older brother’s dignity. Today she came straight out of bed, looking like the girl from the ring, with long sloppy bed-hair. However, if she properly did her hair, you would see that she has a face that would capture the attention of boys and girls alike.
“Ah, did you realize that it was useless to go jogging? Although you say that you’re going to do fitness training in order to join Rescue agency, why did you join an otaku club instead of a sports club in the first place Ren-kun? Speaking of the Rescue agency, only smart and athletic people like Shou-chan can join it, right?”
“Now now, settle down. Stop it, Asahi.”
“Why? Don’t you think so too mama? Heeey, are you listening Ren-kun? I’m talking to you Ren kun, don’t ignore me!”
“Quit beating the table, Asahi.”
In a nonchalant air, Renji and his sullen sister continued to eat their breakfast, with their parents scolding their sibling conflicts.
No matter where they are at, this will always happen; this is the scene that is normal in the Akizuki household.
“And now for the weather report for all of Japan. First, we start off with the Kanto region. Here is the ‘Critical Area’—”
A map of Japan was shown on the T.V. screen.
Around the center of Tokyo, they showed a purple circle covering the area. The screen then completely changed into a flashy relayed video.
A purple wall rose above the ground, which was buried by the rubble, where top of the wall could not be seen. The buildings that should have been surrounding the area of the wall were completely demolished. Rails were laid out in a circle surrounding the wall. On these rails there was an armored train used for guarding the area. They also showed the area where the self-defense force was patrolling around.
“Today’s weather will be calm, and will continue to be clear. There is no change in the observational data that the Rescue agency made available to the public—”
Silence fell over the dining table.
However, it only lasted a moment before they started having their family dialogue once again.
“Ah, that’s right. Speaking of Shou-chan, he went back home the other day. He said he forgot to
take something in his room or something like that.”
“Tell that type of thing to mom and dad. Seriously. If you’re telling me, you should tell it to them.”
“It’s not something I’d tell to mom and dad. Heh heh.”
“What? Ever since he entered Rescue agency, he must be very busy because he doesn’t give sufficient notification of leaving, or so I thought. If you have the time to go and retrieve forgotten things, he should’ve returned home faster.”
“Hmm, Matsu-chan and Shou-chan are so busy they’ve been saying that they can’t meet often. Could it be that he’s having an affair? He came out from a love hotel I hear. Did he get another girlfriend? Hey, hey! Ren-kun what do you say?”
“I say stop calling me Ren-kun. And those new bangs of yours…”
“What about them?”
“You’re starting to piss me off.”
“Don’t throw the kitchen cloth, Asahi. Don’t get into Matsu-chan’s business.”
“Whaaat? If you were me, wouldn’t you get in touch with Shouichi’s girlfriend? Also she’s a university student, so properly call her Matsuko-san, not Matsu-chan.”
“Thanks for the meal.”
“And that’s all for the weather report of Japan. We will continue with Japan’s morning news report.”
Renji was finishing up his rice when all of a suddenly he stopped. He looked at the T.V. screen.
It showed a man being surrounded by news reporters. He had an eyepatch over his left eye and looked like he was in his early 30’s. Below the man, who was answering the news reporters’ questions, were English subtitles.
“Yesterday evening, at the Rescue agency’s regular debriefing meeting, the agency’s public relations officer Kagiono strongly emphasized the importance of the ‘Critical Area’s 3rd largest military operation’ which is scheduled to take place next week.”
The sound changed completely. The eye patch man was facing towards a microphone, and let out his voice
“This tragic disaster led to disappearance of over one million people. Today we will continue to fight because of the ‘unfortunate attack on Tokyo’.”
While Renji gazed at the T.V. screen, his parents and sister quietly continued to eat their meal.
“Not only are we, the Rescue agency, fighting day by day in order to take back our original lives, but also the victim’s families and the people who live in the country of Japan are fighting. On the other hand, although we are currently occupying the heart of Tokyo, there is no conclusion yet. This and the fact that we have not rescued the victims yet is unsatisfactory—”
He got tired of hearing the statement. Renji sighed in grief, holding his rice bowl while facing the sink.
“—However、the search for victims that we have conducted so far have not been in vain. The SPOT’s understanding advances. Also the scope of investigation of the inner part of the ‘Area’ continues to expand while showing us the many martyrs of the country. However, ‘raiders’ abuse the outstanding SPOTs, trespass into the inner part of the ‘Area’ without government permission, and steal property from Tokyo. The fact is that these ‘raiders’ still remain as Japanese people and as unforgivable people, but—”
Upon returning to the dinner table, the family was still in silence.
This heavy air.
Even if she is his self-conceited sister and even though two years have passed, Renji could not get used to the atmosphere of wanting to say something but remaining silent.
“Soon, from the development of the ‘Unfortunate Attack on Tokyo’, two years will pass. When it comes to this turning point, We, the Rescue agency, will throw away everything that is utilized, and conduct a large scale search effort for the third time. As for the fact that there are times when this is carried out, many voices of criticisms and abandonment of hope overcome all other voices. However, it is one answer that look towards to save our hope, and it is an answer that is necessary in order to discover a coping method in order to not induce a second or third attack—"
Even though he was looking at the T.V, it did not look like a brand new report. He turned his back to the T.V. screen.
“With regard to that, we ask the people of Japan to please comply with us and offer any information about the ‘Raiders’ and seemingly suspicious people to ‘SPOTs ’discovery information. The Rescue agency is preparing a suitable bounty──”
He entered the washroom, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and gargled his mouth.
He spat out the water, and fixatedly stared at his face reflected in the mirror.
Renji was not a narcissist. Every morning, he just makes sure that parts of his face, like his mouth or right eye, are okay. It’s just his habit.
With his fingertips, he pulled open his mouth. He tried to make sure the teeth on the right side of his face were okay, and naturally they were normal teeth. His left eye was also normal, and his forehead was not abnormal. It was a eternal rebellious face that he became used to seeing.
“Phew”, he let out a breath, and returned to his room on the second floor.
He put on his school clothes and grabbed his bag and smart phone. When he left his room, he bumped into Asahi.
Upon trying to play it off casually, his sister, wearing her sailor suit school uniform, took a fleeting look at his face.
“I should trust Shou-chan…right?”
“Isn’t it dangerous in the ‘Area’? Ren-kun don’t join the Rescue agency…”
When Renji raised his eyebrows, Asahi pouted her lips.
“Cut it out, and no, I will not reconcile with Shou-chan.”
In a rare moment, the self-conceited sister became meek. Just before watching the news, she probably thought that Renji remembered that one time and became depressed.
Because she just uses abusive language, she could not become completely meek and frank with him.
She’s similar to how he was in the past.
You could say that she also is now like myself from two years ago, and we would be the same age as well—
“Idiot! The ‘Area’ is dangerous--they say the area has monsters it, right? Do you really believe they exist in there?”
“Eh…b-but, even the Rescue agency acknowledged it! It’s the rumor going around.”
“They acknowledged that it was just something unidentifiable. Moreover, you don’t even think I can join the Rescue agency. I’m in the otaku club, and that means because I don’t exercise enough I just run.”
After saying so, they tried to go down the stairs, when Asahi seemed like she had something to say again.
Renji had a sigh of grief; he had to say something.
“Hey Asahi、you know I like ＫＡＮＡＴＡ, right? That idol or artist or whatever. Next time I’ll bring you some goods of hers or something.”
Hearing his words, there appeared a twinkle in her eyes.
“Eh! Why? Why would Ren-kun bring me such a thing?”
“It’s no problem for me, I’m like an acquaintance…actually, a frequent customer”
“Huh? What’s that? Am I hearing that from you? That you like ＫＡＮＡＴＡ? Why didn’t you tell me before? There’s no reason you shouldn’t have told me!”
Unexpectedly, she took the bait. Renji swift-footedly went down the stairs.
“What type of goods? What can you get? Do they have limited edition items？ I have some stuff that I want! Ah, how about a ticket? I’m just wondering because they’re having a performance but I couldn’t buy a ticket.”
“I’m heading out! Ah, even though I told you last night, I’ll repeat it. Today I’m coming home late because of club activities!”