The Night is Ours
I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Jin Yamaoka. I'm from Kyoto and I'm 17 years old. You probably wouldn't notice me in public, since I have dark brown hair and blue eyes.
Even my personality is normal. I like hanging out with my friends and playing video games. However, I have a big secret - I'm also now training to save people, but not exactly in the way you'd expect. To explain, I think I should go back to the start of the day it happened.
"Your homework for today is on the board. Also, your midterm results are up. Class dismissed."
With those two final words, the entire class broke out into conversation. Our class was fairly quiet and nice for the most part.
The classroom itself was quite modern, as was the rest of the school. It was quite a large school itself, with four floors and a U-shaped structure.
"Hey, Jin, you comin' to see the results?"
A fairly well built person of average height approached me. Like me, he had blue eyes, but unlike me, he had straight black hair. If I didn't know him, he might have been a bit intimidating to me.
This person was Kazuto Nakano, probably my best friend since junior high. While he can be an idiot sometimes, he is generally a nice guy.
"Yeah, I can't miss seeing you fail."
Although, I couldn't help making him the brunt of all of the jokes.
"That was because I fell back in boxing club, and we were going for nationals! And besides, I didn't see you doing much better!"
"Yeah, yeah. Blame it on something else."
With a smile, I stood up to pack my things up. I was optimistic about this one. I may not have done so well in my last midterms, or my last end of terms.
But this time, I studied way more. I put in way more hours and I doubt that effort will be for nothing.
I remember feeling like I aced the tests as well. I'm sure everything would be okay.
I quickly dropped everything into my bag.
"Let's go, Kazuto."
Working our way around the halls of this school would have been confusing at first, but being my second year in this school, it was much easier. Almost out of habit, I found myself navigating myself to the test results, which are usually posted on a board on the first floor, quite a distance from our second floor classroom.
Thankfully, when we arrived at the board, the crowd that would normally be around it had already dispersed, save for a couple of people.
One of these people was a happy girl, a bit shorter than me. Wavy black hair rested over her shoulder and on her back, and she was wearing a small pair of glasses over her hazel eyes. She radiated positivity and warmth in a way that made her both easy to approach... and kind of cute.
The girl in question was Saki Fujita, another one of my best friends, mostly because she was in my class last year. She wouldn't stand out if you saw a crowd of people, but if you spoke to her, you'd quickly understand that she's special in her own way.
And admittedly... I may have also had feelings for her.
Saki waved at us from down the hallway before approaching us, with a small skip in her step.
"Hey guys!" she exclaimed brightly.
"What's up, Saki-chan? You look happy." Kazuto replied.
"Oh, I just saw my results and I got into the top 10 in our year!" Saki said with a bright smile.
"Congrats, Saki!" I said.
"Thanks, Jin!" Saki beamed. "I'll wait for you guys, go check your results!"
"Yeah, we'll be right there." I replied.
"I bet Jin will get lower than me." Kazuto joked.
With a smile, I approached the board on the wall. Our year had around two hundred students, so as long as I didn't get lower than one hundred, I wouldn't have been too annoyed.
"Hell yeah, eighty-two! Thirty higher than last time!"
Kazuto's excited chants were somewhat uplifting, but as I scanned the sheet, I struggled to find my name.
Maybe I should restart from the very top.
Nothing in the top 10, besides Saki. Nor the top 20 or 30.
Top 50? Nope.
"You came 165th!? B-but, you were always studying and getting help from me, and... uh..."
About 20 minutes had passed, and we were sitting in mine and Kazuto's classroom. I decided to wait until we had all eaten our lunches to say what rank I got, because knowing how my friends were, they would react more strongly than I would.
They really do care about me, and that's at least one thing for me to appreciate, at least.
However, the atmosphere was heavy. Kazuto was silent, and Saki attempted to understand, but she was completely lost for words, given the circumstances.
And honestly, so was I.
All that effort I put in every night, hours upon hours of constant studying for weeks on end just for that week.
My many hours of time spent in the library. Late night study sessions with Saki, and occasionally with Kazuto too.
Did any of that mean much?
I was always getting my practice studies spot on. Was I doing something wrong?
Wouldn't I have spotted it at some point?
I was trying my best to stay calm, but I could feel some sorts of emotions leaking out.
"Saki, it's okay. I'm fine."
To be truthful, I lied. I had my doubts from the start. I hate to say it, but this was the fourth time in a row this had happened to me.
As much as I wanted to hope I was doing good, I can only prepare so much. I can only do so much.
But in all honesty, I was scared. I didn't want to do badly in high school. I just wanted to live normally.
But, as small or as silly as it may be, I think my biggest fear was putting so much effort in for nothing in return.
"Jin, don't worry, bro. You always have next time." Kazuto said reassuringly.
He was right, but I didn't really know what that meant for me. I could feel a tiny sliver of hope that next time will be different, but I found myself quickly stopping that idea in it's tracks.
"I don't know if this will help, but do you want me to help you take your mind off things, Jin?" Saki said.
It wasn't hard for me to come to a decision. For now, I just didn't want to think about those midterms.
I'll save them for when I'm at home.
"Yeah, why not. I'd rather think about anything else, anyway."
"Okay! Do you wanna hear a myth?" Saki asked excitedly, while pulling a notebook out of her school bag. She was really interested in history, and discovering myths was just one of her strange, but pretty interesting, hobbies.
"Sure. Is it something fairly new?"
"Actually, it's only come out recently. According to where I found this, 'at the strike of midnight, a random person meets a man in their dreams. The man would give them a deal - win his game and gain an unthinkable power, or lose his game and forget that meeting ever happened.' Of course, it's a myth because if it happens nobody remembers it, but at the same time, there's been a few people who swear they have this power."
"Oh yeah, I've heard of that! Shit's kinda cool, but I don't buy it." Kazuto chimed in.
"Do you think there's anything that could cause it?" I asked Saki. I didn't quite believe it either, but it made me curious anyway.
"Well, not really. I don't know if it's even true. But imagine waking up with an insane power!" Saki exclaimed.
"I wonder what that power is. If it's unthinkable, like you said, wouldn't it be something nobody has ever heard of? Maybe something like the ability to use static for your own good or something?" I wondered, realising how boring that power would really be.
"Oh, what if the power is somethin' like bein' able to make darkness, so your enemies can't see?" Kazuto said.
"Enemies? You mean, the guy who accidentally took your towel in boxing club in junior high?" I replied jokingly. Saki burst out into laughter.
"Man, I know for sure he did it on purpose. I've never seen him look at anyone else like that." Kazuto replied.
"Yeah, yeah." Saki said.
After a brief moment of silence, all three of us started laughing uncontrollably.
I'd basically forgotten about my score now, thankfully. At least, for the time being.
In class after lunch, we all got our marked tests back. However, I didn't waste a moment going home after class, because I needed to see where I went wrong. While things like the train schedule and crowds held me back, I at least made it home quicker than usual. Although, I did have to tell Saki and Kazuto, as we take the same train route.
I ran through the front door, practically breathless as I quickly pulled my shoes off. Our house was fairly modern, and it was quite neat, although a little small. The kitchen and living room were connected to the right, and a staircase was on the immediate left of the front door. I only lived with my parents, so it only had two bedrooms, but it was cozy enough and at the least, it was a place I could call home.
"I'm home." I called out as I closed the door.
"Welcome home, Jin." The familiar voice of my mum came from the kitchen. "Did you get your midterms results?"
For a moment, I contemplated lying about it. But, I realised that there was a parent teacher meeting soon.
Besides, while she may be upset, I know she wouldn't take it too badly.
"Yeah... they weren't great. I'm going to study."
"Oh... well, don't overdo yourself."
I could hear a hint of disappointment in her voice. It made sense, she probably expected high results as well. And despite her saying I shouldn't overdo myself, I couldn't think of another way to do better.
I headed upstairs into my bedroom, the second room on the upstairs landing. It was a fairly average sized bedroom, with a window facing the front. My bed lay across the back of the room alongside the window. There was a circular short-legged table in the middle of the room, and a TV hooked up to a games console on the right. On the other side of the room, shelves and a cupboard occupied the walls.
The moment I walked in, I sat down at my table, dropping my bag on it, before pulling out the papers.
English, maths, Japanese, social studies and science.
I placed all of the papers in a line on the table and skimmed over the front pages. Looking at the papers, I realised I got fairly average in Japanese and social studies. Despite knowing how badly I did overall, that gave me a little bit of hope.
But then I looked at the others, and my hope instantly vanished.
In maths, I didn't even get twenty percent. To add insult to injury, science wasn't much better.
Then there was English, which I got nine percent on.
I let out a big sigh, contemplating where to start.
Maybe the maths paper.
I turned the first page. Not even a single question right.
Wait a moment.
I skimmed through the questions again. I didn't just mess up the paper.
These were questions I knew. I'd gotten them completely wrong somehow.
And I figured that was the case for pretty much the rest of the tests.
I let out another big sigh, before pulling out a notebook from my bag.
This was going to be another long evening.
Around six hours passed. As ridiculous as this may sound, I somehow managed to spend that entire time working on my mistakes, besides a small bit of time where I ate my dinner.
However, the more I looked at the papers, the more stupid I felt.
It was clear that I had made so many obvious mistakes, but how I managed to was totally beyond me.
I stood up to stretch, and noticed the time on the clock of my bedside stand.
It was already 10:30pm, and I had school the next day.
Maybe now was the time to sleep.
For some reason, I was reminded of what Saki said earlier. While I did doubt the myth was real, there was a part of me which wouldn't allow me to fully accept that it's fake.
Maybe it would be interesting to get a new power. Something insane would mean I could help the world without having to study like crazy for nothing.
Or maybe just incredible intelligence. That way, I wouldn't have to worry about school, or my results, or much else at all.
I continued to ponder what could happen as I brushed my teeth and got into bed.
It was at midnight, right? It was still 10:45pm.
Why am I worrying about this so much? It's not going to happen.
With that thought, I closed my eyes, preparing for nothing but a new day.
The room looked hazy, almost like there was a strange mist in the air. At the same time, however, there seemed to be a strange gloss coating the room. It took me a moment to realise I was still in my bedroom.
I looked over to the clock, only to realise it wasn't there. I was sitting in pure silence.
"Hello, Jin Yamaoka."
A sudden voice took me by surprise. As I looked closer into the middle of the room, I was able to make out the blurry silhouette of a man.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Oh, don't tell me you haven't heard of me? I'm the thing everyone's been talking about. I'm sure you know why I'm here by now." the man replied.
It clicked. The myth.
"What's your game? What's the penalty?"
"A simple game of my own extreme Russian roulette. The penalty is exactly as you hear."
I looked down, to see that a small pistol was suddenly in my hand. Despite looking heavy, it felt almost weightless.
"Don't worry, you won't die." reassured the man. "However, your odds of winning aren't particularly high, Yamaoka."
For some reason, I was compelled to point the gun at myself. I lifted it up to my head and pointed the barrel towards my forehead. Despite my immense fear, I couldn't control my movements.
If I win, I get a power. If I lose, I forget this ever happened. Maybe the thought of getting a power was all I needed.
"Please pull the trigger."
I slowly closed my eyes. With a deep breath, I pulled the trigger.
I opened my eyes again, to see the same sight as before. The same hazy room, the mysterious silhouette of a man. The gun was still in my hand.
All of a sudden, it felt like I had regained control over myself. The fear finally hit me as I threw the gun across the room, disappearing into the haze. I was now shaking slightly from the tension and adrenaline. I took a deep breath to calm myself down.
"Jin Yamaoka, it appears that you have won the game."
"That was it..?"
"Indeed it was. I believe you have earned the right to this power."
The man snapped his fingers, as if a magic trick was about to occur. However, nothing changed, and I remained feeling mostly fine.
"I have given you this power, but I cannot tell you of it's abilities, as I believe that is a vital element of your own journey." stated the man.
"Wait, I get a power but I don't even know what it is?"
"Fear not, you will find out soon. Besides, I have more gifts for you, Yamaoka."
The man handed me a black strapped watch, which had appeared from seemingly nowhere. He then handed me a small dagger.
For some reason, I was feeling skeptical. It still hadn't hit me that I had a new power, but it was somewhat unbelievable considering I didn't know what the power was yet.
"That watch is special. You will have more use with it than you believe, but it's only true use can only be seen when the sun is not visible. To use it, turn the face until it clicks. As for the dagger, if you put your heart into it, you'll understand why I have given you this."
The watch was almost normal. The only real thing that stood out to me was the light blue hands, which didn't suit the watch at all.
The dagger was somewhat unique, however. It had a black grip, and a strange minute hole at the end of the blade.
Despite my interest in these new objects, however, I was still confused.
"Why was I chosen?"
"You will see soon enough. However, I must go for now. Yamaoka, you will be waking up in a minute. Before you do, I want you to consider one thing."
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
That simple quote had me lost for words. I didn't know how to respond to that.
"Yamaoka, if you truly want to improve yourself, embrace yourself."
"And how would I do that?"
"When you wake up, spin your watch face."
"But, this is a dr-"
I opened my eyes to my regular room again.
I still had the memories from that dream.
My eyes diverted downwards...
... to see a watch on my bed, alongside a dagger.
Embrace myself? How am I supposed to do that?
Am I meant to know how to change myself just from turning the face of a watch?
Who was that man, anyway? He must have known about my feelings about my results.
With two fingers, I picked up the watch. It really was normal, but it was hard to tell in the darkness of the room.
What will spinning the face do? Will it really do anything?
I took a deep breath and put on the watch, before spinning the watch face.
With a small click, the entire room started to flicker. Objects around me started to disappear.
And suddenly, the putrid smell of rotten meat filled the air.
I quickly stood up, grabbing the dagger. This thing was looking back at me through slimy brown eyes.
I instantly realised what that man meant.
This thing was the manifestation of my own insecurities.