Chapter 14:

14

Extracurriculars 怪獣教師


Amakusa Byakudan is not the type that cuts to the chase. Everything she does to accomplish a goal, and everything she says to explain something or to prove a point, is as roundabout as she can manage. By now she's become an expert at this since according to her she's been doing it her entire life. She'll stretch out whatever's at hand into a painstakingly long, mind-boggling, convoluted train of thought that takes multiple stops when it only needs to take one. Unnecessary elaboration is her game, and she's as good as one can get. She never cuts to the chase, and she is so devoted to never cutting to the chase that she doesn't own a single pair of scissors. Choosing to not give yourself access to such a versatile and reliable utility all for the sake of representing your beliefs through a "statement" such as that is actually somewhat admirable. The level of dedication to her personal philosophies, that is. Restricting yourself from scissors is just ridiculous. I admire the idea at the core of her "statement". Someone who will go to those unnecessary lengths for their beliefs sounds respectable enough, but someone who intentionally beats around the bush all the time is not so much. This hindsight heavily contradicts my past.Bookmark here

I have a confession to make. There is no booth, you'll just have to imagine it. There is no priest, just you and me. But just listen to me. Kamiya Yuriko is my love, but she's not my first.Bookmark here

She wasn't the first. I held feelings for someone before Ms. Kamiya, and that someone was none other than Amakusa Byakudan. Now, based on everything that's happened thus far, I'm sure you've correctly guessed that my first love didn't work out so well. I suppose if I ask "Was a relationship formed between myself and Amakusa?", then it didn't work out, but if I ask "Did I avoid dating such a vague and roundabout person?", then it worked out more than perfectly.Bookmark here

So maybe it did work out, depending on how you look at it. But, to summarize the past, I didn't get rejected. I didn't reject her. Tension between us built, and eventually, we drifted apart because of-Bookmark here

"It has been a while, hasn't it?" Said Amakusa, standing opposite of me.Bookmark here

"What brings you back here? You told me you were going to spend the rest of your days overseas, as far away from Hwen as you could possibly be." I asked, which brought back memories I knew I absolutely experienced before.Bookmark here

"I thought I'd pay a visit to a certain someone, check in on how he's doing. Considering the major ass-whooping you and your lady friends just handed out, I'd say you're doing much better without me," Amakusa joked, but she was still serious. Her tone became dejected, which was how she spoke to me for the last time before she disappeared. "Who knew you were a Caster? I would've never guessed." She asked.Bookmark here

"Who knew that you were a Caster? Though I can't say I didn't have suspicions. But that video set my intuition about you in stone."Bookmark here

She posed a confused look and said "What video?"Bookmark here

"The one where you demolish a road sign with a Cast, broadcasting the existence of casters to everyone in Hwen and beyond. It's surpassed every record, becoming the most consumed piece of media ever. There's no way you haven't seen it, especially since you're the star."Bookmark here

I pulled out my phone and showed her the video as if I actually believed that she hadn't seen it until then. "I don't care about our past. We're getting the truth from you about the video, and I'll fight you until you give it to me if comes down to that."Bookmark here

My threat was met with a chilling, abrupt, concise excuse that seemed to exude genuine dread and confusion.Bookmark here

"...That's not me." Amakusa said, blankly, and ghoulishly.Bookmark here

The way she said that was so unexpectedly mortifying and sorrowful that I almost wanted to take her word on it for the time being. Her words sent chills into my body. Still, I questioned her.Bookmark here

"The girl in the video looks exactly like you. I know you well enough to see that person is a one-to-one scale version of you, and that only means one thing."Bookmark here

"Not necessarily." Nishioka stated, but before I could ask her to elaborate, Amakusa spoke on her own behalf.Bookmark here

"Listen, Takuya- I know that video is irrefutable proof that I am the girl there, but I'm telling you, that isn't me. I've never been there before. I don't even know where that is."Bookmark here

She wasn't defending herself. She gave her alibi and hoped I would believe her, knowing full well there's almost no way I would. Moreover, her voice, expression, and body language told me she was confused and afraid, and she was visibly shaking. Something about Amakusa, and the video, continued to spread chills throughout my body.Bookmark here

And the strangest and most unsettling thing about all this: Amakusa gave her excuse and left it at that. No elaboration, no explaining. No roundabout way of defending herself, or confusing mental gymnastics trying to prove it could never have been her. That was her thing for her entire life, and for her to suddenly drop it proves that something is incredibly off.Bookmark here

"Explain how it couldn't be you in the video."Bookmark here

"I'm sorry. I can't. Nothing I could say, true or untrue, could convince you that that's not me."Bookmark here

Nothing about Amakusa could be more unsettlingly off than this. That was proof enough.Bookmark here

"Well, you're wrong there. I believe you. It seems impossible that this is not you, but I'll buy it. I don't think you're lying to me about this."Bookmark here

"Thank you, Takuya."Bookmark here

"Woah, 'Takuya'? On a first-name basis, are we? What exactly is your relation to this girl?" Nishioka asked.Bookmark here

"I'd like to know as well." Tenjouin added.Bookmark here

"Why do you two care anyway?"Bookmark here

"I am obligated to be aware of any woman you have such intimacy with." Said Tenjouin.Bookmark here

"You're really not, but ok. And why do you care, Nishioka?"Bookmark here

"I'm, uhh- just curious. Yup."Bookmark here

"If you guys care that much, I could just call you by your first names. I don't know if you'd want that though, Nishioka. I figured I'm already crossing the line by not addressing you as Chairwoman Nishioka.Bookmark here

"Oh, no, I'm fine with first names." Nishioka said, and an "As am I." was given from Tenjouin.Bookmark here

"First names it is then."Bookmark here

"...Don't." Spoke Amakusa in a faint, whispery voice, but I didn't say anything. I knew little about how she felt when she left, and I knew nothing about how she felt during the time she was gone.Bookmark here

"Ahem. If it's not you in the video, then the video was faked in some way. Regardless, It would be a big help if you could think of anyone you know who might have a motive to do something like this... but I'm just glad this isn't the thing we have to fight over."Bookmark here

"Fighting?"Bookmark here

"Well yeah, I figured you prepared to fight me before you came down to this hallway. That's why we came here anyway. Clearing out the delinquent casters that turned this school into a guerrilla base and reestablish order."Bookmark here

"Oh, that, I'm not going to stop you. I'm not really with them. This is just the first place I decided to visit after returning and taking some time to readjust to the area. I suppose shit had already hit the fan when I got here. I pretended to support their 'cause' so they wouldn't attack me. I've been holed up in here for a while having to act like a wannabe revolutionist, so I'm actually glad you came."Bookmark here

"I'm glad you're not going to fight us, but why would you decide to visit the school first?"Bookmark here

"It's as if you've forgotten that I attended this school too." She spoke as her voice became fainter. "Plus, I figured this is where you would be, so..."Bookmark here

"What was that second part? I didn't exactly hear well, sorry."Bookmark here

"Nothing... Anyway, I suppose the jig's up since you now know I'm a caster. I won't be able to help you though. Not that you'd need it. My instinct tells me there's an infinite number of tricks up your sleeve."Bookmark here

"That's fine if you can't help, I didn't come in here planning to ask you for backup in the first place. But why wouldn't you be able to if I wanted you to?"Bookmark here

"The process of getting here was quite taxing on me."Bookmark here

"What happened? Did you have to fight to earn your place here?"Bookmark here

"No, I didn't have to fight anyone."Bookmark here

"Did you somehow end up taking a long walk here?"Bookmark here

"No, I took the train here."Bookmark here

"Did unexpected chores arise on the way?"Bookmark here

"No, it was a straightforward trip from overseas to Hwen and up until now."Bookmark here

"I'm not following or understanding. Could you cut to the chase?"Bookmark here

"Never."Bookmark here

And all was right with the world again.Bookmark here

"Ok, let me think about it so I can guess... got it."Bookmark here

"What'd you come up with?"Bookmark here

"Jet lag."Bookmark here

"Well done, Takuya."Bookmark here

"It's been a while, but it really wasn't that long. I hope your expectations of me didn't drop since then."Bookmark here

"Of course not."Bookmark here

"I'm glad." I said to Amakusa, then I turned to the other two.Bookmark here

"Manami, Atsuko."Bookmark here

Amakusa's face changed to an expression of frustration. She curled her fingers in front of her mouth and bit her nail.Bookmark here

"Are you two okay with believing her story for now? I understand if you're still suspicious, but I think we'd get the best results if we trust her and have her cooperation. You can think what you want, but I know her enough to believe her about this."Bookmark here

Amakusa's face relaxed, and she looked happy that I was backing her up. Both Manami and Atsuko were okay with believing her for the time being, but Atsuko had reservations about it. Regardless, she gave Amakusa the benefit of the doubt, and I let her know I was thankful.Bookmark here

"We've got a lot of ground to cover until we hit the top floor, so we should get moving. Amakusa, you should leave, or stay, or go wherever you feel you would be safest. I don't know the full extent of your strength as a Caster, so I can't advise anything." Manami said to Amakusa, directing her as best as she could while being as non-assertive as possible. Amakusa was never one to take orders from others anyway. Not even the most competent, charismatic, and strategic leader could get her to bend her knee for anything she doesn't want to.Bookmark here

While it was true that there was much ground to cover and there wasn't much I could do about it, I didn't feel like putting myself, Manami, or Atsuko through the torture of climbing the Devil's Staircase. Even if we had free reign to use whatever Caster skills we wanted, the stairs were still far too daunting. Any speed boost wouldn't make much of a difference climbing these stairs. You might shave a few seconds off your climb at best. So that wasn't happening. I came up with a better idea instead.Bookmark here

I raised my hand above my head, and pushed my arm upward, palm facing the ceiling above me. Just like the first time I used the power benchmarking Cast, an entrancing Green flare flew out of my palm up through the ceiling and grew larger every time it barrelled through another floor of the building until the blast went through the roof at the very top of the building.Bookmark here

A nice, quick, and easy shortcut. I wanted to reduce the amount of work it would take to get up there. This way, we didn't need to take the stairs, and we didn't need to deal with any people hanging around on each floor. I just hoped that we could all jump high enough.Bookmark here

"That's a fixed directional Cast." Atsuko said. "It's only supposed to fire outward in front of the Caster."Bookmark here

I looked up at the hole(s) I created. "Seems pretty non-directional to me.Bookmark here

[Cast #02: (Non-Directional Cannon) Added to Index.]Bookmark here

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