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In this vast universe,
are mankind in control of their fates,
or are they the ones being controlled?

Chapter One
My 13th Birthday

“17 September 2023, Sunny”

“Today is my 13th birthday. I am thankful to the heavens for everything bestowed upon me—my loving Papa and Mama, my cute little sister, and this blissful and happy family. I am 13 now, but I want to forever be the little child of my Papa and Mama, and live every day full of joy and without worries.”

A young girl sat at her desk propping her chin on one hand, scribbling childish handwriting in her diary, noting down her feelings in the Mamaent.

She kept writing, and from time to time she would look out of the window. The late afternoon mid-summer air was filled with restless songs from cicadas. As warm sunlight graced the gradually busier streets of Tokyo, the time seemed to be approaching the end of a business day. It was her birthday today, and every year on this occasion, her father would always bring her a little surprise.

“Papa should be getting off work soon… If only he could get home earlier today! He wouldn’t have to work overtime again, I hope? I wonder what he’s going to give me as a birthday present…” The young girl thought to herself as she observed the streets from her window, her lips absentmindedly curved up into a small smile as she pictured her father coming home and removing her surprise gift from his briefcase.

Kokone Orihashi, a 13-year-old junior high school student from a well-off family, with loving parents, and a bossy but cute younger sister. Kokone’s birthday wish for this year was the same as the last: For her family to be healthy and happy, and for this simple and blissful life to go on forever.

“Kokone, Sakura! Papa is home!”

A familiar voice called from outside of her room. Upon hearing the doorbell, the two sisters hurried to open the main door, and tackled their father Yota Orihashi like kittens having long awaited their owner’s return. Yota was long since jaded by such display, and on occasion would play along and pretend that he was about to fall, which never failed to make the two sisters cackle up. This enthusiastic ‘welcoming ceremony’ had been practiced for many years by the two, ever since they were old enough. No matter how tiring his job was, Yota knew that he would feel as if his heavy burdens were lifted as soon as he saw these two carefree little faces. All weariness, troubles and worries, were bound to dissipate in the face of his children.

“Papa, you have gotten a birthday gift for me, right?” Kokone asked, holding onto Yota’s hand, looking up at him like the doted-on child she was.

“Why of course! How could Papa forget such an important day?” Yota chuckled, reaching into his briefcase; and yet, his hand couldn’t find said gift. “Oh no! It seems… I might have left it in my desk drawers at the office…” He looked at Kokone apologetically, “Sorry… I messed up and forgot about it when I was busy at work. How about this, I will go back to the office right now and get the present, then we can celebrate your birthday when I’m back, what do you say?”

Kokone was for a Mamaent disappointed, but she put on a wide grin again the next Mamaent, “It’s okay! Please don’t return to the office, Mama is about to finish cooking dinner, and we are having the birthday cake soon too! As for the gift, it’s alright to give it to me tomorrow! It’s already the best gift to be able to spend my birthday with Papa, Mama, and Sakura!”

Yota was embarrassed that he was to be consoled by his own daughter when he was the one who had forgotten the present, and he felt even more guilty. “No, Papa is going to give you the present this evening. The office isn’t that far from home, it’s just a 20-minute drive and won’t take long. Be good and wait for me to come back, ok?” With that, he turned and went out again, with only one thing set on his mind: Not to let Kokone’s 13th birthday be overshadowed by any imperfections. Before Kokone and Sakura could react, he was already stepping on the pedal and driving out.

“Dinner’s ready!” Their mother Keiko popped her head out of the kitchen, “Where’s Papa? Did he not just come home? Why is he out again?”

Kokone answered with a rueful smile, “He left something in the office but he’ll be back soon!”

“Alright, then let’s wait for him to come back.”

The two sisters sat with their mother on a sofa, and flipped through TV channels. There was a loud stomach growl, and they looked at each other before bursting into laughter. After much foolery, the two sisters were slowly growing tired, and the trio quietly leaned against each other in silence, as if time had stood still in their world.

“Kokone, being 13 means you are no longer a child. You will gradually learn to be strong, instead of crying at every setback,” Keiko embraced Kokone and gently kissed her forehead.

“I don’t cry! Besides, being 13 is still pretty young,” Kokone whined, burying her face on Keiko’s chest, “I am forever Papa and Mama’s little child…!”
“Though it doesn’t mean you should tear up in front of Papa every time you are a little upset, right?” Keiko teased.

“Yup yup! Kokone is exactly like that!” Sakura couldn’t refrain from going along with it, and she got even more excited the more she spoke, “Come to think of it, Kokone is even more of a crybaby than I am! Let me see… how many times has she cried this month…” Sakura started counting with her fingers, getting down to serious business.

“Oh yea? Okay, let’s do a match and see who’s the bigger crybaby!” Kokone grabbed Sakura’s foot and started tickling her, catching her completely by surprise.

“N-no… No… Ahahaha… haha… S-stop…” Unable to fend off Kokone’s tickling attack, Sakura laughed and twisted into a pretzel, almost crying tears of fun.


A deafening explosion came through the window. The merry music from the TV stopped, and the screen started to flicker. The chandelier in their living room swayed and let out a few fiery sparks along with the sound of surging electric current, then went out. The whole house was instantly plunged into darkness.


Before the three of them would react, there came a series of sounds from explosions and screams, which lasted for at least half a minute.

“It’s an earthquake!” Keiko shouted despite her ringing ears, and pulled Kokone and Sakura under the table with her. She hugged them tightly and protected their little heads with her arms. Sakura was crying out of fear, but her wailing was immediately drowned out by the massive sounds of explosions approaching them.

“Mama… The ground isn’t shaking, it doesn’t feel like an earthquake…” Kokone said with a shaky voice, “The explosions… they are coming from Papa’s office’s direction!”

Kokone struggled free from Keiko’s embrace and staggered towards the windows. A sea of flames greeted her as she peered out, engulfing everything in the direction of Yota’s company as black smoke filled the sky. Every building she could see was set aflame as the fire spread like claws of a devil, climbing and growing unbridled. Kokone had never seen a sight so horrendous.

Was it a natural disaster, a war, or the apocalypse?

Kokone did not have time to think, but there was one thing she knew for sure—her father was in danger! She ran out the door without a second thought, rushed down the stairs, got on her bicycle at the main entrance, and sped toward Yota’s company.

She pedaled and pedaled; her mind set on finding her father. She rode through an alley, then crossed Mamaoyo Bridge, the entire way so far was surprisingly empty with almost no vehicles on the roads, and she had never ever cycled at such a high speed. Turning onto Moshio Bridge, she started seeing people fleeing in her direction, and she realized that unusual dangers awaited her ahead; yet she paid it no mind. She only knew to keep pedaling. Clenching her jaw, she cycled up a slope onto Satsuji Bridge. As she reached the highest vantage point in the middle of the bridge, she was stunned by the scene before her eyes: Smoke raged out of every crevice, vehicles had crashed into piles on roads, blocking any traffic. Even the usually visible Tokyo Tower was imperceptible through the dark smoke.

“No… Papa… might be…” The thought unsettled Kokone immensely, an increasingly ominous premonition nagging at her. Still, she clenched her jaw and pushed through her fear. Grabbing the handlebars tightly with sweat-drenched palms, her legs kept pedaling, and she rode faster, and faster, without hesitation.

Kokone rode through thick smoke, riding into the direction from where people were fleeing. On roadsides lay the injured covered in wounds, some unrecognizable bodies crushed by fallen buildings, and scattered body parts still leaking fresh blood. Kokone had neither time nor the courage to spare a glance at them, as she rode through this hellscape. She couldn’t see far ahead with the poor visibility, and could only rely on nearby crashed cars and the direction from which fleeing people came to tell where she should go. She was coughing heavily from the smoke, which is probably what also caused her eyesight to become blurry. Even so, she was determined to keep going, holding back tears that threatened to fall.

“Papa will be fine, you will be… you’ve promised to be there for me forever, you will live to a hundred, no, two hundred… you will be with me forever!”

As Kokone kept riding her bike forward, the people got less and less, and she was then just around the corner where Yota’s company was. Not far into the distance stood a car crushed by concrete, and the car looked familiar. Kokone instinctively darted her eyes towards the car’s plate—it was ’Papa’s car!

Kokone hopped off her bike and started running toward it. The hood was crushed by a smoldering fallen piece of building façade, and from under the car came the reek of petroleum. Yota was trapped inside, unmoving.

She forcefully opened the door to try pulling him out, but for a 13-year-old girl the body of her father was much too heavy and much too big. Despite her full strength, she could only make him shift bit by bit. Fortunately, she had received proper swimming training since she was younger, which gave her above average stamina and reflexes, allowing her to just barely be able to drag Yota out of the car. Taking one small step in front of another, she managed to drag him a few meters away from the wreckage. Afterward, all her strength was depleted, and she sat unceremoniously next to Yota, panting for air.

Kokone looked at her injured and unconscious father, whose leg had a wound that was still bleeding. It was at this precise Mamaent that she could no longer hold back her tears.

“Papa, you will be okay! You’ve promised to always be by my side!” Kokone couldn’t tell if Yota could hear her words, yet she kept talking through tears regardless, while trying to use the last of her remaining strength to keep dragging her father backwards and away.

“The key to success is to persist until the end, as with all things!”

“You could have given up anytime, but why today of all days, and why now of all times?”

For a split second, it was as if Kokone could hear her father’s response—the words he had spoken to her when she was younger all came flying back to her like broken pieces of memories, echoing in her head. They seemed to have crossed space and time to reach her ears, giving unlimited energy to this determined young girl who was trying to save her father.


Not far from them came a deafening roar scaring Kokone so much that her legs lost their strength and she fell onto the ground. The sound was extraordinarily penetrating, deep and yet hollow, eerie like no sound that any natural lifeforms could have made. With such a long howl, it seemed that there was an invisible gravitational force colliding everywhere, and even the air was shaking with the aftermath of the echo.

No… Not just the air, the crust of Earth itself was shaking!

Kokone looked up in an attempt to locate the source, and found two pairs of shiny eyes hovering high above, as if something was looking down at them from the sky. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief, and realized that those eyes were in fact not hovering in the sky, but hanging from a monster that was as tall as the Tokyo Tower itself!

“M-monster!” Kokone blurted out, her face scared pale and stricken with shock. There was not much she could do. The monster was nothing like those in movies and anime she’s watched. It towered over them with a height of almost 200 meters, to the point that people on the ground could barely see its face. Despite that, the unnatural danger emanating from it could be felt clearly through the thick smoke. The regular buildings in Tokyo City were but toy blocks compared to its thick, strong body. Each step it took shook the earth, razing an entire complex of buildings to the ground. Whether it is concrete and steel, or flesh and bones, all were trampled to pieces. Those uninterrupted sounds of collapses and explosions all came from this monster.

The civilization of a city, or the human lives within, are as insignificant as a speck of dust beneath its feet.

Kokone dared not look at it any longer. Amid the collapsed buildings she found a store that had not been affected by the destruction. The building above was still stable, making it an acceptable hiding spot, so she desperately began to drag her father’s body over, at very least to hide in the building by the roadside. Although she knew the building is as fragile as toy building blocks to monsters, it still gave Kokone a small sense of security.

However, just as she started exerting herself, the vibrations and explosions became more violent, and the sound of the monster’s footsteps became louder…

And closer.

With the sound of approaching footsteps, an unprecedented sense of fear spread throughout Kokone’s body, such an immense fear that it seemed to tear her heart apart and hollow out her brains, but Kokone never stopped her movements, and kept dragging her father’s body desperately.

“What should I do… Papa, what should I do?”

“Koko…ne… Kokone…” Yota regained some of his consciousness, but he was barely holding on. He moved his lips with much difficulty to make extremely weak whispers, but unfortunately it was soon drowned out by the sound of explosions one after another.

“Papa! Papa! Use your strength! If we work hard together, we will be able to escape from here! Papa, please don’t fall asleep… Please…” She couldn’t help crying again, “I have really asserted myself today… Papa, please don’t give up, please?” In front of her father, Kokone couldn’t help but show her weaker side again. Her fragile body had overdrawn unprecedented energy, but all her hopes were pinned on the dying Yota.

“You… you go first! Papa is fine… Kokone, you go first, I… will come back and find you in a sec…” Yota said with the last of his strength. His consciousness gradually became blurred, and Kokone ‘s childish face seemed to drift further and further away.

“I am not going anywhere… not without you!”

Kokone was choked up by tears. Even speaking became difficult, however she dared not stop for even a slightest moment, for fear that her father would fall asleep forever in the next. “Papa, have you forgotten? You taught me that no matter how I behave or what I do, as long as I persevere and don’t give up easily, I will be successful. I have always followed your words, and today is no exception!”

In the short amount of time that they had spent talking, the monster had moved closer and was now only a step away from the two. Its massive body blocked the sun, plunging everything in pitch dark. Its shadow was a layer of turbid black shawl crawling over silently like a cunning python. In an instant, the whole street was shrouded in complete darkness, just like a scene right out of a solar eclipse video that Kokone had seen on TV.

The monster raised its right foot again and before the dust it raised could settle, the gigantic foot was about to step on Kokone and Yota!