Chapter 10:

Hopes and Mirrors


Someone was calling him, but Yukio was too busy to pay it any attention. He was inside a forest, where he had seen a large, strange looking butterfly a few seconds ago. He was sure it was hiding somewhere nearby, and he had this strange impulse of catching it. He was browsing through the tall grasses, looking past all the nearby trees. But it was nowhere to be found.Bookmark here

But he didn’t give up. He just kept on looking…Bookmark here

…until he realized that he was the butterfly.Bookmark here

He was no longer in the forest, and he wasn’t walking anymore. In fact, he didn’t even have a body. His consciousness, or soul, was just fluttering about: just like a butterfly.Bookmark here

Fluttering about in a vast, green field.Bookmark here

And he was being chased by someone. Someone who was crying.Bookmark here

The field was slowly getting darker… A boy was lying in the middle of it…Bookmark here

A smiling face…Bookmark here

“Yukio!”Bookmark here

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He woke up with a jolt.Bookmark here

There was no one around him. But he could’ve sworn that he heard someone calling out his name.Bookmark here

And it sounded like…Bookmark here

He scanned the whole room carefully, knowing full well that if it was the person he thought it was, there was no point.Bookmark here

He covered his face. His eyes were still wet.Bookmark here

I really hope she didn’t see me like this, he thought.Bookmark here

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While brushing his teeth, he suddenly felt like he was looking at someone else in the mirror. His appearance hadn’t changed, but the last few days had matured him beyond his expectations. The world was no longer the same; and he wasn’t either.Bookmark here

He tried touching the mirror, half expecting his fingers to slip through and enter a new world. But all he experienced was coldness. He remembered how he was inside something dark and cold, surrounded by an infinite number of mirrors, in what was supposed to be a dream.Bookmark here

And then there was today. He was trapped in a vast plane, being chased by someone.Bookmark here

Everything that has happened since I met Amanda, he thought, was any of it real?Bookmark here

At that point of time, he wasn’t sure.Bookmark here

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When Amanda suddenly called him and told him to meet up, he was a bit uncomfortable at first. Not because he didn’t want to see her, but because it was Saturday. Exactly a week after the Ohara Massacre.Bookmark here

Nevertheless, he agreed. He did want to meet her, see if she actually was as well as she claimed to be.Bookmark here

And now they were walking through the busy streets of Ginza.Bookmark here

She looked perfectly well, Yukio thought, but it seemed like there was something… off with her. Her personality wasn’t any different than usual, but her behavior gave off the impression that… she was trying too hard.Bookmark here

And she didn’t say a word about why she called him. After they met, and Yukio saw that she was indeed alright (unlike him, she didn’t have any marks of cuts or bruises either), they just started walking. Or rather, he followed her. Yukio had no idea what their destination was, why she wasn’t just Jumping there. And he didn’t feel like asking.Bookmark here

He did think about asking her whether she went to his room this morning. But more than her denying it, he was afraid of the answer being ‘Yes’. So he kept his mouth shut.Bookmark here

“Hey.” It was Amanda.Bookmark here

“Yes?”Bookmark here

“Can I ask you something?”Bookmark here

“What is it?” Yukio was a bit surprised.Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

He just tilted his head.Bookmark here

“Even after what you saw, why do you still want to be a part of us? I honestly didn’t expect you to contact us again. What made you call Kichiro-san that day?”Bookmark here

After a while, when Yukio didn’t break his silence, she said, “Just so you know, it was never my intention to keep the Tiztaanians secret from you. The thing is, none of us expected such a direct attack from them. I hoped that before you face them, or something worse, you’ll be ready.”Bookmark here

“I understand.” he finally broke his silence. “Look, I won’t lie to you, I’ve had nightmares of that day. And for quite some time I was determined that the life of a Tract was not for me. But…”Bookmark here

“But? What happened?”Bookmark here

“Let’s just say, I’ve decided to change. If by fighting, I can save others from those monsters, then I will do it.”Bookmark here

He didn’t tell her the real reason. He didn’t tell her what he was seeing in the nightmares, and how it was affecting him.Bookmark here

He didn’t tell her about Maekawa Yuichi.Bookmark here

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“You have probably wondered, why are we called ‘Minus Plus’? Such a strange name, isn’t it? Well, to be honest, we’ve had many names throughout the years. We, the Tracts, didn’t form any groups until the 10th century, and even then they were really unstable. The best part of having the powers that we have, is that we’re above and beyond any rules or laws of men. We can commit every crime that mankind is capable of committing, without any consequences. So why not just live that life? Why do what we do, a thankless job where you literally have to risk your life?”Bookmark here

Yukio had no answer to that question.Bookmark here

“Making sure that none of us lives a life without rules, becomes harmful to everyone and everything around them. You can say that is the true purpose of our group.”Bookmark here

Tetsuya Megumi smiled.Bookmark here

After walking a bit more, Amanda had taken him to a nearby photobooth. As he was sweating, trying to figure out how to pose so that he doesn’t look like a creep, they jumped to Katori. Yukio was disappointed.Bookmark here

The new base looked nothing like their older base; it was a modern three-storied house, with very little space inside the gates. It was also situated in a secluded area, away from other buildings. As Yukio looked at her, Amanda announced with a smile, “Tetsuya-san wants to see you.”Bookmark here

And then suddenly she told him that she needed to take care of something, and he should call her when he was done. Yukio tried to stop her, but after a fruitless attempt, he was face to face with the leader. Alone.Bookmark here

“Tell me Yukio-kun, do you think all of our family members become a part of Minus Plus?”Bookmark here

After a few seconds, Yukio answered the question with another question, “Shouldn’t that be the norm?”Bookmark here

Tetsuya-san smiled again, “Precisely. But you know what? It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when all of our children were given two choices. They could either choose not to join us and train to control their Rima, and live their lives normally. Or, they could join us and unlock their potential, and forfeit the chance of a normal life.”Bookmark here

Yukio had no idea such a thing was possible.Bookmark here

“Either way, you lost some and you gained some. But the former was always more severe than the latter. Hence, probably around 10 generations before us, our group was renamed to ‘Minus Plus’. I guess it also didn’t help that our previous name, ‘Memento Mori’, was a little too on-the-nose’.”Bookmark here

As he gave her a puzzling gaze, she resumed, “Anyway, now you probably know why we couldn’t just leave you alone, let you have a normal life. If you have any grievances against us for that, be that as it may. I did think about making you an Apprentice and have you train here, but the situation has changed since then, and we need all hands on deck. So, I’ve decided to send you on an Expedition.”Bookmark here

“Expedition?”Bookmark here

The leader nodded, “Yes, to a distant world still mostly unknown to us. I know you can’t use your powers, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you-”Bookmark here

“Join me?”Bookmark here

Both of their eyes darted towards the door of the room. An old, bald man with glasses and a white lab coat was standing there, smiling at them.Bookmark here

“Sumeragi Sensei!” Tetsuya-san cried.Bookmark here

“When Chiro-chan told me you were here, I thought you were just taking a break. But now I see I was wrong. You were recruiting him for my Expedition, right?”Bookmark here

She looked nervous, but only for a second. “Yes, you’re right. I was just about to tell him-”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, I’ll take it over from here.” Dragging a chair, he positioned himself near Yukio.Bookmark here

“Alright then,” Tetsuya-san got up, and extended a hand towards Yukio. He instinctively stood up and shook her hand. Before leaving the room, she looked towards Sumeragi Sensei and said, “Why were you searching for me?”Bookmark here

“Oh, right. Wanted to talk about Kawata. Anyway, we’ll discuss it tomorrow during the meeting.”Bookmark here

“Okay. I hope you’re not giving him much trouble.”Bookmark here

Sensei rubbed the back of his head with an awkward smile.Bookmark here

After she disappeared, he focused all his attention on Yukio.Bookmark here

“So, you’re the new one, huh?”Bookmark here

The person sitting in front of him was the person Amanda had talked about. The one with all the answers. He is probably the Head Navigator, he thought.Bookmark here

“Look, I’m really bad at small talk, so I’ll get right to the point. I’m currently studying a planet called Ebromia, and I need someone to help me. My assistant Kawata usually takes care of everything, but he has been busy with something lately. Anyway, what you’ll do won’t need the power of a Tract.”Bookmark here

“What will I do?” Yukio had to admit, he was feeling a bit excited.Bookmark here

“Talk to the villagers.”Bookmark here

“What?” He suddenly didn’t feel excited anymore.Bookmark here

“Haha,” Sensei smiled awkwardly, “I’ve finally cracked their tricky dialect, and the unusual grammar part too. But the only way I can be sure is by testing it on the TD. You just have to talk to them, see how well they understand you. They will talk to you as well, and you’ll report to me whether the sentences are understandable.”Bookmark here

“Wait, wait,” Yukio raised his hands, “I don’t understand. What is TD?”Bookmark here

Sumeragi Sensei frowned.Bookmark here

“No one told you about my work? I thought Megu-min told you everything...”Bookmark here

Megu-min? Now that I remember, he talked about someone called ‘Chiro-chan’ as well…Bookmark here

“No, no one said anything to me!” Yukio blurted out.Bookmark here

Just when I thought there are no more secrets…Bookmark here

He hung his head.Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” Sensei said with a nervous smile, “They probably meant to tell you, but after what happened…”Bookmark here

He was silent for a few moments.Bookmark here

“Anyway...”Bookmark here

Sensei moved the chair and made himself comfortable.Bookmark here

“You know that the people in the other worlds have different countries, cultures, languages, right? My job is studying them. And not only that, I also thoroughly learn all their languages, and include them in this.”Bookmark here

Yukio saw with amazement, as Sumeragi Sensei took out a small device from one of his coat pockets. It looked surprisingly like the shell of an oyster, although it’s metallic sheen betrayed that it was man made.Bookmark here

He pressed it in a corner, and something like a hook came out of it. Then he got up from the chair, and fit the device in Yukio’s right ear in such a way that the shell looking part covered his ear hole.Bookmark here

He gave a satisfactory smile, and took his seat again.Bookmark here

As Yukio was going to speak, Sensei raised a finger, stopping him. Then, after clearing his throat, he started speaking in a language he had never heard before.Bookmark here

After a few seconds, he heard a strange kind of voice from the device in his ear. He had heard that kind of voice before, usually when he used Joogle Translate.Bookmark here

“We go to the forest.” The voice said.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

Yukio looked at the smiling man before him, in disbelief.Bookmark here

“Haha, sorry,” He said after quickly removing the device, “Should’ve told you about our mission properly. Anyway, this is TD, short for ‘Translation Device’. In the whole world, I’m the only one who makes these.” The last sentence was said with unmistakable glee.Bookmark here

“Wow…”Bookmark here

It should’ve been obvious, he thought. The people on the other worlds definitely won’t speak Japanese…Bookmark here

“It is used by Tracts all over the earth, and even by some people of other worlds. They say that you don’t really become a member of Minus Plus unless you have a TD.” Sensei adjusted his glasses, with pride.Bookmark here

“Does anyone actually say that?” Yukio muttered under his breath.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“N-nothing.”Bookmark here

“Hmm,” Sumeragi Sensei furrowed his brows for a few moments. Then he smiled. “Oh well.”Bookmark here

He reattached the device in Yukio’s ear, and this time said something in another language.Bookmark here

After some time, he heard through the TD, “Pack your bags. We go tomorrow.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.