[FFML] [xover][Kodocha/Alice Academy/RoD/GK] Sana's Alice, Chapter 6.

Henry Cobb henry.cobb at gmail.com
Sat Aug 2 11:50:03 PDT 2008


[xover][Kodocha/Alice Academy/RoD/GK] Sana's Alice, Chapter 6.
By Henry J. Cobb

Gakuen Alice is the creation of Higuchi Tachibana.  Kodomo no Omocha
is the creation of Miho Obana.  Read or Dream is the creation of
Hideyuki Kurata. Ginban Kaleidoscope is the creation of Rei Kaibara.
This parody is not intended to cause any damage to these properties.

Previously: Misako Kurata's latest bestselling book in Japan, "My
Daughter and I", tells how Sana Kurata, her eleven year old adopted
daughter, came to be the co-star of the television series Kodocha.
She neglected to mention in her book that Sana has a budding
relationship with Akito Hayama and that Babbit, the sidekick of the
television show, is not a puppet or computer generated image but an
actual small plastic balloon bat/rabbit sentient creature that Sana
summons with the use of her superhuman power or Alice.

Because Sana is an Alice she has been forced to transfer to the
maximum security boarding school run by the Japanese government called
Alice Academy.  At the Academy Sana has been entranced, attacked,
humiliated, hazed and idolized.  Although Sana is one of the most
famous girls in Japan, she was unknown at the Academy and is often
mistaken for her twin sister Mikan Sakura, who ran off with a boy from
her class.

Mikan's old friend Hotaru Imai has taken Sana and some other classmates on
an ill fated mission to rescue Mikan, but it turned out to be a trap and
Sana discovered that arguing with one's familiar in the middle of a
firefight can be a fatal mistake.

The full chapters can be found at
http://www.io.com/~hcobb/anime/fanfic/sana_alice.html

Chapter Six: Firewalking in the dark.

"Ow!"  I sat up clutching at the tearing pain in my gut.  I just
concentrated on my breathing until it got down to a dull throb then opened
my eyes.

I was in a hospital room.  Hotaru was sleeping in a wheelchair next to my
bed.  She had a cast on her leg.

She had been shot, hadn't she?  I had been shot.  Somehow I was alive, but
was I me anymore?  I looked around.

"What is it?"  Hotaru straightened up in her chair.

"Quick!  Get me a mirror!"

"Here you go,"  She handed me a handmirror.

I snatched it up and looked at the reflection of my own face, except I had
pig ears and snout, "Aiiii!"

"Oh sorry, I must have left it on,"  Hotaru flipped a switch on the back
and the animal features faded away leaving my ordinary face.

"How could you be so cruel to somebody who almost died?"

"It's your own fault for standing around while people were shooting at
you.  And you weren't even the primary target."

"What?"

"They were after Anita,"  Hotaru handed me the black book Anita had
dropped.

I took it with one hand but reached for my gut with the other, "Ow!  Why
does it hurt so much?  Anita was healed up without any aches."

"As for that.  When I saw you breathing here yesterday it was the first
time I'd ever been happy that I had a brother."

"Had?"

"He pushed his Alice too hard to save you.  He's in a coma down the hall."

"Oh, sorry."

"I'll get a nurse for you,"  She rolled to the door.

"Yeah," Tazusa stood in the doorway, wearing a hospital gown like mine and
Hotaru's, "Where have all the nurses gone?"

"You got hurt also?"

"You're a real pain in the gut Sana.  Imai, well her brother, used me to fix
you up, but next time you're on your own."

"You're not wearing your bracelet."

"My Alice has already been triggered.  I've got 97 more days before I have
to worry about it again."

"But if Hotaru and I are here, who did you reap?"

"Do you two promise never to reveal the answer, especially to Ruka?"

"Sure."

"Hotaru?"

"I promise," She crossed her fingers behind her back where I could see them
but Tazusa couldn't.

"Japan's greatest comedian hit a deer in the middle of the highway next to
your battle and died in a one person and one deer car crash."

"Oh!"

"He's been making jokes non-stop since we got here and the worse part is
that it only hurts when I laugh.  Which hurts him also of course.  Ow!
Nurse, my tummy aches.  Kiss it and make it better please.  Oh, you think
that's funny do you?"  Tazusa staggered off and Hotaru followed.

I opened the black book and flipped through it.  It was all photographs.
All of them had a little girl who looked like Anita or a red haired woman
with glasses in her twenties, mostly the two of them together.  A slightly
younger, or at least less bald, version of Professor King was also in a lot
of the photographs.  The photos were taken at different places and there
were some other people in some of them.  The signs were in English and the
people seemed to be mostly European so it had to be America or the UK or
somewhere else in the former British empire.

It was an obvious fake.  How could a four year old girl read so many books,
especially Anita?  On the last page I stopped.  The young Anita was sitting
between the red haired woman and another woman.  The other woman had long
dark hair and really big glasses.  She was in her early twenties.  "Bring
me Anita!"

"Sana!"  Anita showed up at the doorway, "You're awake.  I'm so very very
sorry that I just stood there and you--"

"Come here."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," She bowed to me.

"No, look at this," I held up the book.

"It's a fake.  How could I read so many books?"

"I know this woman!"

"What?"

"She was the first Alice I ever met.  She was a friend of Mama's.  What was
her name?  Auntie, Auntie Reedy or something like that."

"Are you sure?"

"I haven't seen her in five years, but this is exactly what she looked like
then."

"And this girl looks like a five years younger version of me.  How did they
know to include somebody you knew?"

"They can't have.  It isn't a fake.  Professor King is your father and this
red haired woman has to be your mother.  You've got a family."

"No.  He had you shot.  That's unforgivable.  I don't have a father.  The
next time I see him he dies," She turned away.

"Anita!"

She ran off crying.

"Anita, wait!  Ow!"  I tried to get up but the pain in my abdomen stopped
me, "Nurse, my tummy hurts!"  I looked around to see if Babbit was laughing
at me but he wasn't there.  I couldn't feel him in the back of my mind
either.

It seemed like forever, but the nurse finally did show up.  He was really
cute and I wanted to talk with him longer, but the pain pills he gave me
cut in and I faded off.

Sometime later I was awoken by a strange sensation.  I lay there with my
eyes closed and tried to figure out what it was.  It was Babbit, he was
starting up.  I opened my eyes, folded my hands on my chest and waited.

A minute later Babbit popped up above me, "Sorry to wake you Sana."

"No, it's okay.  I've been bored lying around all this time.  Where have
you been?"

"Oh, I've been down."

"How come Anita loses her Alice only when she's knocked out but you go away
whenever I'm badly hurt?"

"I'm no expert on Alices."

"You keep saying that and I don't believe you.  You know something about
yourself that you're hiding from me."

"I'd never hurt you Sana."

"Then let me be the judge of things,"  I reached for the black book and
flipped to the photo with the woman I knew, "Who is this?"

"You called her Auntie Reedy."

"No, what's her real name?"

"I don't know.  It was probably told to you at some point but I don't
remember."

"Why not?  You remember everything else."

"That was from before I woke up.  All you had were Babbit puppets at the
time."

Hotaru and I got released that night and the next morning I found myself in
front of Anita's door, "Come on, you're going to be late for class."

"I'm not going."

"Why not?"

"All I do is get you hurt.  I'm just going to stay right here."

"I think I recall hearing Hotaru saying that's she's rigged several death
traps in the classroom for me that only a clever Papermaster can disarm."

Anita opened her door, "You're conspiring with her, aren't you?"

I dragged her outside to where Hotaru was waiting in her giraffe cart.

Ruka walked up to my desk before class,  "I'm sorry I wasn't there in time
to help you."

"No, no.  You and Sumrie saved the day.  It turns out the entire thing was
a trap to kidnap Anita and you two kept her out of their clutches,"  I
pulled out the black book, "Anna, can you look at this?"

"Are these pictures of Anita?"

"It seems that way, but this red haired woman looks a little bit like you.
Is it anybody you know?"

"No, I don't think so, but we can go ask my parents."

"How can we go to your parents?"

"They work in Central Town."

"That's the shopping mall?"

"Yeah, we get allowance on Saturday so why doesn't everybody come down to
our cafe then?"

"Drumming up business?"  Nonoko looked up from a copy of Mama's The Last
Alchemist.

"It's a high rent district."

Why didn't the other students ask me about Mama's books for their reports?

"You didn't write them and you've been in a coma for a few days."

"Yes that makes sense.  Hey!  It's common courtesy to allow me the illusion
of the privacy of my own thoughts,"  I looked at Yome's copy of Mama's The
Open Man, "Is there any Alice Mama didn't write about?"

"Yours," Hotaru flipped through the black photo album, taking notes.

Classes were the same as always until Mr. Jinno walked in, "Imai and
Kurata, once again you two have caused major troubles for the entire
school.  I should have you shot, but you seem to have managed that yourself
already.  I despair of Kurata ever learning any better, but I expected
better from you Imai.  You will prepare a report for me due tomorrow that
lists all of your mistakes that endangered yourself and your classmates.  I
will review it this weekend and perhaps will require you to present it to
the class on Monday."

"Yes sir."

That afternoon Mr. Narumi gave me a big sack of mail.

I saw Hotaru to her door and I was about walk back to my room, when she
reached out and grabbed me with her arm that wasn't holding the crutch,
"Hold on a while, I want to check something out."

"I was going to sort through all this."

"You can do it in my room."

"Okay."

"You seem to be quite the popular girl", Hotaru looked up from her computer
as I sat on her bed and did a quick triage of the few letters I had to
respond to immediately, the many I'd get back to at some point, and the
pile that went right in the trash.

I stopped when I saw one of the return addresses.

"What's the matter Sana?"

"It's from my unsister."

"Unsister?"

"Mariko Sakai, her mother came closest to being my real mother, but Mama
had her doubts.  The blood tests showed that we weren't related.  Mama
hired a PI and found out that Keiko's first baby was stillborn.  I still
like Mariko and she still thinks I'm her big sister, but her mom's a little
crazy."

"Mariko's going to be very upset when she finds out that you've hid the
truth from her."

"When, when that day comes I'll tell her the real truth.  That she's my one
and only unsister.  No offense to Mikan.  I wonder what Mikan's like?"

"She's as crazy as you, in the same way.  She also thinks that the world is
full of good people and if only she sets a good example then so will
everybody else and the world will be a better place.  She's hopelessly
hopeful and so are you," Hotaru turned back to her computer, "I got him."

"Found our perp?"

"Yeah, go get Anita."

"Show me what you've got so I can go kill him,"  Anita stood in Hotaru's
door and shied away from the bookcases.

"It's him alright, James King of Oxford.  Professor of Ancient Literature
and he's on the board of the British Library Service."

"He's a librarian.  As if I didn't have enough reason to hate him.  What
does it say about me?"

"No mention of a daughter in the pages I've found, but he had a wife."

"Had?"  I turned to Anita, but she didn't seem to get the implication yet.

"She died five years ago.  Mrs. Alice King.  She's a match for our red
haired woman."

"Alice?"  Anita asked.

"It's a common enough British name."

"Did you find anything about their Alices?",  I reached out a hand for
Anita, but she didn't respond so I put it on her shoulder.

"No connection to the Academy or Japan that I can find."

"Five years ago?  Did Anita's mother die in the terrorist attack?"

Anita looked at me puzzled then she looked down at the floor as she worked
it out.

I wrapped my other arm around her.

"No, she died a few months later, but I can't find the cause of death.
Perhaps it was from injuries suffered in the attack."

"It's okay Anita, you can let it out."

"I don't know what to feel."

"At least you still have your father.  I don't know if either of my birth
parents are still alive."

Anita broke free of my grip, "He probably killed her too.  I'll avenge you
and her as soon as I can,"  She walked off.

"Anita!"

"Let her be for a bit."

"Why?"

"We'll need to drag her to Central Town on Saturday."

"Why?"

"Anna's parents may know something."

"But we've got it all worked out, right?"

"Are you certain that Mr. Jinno really meant it when he talked about
Anita's mother?"

"Yes, no doubt at all."

"But Alice King never attended this Academy and Mr. Jinno never left
Japan.  So how exactly did they meet?"

After classes on Friday Tazusa ran up to me with a smile on her face,
"Sana!"

"Hi, what's the occasion?"

"This guy in my head keeps bugging me with silly jokes.  I finally made a
deal with him to avoid being the lead speaker at his funeral, but I need
your help."

"Sure,"  I could see that her smile was a little pained, "What is it?"

"This ghost wants me to ghostwrite his autobiography and I really need your
mother's help to do it justice."

"Oh sure, Mama can use her Alice to..."  I waited for Babbit to pop in then
continued myself when he didn't, "Mama's an Alice!  She gets Hotaru's
invention concentration expression whenever she's writing."

"Any Alice can see it in her writing.  I guess you were just too close to
her to notice it before.  For my senior project I can ask for the
assistance of an outside Alice.  I know your mother wasn't a student here,
but I doubt they'll turn down my request, if she agrees."

"And I can see her when she comes to meet with you."

"Of course.  Will you ask her?"

"Yes, absolutely."

"Great.  Let me know as soon as you get word back."

I watched her go.

Mama's an Alice.  I should have seen it the first time Hotaru used her
Alice in front of me.  I should have seen it when Mama used her Alice.  No
wonder she was so cool with my Alice.  Why didn't she ever tell me?  And
Grandmama, was she afraid I'd turn out just like Mama?  Well no wonder why
Mama never wanted to go back to Kusatsu.

Saturday we had a half day of classes as usual then they handed out our
allowance.  As we were waiting for the bus Yoichi ran up, "Auntie Sana!"

"Well hello Yo-chan!"  I picked him up.

"Gotta hide quick."

"Why?"

"Yo-chan!"  Yoko turned the corner and walked up to us.

"You two know each other?"

"Nope!"

"We're both in the A-section of the Elementary branch," She looked up at
Yoichi,  "Are we going to Central Town?"

"Sure," I put Yoichi down.

"Then it's a date," she took his hand.

Babbit popped up next to Yoichi and stage whispered to him, "If you don't
like her holding your hand, why don't you use your Alice on her?"

"But she likes it," Yoichi looked down at his feet.

At Central Town Hotaru made a beeline for the Umenomiya cafe and I dragged
Anita along.

The Umenomiyas looked over the black book as their daughter Anna put on her
waitress apron,  "No, I don't see anybody I know, do you dear?"

"No, wait," Mrs. Umenomiya stopped at the last photo and pointed at the
dark haired woman in glasses, "That's got to be Yomiko Readman."

"Yes, of course it is.  She was one grade higher than us.  Didn't she go
abroad after graduation?"

"Yes, to Oxford.  I remember her Alice.  She was always fiddling with
paper, folding up little paper butterflies and having them fly around and
stuff."

"Like this?"  Anita folded a butterfly from a paper card.

"Yes, that's it."

The paper butterfly flapped its wings, flopped over, fell off the table and
fluttered to the ground.

"But I think she was a little better than that when she was your age, Anita
dear."

That evening Yoko and Yoichi looked so peaceful as they snuggled up
together asleep on the bus ride back.  I almost didn't want to wake them,
but I had to get them off the bus and back to their rooms.

"Let me give you a hand with those two Sana," Mr. Narumi was standing next
to me.

"Uh sure, I uh."

"Could you tag along with me for a bit?"  He picked up the pair and carried
one in each arm.

"Yes,"  I wanted to run, but I could feel his compulsion dragging me along.

We dropped the two off and I turned to escape, but Mr. Narumi grabbed my
hand.

"There's something I need your help with."

I followed him to the faculty houses and we stopped in front of his door.

"I know it's a bit of a bother Sana, but I'm taking a trip and there's
something I need you to do for me."

"Sure, anything,"  I looked up into his eyes.  I wanted to jump up into his
arms and kiss him right then and there.  I didn't mind who saw.  The things
I wanted to do with him.  The need was almost painful.

"Great," He opened his door, "I'd like you to meet somebody."

A girl just a little younger than me was sitting in his living room and
raised her head as we walked in.

"Aoi Hyuuga, I'd like you to meet Sana Kurata, she'll be looking after you
while I'm gone for a bit,"  he held out my hand towards Aoi and she didn't
react until my fingers touched hers and then she reached out with both of
her hands and felt mine.  Her eyes weren't looking at anything.  She was
blind.

"Nice to meet you," I held her hand.

"You sound like you're around my age.  Can I?"

"Sure," I lifted her hands up to feel my face.

She leaned over and sniffed me, "You smell nice also."

"Uh, thanks."

"Aoi's bed and things have been moved to your room already Sana, but I need
to show you her Alice before I go," Mr. Narumi grabbed Aoi's wrist and held
her fingers in a flame from a lighter he held in his other hand, "Do you
feel that Aoi?"

I stood there slack jawed.  How could he?

"Yes, it's warm and flickery."

"It's called fire Aoi.  And you must tell everybody around you when you
feel it.  Do you understand?"

"Yes sir."

I grabbed her hand and felt her fingers.  She was unburned.

"As you can see Aoi cannot be harmed by fire.  It's part of her Alice, but
she lost her memory and her sight in a fire and has yet to recover."

In a blaze of anger I shook off his Alice, "The same fire that cost Anita
so much?"

"No, a different one.  A few years later.  Now if you two will return to
your room please?  I'm sorry, but I really must pack."

I led her back to our dorm by the hand, "Hyuuga.  I've heard that name
someplace before."

"That's Natsume's name,"  Babbit popped up.

"Who's there?"

"It's just Babbit.  He's my Alice.  Do you have an older brother named
Natsume?"

"No, my big brother's name is Persona.  Have you seen him?  He hasn't come
to visit me in months."

"He won't be back."

"Did something happen to him?"

"No, I just have a feeling that he won't be back, sorry."  That's because
my sister killed him.

"Oh.  What's an Alice?"

"I really wish I knew."

There was a second bed setup in my room, but that night after I had to lead
Aoi by the hand to the bathroom I led her back to my bed.

There was a few sets of the school uniform in her size in my closet, but
other than that I didn't find anything new.

In the morning after our shower I stopped while brushing her hair and
looked at her eyes in the mirror that looked at nothing.

"Is there something wrong?  I'm sorry to be such a bother."

"No, it's just that I wish I had an extra pair of eyes to lend you,"  I
looked back up the mirror and saw Babbit gathering my hair into pigtails,
"I'm the only one who does."

After a few seconds of silence Babbit said, "Sana, what are you thinking?"

"Come here you," I grabbed him out of midair and handed him to her "Aoi,
this is my Alice."

"It feels like an animal?"

"I'm Babbit!"

"And talks too?"

"Even better, he sees with his own eyes even when I'm not looking," I took
him back, folded my hands over him and concentrated.  I opened my eyes and
looked at the dark sunglasses with a tiny Babbit in the middle, "Babbit,
are you still there?"

"Help, I'm stuck!" He complained.

"Good," I put the sunglasses on Aoi, "Are these okay?"

"I guess,"  She put her hands up and felt the sunglasses, "What is this?"

"It's still Babbit, but as sunglasses.  I used my Alice to change him."

"Oh."

"Yes, I know it doesn't make any sense, but it works.  Now Babbit, I want
you to wiggle when you see that Aoi's about to make a misstep.  Can you do
that?"

"Sure."

I led her by the arm down the stairs, but let Babbit guide her down the
hallway and she managed to follow me to our table in the cafeteria while
holding her own tray.  I had her take Anita's place next to me, as Anita
hadn't shown up yet.

Nonoko and Anna where already there, "You seem to have picked up a new fan
Sana."

"This is Aoi Natsume, she has an Alice of fire and these are Anna and
Nonoko, classmates of ours."

"Nice to meet you."

"What is it Babbit?"  Aoi asked her sunglasses.

"Anna has her hand out.  I think she wants to shake yours."

"Oh,"  Aoi lifted her hand, bumped it into the table then moved it up and
Anna grabbed it with a puzzled look on her face.

"Aoi!"  Ruka got up from where he'd been sitting between Hotaru and Sumire,
ran over and pulled Aoi from her chair, "It's you.  It's really you.  But
how can that be?  I went to your funeral."

"Who is it?"  Aoi tried to pull away from his embrace.

"She's blind."

"Oh.  It's me Ruka.  Natsume is going to be so happy when he hears you're
alive."

"I'm sorry, but I don't know you."

"And she's lost her memory."

"Aoi has the same Alice as Natsume?"  Nonoko asked Ruka.

"Yes, exactly the same,"  He released Aoi and with Babbit's help she found
her seat again.

"Isn't that a little dangerous, to have the ability to create fires, but
not to see them?"

"Mr. Narumi told me to tell everybody when I felt fire."

"And Babbit will pass on the word, so it's no big deal."

Ruka went back to his seat and hardly noticed as the two girls competed to
feed him.

Anna watched as Aoi slowly ate with her chopsticks then looked up when she
saw we were watching her, "How does she do that?"

"The Babbit sunglasses I made are guiding her."

"That's a clever use of your Alice," Nonoko looked at the sunglasses,
"That's hard plastic instead of a plastic balloon?"

"I can also make plastic fabrics, but they chafe after a while.  So I only
wear them for quick disguises."

"Chemically these are all very different.  Can I have a sample to test?"

"How about it Babbit, want to be dissolved in acid?"

"You don't have to create monsters Sana, you are one."

"Sorry, but it doesn't work.  Babbit here always pops down to nothing."

"There are non-destructive techniques.  Let me get back to you on that."

"It's strange to have everybody talking to my sunglasses."

"Oh, sorry," I popped another Babbit into existence, "How are you today
Babbit?"

"Lightly multitasking."

"There is more than one Babbit?"

"Sana can make hundreds of them.  She's one of the top Alices at the
school."

"Oh come on Anna, making hundreds of balloon animals didn't keep me from
getting shot."

"Somebody shot you?"  Aoi turned her head towards me, but continued to eat
with her Babbit guided chopsticks.

"Yes, but they've got an Alice here who can fix up anything.  Maybe he can
heal your eyes, when he's feeling better."

"What did happen on your secret mission?"  Nonoko elbowed Anna to stop
gawking at Aoi.

"I'll let Hotaru give the full report to the class on Monday, but we
stumbled into a trap with British special forces until the highschool group
showed up to bail us out.  They had a fake Mikan to lure Anita there.
Here's Anita now," I waved to her, but she saw that Aoi was in her usual
spot so turned away.

"Anita,"  Hotaru indicated the seat opposite her own.

Anita sat down and Hotaru talked with her for a bit.  She was trying to get
some sort of information out of Anita, but they were too far away for me to
hear them.  I considered popping a Babbit over there, but I'm not a snoop.

"So what are your plans for today Aoi?"

"I don't know Nonoko.  Do we go to a school?  What day is it?"

"It's Sunday and I'll show you around the Academy.  I'm new at making
Babbit parts to help people so I'd like to keep an eye on you for a while
to see if I need to make any adjustments.  And Babbit?"

"Yes Sana?"

"Answer any question Aoi has."

"Anything?"

"Use your digression."

"You mean discretion."

"That too, but you can be as subtle as a bat's tongue when you choose."

I took Aoi out for a walk near the forest and she stopped and held up her
hands, "What is this?  It feels warm."

"It's sunlight.  Haven't you felt it before?"

"No, with big brothers Persona and Narumi I was always in rooms where
everything was the same cool,"  She looked over when the wind blew through
the leaves, "What's that?"

"Those are trees."

"Are they dangerous?"

"No, go ahead and feel their bark, they won't bite.  Watch your step," I
was tempted to lead her by the arm, but I trusted in Babbit.

A leaf brushed past her face and she felt it and the branch it was attached
to, "This is cool."

"Yes, it's a living thing, but not warm like people.  Instead it's as cold
as Babbit."

"At least you didn't call me cold blooded this time," the sunglasses
complained.

"Oh you're bloodless," I switched to the next song Hotaru wanted us to
record, "But all that slithers is cold."

"Babbit sunglasses?"  Yoichi was standing on the path, "Let me see them,"
He reached out his arm and ghosts boiled off of it, circled around Aoi,
grabbed her sunglasses and brought them to Yoichi, "They're all black?" He
took them off again,  "How come?  And who she?"

"I'm Aoi Hyuuga."

"Liar!  Natsume told me his sis is dead.  Liar, liar, liar!"  Yoichi
summoned more ghosts and they crawled over Aoi.

She tried to bat them away with her arms while she ran back to the path and
then along the path for a ways before dropping down and cowering under the
assault.

"Babbit, stop him!"

"With pleasure!"  A few dozen Babbits smothered Yoichi's small body,
"Coochie coochie coo!"  "Coochie coochie coo!"  "Coochie coochie coo!"

Yoichi's ghosts vanished and he curled up into a ball, dropping the Babbit
sunglasses.

"Are you ready to behave yourself?"  I walked up and the Babbits cleared
off him.

"It's a lie!"  He got up and ran away.

I picked up the Babbit sunglasses.  They looked as good as new.  Well they
were only a few hours old.  Then I walked back to Aoi, who was sitting on
the path just short of the shade of the trees, "Are you okay Aoi?  Why did
you stop there?  Did you fall and hurt yourself?"

"No, the path stops here,"  She felt with her hand into the shade, "It
doesn't?"

"You can see the path?"

"I don't know what seeing is like, but it's warm, like sunlight," she
pointed along the path in front of her, "And then it continues over there,"
She pointed back over her shoulder without looking, at the next sunlit part
of the concrete path past the shade.

"That's your Alice.  You feel heat.  People are also warm.  Can you sense
me?"

"I can hear you,"  She turned her head in my direction but just sat there
until my hand was just in front of her face before reaching out with her
hands to feel mine.  She took the Babbit sunglasses from my hand, put them
on and followed me in to lunch.

That evening I couldn't concentrate on Sumiregawa's book because I could
hear Babbit whispering to Aoi as he read from our textbook, so I put it
aside and stood up, "I'm going out for a bit.  Do you need anything?"

Aoi looked up at my voice, "No we're fine."

I hoped that was the we of people with intelligent sunglasses rather than
her putting on airs for being an Alice.

I went down to Hotaru's room where she was looking at a website with
Professor King's photo on it, "Why the interest in Anita?  She's just an
ordinary Alice isn't she?  How does she fit into your plans for global
domination?"

Hotaru didn't look up from her computer, "Sana Kurata is world famous and
Mikan Sakura is a nobody even inside Japan and yet Professor King called
you Mikan.  Why?"

"The British have encountered Mikan.  She was taking a London holiday,
instead of a Roman one."

"Yes, it's our first solid lead since she split.  Take a look at this."

"Common Superhuman Abilities from Different Mythological Traditions by
Professor James King?  This paper is almost a decade old."

"They were looking for examples of Alices in old stories and look at his
list of research assistants.  Y. Readman.  She was working for him before
Anita was born."

"So when Anita showed her Alice the Kings called on Readman to help them?"

"The British suddenly have an Alice outside the Japanese program and it's
the exact same Alice as another person who just happens to be there?
Alices tend to run in families, though it's not always an exact match."

"So Readman is Anita's mother?"

"The Kings were already married at that point and would continue to be so
until Mrs. King died five years later."

"So Readman had Anita and then gave her up for the Kings to adopt so as to
avoid a departmental scandal?  Where did Readman go after Anita was born?"

"She came back to Japan to teach high school, but I haven't been able to
find any records on Anita yet.  Perhaps she was born at a private hospital?
Why would a research assistant be able to afford that in a country with
universal health care?"

"Let's sneak out and ask her."

"Readman vanished without a trace around five years ago, but there's
somebody else at the school who attended it at the same time as she did.
Mr. Jinno."

"Operation Provoke Lightning begins Monday.  I cringe just thinking about
it already."

"Going to chicken out?"

"As Anita said, please don't say chicken at this school.  It's just bad
luck."

Aoi slept in my arms again that night and in the morning I had to help her
shower again, but thanks to the Babbit Sunglasses she was able to follow me
to class, where I introduced her to the rest, "This is Aoi Hyuuga, she's
Natsume's little sister."

"Are you sure?"  Yome asked, "She thinks like she doesn't know Natsume at
all."

"She lost her memory.  How long ago was that?"

"I don't know.  I've been like this for many many months.  Sorry."

"Well show them your ID card then."

"This?"  She took out her student ID and opened it.

I took it out of her hands and rotated it right side up, "Hey Aoi, you're a
Special Ability Alice, just like me."

"Special Ability?"

"We've got a type class after our regular classes today.  I'll show you
then."

Aoi took the seat to the right of me, which seemed to annoy Anita, who sat
to my left as usual.

During PE the teacher walked alongside Aoi, who used a combination of
Babbit and her heat sense to follow the track.

I sat down next to Ruka, "Was Aoi always blind?"

"No, she could see normally.  This heat vision is new for her.  All she
could sense before were the special fires she or her family had created
with their Alices.  She was just an ordinary little girl.  She even had a
crush on a boy my age.  He was real broken up when she died.  His name was
Akito Hayama.  He looked a bit like the boy in Yura's vision."

"Arrgh!"

"What's the matter Sana?"

"It's the story of my life.  I put a little bit of effort into fixing up a
boyfriend and then some other girl reaches in and snatches him away from
me."

At the start of the first class after lunch I stood up as the math teacher
walked in, "Mr. Jinno, is Anita the love child of Yomiko Readman and James
King?"

"The nerve miss Kurata.  To stand up in class and accuse a former student
of adultery and a current student of being a bastard child.  Normally you
would be severely punished for this.  But I can see that you are attempting
to use your Alice as a lie detector.  That is very clever.  You are more
dangerous than your sister and thanks to this warning I will overlook your
outrageous behavior this one time.  Analyze this then.  Our Anita King was
born to a Mrs. Alice King.  Now since you are so energetic today, come to
the front of class and show us how to work these math problems.  Miss
Imai's report can wait until tomorrow."

At the end of class I collapsed face down at my desk.

"Too much Math?"  Hotaru asked.

"My brain hurts.  Can I have another one please?"

"So what was the result of your probing?"

"I'm sure I had him with my question and I'm sure that he was sure about
his statement.  So congratulations Anita.  Your mystery is solved.
Mr. Jinno is certain that you have two mothers."

"And that helps me how exactly?"

"Say Babbit," I turned back to Aoi, "What's this about your being a lie
detector?"

An ordinary Babbit popped up, "A lie detector machine requires a physical
connection to the subject to measure heart rate, respiration, perspiration
and other factors that indicate nervousness.  It's utility has been often
questioned."

"Using your digression again?"

"Sorry."

"I don't have a bat in my belfry.  I've got a weasel."

After class I briefly considered losing Aoi out in the forest without even
a breadcrumb trail to find her way back, but I took her to the Special
Ability meeting instead, "Hi everybody, this is Aoi Hyuuga.  She's got the
Firewalking Alice."

"Firewalking Alice, how's that work?"

"She's immune to fire and feels heat."

"Well, we can all feel when something is hot."

"Yes, but she's blind and can sense heat at a distance."

"Hyuuga, is she related to Natsume?"

"Yes, she's his little sister,"  Then I noticed that the people who had
been asking me questions were simply different copies of Misaki as another
Misaki had taken Aoi away and was introducing her to the other Special
Ability students, "Hey, that's a mean trick."

"What's her problem?"  One Misaki asked another.  "No idea."  "It's not
like it's anything she hasn't dealt with before." "She has a multitasking
Alice also, just like us."

"Now you're picking on me."

"You just haven't been properly trained."  "But who can do that with
Mr. Noda missing as usual?"  "I guess it has to be another student with an
ability like hers."  "That's us then."  "Okay everybody let's go outside
and play a game on Babbit."  "Don't you mean with rather than on?"  "It's
all the same."

We went out into the courtyard of the middle school and the other special
ability students lined up, each with a Misaki and a Babbit while another
Misaki stood next to me with a clipboard, "Here's the rules.  Each student
will ask ten questions and award a point to either their Misaki or Babbit,
whoever gets the correct answer first.  Ready?"

"Aren't you giving me an advantage by making one more Misaki to count with
me?"

"Not really."  "She's only matching you yourself."  "The multiples really
only count starting with two."  "I agree."  "Okay everybody, start now."

The students starting asking questions and the Babbits and Misakis rattled
off answers then suddenly one Misaki slapped Tsubasa and then the matching
Babbit hard enough to pop it.

"What was that?"

"He asked my measurements", that Misaki pointed at Tsubasa, "And Babbit
guessed them!"

"Ten points to Babbit," Tsubasa ducked when his Misaki.

My Misaki and I tallied the scores and I won 121 points to 99.

"How?"  All the Misakis asked together.

"You overlooked all the parameters of Sana's Alice,"  Tsubasa rubbed his
cheek, "In addition to multitasking she's got a perfect memory also."

"That just sucks."  "Here I am one of the more powerful Alices in the
school."  "And she goes past me in my own specialty with no effort at all."
All of the Misakis popped out of existence.

"She wasn't even here?"  I looked around.

"Sometimes I wonder if I've ever seen the real one.  Perhaps she doesn't
really exist?"

"Who doesn't exist?"  Misaki stepped out from around the corner of the
building and grabbed Tsubasa by his sore cheek.

"Ow!  I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"

As we walked back to our dorm, Aoi asked me, "Sana, is Misaki a created
being like Babbit is?"

"I'm really sure that Misaki must be a student because she has a star class
while nobody has suggested assigning a star class to Babbit separately from
mine."

"Oh.  What's a star class?"

"That's the ranking system they have around here for lodging and other
perks.  I'm sure you'll be assigned one soon."

On Tuesday Hotaru gave her report, "So as you can see the real problem was
that I had a team of bumbling amateurs with no coordination.  Permission to
drill them into a finely tuned fighting machine."

"Permission denied.  Return to your seat,"  Mr. Jinno looked over his
papers, "Misses Kurata and Hyuuga.  See me in the staff office after
classes."

"But Aoi doesn't see."

"That's quite enough out of you for today miss Imai."

After classes I stopped by Hotaru's desk as she was packing up her books,
"I just wanted to say that I liked your report, except for the part at the
end where you blamed the rest of us."

"It still seems a bit excessive to send British Special Forces to resolve a
child custody case."

"I just hope they send ninja's after us next time,"  I looked over and saw
that Aoi had just finished gathering her books with the help of her Babbit
Sunglasses.

"Sana, we are the ninjas."

"What?"

"Meiji only gathered the Alice programs into a single imperial program.  He
didn't snap his fingers and create superpowers out of nothing."

"So you weren't kidding about the imperial patronage?  Well if we're ninjas
then no wonder we do so badly in groups."

"Do you get all of your information about everything from movies?  No
wonder you don't know anything about Alices.  Ruka, let's practice our
Alices together today,"  Sumire reached out for him but he dashed for the
door.

"Sorry, I just remembered I have to do something today."

"And Sana, don't you have a teacher waiting for you?"  Hotaru followed Ruka
out the door.

"Come on Aoi, Mr. Jinno doesn't like waiting."

Mr. Jinno wasn't the only teacher waiting in the staff room, "Come in
misses Kurata and Hyuuga.  As you can see I have asked Ms. Yamada and
Mr. Misaki to help me with an issue concerning you two as misters Noda and
Narumi are absent at the moment.  I would first like to make a statement on
this.  Recently the star ranking system for the Elementary Branch has been
run in a rather ad hoc basis and this has contributed to discipline
problems in the school.  I will not mention the students involved other
than to note that miss Kurata is one of the cases in question.  Do you
understand my concerns miss Kurata?"

"Yes sir,"  This is it.  I was about to be cut down a star for all the
trouble I'd caused so far.  With any luck they'd simply kick me out.

"However your recent actions have alleviated some of my concerns about you
wile leaving me with an even bigger puzzle as to what to do with miss
Hyuuga.  When we allocate a star class to a student we want to to be an
effective decision and so this needs to actually reflect in the student's
lifestyle, but the student needs to be living independently for this to
have any impact.  So I am puzzled by the case of miss Hyuuga.  She does
not know braille and without miss Kurata's support she would be
functionally illiterate and for the most part unable to usefully attend
classes.  In addition a star class is intended to indicate a student's
academic record and Alice ability.  Miss Hyuuga has a two year gap in both
areas and has only recovered to the point of being a full Alice in the past
few days.  As a new student miss Hyuuga deserves an initial star ranking so
she can work within our system, but I do not think we can judge yet if she
is indeed qualified to be a full student.  The main sticking point in my
mind in her total dependence on miss Kurata's Alice, which has failed in
the past and may do so again."

"I -- I don't want to be a burden on anybody."

"Helping Alice students is not just a job for us," Mr. Misaki waved Aoi
forwards, "It's a mission and we don't accept any teachers who see this as
just a job.  Now we'd like to test some things if you don't mind.  Take off
your glasses and put them on the table here please."

Aoi reached out with one hand to feel the table then placed the Babbit
sunglasses on it and stepped back.

"Now, can you tell us how many people are in this room please?"

"I heard the three teachers introduced and I haven't heard Sana leaving, so
that makes five."

"If there was anybody else in the room would you be able to sense them?"

"I might hear them."

"And yet you were able to sense Sana by her body heat alone outside?"

"You were there?"

"In a matter of speaking.  Ms. Yamada has the Alice of remote sight."

"Aoi could only sense me when I was really close."

"Thank you Sana,"  Mr. Misaki moved his hand a decimeter from Aoi's face
and she grabbed it,  "That's not much range.  Could you tell it was my hand
before you touched it?"

"No, just that something was there."

"And yet you found your way to the path on your own when you were attacked
by ghosts?"

"It was warm and had sunshine on it.  Did you see me there?"

"I did," Ms. Yamada held up her crystal ball.

"This is cool and round," Aoi felt it.

"It's something a friend made for me a long time ago.  It helps me with my
Alice.  If only he were still around he could make one for miss Otonashi as
well so she wouldn't need Tobita's help to show others what she sees.  But
we two can still see for ourselves without outside assistance.  You
cannot."

The teachers continued to test Aoi for a few more minutes.  Then Mr. Jinno
asked her to sit, "I think we have seen enough for now and I have a motion
on this student, if you two don't mind?  Fine.  Miss Hyuuga you will
continue in your current circumstances for the moment as a provisional one
star Alice with monthly reviews.  We have a hard deadline of the end of the
semester because we cannot have an elementary branch student totally
dependent on a middle school branch student.  Agreed?"  The other two
teachers nodded, "And do you foresee any difficulties with this arrangement
miss Kurata?"

"No, it's no problem."

"Needless to say, any further misbehavior by either of you will force us to
reconsider the matter.  Which will most likely result in miss Hyuuga's
suspension from regular classes.  Dismissed."

Wednesday morning the substitute teacher walked into first period
literature and we all ignored him.

Anita asked me a question about a play I had been in when I was six that
Mama had written about in her book.

The substitute teacher cleared his throat then after a moment raised his
voice to be heard above the chatter, "We have a special guest today."

We stopped for a moment then turned away.

"So please welcome Misako Kurata."

"Mama?"  I turned to face the door and the entire class fell silent as she
walked in, wearing a kimono as usual, and stood behind the teacher's desk.

Maro was sitting in a tiny Greek temple on her head.  He sniffed the air
then jumped to a student's desk and down to the ground.  He ran over to
Ruka's arms and snuggled up next to his bunny.

Mama raised an eyebrow at this.

"Sorry Mama, er Ms. Kurata, but that's just his Alice."

"I see.  Now I hear that some of the students have some questions for me?
Yes, miss?"

"Hotaru Imai.  Did you know you were an Alice before you wrote your first
book?"

"By the time I found Sana I was aware that ordinary people simply did do
the things I felt free to do, but I had never heard of the term Alice and
had no idea that there was a conspiracy to hide the existence of people
with extraordinary abilities.  Five years later an extraordinary woman
appeared at my door talking nonstop about my books.  I tried to shoo her
off but then she did something impossible and said that she was an Alice,
just like me.  I invited her in.  Like me she was obviously unconstrained
by the fashions of the day.  Yes, you there?"

"Anita King."

Recognition flashed over Mama's face and then she ever so carefully hid it
as Anita continued.

"When did you learn that Sana was an Alice?"

"The first mention of it was when my visitor saw Sana and asked if she
would be sent to the Academy soon.  I thought this was a very strange thing
to ask and so she explained the nature of this Alice Academy.  She said
that I should have Sana tested because of the hereditary nature of the
Alice.  I made her promise never to tell then revealed that Sana was
adopted from parents unknown.  I was outraged when I learned that the state
compelled your attendance and I wanted to use my own fame to out the
conspiracy, but then my visitor asked if I had considered the best interest
of the children.  What would happen to all of you if everybody knew that
you were freaks?  I have remained split on the issue ever since.  A year
later after meeting many more Alices and seeing how well they were adjusted
and how envious they were that I could keep my own child, another giant
reason to hold my tongue appeared in a small plastic package.  The first
few times I had seen Babbit following Sana around I assumed that it was
just a toy that somebody had given her.  Then one day she looked into thin
air and Babbit was there.  Sana, do you mind my telling them what you said
when I asked if you wanted to go to the Academy?"

"I can tell them.  I asked if you would come also and when you said you
couldn't then I said I wouldn't go.  You managed to keep me from them for
another five years."

The questions continued until the end of class and the other students kept
back when they saw me follow Mama out of the door.

"Where are you going Mama?"

"To the highschool branch to help a student there.  I wish you had called
me yourself instead of relaying your request through miss Imai."

"She gets to use the phone?  Why didn't you ever tell me that you were an
Alice?"

"I have never told anyone.  It has always been obvious to people who were
themselves Alices and it wouldn't have meant anything to anybody who
wasn't."

"That visitor, it was Yomiko Readman, wasn't it?  Anita doesn't remember
anything about her past life from before she came to the Academy and we
think that Ms. Readman could fill in the gaps.  Do you know where she is
now?"

"Why should I know anything like that?"  I think she could see on my face
that I knew she was lying, so she turned away.

I stood there as she walked off.  It wasn't just that.  I had seen the ways
her eyes moved, looking at things revealed to her from inside.  The same
look that Hotaru got when she used her Alice, but Mama had been using her
Alice ever since she showed up.  Why?  She wasn't writing anything down, so
why did she need to use her Alice constantly?

Next: Three Mothers, Three Daughters.

And a boyfriend or two.


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