Chapter 1: Boy meets BoyEdit
I was finally able to get away from the IS Academy for a few hours, so I dropped by my friend Gotanda's place.
Do you have to talk to me while we're in the middle of a fighting game? UWAH!! Using special move on me! Damn you! Don't get cocky!
"C'mon! You attend an all-girls school. You've got it made, right?"
NO! How many times do I have to tell you before you get it?
Dan Gotanda is a friend of mine from middle school. We've gotten along quite well since the day we first met, and have been friends for the past three years. Dan, Rin and I were all in the same class, so through middle school the three of us often hung out together.
"You're such a liar! I can tell from your emails that you live in a Paradise! Got any comp tickets?”
Why would I, you idiot?
The school I'm studying at right now is a special independent High School that's managed by the national government - 'The IS Academy'.
IS – its full name is 'Infinite Stratos' - is multipurpose powered armor that was designed for space exploration, but right now it's used on earth. Officially, it's restricted to sporting events, but many countries also use it for military purposes. The person who invented the IS is my childhood friend's older sister. I swear that friend of mine is hiding something, but it's really hard to explain, so I won't bother. One quirk of the IS is that, as far as anyone knows, it can only be used by women.
Me? I'm just a normal boy.
But for some reason, I – Ichika Orimura – am effectively forced to study at the IS Academy because I'm the only male in the world who can pilot an IS. So right now I live in a dormitory filled with girls, on a campus filled with girls. Even the teachers and staff are female.
"Still, it's been easier since Rin transferred in. Before that, I didn't have that many people to talk with..."
"What? Rin? Why are you talking about Rin?"
Huh? Why is he sneering at me? He's so weird...
"ALL RIGHT! I win!"
"WAH! YOU DIRTY, ROTTEN, SNEAKY...! YOU SPRANG THAT FINISHING MOVE ON ME WHEN I WASN'T LOOKING!"
We're playing 'IS/VS'. It's a game based on the IS that broke a million sales in its first month. The game uses real stats from second Mondo Grosso.
...but for some reason, Chifuyu-nee's data wasn't included. Kinda ticks me off.
"Italy's Tanbesta's really powerful! Or rather, really violent."
"You should change characters once in a while. Try England's Milton or something."
"Nope. Too hard to use. Her moves are weak and the combos are weird."
The company that produced the game was from Japan, and several countries complained their representatives were too weak. The harassed video game company actually increased the specs of each IS in its respective country, and sold 21 separate versions of the game, which dramatically increased sales. In fact, making 21 versions of the same game just by tweaking the specs made them a mint.
But in the World Cybergames Tournament, every country wanted to use their own country's version. That started a huge argument that just escalated until the tournament was canceled.
"That was fun. But about Rin..." Dan began.
The door burst open. "Onii[2A 1], lunch is ready. Hurry up and come eat."
Dan's little sister, Ran Gotanda, kicked the door open and stomped in. She's a year younger than Dan, and is now in her last year of middle school. She's an honor student in a prestigious private girls' school - really different from her older brother.
"Hi, Ran! Long time no see!"
Ran's shoulder-length hair was tied back with only a hair clip holding it in place, and she's just wearing a tank top and shorts. It's a casual and functional outfit. I guess I shouldn't be surprised girls dress like this when they're at home, huh?
But maybe I've gotten a little too used to it, since at the IS Academy I see the girls dressed in skimpy, casual outfits all the time.
Come to think of it, lots of the girls have been wearing low-cut tops without bras lately. Probably because it's been so hot, and there aren't any guys besides me to stare. I get lots of funny looks when girls catch me hiding my eyes or gazing at the ceiling while I try to figure out where it's safe to look. Talk about awkward.
"When - when did you get here...? I thought you were off at some boarding school."
"Oh, I just had some errands to run today, and I wanted to check up on the house. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd drop by."
"I, I see..."
Ran's always been like this. Why does she suddenly sound so respectful and start tripping over her words? I never could figure her out.
"Ran, could you at least knock? Now he'll think you're rude..."
*KLING!* Ran shot a deadly glare at her brother, and Dan curled up like Super Ma**o. The difference in battle prowess between these two is like a hawk swooping down on a mouse.
"Then why didn't you tell me he was here!?"
"Oh, wait, I didn't tell you? Sorry, my bad. Ah hahahaha..."
*KLONG!* Ran shot another glare at Dan with the intensity of a dagger being thrown at a corpse, and stormed out of the room.
"You don't have to leave yet, do you, Ichika-san? If not, please join us for lunch."
"Oh, I don't want to be a bother."
"No, it's fine."
"Ok, then. Thanks."
Silence fell after that, but the sound of Ran slamming the door still rang in my ears.
They could make a sit-com out of these two: "Ran and Dan – the Hot-Blooded Siblings!" Nah. It'd never work.
"Even though I've known Ran for 3 years, it still seems like she won't open up to me."
Allow me to go off-topic for a moment. Aren't you impressed by guys that can call younger girls with “chan” in complete confidence? I can't do it, even when it's my friend's little sister. I just have some reservations about it, so I prefer to call them by their names.
"What I mean is, doesn't Ran seem extra-courteous to me? She invited me to lunch and then just left the room so quickly."
Dan sighed in exasperation.
"Nothing. Sometimes, I really wonder if you're like this on purpose."
"Well, I'm actually glad you don't notice it. I don't want a younger brother at my age."
"What are you talking about? 'Younger brother?' That came out of nowhere!"
"Nevermind. Anyway, wanna do something after lunch?"
"So you are treating me to lunch? That's great! Thank you~[2A 2]"
"What are you getting so worked up for? It's just leftovers."
Just leftovers, huh? So we're eating that super sweet pumpkin stew. It's not my favorite, but I wouldn't turn it down; food is earned through hard work, so I have to be thankful to the people who worked in the fields.
We left Dan's room and headed downstairs, through the back door of their shop and turned into the dining area.
Dan's home is behind their family shop and completely separated from it. It's a little inconvenient, but Dan says, “thanks to this set-up, our private lives won't be affected by the business.” Normally, calling the people you live with “family” is just to make living in the house more comfortable. Wouldn't those houses you see on TV be hard to live in? They look nice on camera, but when you think about how they have to move around... no, the most important thing is that the residents find it comfortable. I'd better stop this line of thinking there.
"Eeeyaaah!" Dan cried out in alarm, and I peered out from behind him to look.
Our lunch had already been prepared and laid out on the table. Someone was already seated, waiting for us.
"What? You have a problem, Onii? Why don't you just eat outside!"
"Did you hear that, Ichika? Isn't she sweet and gentle? I could just cry!"
Ran was waiting for us. Dan's acting like he's wiping tears from his eyes, but I'm not sure I can play along.
"Oh, well. We might as well have lunch. C'mon, let's sit before the customers start looking at us funny."
"Yeah, Onii, don't be an idiot. Hurry up and sit down."
Dan, Ran and I sat down at the table. Then I noticed something.
"Wh-what is it?"
"You changed clothes? Are you going out later?"
"Oh, this? Ah, it's nothing. It's just... well..."
Ran had changed into a short-sleeved dress and let her hair down. It was a beautiful, shiny black. Lithe, youthful legs under her dress were covered with decorative, black stockings. I bet some people would really like her look, but I'm not sure how I feel about it.
"I got it!" A light bulb came on in my head. "You've got a date!"
*BAM!* Ran slammed her hands on the table as she jumped to her feet. "That's not it at all!"
Did I just step on a land mine? I've never seen Ran move that fast. They say the Japanese can't sense danger coming. If this had been a battlefield, I think I would have just died. Sometimes my own immaturity really bothers me.
"Oh, it's nothing," Ran said sweetly. "Just... it's not a date."
"It better not be. That's the last thing an older brother wants to hear! But you hardly ever dress up like that, so why else...”
The iron claw strikes again! What was that called; the “shut-him-up” attack? She's actually choking Dan so he can't say anything else. Where did she learn such a scary technique? Does that private girls' school she attends teach assassination in their self defense classes?
Dan's staring with the wide-eyed expression of a criminal begging for mercy. Ran, on the other hand, is glaring back mercilessly like an ice queen.
"Well, you two have quite the nice relationship here."