“I’m the big sister, so, um, what was your name?”
(Opening X-01 Open 09/16 13:00 “Before the War”)
A Stage Play Called a Miniature Garden
You are given just one mission.
Make the world a better place. That is all.
The space was too large to believe it was located 500 meters underground. The floor space rivalled that of a school gym and the ceiling was very, very tall. The floor was covered in white and red panels laid out in the checkerboard pattern of a chess board. The highly ordered rows had a dizzying effect. Countless halogen lights left the circular space as bright as midday and 15 children were gathered there.
The youngest was about 7 and the oldest about 18.
They all wore thin green surgical gowns and the adults called them specimens.
A beautiful woman wore a lab coat and tight skirt and had her long black hair held in a ponytail by a scrunchie. She was shuffling a deck of cards with a practiced hand, but they were not playing cards. Each of the 15 children drew whichever card they wanted and that determined their role and their destiny.
Shiroyama Kyousuke was the Guide Rabbit.
Alberto S. Divinesmith was the Hatter.
Shiroyama Kyoumi was the Queen of Hearts.
Biondetta Shiroyama was the Cheshire Cat.
A boy of about 10 looked at the card in his hand. He had short black hair and eyes so unemotional they seemed mechanical. He swept his gaze across the image on the card and carefully analyzed everything from the color scheme to the curving lines.
His name was Shiroyama Kyousuke.
A girl innocently spoke to him from the side.
She had flowing blonde hair and white skin. She was probably slightly older than him. She wore the surgical gown like a miniskirt dress without any underwear, so the bright skin glimpsed near the knot at the side was a tempting sight indeed.
“What character did you get? I’m the Cheshire Cat! But what kind of story is Alice in Wonderland? That really is something where you recognize the title but you’ve never actually read it, isn’t it?”
That may have been true. For your average person, anyway.
But Kyousuke, who wore a surgical gown that included pants, kept his eyes on his card. It was not that he was not looking at anything. In fact, the adjustments to the dilation of his eyes were strangely systematic.
And Kyousuke simply stated his honest impression.
“I am the Guide Rabbit. What about it?”
“Cheh. You’re no fun.”
She must not have liked that reaction because the girl waved the Cheshire Cat card around and pouted her lips.
“Ahh, ahh. Maybe I chose the wrong person to talk to.”
He made a “correction”.
And he spoke.
“Alice is too long for a picture book and is as simple and easy to understand as Cinderella.”
“Yeah, that’s more like it.”
The girl, Biondetta, looked around, so Kyousuke did the same and observed the circular space larger than a gym. 15 children had been chosen from around the world. Only extreme problem children had been selected. But being placed in the same circumstances did not seem to build a sense of camaraderie between them. They were already separating out into a few small groups. One was wandering around all alone.
Psychology used the terms Eros and Thanatos.
Humans would gather together all on their own to a certain extent, but once their numbers grew too large, groups tended to split off and act separately. The power binding them together was Eros and the one pushing them apart was Thanatos. As long as this existed, mankind could never be one. People could only gather together in the “world” they knew and they did not try to go beyond that. If they were forced into a single space, they would naturally split back apart into a more manageable size.
This Miniature Garden located 500 meters underground was meant to face that very hurdle.
This was the Fifteen Siblings Project. Was it Government that it belonged to?
Someone clapped their hands twice. It was the previous woman with a black ponytail who wore a lab coat and tight skirt. She wore a whistle around her neck and the ID card on her chest said Shigara Masami.
She was also known as Madam Professor.
She was a developer well versed in the Third Summoning Ceremony and the Blood-Sign method.
“Okay, okay! Do you understand your roles now? Starting today, you all are to live here as those roles. Our goal is to be one family and one planet! By creating a single framework out of these 15 who were gathered from around the world, we will have achieved a system which can be expanded to bring the entire human population into the same framework! Through your experiment, we can remove all conflict and disaster from the world. Let’s work together for a better future!!”
Biondetta responded to the grand speech by sticking out her tongue.
But she had no intention of standing out as she rebelled, so she only whispered in Kyousuke’s ear.
“Bleh. They bought and stole kids from around the world and they think they’re the saviors of mankind? If they want world peace, why don’t they go off and die first of all?”
Despite what she said, she was already standing right next to Kyousuke and viewing the adults as the enemies. Even though she had said he was no fun and wondered if she had chosen the wrong person to talk to.
If the first stage of the project was to bring the 15 children together as a single family, did that mean she was already doing exactly what the adults wanted?
Meanwhile, Shigara Masami continued her speech.
“Barring the unforeseen, we will not interfere in your lives. Please live as you like and produce whatever results you like. Whether this succeeds or fails, it will help the human race in the long run!”
They seemed to take her at her word.
The lone wolf of the 15 wandered out of the circular space and that broke the implicit understanding that they had to continue listening to this like it was the principal speaking at an assembly. Still broken into small groups, the rest of them left a bit at a time.
Shigara Masami’s voice continued to cling to the back of Kyousuke’s surgical gown.
“Okay, everyone!! Have a good life!!”
“Shut up,” said Biondetta under her breath.
Kyousuke tilted his head and asked a question.
“Why are you going with me?”
“Because I’m your big sister! I’m older! Call me Detta.”
The blonde girl puffed her chest out proudly, but she seemed to be showing the effects more strongly than anyone. Everything she said was belied by how quickly she was coaxed into the adults’ plan.
“I’m the big sister, so, um, what was your name?”
“Kyousuke-chan! Anyway, I need to look after you. Because I’m your big sister!”
When people were placed inside a set space with limited exits and a unified set of values, whether it was a prison or a military base, their psychology was easily adjusted and unified. That was why the headquarters of a cult were almost always wrapped in a veil of the mystical and refused contact with anyone from outside. The easiest form of brainwashing did not require any fancy drugs or pendulum hypnotism.
Incidentally, closed systems like this could be found anywhere.
For example, a family or a school.
“Kyousuke-chan, have you gone around to check out all the rooms in the Miniature Garden?”
He shook his head.
“I haven’t ‘gone around’ and checked them out.”
“Heh heh! Heh heh!! Then I’ll show you around so you won’t get lost!” Biondetta raised a skinny finger. “This Miniature Garden is a giant facility located 500 meters underground. There are three overall sections. There’s the Mock Battlefield in the center we just left and passageways spread out from there like a spider web. The Inner Circle is the living space and private rooms for the 15 of us, and the Outer Circle has all the labs and guard rooms for the grownups.”
She called it a passageway, but the two of them were walking down a space wide and tall enough for a large semi-trailer truck to drive down. Biondetta energetically ran around and gave him a tour, but that made for a dangerous sight with her short surgical gown. Especially around the knot on the side.
The adults referred to the ceiling as the Great Ceiling. That single tall ceiling covered everything and separate buildings of various heights existed below that. Each room had its own ceiling and the single Great Ceiling existed above those. It was a lot like a city had been thrown into an underground space and a spider web of roads was created between them.
Also, the passageway appeared endless. There was supposedly an underground evacuation command center in the United States that was so large electronic carts were needed to get around, but this was likely even larger. There was a dividing line down the center of the passageway which was clearly meant for vehicles. There were also lines on the sides to divide the vehicle lanes from the sidewalk.
“Have you seen the living space? It’s incredible! There’s a pool, a tennis court, and a bowling alley in there! Oh, and there’s, um, uh! Darts and billiards! There’s grownup sports like that too!”
The adults had set all that up so it was nothing for her to look so proud of, but Kyousuke held his tongue. As he watched Biondetta’s boundaries begin to melt away, he decided he might have to think about the miraculous scenario of her eventually getting in a bad mood if anyone simply spoke ill of the adults.
“Do you know what exactly we will doing?”
“Uuh…! Of course I do!! I’m the big sister!! U-um…what was it? Something about placing 15 strangers with nothing in common in the same environment, putting them through occasional trials and disasters, and having us work to overcome them…”
As they cooperated with, negotiated with, or opposed each other, the boundaries between them would vanish. Each time some of them came together, their bonds would strengthen and the 15 strangers would eventually become a true family. The adults wished to work out the shortest and quickest route to that point. They wanted to find a method that could be broadly interpreted and disseminated to the entire human race in order to bring those 6-7 billion people together as a single group.
The earth would live as a single household.
And that would eliminate the sparks that brought war.
“But even without all that complicated stuff, I just hope we can all get along. I’m not gonna let the grownups control me. We should overthrow them ourselves!”
Biondetta thought she was rebelling while unwittingly doing exactly what they wanted.
The trials and disasters brought to the children would be presented as several different stages. There was no guarantee that the difficulty would increase each time. It might rise and then fall or it might suddenly skyrocket. The adults would likely use a number of patterns to keep the children on their toes.
And then Biondetta grinned.
“The truth is, I’m one step ahead of the grownups.”
“I overhead them talking about the biggest and most impressive of the trials. Want to know what it is? You do, don’t you!?”
If it was all prepared in advance, it would be coming whether they knew about it or not, but Kyousuke held his tongue.
“What is it?”
“Well, you see.”
Biondetta brought her mouth to his ear like she was letting him in on a big secret.
And her sweet breath carried her voice.
“The grownups are going to send the White Queen after us.”
Biondetta had revealed the secret, but she must not have known the gravity of what she had just said.
If she had, she would have been trembling a lot more.
“I’m not really sure what that means, though. I’m the Cheshire Cat and you’re the Guide Rabbit. Hmm, maybe I should’ve at least watched the movie. Was there a White Queen in that story?”
Meanwhile, they arrived at their living space in the Inner Circle.
Oddly, they walked right toward Kyousuke’s room.
“What to come in?”
“No, no, no! No!!”
For some reason, Biondetta held down the short bottom of her surgical gown and rapidly shook her head.
“I mean, we’re a boy and a girl! But wait. Is it not a problem since we’re siblings? No, no! No? No, I can’t! I can’t today!! Bye!!”
After her thoughts jumped around here and there, she ultimately decided against it. After raising a hand for a quick goodbye, she awkwardly ran off while blushing a little.
Kyousuke stood in front of his door, watched the innocent girl leave, and then slowly sighed.
Instead of entering the room given to him, he leaned his back against the door.
And he looked up at the Great Ceiling so far above.
“…The White Queen.”
He felt like the world grew heavier as soon as he spoke that name aloud.
It was like invisible hands were pressing down on his shoulders.
The White Queen.
He pictured those words in his mind once more.
And then someone else passed by.
It was the adult woman with the tight skirt, lab coat, black ponytail, and scrunchie who had spoken back in the central Mock Battlefield. She was Shigara Masami, aka Madam Professor. She was sitting in a two-seater convertible, but she was not even holding the wheel. It was likely a fully autonomous electric cart.
“Did you need some time alone? Well, we won’t interfere for the time being, but do you think you can get along with the others?”
“I am here because that was desired of me.”
That was the expected exchange.
But then Shigara Masami cracked her neck and gave a cynical smile.
This smile was clearly different from the one during her speech in the circular space.
It was like an amusement park worker having a different smile at work and in private.
“But that would be boring. …This system is correct, but it lacks humanity.”
“Kyousuke-kun, allow me to input one little thing. Oh, I know. How about we go with, ‘When you first see someone in the morning, give them a cheerful greeting’?”
He could not figure out the purpose of that.
The ponytail beauty laughed at his puzzled look.
“Does that seem pointless? But, Kyousuke-kun, nothing in the world now is pointless,” she said. “After all, countless countries and civilizations fell into ruin to reach this day and this moment was built up from only that which managed to survive. So everything that exists now must have special meaning in just this moment. Because it had enough value to survive. Kyousuke-kun, make sure you understand that. This ‘game’ may not affect the outcome of the Fifteen Siblings Project, but it is a little something extra that is sure to help you in a larger framework. And then…”
“You all will be able to stay sane even after encountering the White Queen.”
Silence fell once more.
Shigara Masami waved her hand from the electric cart that resembled a two-seater convertible.
“Don’t forget the strength needed to maintain a normal, everyday life and don’t forget the meaning of peace. Even in this harsh environment. Bye, bye.”
With that, the electric cart smoothly drove away.
Kyousuke did not open door to his room.
He started down the wide passageway again. He walked and walked and walked and walked until he arrived in the Outer Circle where the developers lived and lost themselves in their work.
He walked all the way to the outermost edge.
There was nothing manmade there; only a thick wall of natural rock.
He made sure no one was watching.
And then Shiroyama Kyousuke smoothly opened a door in what was supposedly a blank wall.