Chapter 1 – The Card
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The high school boy walked along the sidewalk, ignoring the bustling of cars roaring up and down the street. He was skinny framed and wore glasses patched together with tape – the classic look of a nerd. He wore a t-shirt and pants – baggy clothing that could hide his thin body. His brown eyes were the most eye-catching part of him; they were full of life and intelligence.

The boy reached the intersection and turned left. This path was one he had walked many times – it  took him from his high school to his home. His parents were loath to take the 5 minute car drive over, so he walked to and from school everyday. Those 20 minutes of walking were the only physical exercise he had in his life. But, today, that life of his would change. James Lu, your typical Chinese teen, saw something blue on the ground which caught his eye. Naturally, he bent over and picked it up.

"What is this?" He muttered to himself.

The object was a blue card. James would've thrown it away if it was just that, but this card was transparent. It looked like a high-tech screen from some science fiction movie. James pocketed it and continued walking. Within 5 minutes, he had already forgotten about its existence.

"I'm home!"

James called out as he opened the door to his house. It was a small two story house, enough for the 4 people living within it.

"Welcome back, dear. We're having hotpot for dinner tonight, to celebrate your sister's college acceptance."

The one who replied was his mother. She was bustling around in the kitchen, preparing things for the aforementioned dinner.

"She got accepted?" 

"Yep!"

"Wow, that's amazing!" replied James, in order to cover the fact that he forgot which college his sister actually applied to.

"That's right. Well, you can go congratulate her yourself," said Mama Lu.

James took off his shoes and went upstairs. Walking directly past his sister's room, he opened the door to his bedroom, tossing his backpack on the floor beside his desk. He sat down and opened his computer. Then his door opened. It was his sister, May.

"Hey, you're not gonna congratulate me and tell me how great I am?"

"You're just here to rub it in. You can do that later. Please leave."

Arguments like this happened everyday. If they didn't happen, that meant that one of the two siblings was sick or on trip for some reason.

"Well, aren't you upset. Is it because I did something you know you'll never achieve?"

"That's right. I'll never get accepted to a dinky little college like you. What was its name?"

James was fully aware that this was just sibling banter, of course.

"Hmph. You're never going to make it if you keep spending time on those degenerate anime and novels you follow." 

Wait a minute. This wasn't sibling banter. This was war! James could endure all sorts of insults, but his one safe haven, light novels, manga, and anime, had just been desecrated.

"It's just a little bit of escapism. Sometimes I feel like it would be nice if I had magic and could fix all my problems with a flick of my hand. What's wrong with that?"

"There's nothing wrong with that by itself. It's about things that could never become true, right? Then I understand what that romance tag is there for." 

"…"

"…"

"Do you have a death wish? I suggest suicide. It'll be easier for me if I don't have to get rid of your body."

May was about to reply when Mama Lu's voice echoed from downstairs.

"It's time for dinner!"

The siblings looked at each other and temporarily agreed to a truce. Inside, James was raging. He had lost this round. May's attack had been sharp, and he'd been unable to return a satisfactory comeback.

They headed downstairs and had a celebration. Mama Lu was very excited. Her little girl was going to college! Mama Lu really pulled out all the stops, with a large amount of truly delicious dishes. Mama Lu, Papa Lu, and James were all really happy for May's achievements. It was just that James couldn't express it. May would take it as a sign of weakness.

====================

"I really shouldn't lie down after eating a lot. But I really don't want to move."

James was on his bed, simultaneously regretting and rejoicing at the amount he ate. He slowly closed his eyes and took a moment to rest. His breathing grew deep and steady, and he got ready to drift off. Then, his eyes flashed and he sat up so quickly he got vertigo.

"MY ENGLISH ESSAY!"

James rushed to his laptop and opened his school software. It was 7 o'clock, and the essay was due at 8PM.

"Why couldn't it have been due at 12 like normal? I haven't starteeeeed~"

James felt like crying. More specifically, he felt like crying himself to sleep. But then he gulped and remembered that if he had truly fallen asleep, his English grade would've tanked. James shifted his glasses. They flared as if he was that smart guy in an anime.

50 minutes and one terribly written essay later, James slammed his computer shut and made a spectacular dive for the bed. But, as he sank into the soft bed, he felt something hard press against his leg. James checked his pocket and realized that this was the blue card he had found earlier. He pulled it out and looked at it again.

"This looks really cool. I don't think it does anything, though."

James tried tapping the card, but it didn't react.

"Well, of course. I would've been scared out of my mind if it did react. It's just made out of something unusual. I could show this to someone tomorrow. Maybe they'll know something."

James spread his limbs out on his bed and thought about some things he had to do next week. They were all things a normal high school student would think about: the homework he hadn't done yet, his friends who were just as unpopular as he was, and his test scores. Eventually, James became sleepy and closed his eyes. He didn't turn off the light. Maybe if he had, he would've noticed the seemingly unresponsive blue card glowing as he fell asleep.

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