In the dark of night, a certain scientist was performing extra work—or rather, it was their only goal now. Disillusioned by the false fame that being a chosen researcher had brought them, they had decided to save the life of their most important one; in any way possible.
The room, circular and covered by a wide dome almost like a cathedral, was dominated by a very large glass cylinder with an open door on one side of it and little else marring its smooth surface. The cylinder stretched from the floor all the way to the domed ceiling above, and there was a lot of machinery attached to this ceiling, with what looked like the lens of a flashlight (only much, much bigger) at the top of the cylinder shining down into it.
The scientist was in a room next to it filled with giant computers and switchboards, some kind of master control area. Hundreds of wires and cables streamed from this area to the contraption on the ceiling of the glass tube.
A small young girl, around six years of age, walked into the cylinder as the scientist began to power up the device. The girl had short, purple hair with matching eyes—she appeared awfully frail; and truthfully, she was gravely ill.
Inside the cylinder, mechanized components began to power up audibly.
The girl, now completely out of her mind with terror, screamed. She hammered on the glass with one hand and clawed at it with the other. She had scratched one of her fingernails off and blood was smearing onto the glass, though she didn't appear to notice.
Her cries for help ceased to be recognizable as words when the machinery started making a new set of clunking, whirring sounds. Now she was just screaming, beastly shrieks like the cries of a tortured animal; changing from fear to pain.
The green light in the chamber bathed the girl in a sickly radiance, and now something that could only really be described as looking like a sandstorm almost obscured her completely. She was in instant agony, thrashing and beating at the air. The particles released by the device were doing something to her, hurting her, inhaling those fragments and feeling them burn from the inside. The girl's screams were reduced to muffled, choked wails, and something was growing on her, her arms, her body, spreading like a rash but looking like raw steel. The fragment swarm burned through her clothes and attacked her flesh, plating it in horrific armour that she was frantically trying to rip off of her but which was attached far too solidly.
At some point the girl stopped making sounds, and soon after that she stopped moving completely. The one overlooking the operation pressed some buttons and the green light that was emitted from the lens inside the chamber was switched off. Almost instantly, the cloud of nanomachines dissipated and fell like sand to the bottom of the machine, through the holes in the metal grating. The machine made a powering-down whine.
"...I'm sorry." Those were the only words that the girl could hear—her new body was made from cold steel; she couldn't be considered human anymore...
"My god! It's full of nerds!" Gary exclaimed; completely stunned at where a freshly-awakened Tsuruko had taken the group. There place where they had entered...was a district for all sorts of niche stuff? "Hey, Tsuruko, where exactly are we...? This place is giving me the chills."
"...Ehhh?" Tsuruko turned around, surprised at Gary. "Why would it give you the chills? This is Wotakukuni, the district of Four where people with bright imaginations can shine!" She threw her arms out excitedly, cheering, "It's Wotakukuni time!"
Gary scratched his head, sighing, "Sounds like a massive gathering of nerds." He crossed his arms, thoroughly displeased at Tsuruko's idea of 'fun'. "Agh, I'm not having any of this. It seems that our opinions on what we find 'fun' drastically differ. Anyway, be careful."
"Why don't you think it's fun?" Tsuruko could only ask that question, as Gary began to walk away from the group.
Briefly turning around, Gary answered, "I grew up. That's all there is to it."
Tsuruko looked up, quizzically tilting her head at Gary as he left without another word. She was tempted to run after him and make him consider otherwise, but the desire to run around Wotakukuni and have fun surpassed that. "Gee, what's his problem...?" Forgetting about Gary, Tsuruko decided, "Alright, let's have some fun here!"
Giselle herself rubbed her eyes; obviously exhausted. She muttered to herself, "I shouldn't have stayed up three nights in a row...But what IS that Gaiki? It's rare that a Soul Armour would bond to a Driver Belt without the user locating it first..." She tapped her head, realizing something. "The Soul Armours are forged from Soul Metal...that conducts good with Orichalcum, which is a rare metal that's used to create—"
"Ehh!? Giselle, did you say something?" Tsuruko swiveled around all of a sudden; catching Giselle by surprise. "What's this about Gaiki?"
"Tch, it's nothing." Giselle brushed her off, before sending Tsuruko off. "Now, you go have fun, why don't you? I have something important to do." Again, Giselle Mercury had left Tsuruko without any explanation.
Giselle had about her the air of a distinguished lady; and indeed she had the honours, the success, and to a certain extent, the beauty that was by no means an exaggeration. However, to the ordinary human race, she had broken away from their circle as she became just like her namesake:
Mercury was a periodic element, Hg, with an atomic number of 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver. Mercury is the only metal which is liquid in state at room temperature approx. 72-75 degrees with a standard pressure rating. Mercury is heavy and silvery white. It is a poor conductor of heat, but a fair conductor of electricity. It has low melting and boiling temperatures. Mercury does not react with most acids—Mercury dissolves many other metals such as gold and silver to form amalgams.
For those beings, no matter how beautiful they strive to become, neither experience nor possession will ever grant it to them. Only in dreams can they ever attain such beauty. In a sense, Giselle dissolved any personal connections in the way that the element bearing her name dissolved many other metals.
Tsuruko sighed, slightly disappointed. "Do people really not like comic books and cartoons? I liked them ever since I was a kid..."
Deen casually placed his hand on Tsuruko's shoulder. "Don't worry about them. It's fine to indulge in your hobbies, even when you grow older. Don't let anyone else's opinions influence you. You're free to do whatever you want." Deen was...surprisingly wise.
"You're right!" Tsuruko nodded her head; but a certain question was raised. "...Deen, do you like comic books and cartoons too?"
As soon as Tsuruko asked Deen this seemingly innocent question, any mature and serious air that the Rune Knight known as Deen Lhant emitted was dissipated instantly, as the man fell over onto his face, his limbs in a twisted mass above him. "...Nooooooo!"
Tsuruko questioned, "Ehhh, that's a bit too suspiciously specific..."
"No, I don't watch those things. I'm far too busy to sit down and relax with fiction." Deen spluttered as he began to back up, attempting to dig himself out of the hole he'd shoved himself in.
Tsuruko leaned in closer as she smugly told him straight to the point, "You really do like superheroes, Deen!"
Deen couldn't really argue any more. "...Alright, I do, I do, geez!" At least he could take some comfort in that a friend of his liked them as well. Especially that Tsuruko, a girl, enjoyed the concept of superheroes.
All of a sudden, Tsuruko took Deen's hand. "Let's go have some fun then!"
"Let's go watch a movie!" Tsuruko stammered as a faint shade of crimson crossed her face. What she'd told Deen was just her beating around the bush; to put it simply, Tsuruko really wanted Deen to go to the movies with her—since she'd never seen a movie before.
Tsuruko slung on a jersey…Deen was worried, but he never thought Tsuruko would dress as such; there were many types of jerseys, some of them attractive, though what Tsuruko wore was an absolutely toneless, pitch black jersey. Deen thought even Primary or High School jerseys looked trendier. Truth to be told, it wasn't rare to occasionally spot students in cool-looking sport club jerseys, but Tsuruko's pitch black form really stood out in a crowd. "…Are you planning to dress like this?" Deen questioned, half-hopelessly, half-disappointingly, to which Tsuruko nodded, unfazed,
"Yep! Let's go, go, go!"
"Haa..." Seeing Tsuruko march forward determinedly, Deen had no choice but to sigh and follow her. After walking fifteen minutes from the set-out point, they reached the street where the cinema was located.
There were boutiques and gift shops, bookshops and cafes - it seemed like a very wholesome street indeed. There were no huge franchises or branch stores, only small, humble sized shop lots, each of them giving off a retro feel. There were also shops whose windows were obscured with blinds. There weren't many pedestrians either.
Deen often passed by this street while taking public transport to report to the Magic Council's Four branch, but it was the first time he'd ever been here on foot, so he had no idea there was a cinema here either. Tsuruko, the other hand, walked by Deen's side, seeming rather spirited. "You usually come here?" Deen questioned.
"Once in a while…There's not much of a crowd here." It seemed that she was really in a good mood (even more than usual); she replied cheerfully.
"Tsuruko can't stand crowds, huh…" Compared to the hectic, bustling streets of Four, it's not surprising that one would come to prefer such deserted streets instead. Plus, it could be said that this place had a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.
"So what movie are we watching today?" Deen asked Tsuruko; whom simply responded,
"I haven't decided yet. Let's just find one that's about to start."
"Is that alright?"
"I've always decided things like this, based on instinct."
In Deen's opinion, such an exquisite person possessing such movie standards was rare indeed. Compared to those students who chased after commercials and had endless movie topics to talk about… "Speaking of which, do you usually watch movies, Tsuruko?"
"Ahh…occasionally." For some reason, Tsuruko replied in a low voice, as if she was blushing. Five minutes later, they reached the cinema. It was an old theater, completely devoid of modern traces.
From the poster near the entrance, it seemed that a movie was about to begin in a few minutes. From the looks of it, this would be a movie that Giselle would recommend; at that point, Deen realized something was up.
From the poster near the entrance, it seemed that a movie was about to begin in a few minutes. It was a foreign film whose title Deen had never heard of. The poster depicted a forest in the middle of autumn, a thirty-year-old-ish couple was staring at each other face to face, it was an epic…No actually, it seemed way too common. Those two should be the main protagonists he guessed, but neither of them looked too appealing. To be completely honest, it was definitely not his type. Deen basically only watched movies on television. He preferred animated films or stunning CG films; it was a plus if the movie made him feel good afterwards.
"Hmm…The time's just right. Let's watch this then." Upon hearing Tsuruko decide, Deen's face crinkled up, causing Tsuruko to glance over at him, questioning, "…You don't feel like watching this?"
"Ahh…Uhm, how do I put this…" Deen struggled to put his thoughts in words.
However, Tsuruko suggested plainly, "How about we look for others? There's another two theaters nearby."
Deen shook his head. "Nah, this is fine." Occasionally watching something he disliked could be viewed as a challenge too. And who knows, he may actually like it. That was what he thought when he bought the tickets. The inside of the cinema was as bare. All the seats were free seating, so they chose the middle seats. They didn't buy any food or drinks; as Tsuruko said, first no carbonated drinks, so sodas were eliminated; second, he didn't like orange juice or lime juice, he didn't like the flavor of tea either; third, popcorn only made him thirsty, and he didn't really like it either.
... To be honest, Deen didn't think Tsuruko was suitable for cinemas; he was initially thinking of what to buy, since this was a rare opportunity and all, but in the end he decided against it since everything was too pricey. Deen was never really fond of junk food anyway. Having to pay out extra for something he didn't particularly like - as the one in charge of household expenses it was an obvious no go for me.
... Maybe Deen wasn't too suitable for cinemas himself. The screen soon started playing a long list of movies that were to be shown. Just as he was starting to get bored and thinking "What a long list... When are they going to start..." the movie started. Because he never read the synopsis, he never knew what kind of movie it was until it started. Now he realized it was a romance movie.
The protagonists in question were a married couple, they were aged around thirty or so and already had kids. Due to this it was hard for Deen, as a 25 year old who'd never even been kissed or had a date, to really get into the movie. Aside from the climax where his extra-marital affair was discovered by his family, the entire movie was just a plain illustration of his and her daily lives.
Due to the script being too plain, Deen had no idea how the protagonists were feeling, or how much they grew as characters. It's not because Deen liked that stuff in real life, but even if it was fictitious, he hoped that there would be more easily relatable moments, or moments that made his heart beat faster in excitement or fear. They should have watched a different movie after all... Because reading subtitles became too much of a chore, he regrettably looked away from the screen to Tsuruko, who was seated next to him.
"Grr..." For some reason, Tsuruko of all people was looking at the protagonists with eyes full of animosity. It seemed that she hated the movie; or rather, relationships irked her that much. If that was the case even entertainment media would lose their amusement value.
"...How long will this continue..." Deen sighed; however, he quickly sat up when that happened.
By that - an H-scene.
"HUH...!?" Because he wasn't paying attention most the time, Deen didn't know how the script progressed to such a level (though even if he was paying attention he doubted he would have known). Anyway, the main protagonists were kissing deeply in the middle of the street (with moving cars on both sides too). Then the scene abruptly changed to a room, and those scenes begun.
Because it was a normal movie and not an adult film or porno, the depictions weren't that obvious, and the scene was also dimmed. But it was obvious that the big screen was showing a nude guy on top of a nude girl doing perverted stuff to her.
It was okay if Deen was watching alone, but seated next to him was somebody he liked - this was way too awkward! As he wiped cold sweat off his brow, he stole a quick glance at Tsuruko. Even in the dark cinema, it was obvious Tsuruko's face was bright red. Although her face was lowered, her eyes were still glued to the screen.
After the movie ended, both parties exited the cinema in silence. The main protagonists actually did it four times before the movie ended. "E-er…S-so how did you like the movie?" Ren fumbled.
"Ehhh!? A movie that starts by introducing the main characters is bad, and as expected of a bad, movie the plot was terrible and the story direction was bad and not to mention they had... L-lewd scenes..." Tsuruko stammered, completely embarrassed.
"T-that' right! I think so too!" Deen agreed with Tsuruko loudly, trying to dim the awkwardness of the scene.
Just then, "S-speaking of which, Deen, do you fantasize about doing those…things?" Tsuruko lowered her head and shifted her gaze upwards looking at Deen, mumbling something softly.
"N-No, what made you assume that!?"
"NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOTHING AT ALL!!!" Tsuruko shouted at him in a completely non-Tsuruko manner, as if to cover up something.