Chapter 8:

A Disheartened Spirit


It was Friday night. For the first time in two days, Amanda wasn’t there with Yukio at his apartment. He missed her, even though he couldn’t quite admit it to himself.Bookmark here

Onee-chan called him just a while ago, and this time he had to pick it up. She wasn’t her usual self at first; which was to be expected, considering how he was avoiding her lately. After scolding him for at least an hour, she finally revealed that his aunt also wanted him to come back to Fujimi, to see how he was doing. Although she conveniently forgot to tell how his uncle felt about that.Bookmark here

It’s not like Yukio absolutely didn’t want to go. But the truth was, he was supposed to meet Tetsuya-san and others on Sunday, likely to determine his future in Minus Plus. Amanda already told him about ‘Apprentices’, and that seemed to be the most viable option. After all, if he couldn’t use his powers, he was no different than a normal human.Bookmark here

A normal human…Bookmark here

If he was that, then there would’ve been no reason for him to transfer here.Bookmark here

He said sorry to Onee-san like a thousand times, and promised her that he would definitely be there the next time she was in Japan. He obviously couldn’t tell her the reason why he couldn’t make it, but he didn’t want to lie either. So he just told her there was something really important.Bookmark here

Now that I think about it, she surely thought I have a date…Bookmark here

She has such high hopes for me, he thought, his teary eyes sparkling.Bookmark here

There was no school tomorrow, so he was thinking of pulling an all-nighter and covering everything he had missed because of the transfer. But considering the state of his mind, he had given up on that. I will just have to keep up the pace, and not let the ‘Minus Plus’ stuff interfere with my studies, he thought while taking a big yawn.Bookmark here

As he closed his study books and slowly lied down, a deep sleep creeped up on him.Bookmark here

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“Hey! Be careful! Don’t drop it!”Bookmark here

It was absolutely not what Yukio was expecting when Amanda suddenly called him and said that Tetsuya-san wanted to see him today. He thought she didn’t want to wait till Sunday, and start his training as soon as possible…Bookmark here

But, his training, or whatever it was supposed to be, was still scheduled to be tomorrow. Today, for some reason, Minus Plus was permanently shifting its base to Katori, Chiba. And so, as a member, it was his responsibility to help the others in moving the furniture and luggage.Bookmark here

And it was the strangest shifting he had ever seen.Bookmark here

If it was something small, manageable by a single person, someone just picked it up and disappeared. For the big furniture, he was helping Amanda.Bookmark here

Thankfully it didn’t take too long. Once they were done, Amanda took him to a nearby park and brought two cans of soda.Bookmark here

“Pretty energetic today, huh?” Yukio said sarcastically after sitting on a bench.Bookmark here

“What?” It took her a few moments to get what he was hinting at.Bookmark here

“Oh come on! Give me a break! Do you know how much pressure I was in? Kichiro-san made me the supervisor, told me I have to personally make sure everything is done properly. Do you think I was slacking when I wasn’t with you? I was with the other Apprentices.”Bookmark here

“Apprentices?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” she sat down beside him, “The moving was done by them. Other than you and I, of course.”Bookmark here

They were silent for a moment. Then Yukio asked, “When would I meet them?”Bookmark here

“When you’re officially one of them, of course,” She said, smiling, “Thanks for coming today on such short notice. You’re already a part of us, don’t forget that. Cheers.”Bookmark here

They clinked the cans.Bookmark here

For a few seconds, they were both silent, sipping at their cans. Then Amanda tossed the can at a dustbin and stretched her arms.Bookmark here

“Okay, how about now we-”Bookmark here

Amanda was cut short as someone suddenly appeared in front of them.Bookmark here

It was Nishimiya, someone Yukio met on their Ohara base. His eyes were abnormally large, his face contorted beyond belief.Bookmark here

And he was covered in blood.Bookmark here

“COME TO OHARA NOW!” He shouted, and disappeared.Bookmark here

Amanda was quickly on her feet.Bookmark here

“Yukio, I need to go. Just stay right here-”Bookmark here

He had instinctively grabbed her hand. And the next moment, they were at their former base in Ohara.Bookmark here

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Yukio couldn’t help but observe everything around him, motionlessly.Bookmark here

It was a bloodbath.Bookmark here

The base was a battlefield, where some known and some unknown faces were fighting with a group of faceless beings.Bookmark here

Suddenly someone appeared in front of them. Before he could react, Amanda pushed him aside. And suddenly, he was alone.Bookmark here

He somehow managed to keep his footing, as he saw Nishimiya was choking a man in dark, leather clothes from behind. The enemy had his face covered with a black mask, with his abnormally small eyes being the only visible part. Just when he thought Nishimiya has won, the enemy was free with a violent jerk. And suddenly, Nishimiya was the one being choked. Then they both disappeared.Bookmark here

The next moment, he saw the two of them appear on the rooftop in front of him, violently slicing at each other with knives. When one of the fighters disappeared, the other one disappeared as well.Bookmark here

Or it could’ve been two different people.Bookmark here

What Yukio was witnessing was the strangest kind of fight he had ever seen. A fight where guns were useless, and the one who was quicker in appearing behind their opponents, was the victor.Bookmark here

A man suddenly ran past him with a violent cry, grabbing a long Katana. Midway, he disappeared, and appeared behind a Black Mask the next moment; the Katana jutting out from his opponent’s belly.Bookmark here

The commotion made him run and hide behind a pillar. That was when he saw Sugi.Bookmark here

Keeping his back to a wall, Sugi was standing with a strange pose. His right hand was extended, palm downwards, and the left hand was supporting it.Bookmark here

As Yukio was thinking of calling him, a Black Mask appeared in front of Sugi, waving a large sword. He disappeared before the blade could reach him, and appeared behind the enemy, his posture intact.Bookmark here

And suddenly the enemy was gone.Bookmark here

Yukio was trying to figure out what happened, when someone appeared behind him and shouted.Bookmark here

He didn’t hear the words, or even if he did, their meaning was lost to him. He didn’t know whether it was an ally or an enemy. And it didn’t matter.Bookmark here

Because his legs were already moving against his will.Bookmark here

He ran through the open area, ducked a few people, and hid behind a tree at a corner.Bookmark here

His eyes kept following the horror that was unfolding in front of him.Bookmark here

Screams.Bookmark here

Severed limbs.Bookmark here

Slashed throats.Bookmark here

More screams.Bookmark here

A Black Mask suddenly appeared in front of him, a bloody knife in one hand. But he was quickly followed by someone, who grabbed his body and hacked their knife at his throat. Some of the blood sprayed into Yukio’s face, before both of them disappeared.Bookmark here

He stumbled, and the next moment his knees gave away.Bookmark here

As he fell, he saw a pair of fighters falling from the sky, disappearing just before hitting the ground. After his head hit the ground, his consciousness slowly started fading, a murky substance covering his eyes. Before they were completely covered, he saw another pair charge at each other, dancing on the blood-soaked ground.Bookmark here

There was also a Black Mask lying nearby, a knife jutting from his chest.Bookmark here

The last thing he saw was the face beneath the mask, looking at him with unimaginable malice.Bookmark here

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When Yukio’s consciousness returned, he half expected to be back at his bed, wrapped in the light of Saturday morning. No, he prayed. Prayed that the massacre he had seen was just a nightmare.Bookmark here

But it wasn’t meant to be.Bookmark here

He was alone, inside a small room that was illuminated with a dim light. There was no sound anywhere either, except the muffled sounds of transportation. He was in a city, but he had no idea where. His phone wasn’t with him, and the room didn’t have a window.Bookmark here

He tried to move, and felt a sharp pain in his head.Bookmark here

As he touched his head, he found it was covered in a thick layer of bandage.Bookmark here

The white bed and linen, coupled with the small desk beside him, indicated that it was some kind of hospital room. He slowly dragged himself towards the door, and discovered that it was locked from outside.Bookmark here

Suddenly his head started throbbing in pain, along with his heart. The image of an unmasked, sinister face flashed before his eyes.Bookmark here

What if he was captured by the enemies?Bookmark here

“HELP! SOMEONE!’Bookmark here

He started banging on the door with whatever power he had left. With every bang, images from the fight started coming back to him.Bookmark here

Screams. Blood. Death.Bookmark here

At one point, he just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. When he was about to give up, someone appeared behind him.Bookmark here

It was Kichiro Sakue.Bookmark here

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“It was an ambush. We’re not clear what their objective was, but considering all of them appeared at Tetsuya-san’s room, it was either capturing or killing her. She was already in Chiba, so that plan was unsuccessful. Since we didn’t have enough veteran Rangers there, it turned out to be… what you saw today.”Bookmark here

“Rangers?”Bookmark here

Kichiro-san looked at Yukio with an expressionless face.Bookmark here

“Amanda didn’t tell you?”Bookmark here

“No. Where is she? What happened to her?”Bookmark here

The room he found himself in was in Kichiro-san’s clinic, in Tokyo. After she gave him medicine, and told him Amanda was safe, he felt a bit better. She wanted him to stay there, observe him a bit more, make sure he doesn’t have a concussion. Considering his physical condition, he had to oblige.Bookmark here

With his head throbbing with pain, he listened as Kichiro-san explained that once the Apprentices finished their training, they were given one of two positions: Ranger or Navigator. Rangers were the people responsible for fighting, people with fast Jumping speed and faster reflexes.Bookmark here

“You can think of the Navigators as spies. Their job is scouting, gathering information, and helping the Rangers before an expedition. One of them failed today, and you saw the result.”Bookmark here

They were both silent for a few moments.Bookmark here

“What were they… they looked like…”Bookmark here

“Animals,” Kichiro-san said, “That’s because they were human-animal hybrids. The soldiers of the Tiztaan Empire, created by the King himself.”Bookmark here

According to Kichiro-san, the enemies were from the Planet Tiztaan, whose inhabitants are ruled by the Tiztaan Empire. Yeah, the planet was named after the empire. Its kings and high councils are all Tracts, and their main objective is expansion. They already have a couple of other worlds under their rule. Apparently they have clashed with Earth before as well, but Kichiro-san wasn’t really forthcoming with the details.Bookmark here

It seemed she didn’t trust him enough.Bookmark here

“So?”Bookmark here

Yukio looked at her quizzically.Bookmark here

“I don’t think it was the sort of welcome you expected. Six people died today, and if Sugi didn’t find you and brought you here in time, it would’ve been Seven. So, do you still want to be a part of Minus Plus?”Bookmark here

The truth was, he wasn’t so sure anymore.Bookmark here

“What happened to him? Last I saw he was…”Bookmark here

He didn’t know how to describe what he saw.Bookmark here

“He’s fine,” she said in the same emotionless voice she was using all this time, “Just exhausted. He has a… special power. That’s what you saw today. He’s in another room, still sleeping.”Bookmark here

“What about Amanda?” Yukio asked, “Is she here as well? Can I see her?”Bookmark here

“She’s not here,” Kichiro-san looked at him with narrow eyes, “This is just a small clinic my family runs. Amanda and other injured people have been shifted to Kurashiki. One of us is a doctor there.”Bookmark here

Before he could say anything else, Kichiro-san disappeared. The next moment she was back, with a phone in her hand.Bookmark here

“I believe this is yours. You must be hungry, I’m making arrangements for dinner. If you need anything, just give me a call.” She extended a card towards him.Bookmark here

“Oh, by the way,” She asked as Yukio took the card, “Are you vegetarian?”Bookmark here

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After Kichiro-san disappeared, Yukio just sat on the bed, his back at the wall. A different image was currently stuck in his mind.Bookmark here

An image of a boy, lying in front of him. His body covered in bruises, a pool of blood around his head.Bookmark here

A smiling face.Bookmark here

Yukio shut his eyes.Bookmark here

I wish I could use my powers, he thought, his fists clenched.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.