It was the next period already – the period he hates the most: mathematics. He wanted to go outside.
Souki Esou (画想 想記), a 7-year-old elementary student, loved imagining things. He would day dream often to escape the harsh reality of his class, his home and the whole town he’s in. He’s shy, timid and has no friends. In fact, it may seem like he’s inexistent in the class.
But behind all of that, he’s one of the best students from the art club.
In this particular time of the day, he imagined himself as an older high-schooler with glasses and short hair who loved adventures. He was travelling at a wide, dark grass field, climbing a tree. There was a thunderstorm and so he fell down.
When he snapped back to reality, he was scolded by the teacher for dozing off.
That afternoon, he went straight home and ignored everyone. He shut off his room and sobbed.
“There, there, Souki-kun.” said a 20-something man only wearing his pants. “I’m sure they don’t understand your situation,” he said to Souki as he patted his head.
Meanwhile, the high-schooler with glasses was also in the room, along with a 30-something man wearing a tuxedo.
These three people are Souki’s “Imaginary Personas”. They’re much like imaginary friends but they can take over Souki’s consciousness, but unlike alter-egos, he shares the consciousness with them, so he knows everything and becomes ‘them’ for a period of his day dreaming times.
Souki had always kept his IPs hidden from his mother, who disliked mentally-retarded people and those who have imaginary friends and the like. When his mother would knock on the door, he would pretend to do his homework instead.
One day, however, a new girl transferred to his class. She looked to where Souki was seated – near the window.
“Is that…even a student?” She whispered to herself. “He looks like he’s one of the teachers. Also, he’s kinda cute…!”
The next day, she saw a different person on that seat.
“N-now a short-haired high-schooler with glasses? B-but I thought that…”
And the next day, she was completely intrigued.
“T-that can’t possibly be a student! What’s a businessman doing in this class? Also, no one seems to be wary of his presence…”
She tapped the back of the man as soon as the school bell rang.
“Excuse me, Mr. businessman, but isn’t it---”
The man had changed to a young boy, who was wearing the same uniform as the other boys.
“Y-you’re a student after all…” The girl was surprised. “So how come I saw that man…and that other guy yesterday…and the day before that…”
Souki, the boy, smiled.
“You’re an ARtist too, huh?”
“It’s what I call people who can ‘see’ imaginative personas. I’m sure you have one or two as well, since you can see mine.”
The girl thought. “Imaginative…per…so…oh wait! You mean this?” And then she switches to her own IP – a charming 20-something woman dressed in Lolita fashion.
“You…you really are an ARtist!” Souki was glad.
Since then, he invited the girl to join the art club and she agreed. They often talked outside, on the top of the building. However, in that club, they were the only one who were ARtists.
“S-so you’re Satomi Kouta (光他 里美), right?” asked Souki.
“Y-yeah!” the girl, Satomi, said while they were painting on their canvases at the rooftop. “I have a question though. Why do you spell artist as ARtist with the capital AR?”
“It stands for ‘Alternate Reality’, which is what we can do.”
“Oh, I see…” Satomi smiled. “I think we should properly introduce our IPs.”
Souki called out his IPs.
“This is Kamigane (神ガネ). His name means ‘Divine Glasses’. He’s a 15-year-old high school student who loves adventures and is a great graphic artist. He’s always curious but kind of clumsy. Nevertheless, he’s always determined for his goals in life. He gets bored easily, though.”
“This is Yuukuro (誘黒). His name means ‘Black Temptation’. He’s a 24-year-old writer who is also good at athletic sports – basketball, swimming, and many others. He has the weird habit of undressing his shirt unconsciously when he feels bored or when the weather is hot, but he’s like a caring brother to me. He’s hot with girls, too.”
“And this is Yozue-san (夜図絵さん). He’s not a businessman; he’s actually an orchestra conductor and composer. He’s a 33-year-old man who acts like a father figure to us, since in real life, I’ve lost my father. He might be strict at times but he’s really kind.”
Satomi then called out her IPs.
“This is Hareki (晴姫). Her name means ‘Princess of Clear Sky’. She’s an 18-year-old fashion designer. She loves Lolita fashion and other cute things. She’s calm, cool and reserved and also quite a genius. She represents the girly side of me.”
“On the other hand, this is Amekou (雨公). His name means ‘Prince of the Rainy Sky’. He’s a 16-year-old photographer and video editor. He loves action and is especially friendly towards guys, but he respects everyone. He used to be a girl, though, so he represents my boyish side.”
So Satomi and Souki always hung out with each other like that, talking with their IPs and sometimes going out in their IP forms, which only the two of them could see.
However, one night, Souki’s mother overheard his self-talking and other suspicious activities. She then began monitoring Souki closely, without letting the child know.
Much later on, in a dark, gloomy night, Souki was taken out of his room by a bunch of medical personnel by the order of his mother. From this moment, Souki had realized he was already caught with his imaginative things.
Inside the mental facility, Souki cried all alone, but he was patted and comforted by his IPs.
“I’m sure your mother has a good reason for having you cured,” said Yozue-san.
“B-but, what if she does something bad to my things…my artworks? Or worst…even Satomi…” Souki wept.
“We’ll get out of here!” said Kamigane. “I’ve already got a plan to escape…”
“Mind if we hear it, Kamigane?” Asked Yuukuro with a smile.
And so, the three talked together in secret while a nurse overheard the conversation. But she, too, was an ARtist and felt sorry for the boy. She peeked through a little bit on the door to see his IPs.
“Wow…this boy is amazing! That looks like a totally handsome IP with rock-hard abs! And that guy with glasses, he’s so cute I wanna pinch his face! And that old man, he looks like a kind father…kinda makes me miss my father too…”
“Look, Anita!” She transformed to her IP form, who is an Arabian dancer.
“Woah…this kid’s got guts…and talent…” the nurse, as Anita, whispered with a sexy smile.
Just then, the nurse was being called. She went back to her usual state.
“C-coming! Just a sec!” she shouted as she dashed upstairs.
Meanwhile, Souki and the others escaped, as he went outside with his Yuukuro form, but still in the shadows, as not everyone sees an ARtist’s IP form.
He then saw Amekou and Hareki running from a distance towards him.
“Satomi’s in trouble, Souki-kun…I mean Yuukuro!” Hareki pleaded him.
“Y-yeah!” Amekou said. “We’d better get there as fast as we can!”
Yuukuro (controlled by Souki), along with Kamigane and Yozue-san, went with both of them to Souki’s house. On their way, Amekou can feel certain closeness to Yuukuro that he accidentally tripped.
“A-are you okay?” Yuukuro helped him.
Amekou instantly got up and blushed. “Y-yeah…I can keep up…!”
As they reached the house, Yuukuro slammed the door open with his tremendous athletic strength. A horrifying scene was witnessed.
She was all bleeding, with Souki’s mother holding a bloody knife.
“You don’t understand a thing, Souki…” she said. “I’m your mother and I only want you to be safe, to never feel pain again, so that you’ll never have to say goodbye to people ever again!”
Souki (as Yuukuro) struggled with his mother holding the knife. Much later on, he transformed into Kamigane, who was good at tactical battle strategies.
“S-so you changed form, huh?” his mother said.
“Huh?” Souki (as Kamigane) wondered. “B-but how are you able to see—”
His mother then revealed that she also has an IP form – an almost 25+ year old guy with physical skills like Yuukuro, mental tactics like Kamigane and endurance like Yozue-san. He had long, blue hair up to his neck with a blonde highlight on his bangs. He had fierce, red eyes.
“I won’t let you hurt Mika! She’s mine!” The man shouted, as Souki switched from Kamigane to Yozue-san to defend himself.
In the end of the battle, Mika Esou (画想 美香), his mother, was involuntarily stabbed and defeated by Souki and his IP forms.
“Mother…” Souki went back to his original form. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but killing my only best friend…the only one who understood me, it’s not the right thing…it’s not going to do you any good…and if it does…I’ll be lonely…you don’t know how lonely I’ve always been in my life! No one else understood me! Everyone else thought of me as a weirdo! You never understood me one bit!”
Mika smiled at her son and told her a story.
“Souki…I was jealous of you. Do you know why you don’t have a father? It’s because he left me. He was frustrated about me being an ARtist. I was like you back then – I had super strict parents and had no friends. I was always alone but I needed someone like a boyfriend or whatever to help me get by this life. I married your father but I couldn’t let go of my precious IP – Hakuu. I’ve created him since I was a child to escape reality, and I was foolish and wasted, that I’ve ditched everything about me being an ARtist and Hakuu since your father left me.”
“Mom…” Souki hugs her mother. “You should’ve told me before…”
“I’m sorry…my pride got the better of me…”
Mika’s eyes started to close, as the curtains of tragedy began to fall down to both of them. The IPs just stood there in silence.
Much later on, Souki ran away to a nearby cliff and watched the stars. He was about to jump but Kamigane stopped him.
“Why would you waste your life?” He said angrily. “Don’t you know that we might disappear if you die?”
“You guys won’t disappear.” Souki smiled to all of them. “In fact, I’ll be just like you – nonexistent in the eyes of reality.”
“As you wish, little boy.” Yozue-san smiled as well.
“You take care of yourself and come back to us, okay?” said Yuukuro, patting the boy’s head.
“Of course.” He jumps and shouts “See you at the usual spot, okay?”
A few days later, some kids from the art club went with their usual routine – painting on the rooftop of the school. They began to sense some presence on the rooftop, though no one was there.
“Should we call them?” They heard some voices.
And just like that, the students saw Souki and the rest of his IPs.
“H-hey, you’re the kid who committed suicide days ago! W-what are you doing here?”
Souki smiled. “I’ll explain everything.”
And so the art club continued their activities at the rooftop. Later on, Satomi came back as well, with her IPs too.
Even though Souki and Satomi had died, they never forgot about their IPs and their memories, and decided to stay Earth-bound not just for the art club, but for each other as well, and for their IPs, of course.
Also, they’ve taught the art students on how to be ARtists, by expanding their imagination, and so they were able to see and talk to the IPs as well.
Throughout the club gatherings, Souki and Satomi realized that Amekou had taken a liking to Yuukuro, and Hareki’s also getting more into Kamigane. Souki and Satomi had also realized their closeness to each other, more than just their IPs.
On one club gathering at the rooftop, Satomi and her IPs were wondering about that person that Souki was painting during that afternoon. He painted on the canvas a portrait of a tall man, with blue hair and blonde highlights. He also smoked a cigarette and wore a white jacket.
“This is mom’s IP – Hakuu.” And Souki explain everything that happened since Satomi went ‘unconscious’.
“But how did you find out more about Hakuu? I mean, you never saw him smoke a cigarette in the dark, right? And you didn’t see him clearly, right?”
“Me and Souki snuck into her mom’s room,” said Kamigane. “We were found out sooner by her mom but she said it was alright for us to take her one and only portrait of Hakuu.”
Kamigane shows everyone Mika (Souki’s mom)’s portrait – with super fine details and great artistry.
Everyone at the art club was amazed.
“Y-you’ve got a very talented mom, Souki!”
“Yeah, I’m jealous!”
“I wish I had a mother like that.”
Souki blushed. “T-thanks…but…”
“Aww, you guys don’t need to compliment me like that…” a woman came in from the door downstairs. It was Mika.
“M-mom! A-and Hakuu?” Souki was surprised.
“A-are those cookies?” Satomi exclaimed.
“Yep, freshly baked!” Mika said proudly.
“Hey, I helped too, you know!” Hakuu said to her. Mika smiled and laughed, and so did everyone else.
It turned out that Mika and Hakuu had finally reconciled with each other and decided to let go of the past to start anew with Souki and his dear friend, Satomi.
Mika then introduced her IP to everyone.
“This is Hakuu (羽空). His name means ‘Sky Feather’. He’s 27 years old, a game developer and loves to smoke a lot. His height is 6’5”. He mostly makes action or horror games based from real life experiences. He’s also good at designing houses.”
Meanwhile, the school nurse came to the rooftop as well. Souki recognized her.
“H-hey! You’re from the mental institution! W-what are you doing here?”
“I’m Rikou Matsunaga (松永 理江), a former schoolmate of your mother, though I didn’t know she was an ARtist as well. When I heard about her story and when she told me that she’s coming to visit here, I instantly took my day off to introduce you my IP as well!”
With that, a beautiful costumed woman comes in with her.
“This is Anita (アニタ). I just picked her name randomly, though. She’s a dance instructor who once worked in the Middle East. Her top aces are belly dancing, Zumba and aerobics, but she’s also good at other types of dances too. She’s sweet and kind and loves chocolates. Heheh!”
After that moment, Mika and Hakuu started telling stories to the whole art club and eventually became their secret advisors. Everyone was happy since then.