Author’s Note: This is an April Fools joke, so please don’t take it seriously. That said, this is still canon, so I’ll leave it as chapter 00.
“You’ve gotta be kidding.” Ageha looked up, eyes like saucers. “She’s… alive?”
“If you can call that living.” Kaika stared at a large tank filled with liquid.
A small pink mass with tubes attached at the bottom floated in the middle of the clear substance. Technology Ageha had never seen before surrounded the five-foot high glass tube.
He approached the tank. “This can’t be… She’s in that grave.”
“Oh, right, you didn’t show up at the funeral and burial. The closed casket was actually empty. I told the visitors that her body was too damaged to display. That much was true. What I didn’t tell them, or you, was that I had the best doctors in Japan extract her brain and keep it alive here.” Kaika knocked on the tank, producing a dull clank.
“K-Kureha…” Tears fell from Ageha’s eyes. “Is this really her?”
Ageha grabbed Kaika by her collar and lifted her off the ground. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier!?”
“This brain is undoubtedly Kureha’s, but it’s nothing but a lump of fat. You can’t exactly call this being alive. If I told you, you’d only get hurt as a result.”
“Then why now..? After all this time?”
“Because we’ve finally gotten hands on the technology to transfer thoughts into data directly from the brain. I managed to get in contact with Gen. He readily sold me the technology he used for his robots. It’s outdated compared to the one Ria has, but it’s enough to at least give Kureha a way to interact with the world.”
He gently lowered Kaika to the floor. “…Does Saya know about this?”
“Did you really have to ask that?”
Of course not.
Ageha knew Saya could not keep a secret this terrible, but he was too befuddled to reach even the most obvious conclusions right now.
Kaika tugged on Ageha’s shirt. “Do you want to speak to her?”
“Yes. We’ve succeeded in transferring her thoughts to text. Using voice samples of Kureha recorded by the bugs throughout the mansion, we managed to reproduce a passable copy of her voice. She can recognize sounds using the machines attached to her brain. Unfortunately, all other senses are still a few breakthroughs away.”
“Turn it on.”
“You don’t have to be so impatie-”
“Turn it on!!!”
“Okay, geez.” Kaika pressed a few keys on the panel. “Go ahead. She’s all yours.”
“It’s me, Ageha.”
“Can you hear me?”
“K-Kureha… It’s really you.” He placed both hands on the glass chamber.
“Be careful,” said Kaika. “There’s no saving her if you damage the tank.”
Ageha nervously stepped away from the chamber. “Kureha, it’s me.”
“Ageha-Oniisama! I missed you so much! Oneesama told me she would bring you, but I did not think it would be this soon! Uh, um, oh no, how do I look? I was not prepared for this..!”
“…You’ve had better days.”
“Hmph, that is a little rude to say to a lady.”
“I still can’t believe this. It really is you.” Ageha rubbed the tears from his face. “Dammit, I must look pathetic right now.”
“Sorry, I can’t see you, or anything for that matter.”
“Kai is working on that. You know her. She’s crazy and unreasonable, but no one is more dependable.”
“She is the sister I admire, after all.” Kureha giggled through the loudspeakers. “Oniisama, tell me. How long has it been since we last met? Oneesama refuses to tell me anything. She can be such a scrooge.”
“She’s here with me, you know.”
“Eh! O-Oneesama, I am so sorry for speaking out of line.”
Kaika shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. Go ahead, Ageha. There’s no point keeping it secret now that the tech has progressed this far.”
Ageha nodded. “A year. It’s been a year since you…”
“Since I was killed?”
“Please do not blame yourself, Oniisama. It was not your fault. If I had not gone to Oneesama’s room, I would not have ended up like this. Like a monster…”
“You’re no monster! I… am the monster. I bring tragedy to everyone around me. I did this to you.”
“No, I did,” said Kaika.
“You saved her life, Kai. I’m the one who failed to protect her. I deserve all the blame.”
Kaika shook her head. “No, it really is my fault. Now may be the best time for the truth. Ageha, Kureha, I invited that attack on the mansion that night. I leaked information about Saya’s absence.”
Ageha froze for a few seconds before grabbing Kaika’s forehead with his right hand. “Explain before I squeeze.”
“I wanted to lure the enemy to the mansion so you can defeat it. If Kureha and I are put in danger, you would be motivated to hunt down my brothers. A personal vendetta is much more enduring than a paperless contract. But I didn’t want Kureha to get hurt. I didn’t expect her to be in my room that night. She was spending less and less time there after you started working for me, so I thought she’d be safe…”
“I forgot something in your bedroom, Oneesama. I do not quite remember what it was, but that was why I went there and got attacked.”
“Please believe me, Ageha. I promised not to lie to you anymore, and I’ve upheld it since then. This is the whole truth.”
“Please do not be angry at Oneesama anymore. It was an accident. She did not intend for me to get hurt!”
Ageha felt tempted to end Kaika’s life right there, but that temptation was easily overcome by affection, not just for Kureha, but for the culprit herself. His time with the little devil made it impossible for him to kill her in cold blood, especially when the victim herself was pleading for mercy.
“Fine.” He let go of her.
“Thank you, Oniisama. For forgiving my sister.”
“I haven’t forgiven her. I just didn’t kill her. For now.”
And that was only because Kureha was still alive, albeit incomplete.
“I’m grateful enough for just that.” Kaika sighed while rubbing her sore temples.
“Please do not fight over someone like me. I am not worth it.”
Ageha smiled at the floating brain. “I thought you were over this inferiority complex?”
“That was then. As you can see, I am a little vulnerable right now.” Kureha laughed.
“Give me a bit more time, Kureha,” said Kaika. “Tsubasa is preparing a fully cybernetic body for you using the technology Gen sold to me.”
“Um, I have a request, Oneesama…”
“Can you build my new body like it was before?”
“You sure about that? I can certainly arrange it, but don’t you want a sexier body?”
Ageha flicked Kaika’s forehead. “Stop giving her stupid ideas.”
“Ow! Lay off the head!”
“Umm,” mumbled Kureha, “Ageha-Oniisama likes small kids, so I am fine with my old body.”
Ageha frowned. “I do not like… Okay, maybe I do, but not in that way.”
Kaika smirked. “What way? I’m gonna tell Saya about this.”
“Huh? Why would it be bad if Saionji-san finds out?”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you. Ageha and Saya are a couple now. They’ve been going out for a few months.”
The lights in the secret room began flashing. The only exit automatically closed and locked itself.
Ageha looked around. “What’s happening, Kai?”
“I don’t know.” Kaika took out her terminal and checked the screen. “Someone is hacking into the security system!”
“Oniisama…” said Kureha in a rumbling voice. “What is this about you and Saionji-san being a c-c-c-couple..?”
Gun turrets appeared from the ceiling on the four corners of the room. The muzzles pointed left and right before settling on Ageha and Kaika.
Kaika widened her eyes as she read the data on her mobile terminal. “Unbelievable… It’s Kureha! She’s hacking into the local network and messing with the building security! Her extreme jealousy must’ve amplified her processing ability and allowed her to bust through the firewalls! Ageha, calm her down before she attacks us with the automated defense systems!”
“How do you expect me to do that!? You were the one who told her about me and Saya! Do something about this!”
“So it was true..? All this time, I have been enduring the darkness and the loneliness in this tank. I cannot see anything. I cannot feel anything. Without Oneesama turning on the switch, I cannot even hear anything. Can you imagine what that is like, Ageha-Oniisama? You cannot, can you? Of course not! You have been busy flirting with Saionji-san while I was stuck in this goo! Alone! All alone! How could you do that!? How could you!!!”
“Listen to me, Kureha! I can explain! I thought you were dead! And it’s not like I was with Saya the whole time! I also dated Rin, took care of Mitsuki, and carried Arashi around! I only started living with Saya after I broke up with Rin!”
“You fool!” shouted Kaika. “What the hell are you telling her!? She’s accessing my computer files because of what you said!”
“I see now. Mitsuki Yotsuga… Arashi Tanizaki… So you found yourself a bunch of new little sisters while I was busy confirming Archimedes’ principle in this giant test tube. I see. I see! I see!!!”
“Uh, I’m out of ideas,” said Ageha.
“I wish you stopped talking a few sentences earlier!!!” Kaika punched his gut and sprained her wrist in the process. “Ouch!!!”
“What’s this?” asked Kureha. “When did you become this friendly with Oneesama? You two are acting like siblings…”
“No way! Kai seriously punched me! We aren’t playing around or anything!”
“I am tired of your excuses. Oh! I have a great idea! If I put holes all over your bodies, you two will be forced to live as brains like me! Then all three of us can float happily in this tank, together forever!”
The gun turrets spat out flames and lead. Ageha grabbed Kaika and dragged her from the line of fire. However, he could not dodge properly while protecting her. Soon, he was driven to a corner.
“Do not worry, Oniisama, Oneesama. It will be fun! We can play our hearts out in this tank! Well, we won’t have hearts by then, but who cares! Playing hide and seek is impossible because the goo is transparent, but we can at least play shiritori! With our minds connected to the network, we have access to all the world’s dictionaries! It will be a never ending game!” Kureha cackled like an evil witch.
The locked door burst open. Arashi and Mitsuki, wielding a rifle and a katana respectively, dove in and disabled the gun turrets with their weapons.
“Are you okay, Ageha?” Arashi showed him a confident smile while brushing up her fringe like a prince in a fairytale.
“Arashi! Thanks for coming to save us!”
“It’s the brain, Arashi!” Kaika pointed at the glass tank. “That’s the enemy!”
“Got it!” Arashi peppered the tank with bullets.
The bulletproof glass deflected her barrage.
“Leave this to me!” Mitsuki sheathed her katana and took an iai stance.
Then she unleashed an invisibly fast series of slashes, cutting a triangle shaped opening on the tank. The liquid inside spilled to the floor.
“NOOOOOOO!!!” screamed Kureha as her brain slipped out of the opening. She rolled on the ground a few times. “Ohhh… My head is spinning. I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“I thought she didn’t have any senses except for hearing?” asked Ageha.
“Really.” Kaika made a deadpan face. “Of all things, that’s what caught your attention?”
Kureha’s brain came to a stop by Arashi’s boot.
Arashi picked it up and curiously checked the tubes and wires attached at the brainstem. “Hmm… It’s kinda cute. Maybe I can keep this in a fishbowl?”
“Can I have it!?” asked Mitsuki excitedly. “I’ve always wanted a pet brain!”
“Sure! You did good work, partner. You deserve a little reward.” Arashi tossed Kureha’s brain towards Mitsuki.
“I feel so high…” said Kureha as her brain completed an arc and landed in Mitsuki’s hands.
Ageha kicked Kaika aside and jogged towards Arashi, who opened her arms to welcome him. They wrapped themselves around each other in a tight embrace.
“Thanks for saving me from my evil little sister, Arashi.”
“Anything for you, Ageha.” She closed her eyes and puckered her lips.
Ageha leaned in for a kiss. Their lips came together and-
Arashi’s eyes snapped open.
She was hugging the lamp beside her bed, her singed lips inches away from the hot light bulb.
She tried to recall the details, but they slipped through her fingers like fine sand. It was still dark outside, so she checked the time on her alarm clock.
[04:01 AM – Friday]
Arashi put the lamp back on the bedside table and wormed herself back under the covers.