Accel World:Volume 3 Chapter 12
Haruyuki was one hour earlier than his usual time for going to school, fortunately his mother did not seem to notice.
On the bright April 16th, Tuesday, morning at 6:30am. He said 'I am leaving' to his mother in her bedroom after he obtained the 500 yen charge for his Neuro Linker, then Haruyuki left his home.
As it was said that there are no three days of continuous clear days in spring, under the unsettled looking sky, he walked to the nearby JR Koenji station and got on the central line. He got off at the Shinjuku station after being squeezed by the crowd of unfamiliar people, and left from the west exit, the time was 6:55am.
While moving with a small jog to the fast food shop where meeting was specified at, he suddenly realized it.
——How, am I going to be able to tell who I am meeting?
If he could connect his Neuro Linker to the global net, then he could put «Karasu» or some kind of waiting tag over his head, but here was right in the middle of Shinjuku where the Blue King controlled. If he was discovered on the matching list, and that information was spread, then he would be drawn into duels one after another.
And yet, Haruyuki's appearance had no common point at all with his duel avatar. On the other hand, everything was completely opposite. Anyway, way before that, why did he so easily accept the direct meeting, in other words, letting her know that what was inside of Silver Crow was this pudgy?
The sad memory from before, where he once went to a game related offline meeting was re-awoken, making Haruyuki quickly glance around behind him and think.
...As I thought, I should leave before I am found. And for accepting the enhanced armament, there must be some way to use the shop in the accelerated world...
From behind, the soft sound and tap on his shoulder, made Haruyuki jump straight up.
While fighting a hard battle trying to retract his head and limbs into his body like a turtle, for 0.3 seconds he seriously thought about answering with "Wrong person", but at the last moment he gave that up and slowly turned around.
Standing on the walkway, an unfamiliar female wearing some kind of high school uniform—— was there, but Haruyuki instantly and intuitively felt that person was Sky Raker.
The long hair style was familiar, and similar to the avatar, the chest was very abundant however that might touch on the harassment code, but it was mainly the atmosphere around the body. Calm and kind, but also not someone with an ordinary feel to her. The feeling was somewhat similar to what he felt from Kuroyukihime and Red King Niko. She was not riding a wheelchair on this side, but Haruyuki bowed his head with confidence.
After the mumbled greeting, he looked up at the opponent's Japanese style eyes and inquired.
"Ah, that is... How, did you know it was me...?"
"With mind power."
"Joking. There are not many middle school students who stand in front of a fast food shop at this time."
With a light laugh, Sky Raker touched Haruyuki's shoulder, then headed towards the shop entrance. He went through the automatic door after being prompted.
"Karasu-san, how about breakfast?"
"Ah, al-already ate."
"Then, just a drink should be fine?"
After that kind of conversation, he was treated to a medium size Oolong tea without being given a chance to be reserved, then they sat facing each other at a corner table.
While thinking, 'Seeing the real me, what would this person think of me?', at any rate he lowered his head.
"Ah... Tr-Truly, at that time... I was very much in your care... above that, coming all the way here, thank you very much."
"Since my school is in Shibuya, it's not that far away."
With a smile, Sky Raker took out a coiled up XSB cable from her bag that was on the chair beside her. Peeking out from the collar of her sailor uniform, was a Neuro Linker with a white silver color very similar to the wheelchair she used in the accelerated world, which she plugged one terminal into, and held the other end tightly in both hands.
That gesture was not hesitation, however a slight expression from the sorrow of separation appeared on her face. But, at the time a sharp pain went through Haruyuki's chest, that silver plug was already lightly held out in front of him.
In the same shop, the many concentrated stares from students and businessmen was felt by Haruyuki's neck. If it was the middle of night then maybe, but while in broad daylight, and furthermore direct-connecting while in uniform could be said to be somewhat outrageous behavior.
Normally, in this kind of place, furthermore something like direct-connect with a high school girl, would make his heart beat fast, sweat lots, and face all red, but right now was not the time to feel embarrassed.
«Enhanced Armament», furthermore a beginning equipment instead of something bought from a shop, above that they fought and grew together all the way to level 8, how important and beloved that was, he painfully understood now that he had lost his wings. He also knew it was presumptuous of him to think that he could understand that.
However, Haruyuki intuitively felt that something like showing the form of being reserved here would only insult this person. Since this action, should probably be based on the belief of the Burst Linker called Sky Raker.
He bowed his head deeply once, accepted the plug with both hands, then Haruyuki plugged that into his own Neuro Linker.
From Sky Raker's plump lips, the shape of the words 'Burst Link' was slightly motioned.
The process of transferring the enhanced armament in a direct-connection duel, and the lecture on how to use it, was all completed within 1800 seconds.
When he returned to the real world, the time was still 7:15am. While feeling the slight remaining heat and excitement after the direct connection plug was removed, Haruyuki drank all of his Oolong tea in gulps. Sky Raker also emptied her coffee, then while showing Haruyuki a smile in her eyes, stood up.
While feeling exhilaration from gaining the new power, concern about comfortably using that very perky thing, and other feelings, Haruyuki walked to the station following to the left behind of the older girl.
He noticed that sound, when they were about halfway through a long crosswalk.
When the feet in dark brown loafers peeking out from grey tights extended forward to kick off from the ground, a slight—— however certain servo sound hummed. He was drawn back from his musings, and listened for a while with wrinkled eyebrows, then Haruyuki realized it.
They were artificial legs.
Sky Raker's two legs, were electronically controlled artifacts. Connected to the Neuro Linker, motion commands sent from the brain move internal actuators and dampers. It should allow walk and run that would not hamper normal living, but even so, that certainly has limits.
Right after they finished going through the crosswalk, Haruyuki stopped, deeply hung his head, and tightly held both hands.
The reason Sky Raker desired the sky, and wanted wings, was probably not unrelated to these prosthetic legs. Then that motivation, would be a depth that Haruyuki could not even think of, and should be something crazy.
——Even so, this person.
——Helped me who lost my wings because I didn't know the reason I was given them... and for encouragement... gave me her own wings. My motivation, was in no way something big. I just wanted to escape the ground where all the bad things happen, that was all.
The inside of his eyes grew hot, and the inside of his nose had some tingling pain, 'I can't cry here', while telling himself that he should not do that, he desperately endured. The height of Sky Raker's pride, compared to any Burst Linker Haruyuki knew—— yes, even compared to Black King, Black Lotus, she would not lose. Thinking of understanding that person's circumstances in his chest, and easily cry, something like that is absolutely not permitted.
While looking straight down, he pinched his right cheek hard to stop what was going to overflow, then the tip of a loafer stepped into his view.
"...You are very kind."
To the considerate words said from above his head, Haruyuki strongly shook his head many times.
"Th...That's not it. Something like that... not it."
After his trembling words with strange guttural sound at the end, Haruyuki again wanted to pinch his cheek with his fingers.
That hand, was caught by the extended white hand, and was strongly pulled to her.
Sky Raker squatted down, held Haruyuki's hand to her chest, and looked straight at him eye to eye.
"Listen, Karasu-san. I definitely did not help you because I pity you, and also understand that you are not pitying me. Those tears, are proof of existence of your truth in the accelerated world."
After a slight nod, Sky Raker moved her face close to a distance where both of their noses were nearly touching. They were showered by stares from the people who were commuting to the station, but she did not seem to care about that, and said with a secretive yet firm voice.
"People who use «Brain Burst» as a tool to accelerate their thought process for fun in the real world, will definitely not cry like that. For them, «Duel» is just a way to earn points, and the «Accelerated World» is only a hunting ground to trick and trap someone. But for us, we know that those are not everything. Even in that world, we believe there are real encounters, friendship, love, and also bonds. Isn't that right?"
No longer able to endure it, while his tears fall in drops, Haruyuki deeply nodded.
After wiping the tears from Haruyuki's cheek with her right hand fingertip, Sky Raker continued with a slightly emotionally shaken sound.
"For me, because of my foolishness, my friendship... and bond was lost. The reason she threw herself into an ultra reckless fight against other Kings, was partly due to me, something I deeply regret. But, I do not want you to make the same mistake. I want you to fight to protect what you should really protect."
Haruyuki closed his eyes tightly, and strongly thought.
——How blessed I am now, even though my wings were robbed, I should not forget them. This time for sure, I should crave them deeply in my mind. The many people I encountered, and bonded with... Ash Roller, Sky Raker, Scarlet Rain, of course Takumu, Chiyuri, and then... Kuroyukihime. Those I should really protect.
After another nasal voiced answer, Haruyuki wiped his face and looked up.
"Thank you, very much. I..., will definitely once more, fly with my own power. At that time, I will definitely, come return it... your, wings."
"Yes. Do your best, Karasu-san."
He stood up, bowed to the smiling Sky Raker once, and set off to the station, then Haruyuki stopped. Turning around, he said in a small voice.
"Ah... That is. I, don't think you lost it. That person, for sure, is still waiting right now... for your, return."
When Sky Raker heard that, she opened her eyes wide, then blinked many times.
Eventually, she showed him a slight, but true, smile, to which Haruyuki also awkwardly smiled back, then this time he really started running towards the crowded central line platform.