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Chapter 14 Continued Main Chapters Chapter 15

Interlude 14

Kazuki, Yayoi, the Mitsukis, Dee and Kumu, Akane and Dr. Sanada, Mrs. Nanjyoin, as well as Dr. Rara and Ayuko, were sitting on couches in Dr. Sanada's house. No one could say anything. Dr. Sanada tried to make all his guests feel even more welcome as they waited for the others, but words failed him.

Ms. Hayase eventually arrived, and was admitted. Her mood was especially somber, but this was a rare occasion in which everyone's mood exactly matched hers.

Twenty minutes later, Mitsuki Rara's concern broke the silence at last: "They should've been here some time ago. I hope they're all well."

As though summoned by her words, there was a ring at the doorbell, and Dr. Sanada opened the door to find the bodyguard trio. They all had party hats and bore large trays of food. Alice balanced hers in one hand so she could bring a noisemaker to her lips and let off a long, loud trill.

"We're sorry we're late," explained Ryla. "We were just getting all of the party supplies."

"Uhhhh, that's all right, please come in," Dr. Sanada told them. His words were reassuring, but his expression clearly indicated that he thought they should be wearing straitjackets.

The trio, undaunted, served the food trays to the guests. Everyone was flabbergasted, and took portions of the proffered refreshments with all the precision and unconsciousness of production-line robots. The somber mood was by now quite spoiled.

Ayuko was the first to recover. "How nice of you to treat us to this. What's the occasion?"

"It's the 'Discovery of Another Parallel World and More Robot Battles' party!" Mena explained.

"More heated battles turning friends into enemies and enemies into friends!" Alice chirped, and nearly swooned with the raw passion of it all.

"More battles?" Kazuki inquired, as though he were inquiring about the prospect of his being chomped upon by an army of Kumus.

"It'll be far more relaxing than having to look after a house full of troublemakers," Mitsuki Sanada put in her two cents.

Yayoi looked at Dr. Sanada. "I thought that was all over, doctor. Kazuki and Mitsuki ended all that; they combined these two worlds. How can there be another one?"

"It's because of the same theoretical principles that allowed there to be two worlds in the first place," Dr. Sanada told them all. "There never was any guarantee that more parallel worlds didn't exist. The two we were all involved in just happened to be very closely related to each other. Now it looks like other universes are drawing very close to ours."

"I thought everyone would be more happy about this," Ryla admitted.

"Unfortunately, if these symptoms persist, we may face the annihilation of multiple universes, just like the last time," Ms. Hayase explained.

"Kazuki can fix that just like last time! Boom boom, smash!" Alice said confidently.

Mitsuki Sanada arched an eyebrow. "Kazuki's not the only one who fixed it," she reminded them.

"I love piloting Zinv, but I'd hoped that my fighting days were over," Kazuki bemoaned.

Mitsuki Rara's voice quavered as she asked,"If the worlds are colliding again, does this mean that we'll have to destroy Zinv a second time?"

This time, even the trio was taken aback. The destruction of Zinv had nearly cost Kazuki his life.

Ayuko noted, "Even if he does survive a second time, we'll not be able to make it to outer space."

Dr. Rara protested, "Ms. Hayase has gotten us a lot of the data we need."

Mrs. Nanjyoin asked Kazuki, "Does Zinv have any opinion on our current situation?"

Kazuki looked at them all with determination. "Zinv says that if it's required, we're ready to do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe. But," he added with a nervous laugh, "we'd prefer not to blow ourselves up again if at all possible!"

"Of course you're not going to do that," Mitsuki Sanada commanded. "You'd probably do it at the wrong time anyways. Don't dare to do anything like that without telling us first." Her aura of command seemed more tinged with worry than with irritation.

"Uh, okay," Kazuki laughed nervously again.

Akane looked at Dee, who had been very quiet ever since the appearance of the robots. "Dee, do you have any information?"

"No," Dee shook her head sadly, and petted Kumu absently, "and I don't think Kumu does either."

Yayoi studied the scientists and asked, "How much concrete information do we have on these other universes?"

Ms. Hayase informed them all, "There are two other universes that we were able to detect. Most of the readings and all of the appearances came from one universe. There were faint echoes of a second one. With a few more weeks of data, I'll have enough information to begin running the crash simulation."

Mrs. Nanjyoin noted, "Then, for several more weeks, we can't take any action."

Dr. Rara pointed out, "We could use the dimensional transporter at my lab and send someone to investigate directly."

"An excellent suggestion," Dr. Sanada agreed.

"Ken," Akane disagreed, "if we act before we have enough information, then we'll have people spread across multiple universes without anything useful to do! Mrs. Nanjyoin is right; we need information before we act."

"Mom, Dad," Dee asked softly, close to tears. "Where do you suppose Zinv was in that other world?"

"Dee," Akane spoke, confused and sympathetic, "I should think he'd be right where we found him: underneath the base."

Kazuki took a deep breath, and said, "Dee, I'm sorry. I think you're right. If I existed in that other world, Zinv probably didn't." Zinv was his counterpart, and existed in the world where he had not existed. If he existed in that world, then Zinv probably didn't, and that other Kazuki couldn't draw on Zinv's strength to overcome the limiter and pilot robots. Kazuki hadn't even known Zinv for that long, and already knew how terrible it was to lose Zinv. Dee sniffled.

"Dee," Dr. Sanada said tenderly, "Zinv might just be asleep under the base in that other world."

She nodded. Again there was quiet for a moment. Dee smiled, trying to let everyone know that she was all right. "Zinv and Kazuki are here right now, after all," she reminded everyone.

"That's right," Ryla said. "We're all well and happy." She and Alice and Mena served yet more off of their trays, and this time the people were more at ease about accepting.

"Kazuki," Yayoi eyed him, "one of the things I found most surprising was that you were apparently playing truant from school. I find it hard to believe you could change out of your uniform so soon after school had ended."

"No," Mitsuki Sanada frowned, "what was most surprising was that you let your friends come anywhere near this house."

"How am I responsible for what the other me did?" Kazuki cried. "I never am a truant, and Izawa and Shiozaki followed Dee home that one time! Besides, that's what happened in this world! I have absolutely no control over what the other me did!"

"You're always ordering Zinv around," muttered Dr. Rara.

"That's not the same thing!" Kazuki insisted. "He's already doing what I'm thinking of. We both think alike."

"So Zinv is controlling you," Ayuko deduced.

"Big sister," Akane growled, "that's not what it's like at all."

"The thing that most surprised me," Mitsuki Rara spoke up, "was that Kazuki wasn't piloting any robots. I can't imagine Kazuki voluntarily giving up any opportunity to pilot a robot."

"That's true," Mena nodded.

"The other Kazuki probably has no idea he can pilot robots," Ms. Hayase theorized.

"Maybe the other Kazuki can't pilot robots," Ayuko smiled slightly.

"That's not funny, dear," Dr. Rara harrumphed. Ayuko allowed her grin to lapse.

"What probably happened," Kazuki spoke with animation, "was that the Nanjyo Academy was closed due to the trailer. My old house and Dr. Sanada's house weren't in the evacuation zone. My family and I didn't have to go to any shelters, and I wasn't supposed to be in school, so Shiozaki, Izawa and I went to watch the robots battle."

"I'm very glad that my impressions were mistaken," Yayoi told him.

Mitsuki Sanada decided, "You did find something to distract them from their sinister aim, so I'll give you some points."

Kazuki stubbornly folded his arms. "Maybe I don't know you live here in that other world," he addressed her.

Mitsuki Sanada turned away from him. "How can you say that? Don't start taking after our aunt; that sort of joke isn't funny." Ayuko sighed heavily and put a finger to her chin, but Mitsuki Sanada's expression plainly showed she was genuinely slighted. While feeling sympathy for their daughter, Akane and Dr. Sanada could only attempt to contain their laughter at Kazuki's confused countenance.

Her parents' laughter, poorly hidden, as well as some calculating looks between members of the trio, brought her to her senses. Mitsuki Sanada turned back to Kazuki and granted, "All right, Kazuki. I don't mind if you bring your friends around to this house. A few more troublemakers won't kill me."

"Nor kill any of us, I hope," Yayoi deadpanned.

Kazuki chuckled nervously at the joke, and then said to the group, "Thanks, Mitsuki, but really, I'd rather they didn't come back. They're great friends for masculine companionship, like school or basketball, but they're rather embarrassing at more formal occasions. They probably have some growing up to do. I don't even want to imagine what they'd do at one of our usual social gatherings."

Mrs. Nanjyoin, sensing this topic of conversation was exhausted, moved on. "The consensus, I suppose, is that we do not divulge information about these manifestations to the outside world and continue to gather the necessary data?"

"I was hoping we could publish our findings," Dr. Sanada said unexpectedly.

Alice giggled, "Doctor, how can you publish anything if we don't know anything about the other world?"

Dr. Sanada waved his arm, "I bet somebody's publishing a paper at this very moment that dresses up in big scientific words the fact that nobody knows what is going on."

Akane shook her head. "Ken, if you really want that Nobel Prize, you want to be the one who publishes the paper that does know what's going on, right?"

Dr. Rara grinned evilly. "Whichever route he goes, he doesn't know any big words to put in the paper!"

There should've been some response from Dr. Sanada, but he and Dr. Rara noticed that Mitsuki Rara had gotten up and gone to the window where she saw the appearances a few hours ago.

Mitsuki Rara noticed them looking at her, and she said sadly, "I was just wondering who was piloting Himc."

"Ms. Mitsuki," Ms. Hayase began to try to soothe her, but then couldn't say anything else. The bodyguard trio looked painedly at Mitsuki Rara as they moved to stand around her.

"Even if it was piloting it," Kazuki told her firmly, "you were probably under mind control."

Ayuko looked at nothing in particular as Dr. Rara glared at her.

"It might've been me in the cockpit," Mitsuki Sanada offered unexpectedly. Her face was stoic, but Mitsuki Rara's face was pleasantly surprised.

"No one doubts you, Mitsuki," Yayoi assured her. "You and your friends were a great help to us."

"It'll be all right, Mitsuki," Dee said, trying to comfort her cousin, although clearly Dee's empathy was close to making her cry about Mitsuki Rara's sadness.

Mitsuki Rara, thus comforted, returned to the couch. Dee held out Kumu to her, so both Dee and Mitsuki Rara were cradling Kumu, who began to lick their faces, so everyone was distracted by their laughter. The trio made themselves busy by serving yet another round of food, and everyone else busy by taking some. They stopped suddenly when they came to Kazuki.

"He's been on the computer late the past few nights, hasn't he?" Mitsuki Rara smiled.

Yayoi smiled as well. "Kazuki's fortunate that he hasn't got any tests tomorrow."

"We should all be quiet," Dee's eyes shone with mirth.

Mitsuki Sanada said, "Well, I carry plenty of sleeping people around, I guess I'll just have to carry him up to his room as well."

Kumu perked up her ears as she detected the sound of Kazuki's breath, rhythmic in sleep.

In his dream, Kazuki was still among the people in Dr. Sanada's house, talking about all the appearances from other worlds that day. The doorbell rang, and he went to answer it- startlingly fast, as in all dreams. He found at the door, to his horror, his two friends.

"Kazuki," Izawa was saying, "did you see those awesome robots?"

"You're so lucky they were right outside your house!" Shiozaki exclaimed. "Did you have a camera so you could take pictures of them and-" Shiozaki broke off as he looked inside the house and saw all the beauties he could ever dream of in one place. Izawa, recognizing the look on Shiozaki's face, realized that he had to get inside the house.

"Kazuki!" they both exclaimed and bowed. "We're your best friends, and you just name it, we'd do anything for you," and so on and so forth.

A deep, dark part of Kazuki's mind screamed.

The door abruptly swung towards Kazuki and bit his foot, which made him really scream.

Awaking, Kazuki found Kumu clamped onto his slippered foot, and the hands of Dee, the Mitsukis, and Yayoi around Kumu's jaws, trying to get her to release. Ayuko was in hysterics, and the triple chiding of her daughter, husband, and younger sister could not compel her laughing to stop either.

Some time later, Kumu was being disciplined, Kazuki's wound had been cleaned and disinfected several times over, and he was ready to go to bed. He could only hope that Shiozaki and Izawa and rabid doors would not continue to manifest in his slumber.

Before Kazuki left for his room, Dr. Rara spoke asked him confidentially, "Do you remember how I asked you the other day if you had finished the parallel story?"

Kazuki nodded and grunted affirmatively.

"It looks like you'll need to write even more in it now."

"Yeah," Kazuki agreed. "A lot more. Maybe most of the rest of the story hasn't even happened yet." Dr. Rara grunted affirmatively, and they bid each other good night.

Chapter 14 Continued Main Chapters Chapter 15