「あの日見た星の名前を 私たちはまだ知らない。」 "We still don't know the name of the star we saw that day."
He couldn't remember how long he had been lying down, his back on the surface of the sea that stretched out all the way towards the horizon beyond. Orange-red sky above clashed with the blueness of the water beneath him, bathing the scenery with a spectrum of sunset-like colors; everywhere around him was so quiet, so bizarre that there was no doubt he's in a dream. His consciousness felt fully awake in here, and the dead silence was beginning to unnerve him, filling his ears with a low hum that he had to remind himself it was nothing more than a figment of his imagination.
He closed his eyes.
"How long are you going to stay like this?"
Startled by a voice - a sharp, feminine one - he bolted upright, sending ripples across the once-stagnant liquid. He looked around fervently, trying to pinpoint the source. He then got up to his feet, vaguely aware that the water was turning into a murky green from the disturbance.
"Where are you?" He frowned, squinting his eyes and staring hard into the infinity. "Who are you?"
As if she had heard his thoughts, he picked up the same voice again, this time she was singing to a melodic tune:
God forsook us but Death would not come In the depths of the dark I searched for a light Across the stars I yearned for the one And now the final chapter has begun
As the last note reverberated across the dreamscape, he suddenly felt a deep sadness welling up somewhere inside of him, his whole body shuddering uncontrollably at the glimpses of horrifying scenes that were spinning faster and faster in his mind.
He dropped to his knees, clutching his head and screamed, "Stop it, whatever the hell you are! Leave me alone! And get out of my head!"
"My vision has shown me the way. You are the answer to what I have been seeking for eons."
He raised his head to see a figure looming closer - a petite girl with strange pinkish hair and blood-red eyes - before the pain was too much for him to bear. His eyes rolled up to the roof of their sockets, and the trance world disappeared into nothingness.
"Never be content with a mere 'yes' or 'no'. Always keep asking the 'why's."
Meiran Science Frontier Academy April 1st, 20XX
Ushering the new season with a new school term, the thought of becoming a second-year student still hadn't sunk into the mind of Sora Ayanami as the young man made his way to Meiran Academy. How did he even got into an institution known by its infamous tagline - the 'elite among the elites' - was a mystery to him as much as anyone else's. Especially with how blatantly oblivious he was with the world around him.
...Okay, not really. It was just his stubborn refusal to take what everyone would call 'social norm', or 'common sense' at face value. A good scientific thinker should learn to explore deeper than the surface: always asking oneself the why's, always going the extra mile to seek for the truth down to their very roots--
He was slapped out of his thoughts - quite literally - and the back of his shoulder stung from the all-too-familiar and violent greeting of his best (and only) friend, Hayate Suzumura. Hayate's sloppy uniform made a stark contrast to Sora's well-ironed and -maintained blazer, and the dyed-blond hair pulled back with a headband bearing the words 'Safety + First' written in black calligraphic brush strokes.
If Sora lacked the inner sense of normality, then Hayate was equally ignorant with regards to outward appearance. The latter had called it 'hipster' fashion, but Sora knew nothing about current clothing trend to spare much thought for Hayate's flamboyant wardrobe - including his attitude.
"Yo." Hayate was oblivious how he almost sent Sora flying with the brute strength that came with the (supposedly) friendly greeting. "You look pathetic as ever."
"Is this how you always greet people?"
"No, just you," the blond didn't even bother to sugar-coat. Well, not like his dark-haired companion could tell the difference between a joke and sarcasm, anyway. "Be grateful that you get this special treatment from me."
Sora's only response to him was a mere shrug. "Right... So, we're now in our second year, huh?"
Hayate rolled his eyes. "Don't give me that sentimental bullshit, especially not on the first day of school." By then the duo had crossed the last stretch of road and were approaching the main gate.
That would lead them to a sight that certainly didn't look like any normal high school. Yes, it was nothing like those over-stylized but mediocre ones often recycled in countless animanga: it seemed more like an ominous research center with its pristine, white walls, futuristic design that made the institution time-skipped a decade ahead compared to the rest of the buildings around the school grounds.
And speaking of school grounds, given the already limited land space in major cities (Yokohama is considered a major city, period), Meiran was sure pushing the boundaries of using land reclamation to expand its facilities. Thankfully, they had a pretty typical uniform design and weren't require them to walk around in nerdy lab coats 24/7, which was only reserved for practical laboratory sessions.
Ah, second year, Sora couldn't help mulling over the idea of moving up a year in terms of numerical age - and of course, knowledge. How time flies. He could vaguely recall the day he was enrolled into this school... Was it when he was around, uh, eight? Or nine? While he didn't have much trouble pulling out encyclopedia facts from his brain, things like childhood memories felt so distant to him.
"Huh?" Sora blurted out loud, turning to frown at Hayate. "Did you just say something?"
"Say what?" Hayate threw him a smug look. "That you're too gay for me?"
Sora didn't hear his best pal's reply, and simply scratched the back of his head. The voice sounded far away, with an ethereal echo that made it difficult for him to pinpoint where it was coming from. Though, on second thought, it didn't even sound remotely like Hayate's crude way of talking. It was more... feminine.
Maybe I'm still not ready for the new school semester, and now I'm having weird hallucinations.
Hearing voices was the least of his concern once the two boys had stepped through the school gate. Not with a crowd of students blocking the way to the entrance hall.
"What's with these people?" He could hear Hayate complaining next to him as they tried to push through the throng of students.
Well, Sora could make an intelligent guess: it could be a new student that everyone would naturally be curious about. The academy would admit anyone at any time of the year, as long as they could pass the notoriously difficult tests. There were rumors about dissecting live animals while explaining how the still-beating organs worked to a panel of assessors - and no, Sora never got something as brutal as that, thank goodness.
He was right - it was a new student - and a female one.
A girl who would soon change his life forever - not to mention, upside down.
Satoko Yanagi moved a strand of silver-white hair from her face as a crowd began to form around her, an unimpressed frown forming from her lips as she did so. As a newcomer to the academy, Satoko expected her first appearance to be noticed by the upperclassmen and instructors but she wasn’t exactly expecting a mob of curiosity of this nature. It was a unpleasant surprise that reminded her of her home and she personally didn’t have much of an interest in tolerating it; especially so on her first day of doing real work to further her future. After all, there was much to be done at the MSFA. She did not have the time for parades, even if they were rightly deserved; because in her point of view they were the planets and she was the sun that they owed their existence to.
But Satoko couldn’t just push herself through the crowds, no matter how much she just wanted to get on with her day. As another one of the students approached her out of their own curious interest she smiled cordially, showing to whomever was watching that she was willing to be pleasant and approachable despite the icy vibes she had given off as the crowd of students had formed.
Be mindful of your surroundings. Think before you act.
The older voice whispered in her head as she heard the student’s question and begun answering question after question as politely and succinctly as she could. Who was she? Where did she come from? What scientific interests did she have? It was all so very procedural. Her answers were as she had rehearsed for: Satoko Yanagi, from a foreign province, mechanical engineering and aviation. Just enough to answer and be left alone—or at least that was the plan.
However, Satoko Yanagi did not plan for Hayate Suzumura.