Chapter 13:

13

Extracurriculars 怪獣教師


Ahem. Testing, testing, one, two. Is this thing on? Ah, good. It seems like it is. Time to see if "the issue" has been fixed yet. Children, please shield your eyes. It's possible that the next paragraph won't be suitable for a younger demographic. And remember- don't swear, kids. Or do. It's your parents' problem, not mine.Bookmark here

Here goes.Bookmark here

Holy mother of [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED]Bookmark here

I'm bringing this issue to the editorial department. Oh, wait! There is no editorial department. Only a certain SOMEONE could resolve this predicament. If only SOMEONE could help me out here.Bookmark here

Alright, you've had your chance, person-who-shall-not-be-named-but-knows-who-they-are. If you haven't fixed this by now, it's your [CENSORED].Bookmark here

That's not even a swear. Why is that censored? Okay, you get one last chance. If I'm still censored, I'm going to come over there and shove my foot so far up your ass that-Bookmark here

It seems the issue has been taken care of. Thank you.Bookmark here

Oh, right. It has come to my attention that there is going to be a fight sequence. Let me pick my story back up right around that point.Bookmark here

So Tenjouin, Nishioka, and I entered the front doors of the school with no issue. Surprisingly, we also faced no issue when Nishioka and I had walked through the main courtyard to get to the front doors. I expected at least someone to be hiding in the area or keeping watch from a distance at the bare minimum since that area was full of foliage and outdoor decoration to be used as cover. I suppose they're serious enough to take over the academy, but not serious enough to guard their front lawn.Bookmark here

We entered the academy, and the ground floor was a mess, and that's an understatement. Shattered glass from the multitude of broken windows covered much of the still traversable floor, large puddles of water laid stagnant on the stairs making them much harder to climb, and the tapestry bearing the school's logo was torn down, with a makeshift banner crafted from a pull-down projector screen displaying an unsettlingly familiar insignia hung in its place.Bookmark here

Unknowingly, I stared at the banner for a little too long, which prompted Nishioka to ask "Are you alright? You look like you're spacing out."Bookmark here

"I'm fine, it's just that some things are resurfacing in my mind, looking at this."Bookmark here

It was an odd experience because the insignia on the banner was something I recognized, but didn't remember ever seeing. Furthermore, a selection of memories came back to me that I didn't remember making. Actually, it wasn't that I didn't remember making them. I couldn't remember making them because I never did.Bookmark here

Most of those memories were almost entirely unrecognizable, but my best guess was that they're memories of possibilities that never happened or memories of what could have been. The other few memories were moments I remembered, some vividly, some not- but they didn't seem right. They were, I suppose, incorrect. They were wrong not in the fact that they happened because they absolutely did, but something about each memory was just not right. I had been there when these memories were created. I believe what I can see with my eyes, so I believe what I saw was the truth. I remember each one of these events happening a certain way, and these memories deviated from what my eyes had seen. They were not the truth, according to me.Bookmark here

I wondered if it was I who was mistaken. I didn't like to admit that I could have been misremembering, but it was possible. Perhaps I saw something that wasn't there-Bookmark here

That's not it. It wasn't my eyes that saw incorrectly. The eyes only see the truth.Bookmark here

But the mind sees whatever it wants to.Bookmark here

If the error was on my part, then it's because my eyes saw one thing and my mind saw another.Bookmark here

If I'm mistaken, then the memories resurfacing were the truth. If I'm not, they're lies.Bookmark here

No, I wouldn't go that far. They're not lies. They were merely memories of things I had experienced, with deviation from reality here and there. At the core, they're still somewhat true. They're only lies if you tell yourself they're entirely true when you know what you actually saw.Bookmark here

Regardless of who erred, both my reality and a reality different from mine were presented.Bookmark here

It all comes down to a matter of the truth, but I couldn't come to a conclusion. The rush of memories new and old was already enough for my brain to process.Bookmark here

I didn't need to know which of what memory was true or false.Bookmark here

Even if I knew what was true and false between what I saw and what these memories tell me, I couldn't say one was wrong.Bookmark here

"They're both right." I murmured aloud, half sounding like I was drunk but still audible.Bookmark here

"Are you sure you're ok? You spaced out again." Nishioka asked politely but in doubt of my condition.Bookmark here

"I'm fine," I responded.Bookmark here

"Sorry for holding us up. Let's get goin-"Bookmark here

I was interrupted mid-sentence by the most agonizing pain I had ever felt. I fell to my knees and placed my hands on my head, which seemed to be the epicenter. It felt like my body was melting as my fingernails ran along the sides of my face, leaving somewhat deep scrapes trailed with blood along my cheeks. I loudly and coarsely screamed in anguish. I won't quote that. You can imagine what that sounds like.Bookmark here

Despite my seemingly decaying body, most of the pain was in my head. The toll on my body was intense, but it felt like the agony was being etched into my mind and soul, like a sigil being violently carved into my innermost being, leaving behind a mark of the unholy.Bookmark here

At this time, I had died, according to Nishioka and Tenjouin. They told me I had sprawled over on the floor, and my mouth spewed blood like a fountain. I had no pulse when they checked. I have no other witness accounts to verify their claim, but my mouth had a strong taste of iron and my clothes were washed red once I recovered, so I'm trusting them on this.Bookmark here

That's what they saw, but my perspective was much different. As far as I knew, I was still on my knees screaming at the top of my lungs. I continued to do so when a young man's voice spoke "Why scream? There's no one to hear you."Bookmark here

Trying to suppress the increasingly unbearable pain, I halted my screaming and looked around. Nishioka and Tenjouin were nowhere in sight, but if that were the only thing that was off, I wouldn't have been so staggered. It was as if Tenjouin and Nishioka were never here to begin with. But they were. I saw them. My eyes saw the truth. Did I?Bookmark here

There was no one around who the young man's voice could belong to. I remained where I was, on my knees, and said "It helps with the pain."Bookmark here

"I've heard that swearing helps reduce pain. It's just a placebo, but it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot if it might work." the voice responded, passively-aggressively telling me to stop my annoying screaming in a friendly manner.Bookmark here

The last time I swore was a disaster, so I think I'm going to wait a while before attempting something like that again.Bookmark here

"Thanks, but I'll pass. I don't think that would end well for me." I said, deflecting his suggestion.Bookmark here

"Well, you need to do something to help yourself get through the pain, or else you'll die. That's just part of learning the truth about the truth."Bookmark here

The truth... about the truth.Bookmark here

The separation between true and false may be made, but the separation between right and wrong may not.Bookmark here

"And who are you to tell me that I'm going to die?" I asked, getting a little too arrogant.Bookmark here

"Oh, I never said you were going to die. What I said was that you will die if you don't bear the pain. You have a choice. It's not set in stone."Bookmark here

I wondered how many snakes this guy had to kill for a tongue like that.Bookmark here

Cutting to the chase, I posed another question.Bookmark here

"Who are you?"Bookmark here

From thin air, a lone figure appeared in the corner of my vision. There approached a tall man with seemingly youthful skin. I couldn't guess his age based on his face, as he concealed it with an opera mask, but his smooth skin seemed to be that of a young man between 19 and 24, no more and no less. On his head was the tall hat of a stage magician, the brim adorned with intricate silver metal roses. His matching deep blue suede tuxedo had a black shirt underneath rather than white, and in the suit pocket rested a series of small, detailed knives instead of a pocket square. The pants, shoes, and gloves were rather plain, but they too were as lavish as everything else he was wearing.Bookmark here

"Well..." The man retorted as he walked toward me.Bookmark here

"Who do you want me to be?" Asked a voice not of the man. The voice was not of one person, but of many all at the same time.Bookmark here

The "man", now in front of me, cloaked himself in a cloud of mist. When the mist dissipated mere moments later, "he" now had the appearance of a young woman.Bookmark here

The man too was not one, but many.Bookmark here

As the entity walked closer to me, it continued to shift appearances, from a university-age girl to an older shrine maiden, to a muscular young man, to a female teacher, and several others.Bookmark here

"What's your true form?" I asked, which was foolish of me.Bookmark here

"I don't need to answer. You already know."Bookmark here

A moment of thought made me realize, and right then, everything clicked.Bookmark here

The wavering presence of separation between truth and falsehood. The nonexistent presence of separation between right and wrong.Bookmark here

And the one to keep the balance.Bookmark here

"You don't have a true form."Bookmark here

"...You pass," said the entity, now bearing the visage of a tall, pretty older woman. "Truth and falsehood are now under your will and your resolve. I can only imagine the things you'll do with them."Bookmark here

"Who are you?" I asked again, certain that she found her answer.Bookmark here

She moved even closer, and she switched to a familiar voice that I'd heard countless times but never out loud. "I do have a proper name, but that matters not," she said as she paused.Bookmark here

"I am the one you call Akua."Bookmark here

I stared in surprise, on my knees, silent, with my mouth agape in shock. She added one of her signature witty retorts.Bookmark here

"Told you."Bookmark here

There wasn't any need for me to snarkily retort with something like "get real". Going by appearance and observation alone, she had done just that.Bookmark here

Instead, I asked, "What's going on?"Bookmark here

"A fight," she said. "And you're the main contender. Get out there, make me proud, and kick some ass."Bookmark here

"What am I supposed to do?" I asked. I was as clueless as I was cautious.Bookmark here

"Don't worry about it. It'll feel like second nature to you. You won't even have to think about it. Probably." She answered, as she leaned in and kissed my forehead. When her lips touched me, the pain faded away, but the blood, bruises, and wounds remained. I blinked, and just like that, Tenjouin and Nishioka were back in the positions they had disappeared from. It also appeared that while they had returned, Akua had vanished herself.Bookmark here

『You still there?』I thought to myself, beckoning Akua.Bookmark here

No reply.Bookmark here

『Akua?』Bookmark here

Silence.Bookmark here

『If you're in there, say something.』Bookmark here

Nothing.Bookmark here

I wasn't worried. I figured it meant she finally accomplished her goal of becoming real, and she's around somewhere. Or maybe she left because she didn't want to be at the school if something were to happen, which was understandable.Bookmark here

"Takuya! You're alive!" exclaimed Nishioka in relief.Bookmark here

"Why wouldn't I be?"Bookmark here

They explained that I had been on the ground "dead", and I hadn't a pulse for some time.Bookmark here

"I'm not dead, and I'm okay now. I'm actually feeling a little more energetic than usual."Bookmark here

"That's good, because I hate to ask this of you so soon after your miraculous recovery, but can you help us deal with that?" Tenjouin said as she pointed to a mob of students gathering on the other side of the hallway.Bookmark here

There were easily some one hundred students standing across from us. "Are they all casters?" I asked Nishioka.Bookmark here

"Who knows? Some might be, some might not be. It doesn't really matter. They just need to be out of the way but not dead."Bookmark here

"Okay. Tenjouin, take the left. Nishioka, take the right. I'll take the center. There's not much space but we're going to make it work."Bookmark here

When they asked what my plan was, I let them know that I didn't have one. They weren't pleased with the lack of preparation, but they let it slide due to the short notice nature of this whole situation. They did appreciate that my lack of a plan let them do whatever they wanted, though. Not that I could have tried to give them super specific orders. Nishioka reached into her pocket with her left hand and pulled out an extendable teacher's pointer that was fashioned more like a baton. With her right hand, she produced a textbook seemingly from thin air. I caught a glimpse of the book's contents, which were written in a script entirely undecipherable to me. Nishioka seemed to understand it, as she ran her eyes over a page, then recited a phrase I could understand. "A fool can tell who is wise, but the wise cannot tell who is a fool, lest he gazes into his reflection." Some form of energy gathered on the end of her baton, and a large mirror fell in front of a group of the students. The mirror displayed the reflection of the students, as a large blinding ray of light came from the mirror and instantly caused a group of students to fall down unconscious.Bookmark here

Tenjouin grabbed a revolver and loaded one bullet into the top slot of the cylinder. I instantly felt dread, as I didn't want anyone to be killed. As usual, things weren't as I thought they were. Tenjouin aimed at the back left corner of the hall behind the group of students and fired. The bullet never hit the wall because the target was actually every student on the left side of the hallway. Just as the bullet was millimeters away from the wall, it turned around and traveled through a path between the students. One by one in a spectacular pattern, the students fell to the ground, joined in sleep by their friends on the right. They weren't dead, nor did they sustain real damage. The bullet Tenjouin fired was made of a tough rubber, which was enough to put someone to sleep if shot in the back of the neck.Bookmark here

Tenjouin and Nishioka turned to look at me. "You're up." said Nishioka casually. She sounded like she was really enjoying herself, and I wouldn't blame her if she was. Recent affairs certainly were stressful, and this certainly was a way to relieve some of that stress, even if it was quite an inappropriate outlet for doing so.Bookmark here

It was my turn, and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I didn't know what I wanted to do, or even what I could do. The power benchmark Cast that beginners learn came to mind, but I accidentally went overboard the last time I used it, so I opted out of using it. Having no time to think, I focused my breathing and thoughts and prepared to do the first thing that felt natural.Bookmark here

『Close your eyes.』Akua's voice suddenly ordered. As she spoke to me in my mind, the space around me seemed to become slower, and slower, until it reached a total halt.Bookmark here

『You didn't stop time, did you?』 I asked.Bookmark here

『I did not. You're in focus. You're just not aware of it.』Bookmark here

『I have no idea what you're talking about.』Bookmark here

『Take another look ahead of you, but keep your eyes closed. What do you see?』Bookmark here

I did what she said even though it made zero sense, and turned to the group of students, and I saw.Bookmark here

『Me. I see myself, over and over, doing so many different things... What is this?』Bookmark here

『They're memories of possibilities. While it's much better for you to navigate these situations on your own, you can enter focus and view these memories if you need inspiration on how to proceed. It's fine to use it this time because it's your first time with all this, but going forward, try not to rely on it. A collision with reality could be a lot of trouble, you know?』Bookmark here

『Can I mimic any of these?』Bookmark here

『Yes.』Bookmark here

『If these are memories, can I see the outcome of each one before I choose?』Bookmark here

『You can't. Precognition would be way too much stress on your soul.』Bookmark here

『I don't follow, but it's fine. Here goes nothing.』Bookmark here

I opened my eyes and did what was shown in the memory of my choice. Then I hoped for the best. Of course, when you use a Cast, how could it be complete if you don't say its name beforehand?Bookmark here

"Steel Graze."Bookmark here

The left wall, right wall, back wall, floor, and ceiling surrounding the remaining students began to violently shake. Swords emerged from each of the surfaces, pointing at the students from each direction. No student had been impaled, however, each student had been cut open in a manner that was non-lethal, but would still retire them for a good while.Bookmark here

[Cast #01: (Steel Graze) Added to Index.]Bookmark here

Nishioka, Tenjouin, and I began to calm ourselves before we would move forward, but we were forced into a shortage of time.Bookmark here

"You got any more tricks like that up your sleeve?" said another familiar voice from behind me. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the voice belonged to someone from my past. I turned around to face her. To move forward, I'd have to stop running from my past.Bookmark here

I spoke directly to her and no one else.Bookmark here

"Long time no see."Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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