Chapter 4:

The Death of Innocence, Part 2


“Wait… wait… wait. Let me get this straight. You’re saying that you are part of a group called ‘Minus Plus’, which is a group of Tracts. You found out about me… my potential… when I transferred to Martin’s High. And now, the leader of the group wants to see me? She wants me to join them?”Bookmark here

“Wow, I’m impressed,” she sounded genuinely impressed, “I was expecting some more adverse reactions from you. Glad to see you come around!”Bookmark here

“I have not!” Yukio couldn’t help but shout, “How can you expect me to just accept all of it? I still don’t understand clearly what a Tract is, and what he does! Reality manipulation? ‘Jumping’? Is this a shounen manga or something?”Bookmark here

“Maybe,” she smirked. “Look, I have also shown you. This time you clearly saw how I Jumped, and reappeared.”Bookmark here

That had almost made him sink to the ground, and it was the drink she brought back with her that energized him again. Wait, brought back?Bookmark here

Yes, he thought. There was no way it was a trick of the eyes. She had really disappeared, and then reappeared with two cans in her hands.Bookmark here

Without that, he would’ve never believed her. But now…Bookmark here

“Still think I’m lying?” Amanda puffed her cheeks. “And here I thought maybe you’ll show a bit more enthusiasm, now that you know you have powers. Aren’t you excited? Even a little bit?”Bookmark here

“I… I’m sorry,” Yukio was looking at the floor, “I just don’t know what to think. So the seizures I had, and other health issues, they were because of… Rima?”Bookmark here

“Yes. Come on, I already told you. They happened because your mind couldn’t process the power, and the body suffered the side-effects. It happens to all of us. Including me, when I was little.”Bookmark here

Yukio sighed. “There are just so many questions,” he whispered, “I think even coming up with them will take me the whole night.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” Amanda put her hand on his shoulder, “I guess that’s a normal reaction. The truth is I haven’t told you nearly enough. But, to know any more than what I’ve told you, you’ll have to ask people who know better than me.”Bookmark here

He looked at her.Bookmark here

“What do you think?” She asked, “Are you ready to meet them?”Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, he said, “Yes. I do want to meet them. As I said, I still have many more questions. If you can’t answer them, someone else would have to.”Bookmark here

“Great,” She stood up. “Let’s go then.”Bookmark here

“Wait, now?” He said, irritatingly, “It’s really late, and we have school tomorrow as well. If possible, let’s go this weekend. Oh, wait, I might have plans this weekend. How about the next-”Bookmark here

“Idiot,” Amanda said with mock anger, “Are you forgetting we can just teleport there?”Bookmark here

“But… I thought I can’t use my powers yet?”Bookmark here

“You don’t have to use your powers,” she suddenly grabbed his hand.Bookmark here

His face was instantly flushed.Bookmark here

It felt strange to him, as he wasn’t like this even when he used her as a body pillow. Then again, he was really shocked that time…Bookmark here

Now that he thought about it, due to the shock, it never occurred to him that it was the first time he was looking at Amanda without a uniform. The uniform obviously suited her, but the t-shirt she was wearing, along with the tight jeans, was giving her a completely new look and vibe. And, if he isn’t wrong, she also has done more makeup than she usually did at school.Bookmark here

He was almost glad he was a Tract…Bookmark here

“Oh, I guess I didn’t tell you,” she was talking to herself. With a firm grip at his hand, she suddenly looked at him and said, “You don’t need any powers. Anyone who can jump can take other people, or other things with them too. I don’t remember exactly how many, but that number is surely more than two. Anyway, are you ready?”Bookmark here

“Wait, are we really going right now?” Yukio was panicking, “I haven’t even combed my hair-”Bookmark here

And suddenly there was no one in the room.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

One moment, he was in his apartment. The next moment, he was in the middle of a field.Bookmark here

The first thing he sensed was the change of temperature. His surroundings were much colder than his apartment. It took him some time to get used to the dark. After they did, Yukio saw that they were standing in a rice field, with many other fields all around them.Bookmark here

He anticipated this. But that anticipation alone wasn’t enough. His mind completely jumbled, he muttered, “What… what… what just happened…”Bookmark here

His ears were filled with the sounds of the night. As he looked at Amanda, she asked in a concerned voice, “Are you okay?”Bookmark here

Yukio didn’t know the answer to that. His mind, surprisingly, wasn’t spewing any more questions. But that didn’t mean that it was okay. He was feeling weak in his knees, and a tightness was slowly forming inside him.Bookmark here

He was afraid.Bookmark here

“Don’t be afraid,” Amanda either read his mind again, or it was really obvious. “We’re in Kyoto. Well, in the suburbs. This is where we all meet for training, or when there are any important announcements.”Bookmark here

“Here?” He suddenly realized he was tightly holding her arm. He loosened his grip, and whispered, “Sorry.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” she didn’t seem to mind at all, “By here I mean in a nearby house. It’s like our base, you can say. Although we’ve used many other places, since travelling is not really a problem for us.”Bookmark here

Yukio was finally feeling at ease, and his mind was functioning properly as well. If he was still a skeptic, he would’ve thought that Amanda made him unconscious, in some magical way, within one second. Then she (and obviously others) dragged his body here in the middle of this field, and then again magically woke him up. But no, that method had too many ifs and buts. And he was perfectly conscious when Amanda’s hand disappeared in thin air, and then her body. And then it was like a curtain was suddenly raised over him, and he was here.Bookmark here

So it’s all true…Bookmark here

“Come on, let’s go!” Amanda was enthusiastic, “Are you feeling at least a little bit excited now?”Bookmark here

When he didn’t give an answer, she facepalmed. “You’re such a buzzkill.”Bookmark here

She was right, Yukio thought. Any other person in his position would’ve been elated. He has superpowers! He’s going to be a part of a secret group that probably fights supervillains! And the prettiest girl in his class is going to be his partner!Bookmark here

Shouldn’t he jump in the air and go “Yahoo!!”Bookmark here

Nah, Yukio thought. He didn’t feel like it.Bookmark here

They slowly walked together, still hand in hand, towards a semi-dark big house. “Are we really in Kyoto?” Yukio asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, in Ohara.” Amanda answered. “You probably only visited the popular attractions, right? Kyoto has much more to offer than that.”Bookmark here

“No…” Yukio talked as if he was talking to himself, “I’ve never really been anywhere. Before my parents died, I used to live with them in Nagano…”Bookmark here

His memories of that time, however much he still remembers, revolves around a park. It was really big… or maybe it felt like that because he was too small. It was right beside the hospital he used to visit. He was a sickly child, and the seizures didn’t help; he had to spend a lot of time in hospitals. After every visit, his parents would take him to the park, and there he would play with the other kids. He could never keep up with them, but he used to cherish that time. Because, unlike in the kindergarten, his parents used to watch over him the whole time.Bookmark here

Now that he thought about it, that park was even smaller than the fields here…Bookmark here

“Yukio?” Amanda called at him in a concerned voice.Bookmark here

“I… I’m sorry,” he composed himself, “Anyway, even before my uncle officially adopted me, I shifted to Fujimi, at their house. After that, I only remember playing a bit in their garden with Onee-san,” Yukio said, “I mean their daughter, Kimiko. I didn’t go out much. And we never went on any trips either. They were always too busy. And then Onee-san left…”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry,” Amanda was looking down at the stone-littered path, “So, you’ve never been outside Nagano and Saitama?”Bookmark here

“When I was a child,” Yukio said, “My parents and I sometimes went to Germany to visit my Dad’s relatives. I don’t even know about any of them now. And sometimes my mom used to go to Aomori to visit her father, before he died. Now, it’s not possible for me to remember all that, right?”Bookmark here

Her embarrassed expression suddenly made him more aware of the fact that he was actually holding the hand of a really pretty girl, without any reason. He thought of letting it go, but then decided against it.Bookmark here

What if we need to Jump again? Yes, that’s why I’m still holding her hand. That’s the only reason…Bookmark here

“We’re here.”Bookmark here

The house looked really old, Yukio thought. It can even be mistaken as an abandoned house. Is this really their base? He was confused.Bookmark here

“Looks like a haunted house, right?” Amanda said, mockingly, “Maybe some of the ghosts are waiting for us…”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

He let go of her hand, as suddenly someone materialized in front of the gate.Bookmark here

If I didn’t know about Jumping, he thought, I would’ve had a heart attack.Bookmark here

The person, a woman who looked to be in her thirties, kept staring at Yukio. He felt a bit uncomfortable.Bookmark here

Amanda asked her, “Are they here?”Bookmark here

“Yes, most of them,” said the mystery woman. “Sugi is out on an errand, but he will also be here soon. Have you told him everything?”Bookmark here

“As much as I was asked to,” Amanda gave him an embarrassed smile. Sorry, her eyes said.Bookmark here

“Alright. Then I hope you wouldn’t mind if we directly Jump to the room, would you?” The question was aimed towards Yukio.Bookmark here

“N-no,” He steadied himself, “No problem.”Bookmark here

“Very well.”Bookmark here

She walked a step behind, and vanished.Bookmark here

Amanda held his hand again, and gave it a little squeeze. Yukio took a deep breath.Bookmark here

The next moment, they were inside a room.Bookmark here

Yukio didn’t know what to expect, but even then, he clearly didn’t expect this. It was just an old room filled with chairs. An old light bulb was filling the room with a strong, yellow light. A few people were sitting in some of them, and whispering among themselves. One of them looked at him curiously, then averted her gaze.Bookmark here

Wow. This is anticlimactic…Bookmark here

As he turned right, he saw the mystery woman standing with another, older woman, who was wearing a kimono. Both of them walked towards him, as the other people in the room started standing up.Bookmark here

“Welcome, Takanashi,” The older woman said, “I am Tetsuya Megumi. It’s nice to finally meet you.”Bookmark here

“She’s the leader of Minus Plus.” Amanda said. Yukio suddenly realized that she was also standing among the other people. “She’s the one who can answer all of your questions.”Bookmark here

“We’ll come to that,” the mystery woman finally broke her silence, “I am Kichiro Sakue. You can think of me as the secretary. This is…”Bookmark here

As she was introducing him to the other members, suddenly someone appeared in the room. It was a boy, who looked the same age as Yukio and Amanda. He gave Tetsuya-san a letter.Bookmark here

The whole room became strangely silent, as she read the letter carefully. After she was done, she gave it to Kichiro-san and apologized to Yukio, “Sorry about that. It was a bit urgent.”Bookmark here

As he nodded, she whispered something to Kichiro-san. Yukio looked at Amanda once, and saw that she was talking to the boy. As she noticed him, she called him up, “Yukio, this is Sugiyama Kaito. You can just call him Sugi. Everyone does.”Bookmark here

“Hey,” Sugi looked irritated. “You don’t need to tell that to others!”Bookmark here

The boy, just like everyone else (except the leader), was wearing casual clothes. Yukio looked towards Tetsuya-san and thought, being at the top sure is tough.Bookmark here

“Hi, I am Sugiyama,” the boy said to him, “I’d like it if you just call me that. Don’t listen to Burton.”Bookmark here

“Huhu,” Amanda kneed him, “pretending to be tough to impress the new member, huh?”Bookmark here

“Shut up!” Sugi glared at her. “I am tough!”Bookmark here

Yukio was enjoying the banter, when Tetsuya-san called to him, “Yukio? Come here please.”Bookmark here

As he went to her, he noticed that her expression had suddenly changed. At a glance, she appeared to be a warm, caring woman. But now there was a shadow of seriousness in her face.Bookmark here

Yukio was suddenly reminded of Amanda.Bookmark here

“I know that you still have lots of questions. But before we start answering them, there is a little thing we would like to do. And for that, you would need to trust us.”Bookmark here

He had no idea why she was being so cryptic. She could’ve just directly told him what they plan to do.Bookmark here

Is a requirement of being a member of ‘Minus Plus’ being purposefully vague? Yukio sighed.Bookmark here

“Okay. What do I need to do?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you don’t need to do anything,” Tetsuya-san took his hand, and made him sit on a chair. “You just need to sit here, eyes closed.”Bookmark here

What? Yukio was suddenly worried. What are they going to do to me?Bookmark here

“’Don’t worry,” Amanda was standing right beside him, “Nothing’s gonna happen. As she said, just trust us.”Bookmark here

He wasn’t sure that he did. But, even though they had literally talked today for the first time, Yukio was already beginning to trust Amanda.Bookmark here

He took a deep breath. They are obviously not going to harm me, he thought. Maybe they’ll perform something, some technique, that’ll allow me to be like them. In any case, it’s better just to get it over with.Bookmark here

“Okay, I’m ready.”Bookmark here

Tetsuya-san was still holding his hand. As he closed his eyes, she let it go. Then he sensed someone standing in front of him. He peeked a little.Bookmark here

It was Sugi.Bookmark here

Before Yukio could open his eyes, Sugi put two fingers on his chest and applied pressure. As he felt a sharp pain in his chest, the fingers were lifted. He could no longer keep his eyes closed.Bookmark here

And suddenly, he was gone.Bookmark here

Everyone in the room let out a deep sigh. Sugi let his exhausted body fall on a nearby chair. Kichiro-san put a hand on Amanda’s shoulder and said, “You did good.” Amanda just looked at her with a vacant expression.Bookmark here

The situation lasted for a few seconds, till everyone heard the sound of a body falling on the floor.Bookmark here

Yukio was back in the room.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.