Chapter 11:

11

Extracurriculars 怪獣教師


"You're a little close," Nishioka exclaimed after I declared my assistance in her endeavors.Bookmark here

"I'm letting you know that I am serious." I replied.Bookmark here

"You don't need to be within kissing distance to let me know that you're serious. Right now, you're making it seem like you're serious about me." She claimed, which was confusion I could not have under any circumstances. If Ms. Kamiya were to hear such a thing, I'd be dead, then Nishioka would be dead, and the rest of the world might follow suit. I also had no intentions of betraying her, so I quickly backed away and cleared up this misunderstanding which may or may not have been posed just to mess with me.Bookmark here

"Not in a million years", I exclaimed, which came out much harsher than it sounded in my head. I intended to say something like "That's not the case", but somehow between the time that my brain decided I wanted to speak and my mouth spoke, a measurement of time got added as a device to convey emphasis. What I wanted to say wasn't nearly as rude as what was actually said. I was a little taken aback because Nishioka expressed a look of shock and frustration.Bookmark here

"Now that's rude. Come on, not in a million years? Do I have zero appeal to you? Do I lack feminine charm that much? What makes you overlook me?"Bookmark here

I'm not sure if she's asking those questions to the right demographic, but I didn't want to leave her hanging, so I answered (mostly) honestly.Bookmark here

"I didn't any of that. It's true that you're good-looking, have a nice figure, and you know what you want, which to me is a very desirable personality trait, but, uh..."Bookmark here

"What?"Bookmark here

"How do I put this..."Bookmark here

How DO I put this? I thought for a split second, then decided there wasn't any nicer way to say it, so I just told her flat out.Bookmark here

"You're kinda a bitch."Bookmark here

"I have no idea what you could mean," she retorted, "I am the least bitchy person I know."Bookmark here

"How many people do you really know on a personal level? As in you have met them and you keep in contact."Bookmark here

"Two, that I hear from fairly often."Bookmark here

"You might be the least bitchy person you know, but that would put you in third place. Still a pretty high bitch ranking, no?"Bookmark here

"I can't believe a high school kid is telling me I'm not appealing because I'm a bitch."Bookmark here

"I can't believe you asked a high school kid to tell you why you're not appealing."Bookmark here

"...Don't tell anyone about this."Bookmark here

"I won't tell if you won't."Bookmark here

I figured she'd be in more trouble for breaking into my house than asking me why I'm not into her at all, but I suppose both are suspect.Bookmark here

"Uh, I guess you're not always a bitch, but it wouldn't hurt if you were to be a little less persistent and also not find so much enjoyment in the inconveniences others face."Bookmark here

"Easier said than done. The pain someone feels when they accidentally breathe on their house of cards and it falls apart is like my cup of coffee in the morning."Bookmark here

"You've got serious issues."Bookmark here

"Don't we all?"Bookmark here

"This is beyond anything I've ever heard of."Bookmark here

"Is it that bad?"Bookmark here

"Any person capable of rational thinking would tell you yes. The fact that you couldn't come to that conclusion yourself isn't a good sign."Bookmark here

"Am I beyond the help that I need?" She asked, and for the first time, appeared to have lowered her guard.Bookmark here

"No. I can help you." I said as I leaned in closer...Bookmark here

"Ow! What the hell?"Bookmark here

I flicked Nishioka on the forehead. "Did that hurt?" I asked.Bookmark here

"No shit it hurt! What was that for?"Bookmark here

"Your punishment."Bookmark here

"Huh?"Bookmark here

"Every time you do something sadistic or make other's lives harder for your enjoyment, I'll come and flick your forehead. If for whatever reason I'm not able to, I'll give it to you later. How many depends on how much you display your tendency."Bookmark here

"Forehead flicks? That's it?"Bookmark here

"They hurt, don't they? I'm also sure you don't particularly like being flicked on the forehead. You're not a monster of a person, so I have faith that it won't take any more than that."Bookmark here

Nishioka isn't a sadist to the core. She doesn't torture or kill people, and I'm certain she wouldn't ever do anything like that for her enjoyment. If she were to stop creating inconveniences like the Devil's Staircase, that would be enough. And I trust she has the capacity to do that.Bookmark here

"I'm glad that you believe in me, but you should really consider women's feelings more." She said.Bookmark here

"What do you mean?"Bookmark here

"When you get in close to a woman like that, the last thing they're expecting is a flick to the forehead."Bookmark here

"Hm? Were you hoping for something else to happen?"Bookmark here

"Uh, n-not at all."Bookmark here

"Listen. If you want to have feelings for me, I don't really care, but you barely know me. Do yourself a favor and wait until you know me more before trying to convince yourself they're real or displaying those feelings."Bookmark here

"S-some attitude you've got, talking to an adult like that. You're definitely confident too. I don't hate that."Bookmark here

"I imagine these problems of yours will eventually force me into fights. Is this the part where you have me undergo intense training?"Bookmark here

"Unfortunately I'm not qualified to train or teach you in the things you'll need, which is a really inconvenient oversight on my part now that I think about it. Anyway, you'll have to find that training on your own if you want it, sorry. I can only tell you what I know, and that's not much, since the government keeps information on Casters locked down tighter than a nun's va- uhh, grip on her bible."Bookmark here

"Go on. What do you know?"Bookmark here

"You know what casters are, so I won't bother explaining that. The things casters are able to utilize and even weaponize are called Casts. There are too many casts to keep a record of, so there are many which are still unknown. Casts can do all sorts of different things and can vary in size, power, energy required, and the like. Casts have different affinities, and those affinities can correlate to elements like Air, Fire, and Water, but affinities can also correlate to other things, systems, or concepts, like magnets, electronic communication, or construction equipment. There are some really niche affinities out there, and I bet there's still plenty that are undocumented, much like Casts."Bookmark here

"Is that all you know?" I curiously asked. I won't lie, all of this sounded pretty cool. I wanted to get in on this myself.Bookmark here

"Oh, and apparently, every Caster has their own unique Cast called an Ace that only they can use, but they won't realize they have it until they've nearly gotten as strong as they can get. Casters can't begin practicing the use of their Ace until then. That's how the legend goes, anyway. No one knows if Aces really exist, or if any Caster was ever able to use theirs. The brief about Ace Casts was found on a document with no name, date, or information other than what I just told you. There's also no record of any Aces on the index of Casts that was leaked to the public about a year back, so Aces are just a rumor, really, and probably don't exist."Bookmark here

"That's awfully specific for a random document with no credibility to its name whatsoever. I don't want to dive too far into a conspiracy this early on, because I don't want to figure it all out before anything's actually happened, and also because I don't have any evidence to support this theory, but hear me out. It's possible that the Cast index leak you mentioned, the leaked rumor of Aces, and the broadcast incident from the other day were all planned. Either Hwen's government or some other nation wanted to sow confusion, fear, discourse, and hatred upon the people of Hwen, and decided to slowly release info about Casters to get a small portion of the population speculating, which led up to today's event."Bookmark here

"But why would Hwen want to risk a civil war-"Bookmark here

"It's not that bad yet." I interrupted.Bookmark here

"It will get that bad if nothing is done, Inotani. Also, why would another nation want to start a civil war within Hwen? Things are peaceful and smooth right now."Bookmark here

Now that's quite the exaggeration she just made, and you'll find out why eventually, but for now-Bookmark here

"Exactly. I can't place my finger on a single motive for why anyone might do such a thing, but I won't deny the possibility that I'm right, or I'm at least close if not right on the money. As of now, it's just a far-fetched conspiracy, but it's not like elaborate schemes to stage a coup haven't been done before."Bookmark here

"A coup?" Nishioka asked.Bookmark here

"Either a group internally or externally leaks information about the Casters, which then leads to the media labeling Casters as "Violent, dangerous monsters who put all the normal people at risk" or the like. Casters begin slowly revealing themselves to ally with other Casters and take up arms against normal people, and normal people do the same. It might just start as discrimination, but could eventually grow into one of the biggest socio-economic issues ever faced, or, as you said, possibly civil war.Bookmark here

What happens after whoever orchestrated it achieves their goal? They pin the chaos on the Hwen government or higher-ups in it. The masterminds do all kinds of things to make Hwen politicians look bad, and make themselves look good by "Uniting" the Casters and normal people to fight as one against the "real" bad guys- their government. If they can convince the people to fight for them, they can carry out the coup by clearing out the government and reestablishing it as their own, and the nation goes to shit from there."Bookmark here

"Elaborate indeed," says Nishioka, "But accusations hold no weight in this case. You still don't know why anyone would see the need for a coup in the first place, nor do you have evidence of a plot like that."Bookmark here

"You're right, but I do have a lead- maybe."Bookmark here

"Really?" Nishioka exclaimed, hopeful but still in a skeptical tone.Bookmark here

"The girl in the video. She could be working with the masterminds behind this and was in on it, or she could be not involved at all and the incident was just a lucky coincidence for the bad guys that lets them move forward with their plan earlier than expected. Either way, she's being used."Bookmark here

"Hmm, if the rest of their plan unfolds after that broadcast incident, she becomes a target of hatred." Nishioka added.Bookmark here

"Exactly. She might not be the ultimate scapegoat in the plan, but she'll no doubt be the recipient of hatred from normal people and Casters alike. Casters would hate her for exposing their existence to the public, and normal people for, well, existing. The bad guys wouldn't want Casters and normal people to be too distracted from hating each other, which is why she would only be a temporary scapegoat- but a scapegoat nonetheless."Bookmark here

"What's your plan, Inotani?"Bookmark here

"You said she attends the academy, right? Show me the video. I'll talk to her and see what I can get out of her, if anything." I proposed confidently.Bookmark here

"Good luck. It's hard to make out who's in the video- you'll see what I mean. Also, as I said, the school is now a warzone for opposing factions. I'm not gonna stop you if you think you can get something out of all this, but there's a fair warning for you."Bookmark here

With that, Nishioka lifted her phone out of her pocket and showed me the news clip.Bookmark here

She was right. The girl's face was barely visible in the video. It was pure luck that the back of her hair was so recognizable. With that, I knew who I was dealing with.Bookmark here

It was not going to be pleasant.Bookmark here

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