Arc 1: Allow me to introduce…
Two American tourists exited the gate at which their plane had landed. It was early morning in Japan, and this traveling couple was in need of an energetic boost to get them going for the remainder of the day. After looking around for some form of coffee shop, they realized tea would be a more common drink in Japan. In need of caffeine, they entered a small teahouse outside of the airport. Inside the restaurant the mixture of varied aromas filled their nostrils with a very sweet scent. Luckily for this pair, the cashier spoke enough English to communicate with ease. They ordered and took a seat
Across from them sitting at a table alone was a middle aged man, most likely in his early sixties. His surprisingly full head of short, grey hair was neatly combed without a visible bald spot. His pale, peach colored sweater vest was pulled over a blue buttoned down dress shirt, which he had evenly tucked into his black dress pants. All of this plus a black tie around his neck covered his seemingly skinny body. The male tourist made eye contact with him while drinking his tea, which caused a conversation to begin.
“I presume you two are tourists. What brings you to Japan?” the old man unexpectedly spoke in English.
“We’re here on vacation, as we’ve always wanted to come to Japan,” the female tourist answered.
“Ah, I see,” the man replied. “However it’s a difficult time to travel here, or anywhere else in Asia for that matter.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed the tight security. What exactly is the cause of it?” asked the woman’s husband.
“Well, have either of you heard of that new nation, and the war they have caused?” asked the man.
“I’ve heard some news about it, but I honestly don’t understand the situation as a whole. They’re attempting to annex land with the help of another dominion they’ve allied with, correct?” inquired the male tourist.
“In a nutshell, yes. This newly formed country, Praestancia, has allied itself with Tibet, and is currently fighting a war against Russia’s and the rest of China’s forces. Mongolian and North Korean forces are also involved in assisting China and Russia, but aren’t as prevalent in the war,” the old man described.
“But how could two small, powerless nations even begin to fare against such a powerful alliance?” asked the woman.
“There have been eyewitness reports of these, almost superhuman people with mystical powers. And these people seem to be throwing this war into the Praestancia and Tibet’s favor. I can’t quite explain how, but there is proof of them.”
“Such a thing doesn’t sound possible, but then again how else would they be currently winning?” stated the male traveler. “Is Japan at all involved in this war?”
“As of right now, I don’t believe so. We may be in the future, but for now the military is just building up a defense in case of an attack. The other areas of Asia, even those bordering the dangerous alliance, don’t appear to be taking part either. Praestancia seems to be focusing solely on wiping out the more powerful countries first.”
“By the way, what is your name?” queried the woman as the old man finished his tea and stood up.
“Hisao.” he responded.
The old man finished his tea, picked up the small green gym bag he had on the floor next, and slung it over his shoulder. He walked out without saying a word.
Before beginning his lengthy walk back home, Juuryoku needed some sort of refreshment. Soccer practice ensued an uncomfortable mass of sweat. It was difficult for him to even make his way to the locker rooms after such a strenuous workout.
A heavenly opportunity struck. Soon after being changed and rushing out the door, he spotted a vivid color with his peripheral vision. He drew closer to the unvisited corner of the school’s athletic area. It was similar to a caliginous alleyway in both sight and smell.
A vending machine. Mysteriously, he’d never seen even a glimpse of it in the past. It also seemed suspicious that the device would be placed in such a subliminal area. Juuryoku assumed it was a gift from the gods. There was no reason not to use it, after all. He dropped his duffle bag and took out some change
The most interesting part came. This vending machine was complete with a glass pane for the sake of tempting thirsty consumers to buy at least one of the many inviting beverages. Juuryoku browsed through the selection quickly until one caught his eye. It was strangely labeled with a sort of Roman writing, unfamiliar to his Japanese knowledge. Unfortunately, he lacked the study skills to do relatively well in English. The characters on the bottle looked like that of an alien language.
Nevertheless, the other flavors were bland to his taste. Whoever decided on the brands were blatantly just seeking to satisfy an ample range of users. This unique one which was being inspected contained an appetizing red hue. Besides, there were only two left. He couldn’t allow a chance to try a foreign soda flavor to slip away.
It was decided. The impatient student took a coin of a hundred yen and inserted it into the slot. After spitting some dry mucus from his mouth in preparation, he opened the processed drink. The delicious cherry flavor took captive his taste buds. He didn’t want to ever stop drinking it. Another distinct piquancy perfected the consumable.
The last drop emptied into Juuryoku’s appeased stomach. Suddenly, a gust of wind swept across his face and even further abused his dampened, medium hair. Thinking nothing of it, he decided to treat himself to another of these fine sodas. Although his thirst was quenched well at the moment, he could feel the same sensation he just had during the next day of practice. Taking another of his coins, he purchased the only remaining drink and stuffed it into his bag.
Throughout the following day, Juuryoku felt eager to have his drink after another soccer practice. The moment arrived after what seemed like an eternity. He hurried out of the locker room and hid in a deserted area. After searching through his bag, however, the drink was missing. A second, more thorough check confirmed its absence. He slammed the ground with his palm in anger. The walk home would have been one of his most depressing, until something else occurred.
Upon closer inspection, a piece of paper appeared to be lodged into a hole of the bag, buried beneath the soccer uniform. Juuryoku curiously retrieved and examined the decorative slip.
A lottery ticket?
Though puzzled, there was no point in hesitating. It was a local business and the top prize was only about a hundred thousand yen, so it couldn’t be that unlikely that he’d lose. Not as unlikely as most lotteries, anyway. Perhaps whoever stole his beloved drink felt guilty and decided to reimburse him with this ticket.
Juuryoku read the directions. Three sevens was a winner. Cliche and simple enough.
With a coin he scratched out the first seven. This was no surprise; lotteries tend to make people jumpy in order to have them buy more tickets.
Second digit. Also a seven. He didn’t care at first, but he realized that there was reason to be excited. No two tickets can be the same, so there was at least a one in ten chance that the next digit would be a seven. A hundred thousand yen wasn’t very significant on a large scale, but it could benefit a family like the Kojitsukerus immensely. Juuryoku only lived with his divorced mother who worked two jobs to provide him with his below average living conditions. For a wealthier family, this sum of money was something to smile lightly at. For a sixteen-year old and a struggling parent it was a humble gift.
With sweat beginning to run down his cheeks, Juuryoku began scratching off the last number. Another seven.
He reread the directions multiple times. The digits were clear. His eyes opened in shock. A whole hundred thousand yen.
An address was posted at the bottom of the paper. There happened to be no soccer practice the next day, so that would be the time to claim the prize. It was on the other side of town, so going at the current an hour might be dangerous. Juuryoku rushed to tell his mother of this wonderful news.
The next day came with even more enthusiasm. Juuryoku shook in his seat as the clock ticked down during his final period. He sped out of the first-year building as soon as the ringing began.
The trip to the train station was only a few blocks away. He was eager to even board the train, too, because apparently there had been a complete upgrade to public transportation as of recently in Japan. Not many things have changed meaningfully for years prior to then, so this was an enjoyable experience.
After arriving, he noticed a train setting off in the distance. A schedule on the small both by the tracks showed that the next one would come in about ten minutes. Damn, he thought. He didn’t normally need his student transportation pass, so he could use it twice during any time of the day, but waiting on a bench for ten minutes in anticipation would feel like ten hours.
Even worse, it began to rain. Juuryoku put up the hood of his jacket, making him appear like much of a more discouraged person than he really was. The metal bench was even colder than the downpour of water.
Several minutes passed. He was already shivering uncontrollably. Before he realized it, the showers came to a stop on his skin. Looking up, he could see a casual blue umbrella guarding him.
Its owner was Amekawari Mizu. It wasn’t anyone significant to Juuryoku. Although they were in the same class, this female student didn’t have most periods together with him, and they rarely conversed during the ones they did share. She wasn’t particularly unattractive, but nothing to gaze at either. Straight, long black hair and a slender build were common characteristics of his classmates. Her face was like most at first sight, but never quite conveyed her expression very well. It seemed as if she was eternally in a lonely mood. Not that such an impression was unfitting, though. She got along with everybody, but lacked close friends. It was doubtful that she hung out with anyone often.
“You looked cold, Kojitsukeru-san,” she said with her usual enigmatic face.
Juuryoku didn’t wish to make this experience a big deal in his mind, but he felt somewhat embarrassed. Even if he looked cold, most people like Mizu would pretend they didn’t see him. His appearance wasn’t particularly friendly, after all. At a hundred and seventy-seven centimeters, he was slightly taller than most people his age, and even more so than the girl sitting next to him. Although not obese, Juuryoku’s passion for soccer gave him a fine muscular build. His naturally dark navy blue hair which extended halfway down his neck was always a mess. Haircuts were expensive. For him, anyway.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said while trying to force a smile. On the contrary, Mizu appeared to be hiding an emerging smile. It was a bad attempt.
“You don’t usually take the train.”
“Something nice happened,” Juuryoku said while immediately regretting it. He sought to avoid this awkward conversation, but his previous statement must have already caught Mizu’s interest.
“Which was?” Mizu asked while tilting her head.
“I… won a local lottery. I’m claiming a hundred thousand yen on the other side of town.” He wanted to slap himself.
“Really? Can I come with you?” She asked enthusiastically.
Does this girl have some sort of mechanism that makes her more social after school? Juuryoku was astonished at her behavior. Unfortunately, his best option was to let her tag along. From her perspective, there wouldn’t be any reason to decline the request. It’d make it seem like he was prevaricating about the whole situation.
“I guess so. Do you get off two stops from here?”
The sound of the train prevented any further conversation. The two boarded. As soon as Juuryoku sat down, he looked out the window as if he were distracted so that Mizu wouldn’t say anything more. Somehow it worked, or she just happened to keep her mouth shut for another mysterious reason.
Mizu’s neighborhood was extravagant. In comparison to the slums which her classmate lived in, at least.
“Can you take me here?” Juuryoku asked as the two stepped out of the locomotive. He pointed to the small line of text printed at the bottom of his winning ticket.
“Sure. That’s not far away.”
Unlike what one would see in typical anime or manga, the umbrella was thankfully big enough that Juuryoku could keep a distance from Mizu. No further questioning came from Mizu. Either the rain was too loud to talk at her low voice or she caught on to his quiet intentions. Just when things were going well in terms of social activity, he felt guilty. A girl who he barely knew was giving him directions to somewhere, and he walked as if he were alone. Somebody could think that he took Mizu’s assistance for granted. He was truly grateful, but walked on as if it were her duty to guide him.
“So aren’t you on the swim team? I thought you would be involved in that today.”
“It’s not on Fridays. Do you have off from soccer practice because of the rain?”
“No, I just had off today for some reason. I don’t really care why, as long as it gives me a chance to claim my lottery prize.”
The mood became much more calm. Juuryoku figured that such small talk would give him a break for a while. The address was getting close, anyway. In fact, a small, one-story house was already in sight.
“No way! I always thought this house was abandoned. I never thought a lottery host would buy it just now. It’s so cute,” Mizu stated while speeding her pace.
The rows of houses along the street were different compared to the series of apartment complexes which Juuryoku was used to. It was baffling to think that a whole family could keep such a large building as a house to theirselves.
They crossed a short sidewalk surrounded by patches of grass and approached the front door. How luxurious it must be to have two layers of entrances, Juuryoku thought. The brick house was lined with colorful plants being forced down by torrents of rain. A curved roof conveniently redirected the rain into gutters which appeared to take it into some sort of storage in the house. There were few windows considering the structure’s size, and the ones that did exist were covered by shades.
Mizu knocked on the door as soon as she was in range. A shadow appeared behind a partially transparent layer of glass. The interior door opened to reveal a middle-aged man with casual clothing complemented by a head of short, grey hair. He observed the two guests suspiciously and opened the glass door.
“Do you have a ticket?” he asked Juuryoku.
“Yes. It’s right here,” he replied while taking it from his pocket.
“Is it entirely yours then?”
Juuryoku nodded. The man looked at Mizu afterward.
“Why is she here, then?”
“I just wanted to come with him,” she stated before giving Juuryoku a chance to. The man looked displeased with this.
“Can I come in?” she asked. The man brought his hand to his chin and contemplated this. He looked at her sternly.
“Are you absolutely sure you would like to?”
“Of course! I don’t want to stay out here in the rain.”
“Very well then. It’s your choice. Come in.”
The two entered through and wiped their feet on a mat. Because the man decided to treat their arrival so importantly, they removed their shoes.
“Take a seat,” he suggested.
The room was quite bare. The floor was only hardwood, and there were no furniture pieces apart from a couch and chair across from each other. The only other thing in sight was a doorframe to an incomplete kitchen. Juuryoku was surprised that an old man could see properly in such darkness.
“Not to be impolite, but I can receive my money now, right?” Juuryoku asked while sitting down on the couch next to Mizu. The man sat down on the chair and looked as if he didn’t hear the question.
“You can call me Hisao, for future reference. I was wondering some things. Have you drunk an unusual beverage recently?”
Many different thoughts flooded Juuryoku’s mind.
“Yes. How did you know, Hisao-sama? By the way, I’m Kojitsukeru Juuryoku.”
Was I not supposed to drink it? Was it some sort of poison? Did Hisao steal the second drink? Nothing seemed to make sense.
“Thank you for making this simple. If you would be willing to be a little more cooperative, I’d apprecaite it,” Hisao said.
Mizu and Juuryoku looked confused. The suspicious man arose from his chair and came nearer. The room was silent. All that could be heard were raindrops from outside and on the thin roof.
“I’m sorry, but your capabilities are a threat. You are still going to live, but not here.”
As Hisao stopped right before the sitting Juuryoku, he stretched out his right hand. A figure appeared from the ground to his head. Before long, the man wielded a wooden scythe with a lethal metal of a smokey-black color. He winded it up with both arms.
Juuryoku was too shocked to move. The image before him stood still. Each moment put his petrified body into further danger.
The scythe swung. The tip penetrated his chest directly. Juuryoku felt a jolt of pain which he never experienced before. His nerve endings were pierced in numerous quantities. The sharp blade felt like a burning stake being shoved down his open chest and directly through his heart. Breathing became impossible. The feeling grew unbearable in an instant.
In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Everything felt as if the attack had never happened. Just as Juuryoku regained consciousness, he saw Hisao taking his scythe back and turning to Mizu, who had already been stricken with terror. Her hands trembled and she leaned back by instinct.
“As you decided, you are a witness to this scene. We cannot allow the regulars to know of our existence.”
The same process began.
“No!” Juuryoku screamed. His natural senses forbid him from moving a centimeter.
The scythe came down at an alarming speed. Mizu’s heart was stricken deeply also, but no wounds appeared. She sat motionlessly afterward, just like Juuryoku.
“You will not interfere with existence now, Kojitsukeru Juuryoku. Goodbye. We should never see each other again.”
Hisao grabbed a green bag which didn’t seem to be there earlier. After fastening his scythe to leather straps which also appeared on his back, he threw the bag over his shoulder. With a wave of his hand his body disappeared almost instantly. Juuryoku noticed a window break at the same moment. He looked at Mizu, who was sitting in a perplexed manner just like him.
Mizu suddenly looked down and noticed she was literally falling through the sofa like a ghost. She let out a girlish scream and fell on the floor beneath the piece of furniture. Juuryoku had already risen before gradually sinking in.
“I think we’ve been separated from the world.”
Juuryoku attempted to touch the nearby wall. His arm went straight through to the outside. Neither the water nor difference in temperature could be felt. Continuing with the experiment, he walked to the kitchen where there were few appliances. The path of the sink’s drain was clearly visible. It extended into the ground, then stretched beneath the floor. He poked his finger through the area where he predicted it would be, and passed through with ease. However, the other areas of the ground were impenetrable.
“It looks like we can pass through everything except mass which is thick in all dimensions. Otherwise we’d just fall through the ground,” he explained.
Mizu wasn’t very satisfied with just that discovery. Juuryoku acted optimistic and commenced a desperate plan.
“I guess we should go around look for some more unusual things. That guy was a little insane, but I don’t think he’d just turn us into ghosts and leave us be.”
It was disappointing. Mizu seemed much more saddened than her functioning classmate. It was as if she suddenly went back to how she acted during school hours.
Juuryoku approached her without warning. As she left her head down to stare at the ground in disappointment, Juuryoku poked her forehead.
“It looks like we can come in contact, however. I’m making a lot of progress in this whole situation,” he joked. Mizu smiled very slightly at his attitude.
The two left the house to begin their hunt for knowledge. A man happened to have been walking his dog outside.
“Hey!” Juuryoku shouted. No response.
He ran into their path and stood still. Both the animal and human passed through him like he didn’t exist. Had it not been so dark, he could have seen the man’s insides, disturbingly enough.
“I guess that won’t work,” he stated obviously. “That old guy mentioned something about a drink that I had, which I got at a school vending machine. We should probably walk back there, even if it may take a while.”
“It’s our best option, I guess,” Mizu stated.
The walk to the train station was noticeably shorter without the barrier of houses and yards. Juuryoku felt bad about intruding through people doing their daily business, but he had greater things to worry about.
They arrived quickly. Unfortunately, trains appeared to deny access as well. After attempting to board one, Juuryoku fell through and onto the railing a meter under it.
“Time to walk, I suppose.”
During their journey along the tiresome tracks, some trains passed by and gave the interior several seconds to view. An abnormal but intriguing several seconds.
Juuryoku decided to make conversation, since the walk would be an extended one. There was something he needed to address anyway, and he had the perfect time to do so.
“I’m sorry about getting you involved with this. You shouldn’t have been associated with my stupid actions to begin with. You gave me help and received this.”
Mizu remained silent for a while to formulate her reply. Unlike Juuryoku, she didn’t have a while to carefully pick out her words in such an important subject. He started to think she was simply ignoring him in anger until she spoke.
“Neither of us knew this was going to happen. Besides, that guy warned me not to come in, but I was stubborn enough to do it anyway. I’m to blame for being like this just as much as you are, Juuryoku.”
As right as she was, the feeling of guilt was inescapable. Juuryoku even realized that she displayed her new closeness with him by calling him by his first name.
A train sped by at what looked like lightning speed. The fluctuating noise of the interior and exterior made communication impossible. Juuryoku assumed that Mizu understood what he was going to say, however.
Once at the first stop, they took a necessary break. They felt the same weariness as if they were walking in physical form. The edge of the station which divided the train from the waiting area was a relaxing place to rest.
“Am I just imagining things, or am I getting hungry? I don’t suppose there’s any ghost food lying around,” he said.
“I feel the same thing. I was hungrier before we were turned into this, but I think my stomach got replenished afterward. Or something.”
Mizu seemed more comfortable conversing now. No matter how many negative things were occurring at once, that news was pleasing to Juuryoku.
After finally arriving at the right stop, the traipse to the school seemed like nothing. As they approached the neatly-kept school building, a man appeared around the corner. He wore a white button down shirt which he had untucked, with a black tie that was loosely around his neck. He seemed to be young of age, in his middle twenties possibly. His black hair seemed uncombed, but had an accustomed form around his neck and the sides of his head.
“The two of you need to come with me quickly,” he began.
“Why, who the hell are you?” Juuryoku rashly retorted.
“That really isn’t significant at this moment. For now, understand that you can trust me and that I’m here to ensure your protection. We don’t have time to explain anything else; we need to run,” the mysterious man pleaded.
“I refuse,” stated Juuryoku.
“Remember the guy with the scythe from earlier? There are others like him that are after the three of us. Also, by coming with me, you’ll be able to get answers about everything else that is currently happening to you.”
“If it is that urgent, then sure. Besides, we have no lead anyways.” Juuryoku answered after contemplating the situation. There were no better options, after all.
“By the way, I figure I should let you know that my name is Tebiki, Edaude Tebiki. Now please, come with me,” he kindly replied.
The common April showers did not mix well with the chilly day at hand. Under the pattering sound of the rain, many noises were still to be heard. Car horns honking, tires screeching, people shouting. Although Juuryoku and Mizu had come to terms with the fact that despite the usual business, what they were seeing was simply a mirage; or quite possibly they were the mirage.
As the group continued, some sight caused Mizu to turn around and walk backwards while she obliviously starred. Tebiki tried warning her as she walked directly through a stop sign. Mizu realized what she had just done and displayed a diminutive blush in embarrassment. Tebiki let out a slight chuckle.
“Well this simply won’t work. Miss, I’m sorry in advance for what I’m about to do. Please do not take it personally,” Tebiki announced.
“Wha-” Mizu managed out as Edaude Tebiki’s fist made contact with her skull. Mizu became unconscious.
“What did you just do?” Juuryoku questioned with concern.
“I’m sorry, but she would prevent us from traveling by any other means than walking. We need to be hastier than this, and walking will simply not suffice,” answered Tebiki. “Would you mind carrying her by any chance?”
Juuryoku cradled her unresponsive body in his arms. Night was beginning to fall, and Tebiki stated that taking the bus would be the swiftest, most convenient means of transportation. He began leading the way to the nearest bus stop, as though he knew the area well, with Juuryoku trudging behind him. As Juuryoku had already put his trust into him, he thought it unnecessary to tell Tebiki that his attempt to use public transportation did not succeed earlier.
After walking a decent fifty meters, a dark figure landed softly far in front of them, as though it were a human-sized cat. The individual stood and revealed a man with handsome and elegant facial features, including a pair of glasses that tightly rested on his nose. His dark brown, medium in length hair was gently combed over to one side. All of this was complimented by a black suit, which was tidy in every way imaginable. He didn’t say a word as he slipped a glove over his right, then his left hand. With closer inspection one would notice that the gloves contained sharp-looking claws which were five centimeters long at the end of each fingertip.
“Take her and get away from here,” ordered Tebiki. Juuryoku did as he was told, and distanced himself from the scene, but he was still able to view the fight which was about to occur. Tebiki went into a fighting stance with his arms slightly extended in front of his chest and chin. He strangely placed a hand on his shoulders one at a time as if adjusting his own joints for battle.
The man in a suit darted forward, with his clawed hands outstretched. Just as randomly as this fight occurred, what seemed to be the hazy blue outline of an arm painlessly sprouted out of Tebiki’s right shoulder. Lunging forward, the man swung at Tebiki, who dodged the attacked, and countered with a punch from his two right arms. The figure, who was already airborne, flew back a couple meters, however landed gracefully on his feet. He quickly recovered and was once again dashing towards Tebiki, who dodged multiple clawing attacks. Juuryoku noticed Tebiki was not fighting very offensively, but rather was avoiding and countering the enemy’s attacks.
In the middle of combat, Tebiki quickly absorbed back his extra arm and unleashed it through his chest so quickly that it seemed invisible. The brown-haired man folded both of his hands into a cross shape in order to block against the strike. The impact sent him several meters away. Small rocks came loose from the ground as a result.
A pause arrived in the battle whilst everybody stood still. Rain continued to pour mercilessly. The hair of both fighters became drenched and their clothing darkened. Showing no sign of neither surrender nor fatigue, Tebiki prepared his battle pose once more. The other mimicked his act.
Yet again, he rushed forward. Tebiki took his combat one step higher, telling his opponent to do the same in a seemingly telepathic manner. His spare fist was thrown from all different areas in response to the shady being’s moves. Before long every sight became only a blurred vision. High-pitched noises emitted from every weapon cutting the air. Neither party displayed any sign of giving up. Juuryoku had no indication as to who was more powerful. Each motion was quicker than the blades of a fan.
Suddenly, Tebiki’s foe went on the defensive for a few seconds before stepping back to a safe distance.
The suited entity folded his right sleeve to reveal a watch. Shielding the continuous showers with his other hand, he looked closely at it. Whatever the time was, it was too late for him. He turned around and jumped into the air without saying a word. His figure became invisible behind the fog.
Juuryoku came closer to the scene with Mizu still in his arms.
“It’s more dangerous than I thought,” Tebiki said to him. “We will have to run.”
“Katachi-kun, the soccer players should have started practice by now.”
“Good. We can skip out on practice for today. That punk, Kojitsukeru, pushed my shoulder while walking by in the hallway today. I know he did it on purpose.”
A short male student carrying several books approached him. A messenger, apparently.
“Yaiba-san, the school principal said he needs to see you,” he informed while stumbling upon his own words.
Katachi walked toward him with an intimidating gait. The student trembled in fear as the figure of a hundered and eighty centimeters came near. He grabbed the defensless boy by the collar and lifted him into the air, causing him to drop his books.
“Nobody calls me by my first name, kid,” he warned. The student lightly nodded. After throwing him to the ground violently, he continued.
“Tell that scumbag I’m busy,” Katachi demanded. In response, his fellow first-year turned around, sprung to his feet, and sprinted away, leaving his belongings behind.
As Katachi looked back, the other members of the baseball team struggled to put on a friendly expression.
“We should hurry, c-captain,” one recommended.
Their leader’s bulging muscles were enough to frighten even an upper-class athlete. He messily cut his moderately brown hair short enough that one could conceal a finger under it. His tanner-than-usual skin and thick bodily features made his athletic ability evident. He managed to keep a stern expression as if he were born with such a face.
After arriving at the soccer team’s locker room under cover, the baseball players’ plundering began. Bags filled with money and personal possessions were stolen or sabotaged. Out of the blue, one of the nine students announced something.
“Guys, one of the soccer coaches is coming down from the hallway!”
He and seven others scrambled around to look for the exit. Katachi, who had just found his hated enemy’s bag labeled “Kojitsukeru Juuryoku”, couldn’t let the opportunity slip away. After opening the bag in an instant, the only object he could find was a red soda bottle.
“Who’s in there!?” a voice from the outside door shouted. Katachi took the drink and sped out the door to join the others.
The group laughed uncontrollably on their way back. Discussing and trading their stolen items made Katachi feel left out. He was put at the disadvantage of only having one target during his rummaging.
“Captain, is that all you got? Here, I’ll give you some change I found,” one team member offered while taking out another an unfamiliar wallet.
While distracted, Katachi punched him in the upper stomach without warning. The blow knocked the wind out of him, causing him to clench over in pain whilst trying to regain oxygen.
“I don’t need your pity,” he stated infuriatingly.
Laughter stopped. The remainder of the walk back to the baseball clubroom was in complete silence.
Katachi finally decided to treat himself to the drink during a disappointing walk home. The fact that the beverage was from a foreign brand was unattractive, but the liquid itself appeared appetizing. He removed the cap, threw it onto the street, and began drinking.
It tasted surprisingly great. He chugged the whole drink before turning to cut through an abandoned alley as a shortcut. During his walk, he threw the bottle next to a nearby dumpster.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t drink that,” a mysterious voice said from behind.
Katachi nonchalantly turned over to find a showy smiling man. He wore an expensive black suit with unnecessary glasses fitted tightly around his nose. His brown hair was groomed well, only adding to the handsome appearance he believed to have.
“Leave me alone,” Katachi rudely cautioned him. The man looked delighted as raindrops began to pour down.
“Oh dear, I spent ages doing my hair today. This weather is such an inconvenience,” he complained before giving off a slight chuckle.
“I don’t give a damn. I told you to go away before things get ugly.” Katachi became increasingly irritated. The man smiled more widely as he pushed his glasses up slightly.
“Yes, things would become ugly if I stayed.”
Katachi heard a sharp slice of wind as the man was suddenly whispering into his ear from behind.
“Wouldn’t it?” he frighteningly added.
Katachi threw his left fist backwards in anger and confusion. After his full body turned around to see where his target dodged to, the alley appeared empty.
“Don’t worry. This won’t last long,” the voice spoke. His speech gave the facade of belonging to a harmless, handsome man.
Katachi felt a stinging in his back. He immediately thrusted his upper body forward in reflex, but it only prolonged the pain slightly. As the man reassured, however, it lasted a mere instant, despite the sharp object piercing so deeply. The student turned around to find the man now wearing gloves with pointed, lengthy nails on them.
“I’m Tansei. I do hope you don’t forget the name.”
The supernatual being launched up into the air until his figure was blocked by the rain. Katachi stood in complete awe.
He barely felt the raindrops pound against his skin. His mind was still registering what had just occurred. When he finally assessed what he believed to be true, he didn’t know whether minutes or hours had just passed.
There was nothing to be done. A stranger just gave him a devastating blow, but left no wound behind. Katachi felt his chest and back, then took off his school shirt to ensure nothing was damaged. A check of a puddle’s reflection made certain that the experience wasn’t a dream or fabrication.
Completely perplexed as to what had recently occurred, he gathered his belongings and continued on his path back home. A middle-aged woman walked down the sidewalk beside the street which he was on.
“Hey lady, did you-”
As Katachi attempted to gain her attention from only an armlength away, the woman continued to walk as if he didn’t exist.
“I’m talking to you!”
He rushed forward and attempted to grab her soulder, but his hand passed straight through as if the human were a hologram.
“What the hell?” he mumbled to himself.
A person appeared behind him.
“You must have a lot of questions right now,” a voice containing a cheery tone said behind him.
Katachi turned quickly to observe the new adult.
A tall, slim man with long, bright blonde hair styled into a ponytail stood with his arms crossed. He intentionally placed himself under the roof of a stall so that neither his hair nor attire would be damaged. He wore decorative tan khaki pants with black dress shoes and a neatly tucked white collar shirt. The brightening smile and height which he held his head made him look confident.
“Get lost,” Katachi replied out of habit.
“That’s rude,” the man said with a sarcastically sad tone. “You don’t have anywhere else to go, do you? And besides, I have an umbrella!”
He took out from behind him a rainbow-striped large umbrella and put on an enthusiastic face.
Katachi looked to the side and spit on the ground, pretending to ignore him. The man opened his umbrella and held it over the both of them.
“Let’s go. I have a nice bus reserved for the both of us,” he said while having to look down at his shorter companion. Katachi reluctantly followed as he began moving. Shortly into the walk, he noticed the man carrying a ball-and-chain attached to his pocket. Only, the chain was about a centimeter long and the opposite end of the ball was a handle. Apart from its impracticality, it was astonishing that the weight didn’t bring the pants down.
“That’s a crappy weapon,” he remarked. The man looked back with another one of his sarcastic faces. This time it was an imitation of an insulted person.
“What, you mean my flail? I think it’s rather deadly.”
Katachi looked at it once again. To his surprise, the chain was now at a normal size and slung around at the side of his pants down to his knee.
“Huh!? It wasn’t like that before!” He shouted in perplexion. The man carried on with his amusing act.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Katachi crossed his arms and continued to walk with anger. The person continued.
“My name is Mari Mugendai. You can just call me Mugendai, since we’re already such close friends.”
Katachi showed no sign of response.
“What’s your name?”
After a long pause, he announced it.
This pleased Mugendai.
“Okay then, Katachi-chan. We’re almost there!”
Katachi was on the verge of assault.
The three began their departure of the urban area they called home for all of their lives. Most forms of public transportation continued no further as they entered the unpopulated forested areas surrounding the city of Monbetsu. After meandering through an indirect and unconventional route nearing the mountain for multiple hours, Juuryoku and Tebiki decided to rest. It turned out Tebiki had some anesthetics on him, but earlier, in the spur of the moment, he decided it would be quicker and easier to put Mizu out without giving her a chance to refuse. As cruel as it sounded, it made sense to Juuryoku. She had been given some of these anesthetics after they made it onto a bus, which rendered her unconscious for an even longer while. Juuryoku cautiously set Mizu down and rested her against a short, nearby tree.
After momentarily resting, Tebiki began to view the surroundings from this high point they had reached. The thundering sound of rushing water nearby made talking in a normal tone difficult. The view to the east was astounding. The rain had stopped sometime during the long night, allowing the bright, no longer covered sunlight at dawn to give the entirety of Monbetsu an orange hue. The rising sun over the horizon of the ocean was magnificently vibrant, and provided anyone watching with beautiful scene to squint at.
“Kojitsukeru-san, please come over here,” loudly requested Tebiki.
“Yeah, what is it?” Juuryoku began as he shockingly stared down into a huge crater. Along the edge there was a narrow water fall which poured into a pool of water at the base of this trench. The crater appeared to be a good thirty meters deep, and nearly twice that much wide.
“That is where we are headed, that pool of water.” Tebiki announced.
“Would a place such as this go unnoticed by people so easily? Seems kind of strange,” added Juuryoku.
“I’m sure it’s been spotted before, but who in their right mind would attempt to scale it to the bottom?”
Juuryoku replied with a shrug. “By the way, back when you fought that man, what was that blue looking limb that came out of you? It looked like a resemblance of an arm.”
“It should all be explained once we get down there; have patience,” Tebiki reassured as he noticed some movement coming from Mizu. Her eyes had opened, but she was in an obvious daze.
“W-Where are we?” she managed to mutter.
“Where I told you we were headed earlier.” Tebiki replied. “Again, I’m sorry about what I did to you earlier. And please don’t ask why I did so. We will make this whole situation clearer once we get down there.”
He pointed downward. Descending the large cliff was the only option. Luckily Tebiki had the tools with which to do so. After Mizu fully regained her consciousness, they began the treacherous feat of making it down this earthen wall. Once in the water below, the three swam to the center where a heavy metal door was anchored to the bottom of the pool. In order to pass through, Tebiki pushed a three digit number combination into an electrical lock pad, which must have been water resistant. The heavy door slowly opened on its own after the password had been accepted, and the water forcefully began gushing in. The pool was a shallow two and a half meters deep, making it easy to take a breath, and which they all took.
They swam downwards into this water-filled room. Multiple drains on the durable, tiled floors worked to rid the room of the water. Once they emerged from the water, they stepped into an adjacent hallway, which contained an air-drying station and a large acrylic sliding glass door at the end of the corridor. Tebiki suggested they dry themselves, which Juuryoku and Mizu had no complaints to. The warm blasting air relieved their soaked bodies of the wetness . Tebiki slid an ID card through a slot next to the door, and it slid open.
He led the group through a lobby in which he waved to a woman behind a receptionist desk, and continued down an extensive L-shaped hallway, to an elevator at the very end. He pressed the button which would take them to the third level. It opened up to a short passageway with a single door at the end. The lighting was dim. Near the door was what appeared to be an advanced looking intercom with a high quality speaker. There was yet again a card slot bordering the communication device, which Tebiki proceeded to scan. He then held the button on the intercom, and a voice spoke.
“Tebiki, I see you have returned with our newest arrival, and an extra I presume,” the welcoming voice sounded.
“Yes, I have. May they enter?” respectfully asked Tebiki.
“Certainly. I ask that you also include them in our conversation,” the voice invited. The three proceeded up a small staircase after the door had opened. What they saw was a secluded room with man seated at a desk across from the entrance. The black, tiled floor was well kept, as was the rest of the sterile room. On the desk was a computer monitor and an assortment of random trinkets, stress balls, and mugs storing pens and pencils. The man at the desk had dry looking, light brown hair which he had parted at the center of his forehead, and side-burns which connected into a beard at his chin. He wore a blue suit with a red tie over his fairly muscular build. He did not look Japanese in the slightest, but he spoke the language as fluently as any native would.
“Greetings,” he said as he stood and reached to shake both Juuryoku’s and Mizu’s hands.
“Pleasure to meet you sir, my name is Amekawari Mizu,” she politely introduced.
“I’m Kojitsukeru Jurryoku,” stated Juuryoku, reluctant to be at this place. But he did seek answers, giving him enough reason to stay.
“The two of you may call me Campaign.” Juuryoku and Mizu seemed puzzled by this strange nickname.
“I’m sure you both have many questions, so I’ll start with an introduction to clear certain things up.” Campaign started, feeling at his beard. “You are both aware of the current conflict between a few Asian nations, correct?”
Mizu and Juuryoku nodded.
“Well, it began when this new nation, Praestancia formed. The Praestancians gained control of the Chinese region of Xinjiang, and allied themselves with Tibet, a region north to it. Now no one has any idea who formed Praestancia. It’s doubtful that they are even native Chinese citizens. However, they found this abundant source of power while mining. They dug into an expansive underground ravine, and discovered this bizarre liquid. It has a slight cyan coloring to it, but is as clear as water, and has the same consistency of it. This liquid gives anyone who drinks it remarkable powers.”
“As I demonstrated to you earlier.” proclaimed Tebiki.
“With these abilities, the Praestancians and Tibetans managed to contend with the Russian and Chinese militaries, who are now allied in fighting against this uprising,” Campaign added.
“However, we’ve succeeded at obtaining this liquid on our own, and have been creating our own soldiers to fight against Praestancia. So, in order to recruit more soldiers, we’ve decided to just place it out in public and see who we got. Because we are limited on quantity of the liquid, we needed to use it with care. Therefore we placed it in the athletic area of a school containing younglings such as yourselves. You’re young, but not too young, so your power will be of use for an extended time. In the end, the victim of this beverage happened to be you.”
Campaign pointed at Juuryoku.
“So that soda which I drank, which that old man mentioned, was this liquid? Meaning I have power?” Juuryoku frantically questioned.
“Correct. What that power is I don’t know, but Tebiki can reveal that information for you later. As for the old man you just mentioned, I believe I know who you speak of. Did he indicate a name?”
“Hisao.” Mizu answered.
“Ah. Hisao. That man is what we call a severer. Now, before I detail what that is, I must explain another concept which will, without a doubt, baffle you,” Campaign proceeded. “All humans are linked. This link is not visible, but it is there. Without this link we can neither see each other nor interact with each other. A severer attempts to cut the link between a human with powers for some unknown reason. At the moment, we assume they seek to prevent any interference between the powerful humans and the real world. A severed person can no longer interact with any humans. A severed person can see other humans, but they are merely, in a sense, projections of the real world in real time. Some other important factors to note is that any changes you make to the environment while severed will not affect what linked humans see. Also, if a normal human without special abilities is severed, they will forcibly obtain a power of the same quality as if they drank the liquid.”
“Does that mean I have powers as well?” inquired Mizu.
“Most likely,” Campaign answered.
“So, in a way we’re on a different dimensional plane, but can see what is happening in the real world? But they can’t see us, and only other severed people can see us?” Juuryoku deductively queried.
“That’s basically the concept, though you are missing one detail that I forgot to mention, which is that all humans with special abilities, severed or not, can still see you. In other words, the only category of entities which cannot see you are regular humans.”
“Is there a way to regain our links to humanity?”
“Yes, but you will be told specifically how later. I believe I’ve summed up most of the situation for you. Tebiki, give them a minute to take it all in, and then please bring them down to training.”
Juuryoku and Mizu looked as though they had been told the drastic news that a loved one had been killed. They were attempting to comprehend all of the events which had occurred within the past twenty-four hours, and it was simply too much. Mizu appeared to be upset, but did not shed a tear. Juuryoku’s face was struck with utter confusion.
“It’s always like this,” Tebiki unenthusiastically murmured. “Come on, you two. Prepare to have your heads screwed with even more than they already have been.” Tebiki swiftly patted Juuryoku’s back as he walked past, and the two followed him back to the elevator.
Juuryoku stepped carefully into the capsule after Mizu left it. He relaxed on his back and made no attempt to move a single muscle, just as Tebiki instructed.
“It will close in three, two, one…”
A transparent glass layer sealed the entrance. His small pod emitted some strange-sounding mechanical sounds as it slowly slid into a tight chamber. Seconds after the light had been cut off by the device’s shifting, a brilliant artifical one shone into his eyes from above, causing him to squint.
Seeking to follow Tebiki’s orders, he patiently remained still. A painless red laser scanned his body from above, then at his lateral areas. The human capsule then returned to the laboratory.
“How long will it take for the results to come out?” Juuryoku asked as he stepped out.
“It’s already on the computer. Come see,” Tebiki invited.
Juuryoku and Mizu stepped toward the unbranded computer to see a series of images displaying their body structures.
“Are you a soccer player, Juuryoku?” Tebiki inquired.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I have plenty of experience in this. Your muscular proportions are really quite evident.”
Finding nothing else of interest, he only scrolled through the images before observing Mizu’s. He seemed to pay more attention while looking at larger bones.
“You’re body is generally balanced, but I can guess that you’re… a swimmer?” Tebiki said questionably.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
Satisfied with his accurate inference, Tebiki continued scrolling through the scans with his eyes only centimeters from the screen. He finished quickly and saved the file through several lightning-fast key combinations.
“Here comes the difficult part. We have to reveal your abilities in a safe manner. Afterward, you have to learn to control them.”
The two stared at him, not knowing how to respond.
“Mizu, I’ve noticed you were unintentionally activating your abilities earlier. We aren’t sure why, but this tends to happen whenever a severer causes its victim to gain powers. I’m going to let Juuryoku go into experimentation first, since you may still need time to calm down.”
“Ah, okay,” she responded. “But what was I doing?”
“Somehow, every hollow object nearby would allow passage through it when one would come in contact with it. We couldn’t board the bus with that happening, which is why I needed to knock you unconscious for a little while. Sorry about that, again.”
“I understand. And there’s no need to be so polite,” she reminded.
Tebiki rose from his computer chair and turned to Juuryoku.
“It looks like nobody understands anything about you yet. Luckily, I have a fixation for that,” he said while searching through a disorganized drawer.
“Ah here it is!”
Tebiki gently took and handled a seemingly empty vial. Upon closer inspection, Juuryoku spotted a very shallow layer of liquid inside.
“That looks like water,” he stated.
“Looks can be deceiving,” reminded Tebiki. “Here, cover your breathing.”
He handed Juuryoku and Mizu napkins to their mouths to filter the air. After Tebiki equipped himself with scrubs, he popped open the vial. A drop of another strong liquid caused the drink to become orange in color, and therefore become more visible to the eye. He poured only a modicum of the amalgamation into a small beaker with an eyedropper.
“Go to the far corner of the room and drink every last bit of this. Lick it clean if necessary,” he ordered while handing the beaker over.
Juuryoku took it with caution and did what was instructed. As far from the others as possible, he removed the napkin and held the dosage upside down over his mouth. Before long there wasn’t a tint of orange.
“All done. What now?”
“Now get the hell out before you kill us.”
Tebiki hastily took the lab equipment and set it down on a table. Grabbing Juuryoku by the arm, he led him over to an unvisited door. It led to an aphotic room illuminated by the wide glass pane in the center. The only other object was a door leading to the room behind the window.
“That room is huge and entirely empty, so you’ll have plenty of space to use your powers. The walls, ground, and ceiling are cushioned well so you probably won’t die,” Tebiki stated.
Juuryoku confusingly stepped through the second door, and Tebiki slammed it shut behind him. He then invited Mizu to observe with him through the glass.
Just as Tebiki assured, the room was huge. It was a perfect cube with sides of at least fifty meters. Absolutely every direction contained pure white besides the door and window, from where Mizu and Tebiki witnessed the scene.
Tebiki pulled out a small electronic contraption from his lab coat’s breast pocket and held it near his mouth. An echoing voice came from all directions in the large room.
“Juuryoku, stand around the middle to give us a better view. Your powers could activate any moment.”
Juuryoku hurried to what he believed to be the center of the room. He stood still for several seconds, anxious of what was to come.
Tebiki crossed his arms and stood up straight, becoming more excited by the second. Much the opposite, Mizu hunched over slightly and held her hands to her mouth in worry. Sweat ran down her cheeks almost as quickly as it did Juuryoku’s. Both of their stomachs churned to the point of sickness.
“Try to do something with your hands. The power of many abilites are channeled through one’s arms and are released through the palms,” Tebiki suggested.
Juuryoku held his hands forward, then pointed to his side when he realized he was aiming directly at the viewing chamber. Suddenly, he felt as if blood was flowing through his wrists at an excessive rate. What felt like a voluntary muscle from his brain came into awareness. He focused his attention into allowing the energy to continue its path.
He became so focused that he didn’t realize his legs gradually lifting off of the ground. In only a few more seconds, he was forced upward to the ceiling as if the gravity had been completely reversed.
“Juuryoku, watch out! If you land on your head you could get paralyzed,” Tebiki shouted into his microphone.
Juuryoku suddenly caught awareness. The gravity returned to normality and he was now thirty meters from the ground instead. In fear, he hyperextended his arms and the gravity reversed once more.
“I know it’s scary, but don’t be afraid to fall on the floor,” Tebiki informed the panicked boy. “As I told you, it’s padded thickly. Just don’t fall on your head and your fall will be painless.”
Mizu, horrified at the scene, spoke out.
“What are you doing to him!?” she exclaimed.
“Ask him that. If we could control gravity around here, that would be great,” Tebiki replied calmly.
Juuryoku allowed himself to fall to the ground. Cushioning his fall even further, he rolled from his legs down to his behind. Eager to understand his ability completely, however, he activated it again. Tebiki smiled widely as he was pleased to see such a sight.
“That’s good, Juuryoku. This boost should only last for a little while longer, so you need to exercise your ability as much as possible.”
Juuryoku gained muscle memory and helpful details by the second. He walked on the ceiling as if it were the ground. Before long he could reverse the gravity so quickly that he appeared to float in the air. Mizu grew as delighted as Tebiki.
“It looks like you can control it well. Turn the gravity back on and come to the door.”
Juuryoku walked back and into the viewing room, now keeping his ability compressed.
“This test went great. It would appear you can control gravity. I don’t believe that’s the only extent to which you can use it, however.”
“What do you mean?” Juuryoku asked.
“It’s not as if the world understands the forces of gravity naturally. Changing the magnetic field was probably just the simplest action you could perform. I’m sure that after your training, you will learn how to increase the pressure of gravity as it is, or perhaps only alter certain areas of space,” Tebiki stated.
“That reminds me, why weren’t you two affected by the pull?”
“Simply put, it only changed the area of a specific radius. Many abilities do this. A newcomer such as yourself wouldn’t be able to extend his effect as far as we were standing, so it was completely harmless to us. However, this radius should increase in size once you grow stronger. You should also be able to control that distance eventually.”
“I see. But without that liquid stuff, how will I be able to use my ability?”
“Just like one exercises their muscles by use of an energy drink, you’ve improved your special ability. At first you weren’t even aware of its existence, but you understand now how to use it. Once the liquid’s effect completely wears off it may be hard to utilize again, but your control will improve as time goes on.”
Juuryoku was elated to know of his powers and that he would advance with them. His time was over, though.
“Are you going to give Mizu a dose of it now?” he asked.
“Oh, certainly not,” Tebiki explained. “As I’m sure you’ve realized, we have a severe shortage of the substance. It’s collected from traces of severers in extremely small quantities, so it’s a strenuous process to gather it into a usable mixture.”
“In that case, how will she learn to use her power?”
“Unlike yours, I’ve seen it put into use. I have an effective idea.
He looked at Mizu in a friendly manner, but managed to scare her into a visibly troubled state.
“Go to the middle of the room where Juuryoku was,” he told her.
Mizu reluctantly did as was requested. While she entered through the door and stepped into position, Tebiki went back into the lab. Juuryoku scratched his head when the prober returned with a small trashcan. He took out his microphone.
“Mizu, look in the opposite direction of the door. Do not take your eyes from what is ahead of you until I shout ‘now’. At that moment, you must turn back immediately. Do you understand?”
Mizu nodded lightly from inside.
Tebiki went through the door to the room himself with the garbage. Standing about twenty meters away from the unsuspecting girl, he took an empty can. A blue arm extended out of his shoulder like a hologram. It rested on the back of his right arm as if providing it with support.
He chucked the object with precision. It reached its peak in the air.
Mizu turned around in less than a second. After a moment she caught sight of the flying item at an unavoidable distance. While throwing her arms to shield her head out of reflex, the can appeared to pass directly through her still-acting left hand. It bounced harmlessly on the floor. Mizu remained in her defensive pose for a few seconds before realizing she wasn’t to be attacked.
“Perfect! Good job, Mizu. I caught that with a micro-camera on my coat, so we can investigate it in the lab.”
The computer displayed every perceivable millisecond of the experiment. Tebiki observed the can drawing near Mizu in slow motion.
“This is interesting. Look at what happens in these few frames,” he said. Juuryoku and Mizu drew closer. Taking apart the scene frame-by-frame, they could see what happened just before the can passed through Mizu. It appeared to have become more transparent by the moment. In a split second, it seemed to have become entirely liquified.
“At first I thought you could only make objects non-existent for a period of time,” Tebiki explained. “But it seems as if you can transform them into water. You can probably only do this to matter within a certain range, just like how Juuryoku can alter the gravity in a limited area near him.”
“Ah…” Mizu expressed. It was difficult to know whether she was satisfied with her newfound capabilities. Tebiki ignored her recondite reaction and stood up.
“We should probably eat before getting started with the training. I’m sure you two have skipped at least one meal today,” he suggested.
“Yeah, I was too distracted to notice,” Juuryoku stated.
Katachi continued walking down a lengthy hallway with his guide.
“Oh, there’s your partners I was talking about! You three should be together for a while,” Mugendai said while pointing through a window. Inside, Tebiki appeared to be talking by a computer with Mizu and Juuryoku.
Katachi had his eyes fixed on one of them. He clenched his fists while trying to keep his expression unperceptable.
“Kojitsukeru… Damn,” he muttered under his breath.
Mugendai continued strolling down the corridor. Katachi was keeping a decent pace behind him, disinclined to continue this farce of a reality. After proceeding through the lengthy underground halls of this suspicious organization, Katachi was brought to a training room similar to what Tebiki used earlier. Mugendai scanned an identification card into the common place scanner seen throughout the complex, and the glass door automatically shifted to the side. The room was as tidy as an emergency room, with a cooling, almost comfortable draft.
“Your trainer should be here any minute. Take a seat for now,” Mugendai requested. Katachi sat without response. Like anyone else unwillingly dragged into his current situation, he was distraught, angered, and all-around hopeless. Any normal person in their right mind would never imagine the events leading up till now to be a reality. Mugendai exited the room as Katachi sat with his head in his palm. It felt heavy, filled with many endless emotions. Moments later, Tebiki stepped into the room.
“Greetings, my name is Eduade Tebiki,” he welcomed. ” You are the third out of the supposed two new recruits we were supposed to take in today. Strange how things work.”
“I’m Katachi.” said Katachi. Noting Katachi’s lack of interest inspeaking, he began preparing the same liquid mixture as in the previous experiment. The flat orange liquid began to settle within the vial.
“If you wouldn’t mind, please drink this,” asked Tebiki as he handed Katachi the beaker. Katachi, with a quick sip, guzzled the entire potion down.
“Now quickly enter that adjacent room. It is simply for your own saftey.” Katachi entered a room which seemed appeared to be a mirror image of what Juuryoku and Mizu had previously been in.
“This may take a minute, but you could explode at any moment, possibly in a literal sense,” asserted Tebiki. Katachi nervously awaited for something to happen. His mind seemed to process a million thoughts per second. Suddenly, a small metalic sound occured, which even Tebiki heard through the earpeice he had lodged around his earlobe. The ring which was tightly enveloped around Katachi’s index finger had fallen off.
“Ah. I believe I have an idea now,” Tebiki stated. “Could you bring me that ring?” Katachi exited the room, with the ring in hand. After he handed it over, Tebiki began thoroughly inspecting the ring. The area surrounding the hole had enlarged in size but thinned in thickness. The centerpeice at the top remained intact and unaffected.
“I believe I understand now.” Tebiki hinted. He handed Katachi a crowbar. “Take this into that room.” Katachi did as he was told, and stood in the center of the padded room.
“Focus.” Katachi waited momentarily with his eyes closed. After about a minute, the crowbar extended in length, but diminished in density, just as Tebiki had hypothesized.
“You seem to have the ability to change the shape of a certain type of metal, that metal being iron. However, it appears as though the object will always retain the same mass, meaning you can’t infinitely extend an object,” Tebiki divulged, speaking through his headset. Katachi nodded. Tebiki began searching a random cabinet, and retrieved a gleaming silver colored sword.
“Do what you just did to the crowbar, except with this sword. Have a blast, just don’t kill yourself.” Tebiki enounced, tossing the sword into the testing chamber. Katachi clutched the handle with both hands. His hands were sweaty, and he was consistently wiping them along his pants. The sword extended in a quick flux, without Katachi even moving his arms. From base to tip, the extended sword had become slim. The blade continued to stretch, changing in direction with each expansion. After three minutes, the weapon had become a thin, looping piece of metal protruding out of the unaltered handle.
“This proves the concept. Although you are limited to the original mass, like I previously stated, the shape is up to you,” Tebiki confidently spoke.
“I understand that, but how should I go about using it? I don’t even understand how I did so in there.”
“With practice you’ll be able to readily use it in the moment. For now, do as you did before: focus. Keep practicing and be careful. I must check in on the others.” Tebiki left the room.
Back in the original testing room, Juuryoku and Mizu were becoming more accustomed to their abilities. In the test chamber filled with precautionary padding, Juuryoku was practicing shifting his gravity while chucking various peices of trash at Mizu from different angles. The thrown objects went straight through her body without pain nor disfiguration, and would land on the floor intact. Her face and body were soaked from the mutating objects, to which she was invincible.
“I’m impressed; normally it takes a matter of days for a new addition to become comfortable using their new found skill; you two, on the other hand, appear to have some extreme determination,” complimented Tebiki, slipping on a microphone as he barged into the room. “However, now I believe we need to begin some more individual training.”
“How do you mean?” Mizu inserted.
“Well, situational training, I guess you could call it. I contemplated which weapons would be the most compatible with your powers, and I believe I have a made a decent choice. I have someone bringing me said weapons from the armory now.”
“You’re giving us weapons?” Juuryoku astonishedly asked.
“Of course we are. Your ability wouldn’t be very useful without an actual weapon to do the killing.” At that moment, Mizu’s facial expression became rather aghast. Juuryoku suddenly became stern. Tebiki realized the cause of the predicament. The idea of killing had never even occured to Juuryoku or Mizu. Being innocent adolescents, they didn’t wish to commit such an act as homicide.
“We never knew we’d be killing any one,” Juuryoku stammered.
“Yes, neither Campaign nor I explained that factor. I guess we just assumed you knew what joining us would involve.”
“I can’t kill someone. I would not be able to live with that on my conscious,” Mizu cried.
“Well, here’s the thing,” Tebiki began hestitantly. “The Praestancians chose their fate. They chose to join a meaningless, violent cause; we are simply a counter to that. The Praestancians are killing innocent people daily, so do they deserve to live? Aren’t the Russian and Chinese soldiers killing them as well, while dying at the same time? We are, in a way, justified vigilantees. We are helping the entire world.”
“But still. Killing is killing, no matter the justification. That goes against my own morals.” Mizu continued.
“Listen, I see what you are saying. Put it this way; on one side you have a dear friend, the other is humanity as a whole. You must choose between the two, whichever you choose will die, the other will live. Do you simply end humanity? Yes, this is a close friend’s life on the line, but imagine the lives you’d ruin, by allowing him to live while the rest perished.”Mizu seemed extremely pensive for a minute. Murdering is not something she could bring herself to do. However, Juuryoku saw the reasoning of the organization.
“He has a point. None of these people are innocent. Besides, it is for the bettering of society that they’re stopped. Imagine if they were to gain control of Japan. It’d be best to die attempting to stop corruption than to be killed by corruption without a struggle,” Juuryoku added, enlightented to the good intentions of the shady organziation.
Mugendai stepped through the entrance with two heavy looking cases in hand. One was a long rectangle, while the other one was a square smaller than the other container. He placed the black suitcases on a counter top along the wall.
“Hey there, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Mari Mugendai,” he greeted.
“Hello, I’m Amekawari Mizu.”
“So, after some thorough thinking, we felt these weapons would be most versatile when complementing each of your abilities,” declared Tebiki. “For Juuryoku, I have decided a pair of tanto’s would be perfect.”
“May I ask what a tanto is?” Juuryoku abruptly questioned.
“As you can see, a tanto is a traditional japanese blade,” informed Tebiki, removing the weapons from the case. “It is similar to a standard dagger, except it has a very straight, vertical shape. The edge of the twenty-centimeter long blade is flattened, specializing it as a stabbing weapon. I feel you can utilize it very well using it alongside your ability. They are light in weight, meaning with practice you could send the tantos flying to an opposite wall.”
“Sounds useful.” Juuryoku complimented.
“For Mizu I have a Naginata, which, before you ask, is a form of pole weapon with a blade on the end.” Tebiki displayed the tool. “The length of the shaft and blade itself make it a good thrusting weapon rather than one that is thrown. Note the blade can be detached.” The fine wooden polearm was of high quality, and the blade along with the sword-like handguard separating the sharp portion with the handle had been recently cleaned. Mizu accepted the weapon and gently felt her hand along it.
Campaign suddenly knocked on the transparent door. He motioned for Tebiki.
“If you’ll excuse me. Mugendai can help you begin to better handle those weapons. Keep practicing,” Tebiki made clear as he quickly stepped out of the room. Mugendai brought Juuryoku and Mizu into the safety room with their new weapons as their training continued.
“Have preparations been made, sir?”
“For the most part. Their wasn’t much to be prepared for begin with. How are those two doing?” Campaign started.
“They were both a surprise, faster learners than most. Another day for them and they should be ready. As for the other one, I’m going to check on him now,” procalimed Tebiki.
“Great, this is going surprisingly well.”
Juuryoku, tantos in hand, stepped through the standard-looking doorway to the padded training room. Mizu and Mugendai followed behind him. Mugendai carried a large piece of sheet metal along with what appeared to be a scarecrow. The pole fashioned in the center of dummy fit perfectly into a hole in the floor. The scrap metal was placed parallel to the mannequin, with supports on both sides, keeping it from tumbling over.
“Mizu, you may go first,” Mugendai began. “Stand next to that slab of sheet metal and attempt to mutate it into the water. Try to hold it for ten seconds.” Mizu branched out her arms in front of her hips at a steep angle. Her palms were aligned with her fingers. She took a breath, and momentarily afterwards the rusted alloy pane became liquefied. The now transparent, fluidic object maintained its shape as water cascaded along its mass.
“Now quickly, spear through it with your naginata, and aim for the dummy.” Mizu clenched her polearm tightly, and thrust it through the changed object. It effortlessly penetrated the former portion of sheet metal, and struck the large doll in the head. The burlap sack which represented skin over a skull tore. “Tremendous!” Mugendai exclaimed.
“Next, attempt to turn only the body of the mannequin into water, and then retrieve the pole from within it. I don’t expect you to be able to immediately get this, as it’ll be difficult,” Mugendai assigned. Mizu walked over to the target, and gained her focus. The body became water as she slipped her hand into the transformed body, and grasped the unaffected stake. The faulty flesh of the substitute returned to its original state and fell to the floor while Mizu held up the wooden beam.
“I must have been wrong. That was truly majestic. You did it so simply.”
“I have a question. Would my ability work on live flesh?” Mizu queried.
“I doubt it, but you’re free to try.” Mugendai held out his arm. Mizu cautiously attempted using her powers on Mugendai’s own person; however, the effort had no avail.
“Guess that answers it,” Mugendai assured. “Now for you, Juuryoku. Take your tanto and lightly toss it in the air. Focus the effect of your gravity manipulation on it, and attempt to pin it to the ceiling.” Juuryoku softly threw the dagger into the air. It spiraled, seemingly floating in the air, then suddenly jolted into the ceiling. It was fastened into a self-created notch. Juuryoku took the next step, and forced the tanto onto the floor in front of him by increasing the pressure of his ability upon it.
“Excellent. Next, throw it at the wall opposite of you, and then adjust the gravity to make it turn left.” Juuryoku hurled the blade at full force, causing it to spin counterclockwise. When it was about midway to the other side, Juuryoku worked his magic, and the weapon veered left. The handle hit the wall and the tanto fell to the ground. “You two have excellent control,” the trainer complimented.
“You’ve had enough for today. I’ll show you to your temporary rooms,” Mugendai offered. The three began walking down the extensive hallways. The whole facility felt very open, and nothing gave off the vibe that it was cramped into a certain select space. As they continued, Katachi was seen at the end of a hallways lead by Tebiki, both coming towards them. Katachi’s eyes lit up as he spotted Juuryoku down the hall. The two parties gained ground on each other.
“Hey, aren’t you the captain of the baseball team?” blathered Juuryoku, breaking the silence.
“Ah, Katachi-chan!” Mugendai greeted.
“Shut it punk. I don’t associate with soccer players.” Katachi retorted.
“A true sportsman plays baseball, not a game that’s as prissy as soccer.”
“Perhaps I’m not a true sportsman than, since you’re talking to me after all.”
“Again, you stuck up soccer players never listen. When you’re told to shut up, shut up.”
“What’s your name? Isn’t it Katachu, Katasu?”
“My name’s Katachi you bastard.”
“Okay, you two, let’s end this,” Tebiki butted in. “I’m assuming you know each other.”
“This punk, Juuryoku, unfortunately goes to my school. He’s on the soccer team,” Katachi began. “By the way, I stole your drink the other day.”
“Ah, that’s where it went. Must explain why you are here. I drank one too,” Juuryoku kindly responded. “By any chance, were you the one who put a lottery ticket in my bag?”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
Katachi shoved his hands into his pockets and continued onward. Juuryoku starred at him and Tebiki for a moment as they walked away, then turned around.
“Katachi certainly seems uptight. I wonder what it is that gives him such an attitude,” Mugendai inserted. “Neither of you would happen to have an idea as to why, would you? I don’t want my good new friend to be so sad all the time.”
Juuryoku and Mizu shrugged. Mugendai said nothing more as he walked them to their rooms. The two rooms were adjacent to each other, and were identical in the interior. The temporary bedrooms each consisted of a shining hardwood floor, a thin table with a clear top located in a corner in the room with matching chairs, and a twin-sized bed with a navy blue and grey-striped pattern for a bed cover. A very modernized lighting fixture hung from the center of the ceiling with adjustable lighting levels. A small bathroom was located through a doorway in the far left corner of the room. The entire dwelling place gave off a luxurious feel. Juuryoku and Mizu, exhausted from the tiresome day, promptly went to bed. One would think that the various astounding concepts that were disclosed to them would prevent any sleep, yet the fatigue from training proved dominant over that fact. They were both quickly asleep.
Morning welcomed Juuryoku with more indulgences than he could ever imagine. He woke up to find an outfit laying on a dresser similar to that which Tebiki had worn the day before. He had slept in his boxers, and the dirty clothes he had left in the bathroom were washed and neatly placed next to the other outfit. A folded note was located on the training outfit addressing him to wear it. He took a slightly longer time in the warm shower water compared to what he would normally take at home. With the difficulty his small family had just to pay for food and their house, the water and electricity bills were usually kept at a minimum, both being used sparingly throughout the day. At the extravagant dining hall, where everyone was required to show up for the morning breakfast, tamagoyaki was served with a side of steamed rice and English tea.
After all morning rituals had been performed, Juuryoku went to the training room as directed. Tebiki and Mizu were already present; Katachi was nowhere to be seen. The three all had a matching outfit on.
“Today, do not push yourself. If you begin to feel any form of strain, simply take a break,” cautioned Tebiki. Inside the expansive training room various obstacles and targets had been set up. Juuryoku and Mizu entered and began warming up. Enabling their abilities was something they were still unable to do with ease. Katachi finally entered the room, wearing the same outfit as the others. The training continued for a few hours, and within that time all three of the neophytes made huge progress in controlling their newfound powers.
“Will the three of you please come in here? We must discuss something,” requested Tebiki. Juuryoku, Mizu, and Katachi did as they were asked. Juuryoku and Katachi distanced themselves from each other.
“The incident in the hall yesterday made me realize that neither of you like each other,” Tebiki presumed.
“I can’t stand to speak to this goon,” Katachi interrupted.
“Which is why I have an idea to propose to you,” Tebiki began. “Both of you give me your weapons. You are both going to fight each other using hand-to-hand combat without powers.” Juuryoku and Katachi looked at Tebiki, baffled by his suggestion. Tebiki cleared all equipment from the adjacent room, giving them space.
“One other thing: Try not to kill each other,” warned Tebiki. Juuryoku and Katachi stood at opposite ends of the room. No powers. He must be testing us to see who is physically stronger, Juuryoku interpreted.
Tebiki signaled them to commence the fight. Juuryoku began walking forward, but Katachi ran. The two met as Katachi wound up his arm and quickly aimed for his adversary. Juuryoku managed to avoid the attack, and threw his own fist. Katachi dodged gracefully, and countered with a hook to Juuryoku’s cheek. Quickly recovering from the forceful blow, Juuryoku darted toward Katachi, throwing multiple hits, which Katachi managed to block with his arms. Katachi’s counter attack managed to make Juuryoku back away from wear he previously stood.
The rivals began to realize how evenly matched they were. Juuryoku wished to take an advantage over the charging Katachi. As his opponent gained on him, Juuryoku expertly demonstrated his leg strength with a roundhouse kick to Katachi’s side. Katachi was on his knees, as the impact knocked him to the ground and back almost two meters. Yet again, Katachi lunged forward. He landed a jab on Juuryoku, followed by a precise uppercut. Juuryoku staggered to his feet, wiping blood from his nose.
“I’ve seen enough,” Tebiki interrupted. “You may stop.”
“I’m not finished pummeling him yet,” Katachi whined.
“That’s too bad. We’re sending you on your first assignment tomorrow,” Tebiki announced “I don’t want the two of you injured for this.”
“Assignment? To do what?” questioned Juuryoku.
“We shall debrief you on that tomorrow morning. For now, I think you’ve had enough. The evening meal will take place in about two hours; the rest of the night is yours. Would either of you like some ice?” Katachi snagged an icepack from Tebiki’s hands, and left. Juuryoku accepted one as well, thanked Tebiki, and left with Mizu following shortly after. He held the ice pack to his face as he sauntered to his room. Mizu was about to offer her assistance to him, but held back, being the shy person she was. Juuryoku did not attend the dinner at the dining hall. his appetite had seemingly vanished.
Morning arrived the next day. Juuryoku was well-rested, and began the lavish morning routine he had went through the previous day. He decided to have breakfast, seeing as he was apparently setting out on some form of mission today. He was thereafter sentenced to Campaign’s office. He exited the elevator into the same hallway he had been brought to the first day. It seemed as though a whole week had passed since he had stepped foot in this suspicious underground fortress. Entering the dimly lit room, Juuryoku saw Katachi and Mizu seated on chairs facing Campaign’s desk. Tebiki was also present.
“Ah. Welcome, Juuryoku,” acknowledged Campaign.
“So what exactly is this assignment you’re sending us on?” Juuryoku inquired.
“Yes. Like I explained, the three of you have been severed from humanity, and you wish to return to humanity, if you will.”
“Of course,” the three answered nearly in unison.
“Well, we have discovered a supply of these links, which, as the name implies, reconnects your broken connection. They’ve most likely been buried by Praestancians as temporary storage. They must have not known about how advanced our radio technology can be in locating specific objects.”
“Great. Where is this stock of links?” Juuryoku queried.
“Tebiki will explain that to you as he escorts you.”
“Why is it that no one can give us a simple, direct answer here?” Katachi rudely retorted.
“Anyways, preparations have been made in terms of supplies. I should mention you will be walking to your destination. There are no direct roads even relatively close to the location we are sending you.”
Juuryoku was close to leaving before he decided to let out a question which had been wandering in his mind.
“Is there a name for this organization?”
“Yes, but it’s not used often,” Campaign stated. “We’re Salvatore.” He stressed the accent on the final letter of the word.
“Salvatore…” Juuryoku repeated.
“And if it helps, there is also a name for humans with supernatural abilites such as yourselves. They’re called Regendi. A single one is a Regendus.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
They relax at a quaint park in an anonymous location. The sunlight feels warm countering the chilly breeze. Children are heard laughing, friends talking, birds chirping. Two men sit on a bench reading newspapers. One man had very elegant, well-kept bleach blonde hair which surpassed his shoulders in length. He wore a grey suit with a red tie. The other had a very light brown hair color, about the same length as the other man’s except kept at the sides, giving off a perfect view of the entirety of his forehead. He wore a brown plaid suit jacket with a green shirt underneath, along with a black tie.
“We have something for you,” the man in grey nonchalantly began.
“What exactly could it be this time?” the man in brown questioned.
“I’m sure you know already. There’s a stash of links we have at a certain location, which its coordinates I’ll send to your phone,” the blonde haired man assigned. “Since you’ve been severed, you’re being sent there to assist in defense.”
The man with the plaid brown suit folded his newspaper and stood.
“Remember, Paris. You are already ranked twenty-fifth. One more failure and you could kiss your ranking good bye. Someone will easily take the position.” the man wearing grey inserted.
“Yes, you’ve told me,” Paris replied with his back to the blonde-haired person. The man in grey smirked.