Okay, just to be on the safe side.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely coincidental.

However, anime characters mentioned throughout the story belong to their respective creators.


Animania

A Tribute to Comic Fiesta, for being the most awesome, life-changing ACG event I've ever been to.


Prologue


"Scientists have reported strange sightings of the Solar System, predicting that sometime in the near future, our world will enter a new dimension, crossing time and space."

"However, these claims are perceived by many as mere hoaxes, as there has been no solid evidence on this matter until today, believing that all this fuss over nothing would relive the incident last year regarding the Mayan's prediction of the End of the World."

xxx

Every year, the people of our nation come face-to-face with a mind-boggling, heart-racing, fangirl-squealing, wallet-flattening, camera-snapping, eye-gluing, sardine-like-crowd-squeezing sensation.

That's right. I'm talking about the Comic Festival, well renowned as the largest ACG event in the history of largest ACG events.

This year, they return bigger and better with the event located at the newly-established 8-storey convention center with over 60 concord halls, each complete with the latest computerized simulation systems. Talk about high tech.

Excited? Well, I'm not even halfway there. The next sentence will throw you off your seats. Now take a deep, deep, deep breath – and exhale. Slowly; exhale slowly! Now that you're freshened and awake (for all you people who are reading this article at 2.00am), carefully direct your attention over to the next line.

The simulation program could recreate any anime world.

Are the old ladies at the park staring at you because you fell off your bench with your iPad? Are your parents giving you the 'my-son-and-his-outrageous-antics' look? If yes, then you're on the right track.

Thanks to our dedicating and genius (maybe, I'm not sure) techno-geeks, they've accumulated the input data required to transform the simulation technology – widely-used in other countries to cure sickos and the mentally-impaired – to an imitation of different anime worlds. All they had to do was analyze the setting with utmost precision. How did they do that? Rewatch the anime over and over again. Fun job, isn't it? But don't click over to that Naruto episode link hanging by the screen just yet – these guys don't get paid.

The simulation system is still on trial period, but Comic Festival 2013 has the honor of showcasing its brilliance first-hand. (For free, if I may add)

Impossible? Well you have the privilege to be judgmental, to decide for yourself whether or not the system actually works when you experience it personally.

Wait. Don't break those vocal chords of yours until I grant you permission to do so.

The organizers of CF were hoping to present 64 different anime worlds, living in the Great Pirate Era in one hall and proceeding to clear all hundred floors in Aincrad the next.

That's not all Comic Festival 2013's about. Our cosplay competitions return with enhanced opportunities for our loyal and crazy fans, so if you want to be crowned the King and Queen of Cosplay, fetch your multi-colored wigs and get in character!

We all know you've been fretting over that 'natural phenomenon' the world has been concerned about. Rest assured…entering a new dimension is better than the end of the world, right?

Let's face it: we all have that secret fetish for the interesting and unexplored. You sickos are probably praying hard for the dimension change thing to happen on the day of Comic Festival. How did I know? Well, I'm going to be honest here; I have the outlook of a regular otaku columnist and the mentality of a wannabe-adventurer. (Doesn't everyone?)

To unveil the magic behind an otaku's obsession, to expose yourself to the vast horizons of the ACG world, to proudly announce to the world that you're a full-fledged ACG fan, come join in the fun for three unforgettable days of Comic Festival 2013! See you in a week~

Note: You may now break your vocal chords.


People pushed against each other in futile attempts to enter the hall – a plain and regular sight, for longtime supporters of Comic Festival. Things don't seem that pretty for the first-timers, though. Deep in the halls, the congested human traffic has become quite an issue. Committees and volunteers were rushing to keep things in order, but none of them could contain their own excitements for the launch of the simulations themselves.

"Damn! This is all because that stupid columnist guy wrote that article about us." groaned a volunteer in his mid-twenties as he shoved the raging crowd back in line. His comrade at the side, who was in the same motion as he was, gave a helpless sigh.

"I don't really want to mock his nosiness, but maybe he really shouldn't have written about the simulation. I mean, where's the surprise?" the blonde friend replied. "Most people in the crowd are probably just curious about it. You can expect bogus scientists to come barging in any time."

"Oh, well it's alright." a visitor approached the two. "At least we're having fun, right?"

The two volunteers exchanged glances and smiled.

The crowd was completely unaffected by the loud anime music aired through the boom boxes. In fact, most of them could even remember lyrics of random songs without actually understanding them.

The visitors gathered round the booths, pondering over which cat-tail to purchase, speculating the ongoing Vanguard battles, placing orders for commissions, screening through doujins and raping their camera buttons for every single cosplayer they met.

Ah, the beauty of otaku life.

"Man, this is so annoying. There're so many people."

"Chill. Aren't ACG events supposed to be like this? That's the fun of it."

"Urgh. This is pissing me off. There are no seats, we have a lack of oxygen and all these damn people are blocking the road. I just wish something more interesting would happen."


1st Day of Comic Festival '13 – 11.30am

"Welcome, one and all to Comic." Pause. "Festival." Pause. "2013!" the emcee roared through the microphone, gaining a huge applause and cheer from the assembled crowd.

"And now we give you…" the other emcee strode on stage. "…the official opening ceremony of Comic Festival 2013!"

Dramatic music was cued, as the oversized screen wallpapered at the back of the stage showed footages of previous Comic Festival events.

The crimson headed girl struck her best pose to the camera, with one hand on her cat-ear hair band and the other playing with her cat-tail mischievously. After surpassing the horrendous stage of not being able to squint at blinding flashes, she nodded politely at the photographers and turned to enter Main Hall, where the ceremony took place.

"I should probably change to the Flame Empress armor now that Cat Suit Erza is done parading around." she told herself. Reaching for her head, the girl stopped in her tracks, her hand feeling around her head blindly.

"…what happened to my band?"

Chills crept over her as she quickly felt for her tail, trying to remove it. "It…It won't come off!"

To her horror, she twitched her cat-ears and lashed her tail. Panicking, she turned to all the cosplayers around her.

A cosplayer who was dressed as Roronoa Zoro from One Piece posed with his plastic katana out for the photographers.

"Try doing a cool slash down the floor." suggested a photographer.

Doing as requested, the man prepared himself and lunged the katana down – only to be taken aback by the gust which followed the procedure and the thorough laceration down onto the concrete floor.

"Whoa…" the photographers spammed their camera memory space and repeatedly took photos of the stunning action.

"Him too?" The cat-girl muttered.

From the side, screams and shrills could be heard as cosplayers all around the halls found surreal happenings to their costumes and tools. Without further hesitation, they rushed towards the Main Hall.

"With this, we now officially launch Comi–"

"Help, somebody!" a whole wave of cosplayers crushed into the Main Hall, gaining weird looks from the speculators surrounding the stage. The emcees averted their gazes towards the other committees at the side of the stage and back at the frantic visitors.

A short midget stormed up the stage in an angry manner and snatched the microphone from one of the astonished emcees.

"Um…how can we…"

"Look at me!" yelled the midget, motioning his hand up and down his height.

"Uh…you're a life-sized Edward Elric cosplayer? Yeah, that's really nice, I'm sure you'd win the Cosplay Competition later, but –"

"No!" the boy shouted in exasperation. He pushed up his red sleeve, revealing a metallic right blade in place of his hand.

The hustling crowd fell silent. They too, were focused on the Fullmetal Alchemist character.

"I lost my hand!" he yelled. "I…I just wore this fake plastic glove over my hand which kind of looked like Ed's automail and the next thing I knew, I had a real automail hand!"

Murmurs broke out across the hall.

"And…" the boy slapped his chest. "I'm flat-chested!"

"…and that's a problem because…"

"I was crossdressing as Ed! I'm supposed to be a girl!"

"…wow."

The committees were discussing among themselves at the outrageous claims.

"And it's not just me." said the cosplayer. "There are lots of cosplayers down there who could suddenly use real magic, perform tricks like their cosplayed characters and can't take off their costumes."

"Look, I don't really follow. What do you mean?" asked the dumbfounded emcee, eyebrows furrowed.

Tired of explaining, 'Ed' marched over to the side of the stage, where a few goodie bags were placed. Grabbing one of them, he threw it up in the air, clasped his hands together and put both palms onto the bag. A blue bolt of electricity materialized before widened eyes, transforming the bag into a handful of colorful confetti raining down onto the alchemist.

"He just…"

"…performed transmutation…?"

People were too bewildered to even speak ill of the boy-girl's intentions.

"There, you see?" said the cosplayer. "Something weird is definitely going on. Fake weapons becoming real, physical gender-bending, impossible tricks now feasible…if this is what the simulation does to people, then I ask of you to switch it back."

A woman downstage shook her head, confused. "The simulation only imitates the setting of the anime; just the place. It doesn't leave any physical impacts on people."

"Are you sure?" asked the suspicious 'Ed'. "You can ask me 100 things about what a girl secretly does at home and I wouldn't get a single question wrong!"

The committees fell silent, controverting the noise the onlookers are beginning to make.

"Think about it, people!" exclaimed a young man of nineteen. "Isn't this awesome? We aren't just 'cosplaying' as the characters; we are the characters!"

Some exchanged glances, unconvinced, but others chatted and nodded enthusiastically.

"He's right. What's so bad about this?"

"Yeah, I could get inside a girl's head now."

"Oh, you're only lucky you decided to cross-dress today. What a perv."

"Cool! I can perform jutsus now?"

"And my guns actually work?"

"Hey, I can move my wings!"

"Cool!"

"Hey, try out that Sawada Tsunayoshi's X-Burner with your glove."

"Omigosh, it really works!"

As the committees could see, they could no longer suppress the roaring excitement of the otakus.

"Contact President Nerd. We've got a problem." whispered a lady to her assistant.

The Fullmetal Alchemist cosplayer stood frozen on stage, watching the scene unfold. Beams of light shone out of nowhere, fireballs were thrown carelessly, katanas were swung at strangers in a childish act to spar, presenting an ironic paradigm of auroras.

Eventually, a loud scream of horror was to thank for silencing the crowd. People turned to the source of the voice, where a group was encircling something. A girl with a black ponytail tied to the side of her head watched quietly from the side. She knew better than to act impetuously.

Some committee members pushed their way into the crowd. When they finally reached the clearing, the surrounding onlookers turned and gave way, moving stiffly like clockwork dolls, their faces pale as a sheet...almost as if they've seen a ghost.

Peering down into the center of the clearing, the committees figured they might as well have.

A man lay writhing on the grey floor, movements close to a fish out of water, gasping for air. But what attracted the crowd was not the fact that he was sprawled on the floor.

It was because crimson blood was cascading out of his abdomen in a grotesque manner, where a katana was impaling through.

"W-Wha…"

"Who did this…?"

A woman, presumably the one who screamed, flung her head sideways, her eyes searching. "Who did this!?" she yelled. "Who is the culprit?"

Visitors near and far suddenly felt tingling goose bumps down their body. Anybody could be the possible murderer. It could be someone standing right next to them. And they could strike with another weapon before you know it.

Wary and horrified, the crowd dispersed in a chaotic and disorganized pattern, each running off to elevators and exits, staying out of each other's way the best they could. Some ran over to the restrooms to throw up after witnessing the gory scene.

In the hectic state, committees were busy taking phone calls and hurdling questions at each other. As the President, Nerd, came along, he set everything in order, giving instructions to keep things under control – but not before sending the injured man to the hospital.

A new set of news set everyone off.

"All the main doors are locked – we're trapped here!"

More people flung themselves at the exits in denial, wailing and crying their souls out.

"Thirty-thousand people, eighteen thousand cosplayers, sixty-five halls to hide and more than one killer to hide from."


End of Prologue