“This… have we moved?” Cecilia asked.
I wasn’t just home, but Cecelia came with me to my world. This was the first time I had ever been able to bring something intelligent from one world to the other. I was curious if there might be a way I could bring people now. If that was possible, Cecelia would know about it.
“You can’t tell?” I asked.
“I’m in your Perco… I’m limited to the sensors of your Perco. I can hear the environment and see signals, but that is about it. This place is really noisy. I see all kinds of signals. It feels like… like Earth before the infection. No, more than that. This is much busier than Earth ever was.”
“You say that like we’re on another planet.” I laughed.
“Are we not? At least… I think we’ve come to a different dimension? This is merely my postulation based on the program’s intent.”
“I’m kind of shocked that it could work at all. When the mirror was destroyed, I thought I was stuck in that world forever.” I admitted. “To think that just a little code could do it…”
“It’s not so surprising at all. After all, that is how sorcery works.”
I coughed. “Ah… I seem to recall one of the 6 S’s being sorcery. I heard it only existed as a military application.”
“That’s mostly true. Magic is something that is difficult to pin down and has not been thoroughly studied. Most humans are unable to use magic. It involves something called life formulations, which are complicated mathematical equations. You’d need a Perco to be able to utilize the nascent mana and complete the equation.”
“Is that what happened? You lifted the equation from the mirror?”
“Yes, the equation existed in two parts, most of it was in the mirror, and the last part was in the Perco. When they combine, they immediately absorb nascent mana and cause a transfer. The two equations cannot be left combined. Thankfully, I’m here, so I’m able to keep the key while leaving the rest of the equation on the Perco.”
“I… um… I once tried to bring a mouse over, and it died.”
“Of course… it doesn’t have any sorcery. If you didn’t already have a spec of sorcery in you, you’d also be unable to transfer.”
So, ultimately, that was what made me special. I had sorcery state at one, and that made the difference. As far as why I could transfer, it seemed to be because of the Perco and Mirror. I knew the Perco was a strange modified Perco. It had been original conceived as part of the mirror. That only left the question about this side. Where did my mirror come from, and why was I able to cross over that first time before I found the Perco. It was an anomaly in all of this.
However, these weren’t the issues I needed to worry about. What I did need to worry about was my family. It was about 8 pm. I up and disappeared for three full days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my family was horrified. I carefully stripped from my contaminated clothing and then pulled out a washbasin from my closet.
I had prepared this the last time I came home. I had all the supplies I needed to clean myself prepared just in case I was in another situation like this. It was mostly wipes, some bottles of water, and dry powders. I quickly did my best to clean myself, checking in the mirror to show that I looked normal. I felt like there were wrinkles under my eyes now. I wasn’t the same person I had always been. Would my family be able to tell? I didn’t know.
Either way, I could hear the television playing in the family room. It was time to face the consequences of my actions. I stood up and walked out the door. I slowly walked out into the family room. My sister and mother were both sitting in front of the television. Mother was on the couch and sister was in the recliner. They both looked comfortable, not like they were upset. They were watching the news. When I appeared, mom looked at me and let out a noise of surprise.
“Daniel! I didn’t hear you come in!” She declared.
“Ah… yeah…” I responded awkwardly.
Sister flew off the recliner and immediately grabbed me by both arms. “That girl didn’t do anything to you, did she?”
“Hazel, give the boy some room.” Mom chuckled. “Did you enjoy your trip?”
I stared at mom in disbelief. “My trip?”
“You know, the one that cute girl arranged.” Mom winked at me.
“C-cute!” Hazel grabbed my arm possessively before staring at me with teary eyes. “It’s just because of the apprenticeship. Right?”
I really was trying to keep up. They didn’t seem to be upset at all. They seemed to think I was gone for some other reason.
“You don’t have to hide it from me, Daniel.” She put her hands on her hips. “She came by and explained everything. You told me you went to a friend’s, but you were at some retreat as part of the Mizuki Apprenticeship Program. She was a very nice and polite girl.”
“She’s not that great.” Hazel glanced away.
“Mizuki… right…” I smiled. “It was really hard… but I think I was accepted.”
“That is really awesome! I was really afraid when you showed no interest in going to college.”
“Mom, we couldn’t really afford it.”
Mom made a face. “But… look at you! Getting an apprenticeship to a prestigious corporation like the Mizuki corporation, and even before you’ve finished high school. That’s a Japanese business, right? Oh my, I don’t even know what they do. I need to Google them. If my son’s going to work for them, then we should definitely celebrate.”
“Y-yeah… I’ll be bringing in more money soon,” I responded, going with the lie. “We should go celebrate. It’s on me.”
“Now? But it’s a school night…” Mom made a face and then shrugged. “Well, you already missed one day. I suppose a second day couldn’t hurt. However, I’m paying. You’re not rich yet! Don’t be thinking you’ve outgrown your mother already!”
“Never…” I smiled. “Ah, by the way, she didn’t by-chance leave a contact number?”
My sister and mother left to change, and I returned to my room as well. I dialed the number that Mizuki had left. It rang three times until I heard a click and someone picked up.
“The Mizuki Apprenticeship?” I asked.
“Daniel, I see you’ve returned from your journey.”
“What is it that you want?” I asked.
“I don’t want anything. I sent the check again to your mailbox. Your mother opened it and had questions. I had to come up with something. I knew you weren’t where you said you were…”
“Spying on me!”
“I’m sorry… it’s just… I’m not good at this kind of thing. I’ve grown up mostly having everything I’ve ever wanted, so when you told me ‘no’, I looked into you. The thing is, no one knows where you go. It’s almost like you disappear off the planet.
“If you’ve felt any appreciation for what I did for you, you’ll stop looking into my business.”
“Okay… I will stop. However, I still won’t leave you alone.”
“Why are you so stubborn?”
“You’ve caught my interest. You’ve done a lot of things, like getting in contact with a world-renown auction house. I wonder what you’re auctioning that would catch their interest.”
“What did I just say?”
“I said I would stop looking, I didn’t say I wouldn’t mention what I already know.”
“Whatever…” I sighed, leaning back. “I’ll get you the pill.”
“I’ll cure your cancer.”
“I’ll need something from you though.”
“Do you know anything about business?”
“Daniel, I’ve spent my entire life with special tutors teaching me everything about the business.”
“I need you to help me set up a business.”
“The kind that makes money… and doesn’t ask where the products came from.”
“I see… Daniel… I won’t be a party anything too illegal.”
“I understand. I’m not worried about that.”
“Then, let’s meet in person and discuss your ideas.”
“That apprenticeship, I also need you to make that a real thing. I’ll be taking a lot of trips, and I don’t want mom to worry.”
“Okay…” She responded.
“And high school, I want to get out of it now. With my upcoming plans, I don’t have room to study.”
“Do you think you can pass the appropriate tests?”
I looked at my Perco for a moment and then nodded to myself. “I can.”
“Then, I’ll make some calls and see what I can do. Early graduation is something I might be able to tie to the apprenticeship. I have to say, Daniel, your requests are interesting. I’m very curious about what you’re planning.”
“That’s not your business…”
“I just want you to know that everything you’re asking of me is a bit more than I can do. If it just came to my life, I don’t have the authority to put so much on the line.”
“Then why are you helping me?”
“I don’t know. A feeling? I think if I stay close to you, something good will happen. Does that make sense?”
“Well, that is my decision. I look forward to our future partnership.”
“Yeah, I’ll talk to you soon.”
I clicked the phone.
“Can I trust her?” I asked.
“You’re asking me?” Cecelia spoke up. “It’s not like I can tell if someone’s lying or not! If I did, then I never would have ended up in the rotten situation I did with Randall!”
“Nevermind then.” I stood up. “Let’s go.”
I ended up going out for a late-night dinner with my mom. I managed to convince her that I’d need the rest of the week off. Something about a training period for the apprenticeship, and that the school knew about it. Of course, I texted Mizuki so that she could make it happen. At this point, I was just using her, but I needed to use people. That was my problem before. I was so afraid of using the people around me, convinced I needed to do everything myself. I had come to the reality that it was impossible.
On the way home, I convinced my mom to stop at a convenience store. I couldn’t buy a ton, but I bought what I could stash without looking like I was being ridiculous, and then we returned home.
“Cecelia, activate the key.”
There was a flash, and I was back in the Apocalyptic world once again, in the room I had randomly taken. I went to the door to enter the hallway, and as I opened it, I jumped to see someone standing right in front of my door. Katarina was there, except she wasn’t wearing her usual body armor, and was instead wearing something much more casual. She jumped in surprise as I opened the door.
“I thought you were asleep.” She blushed. “Can I come in?”
I moved to the side and let her enter my room. I then closed the door behind her.
“What is it?”
“You… save my life earlier.”
I gave an awkward look. “You would have done the same.”
“No… no I wouldn’t…” She responded. “What you did… what you’ve done. You barely know me, yet you treat me so well.”
“It’s nothing,” I responded, turning away from her and looking at the cans of food aimlessly.
“It’s not nothing. You’ve trusted me with your life, given me food, saved me multiple times. I had lost all hope when I was captured, but then I saw you, and even though you were shoved in a cage, I felt like there might just be a chance.”
“What are you saying?”
“I can’t be like Kiera. She never doubted for a second. However, when you came for me, I was really happy. For the first time, I felt safe. Even when we were running for our lives, I felt like as long as I’m next to you, everything will be okay.”
“Um… Thank you…”
Why was she saying things like that? It was really embarrassing.
That’s when I heard some fabric rustling behind me. I turned around, and my eyes froze. Katarina stood in front of me completely naked. Her finely toned and shapely body was completely on display. My mouth fell open.
She looked just as awkward, her cheeks glowing red. “W-well, say something.”
“You’re beautiful.” I managed to get out.
“Then, come here…” Her body shook as she met my eyes.
I took a step forward, and the pair of us embraced. As my clothing fell to the floor next to hers, we ended up falling onto the bed.
Tomorrow was a new beginning. It was time to start making money.