Chapter 3:

The Princess of Fear

Soul Weapon

April 16th, 3184

Monday - Afternoon

Since my weapon is so large and requires a lot of surface area to train, this sudden crowd forces me to put my training on pause for today. I decided to use this opportunity to talk to Kiyoko. Heading to the now filled bleachers, I see Kiyoko sitting there with her eyes closed as she sleeps.

“Hey, Kiyoko,” I shrug her shoulder to wake her up, “You get enough sleep?”

Waking up, Kiyoko quickly looks around and blinks, startled at the sudden appearance of the student crowd.

“I’m sorry, what happened,” Kiyoko asked.

“You really slept through all that,” I reply, “Takashi and Ryuu had a huge fight. That’s why there’s so many people here.”

“Oh,” she mutters as she gets down from the bleachers, “Is class over or something?”

“No, but I’m not able to train with all of these people around. I was wondering if you wanted to find Dr. Mundoch and figure out what’s going on with your APM.”

She agrees and we make our way back to Dr. Mundoch’s class. As we open the door, I cross my fingers he’s in there. Sure enough, standing at the front of the classroom, Dr. Mundoch writes down some equations that point to Soul Weapons’ names that I’m not familiar with. Noticing our arrival, he spins around.

“Oh, hello children,” Dr. Mundoch says, surprised, as he grabs the blackboard’s remote off of his desk and turns off the LED, “What can I help you both with this fine evening?”

“We were wondering if you could figure out what’s going on with my APM,” Kiyoko answers as she pulls out her APM.

“Oh dear me,” Dr. Mundoch worries as he takes her APM, “What seems to be the problem with it? It looks to be in great shape.”

Kiyoko explains the situation to Dr. Mundoch, and his reaction—well, it concerned us.

“Your APM… It really shouldn’t be doing this,” Dr. Mundoch says.

“Well, obviously,” I butt in.

Kiyoko hits me for my rudeness and gives me a look.

“No, no, I understand how that sounds, but I assure you; Your APM should not be doing this. There’s nothing in its coding that allows it to choose objects on its own. No glitch or failure of code or chip will do that. As you know, your APM connects to your mind and soul, right?”

We both nod our head in understanding.

“Yes, so you see,” he continues, “APMs connect and detect whose soul it's operating for. From there, it’ll connect to their brain, and through electronic brain waves, it’ll figure out what you desire as you push the button.”

“You know,” I interrupt, “I’ve never quite understood that. Why does it need your brain? I get connecting to the soul, but we touch buttons to navigate, so what does it need our brain for?”

“Right, that’s what I’m getting to,” Dr. Mundoch continues as Kiyoko gives me a look, “Have you noticed that you’ve probably never had a single miss click or grabbed an item accidentally—Kiyoko’s situation as an exception, of course. It’s probably never happened because the APM detects what your brain desires so then it links up with your physical input from your fingers. The reason for this is for reliability in dire situations. Let’s say you’re running from someone and need a key to a room, but you accidentally click on a lazyboy chair or something. Obviously that’s not the object you wanted. But the APM will automatically detect you were going for a key and it’ll give that to you instead.”

“So what’s the problem, doctor,” Kiyoko asks.

“I don’t quite know. I’ve never seen this before,” Dr. Mundoch says as he scratches his beard, “My guess is that there’s some kind of sensor error of a kind. It’s not connecting to your brain correctly and it’s pulling items from your subconscious or memory. Based on your experience with this, would you say it could be reaching for some of those kinds of thoughts?”

After giving it some thought, staring into space, Kiyoko finally gave an answer.

“I can’t be certain, but it does sound like that’s what’s happening. It’s not like I can remember what I had remembered during the day,” Kiyoko and Dr. Mundoch laughed.

“Well, it’s okay child. I’ll keep it and I’ll give you a new one.”

From within one of the file cabinets, Dr. Mundoch takes out a brand new APM from within and hands it to Kiyoko.

“Instead of fixing it, I’ll make it easier on myself to just give you a new one for free.”

Accepting the APM, Kiyoko looks embarrassed and shocked.

“What? No, I can’t take this. We normally have to pay for a replacement, don’t we?”

“That may be true,” Dr. Mundoch responds, “But I’m quite interested in what’s going on with this device and I’ll have some fun playing with it. That’s payment enough, young one.”

Kiyoko gives me a glowing look as she fiddles with her new APM.

“Just boot it up, run through the startup, and it’ll sync to you just like the first one did. If you have any troubles, please let me know. But if that’s all you have for me today, I suggest you both scurry out of here as I’m pretty sure the bell is about to ring.”

As if on cue, the loud bell blairs through the academy for a few seconds. We give our thanks as we make our way out the door. As we turn, however, we notice an unpleasant sight.

Standing in the doorway are three blonde girls; the one on the left with a ponytail on the left side of her head, the one on the right with a ponytail on the right side of her head, and the one in the middle with a set of twintails.

“Oh, you poor thing,” the girl in the middle pouts as she places a hand on her cheek, “Having problems with your APM? You looked like a dog left out in the rain—unable to do anything on its own.”

The girl then glances over in my direction with a sly smirk.

Knowing that neither of us wants to deal with these girls, I grab Kiyoko’s hand and try to move past them, but the two girls get in our way. Now, in front of us are the two single tailed girls and behind is the twin tail.

“Mind getting out of our way,” I bluntly ask.

“Oh, of course, right away,” the girl behind us says, “If you spin in a circle and sit for me I'll give you a treat and let you go.”

Kiyoko looks up at me as though she expects that I’d actually do it.

“Ena,” a voice yells from within the room.

Ena spins around and puts her full attention to the voice that called her—Dr. Mundoch.

“Yes, sir,” Ena responds.

“Enough of this, let them out. Now.”

With a pause she turns back to us and sighs. Ena brings up her hand and snaps her fingers, gesturing to the two others to return to her side.

Ena takes a couple steps forward and rests her hand on the door, as if she’s ‘letting us leave’. Without wanting to start anything, I roll my eyes and turn around. However, walking out, I hear her annoying voice.

“Goodbye, puppies. If you need me, I’ll be having a fun time with Mundoch,” Ena winks as she starts to close the door.

“Have fun, you slut,” I blurted out of my mouth without thinking.

“Excuse me,” Ena exclaims from behind me.

Immediately stopping in my tracks at what I just said, I droop my shoulders and sigh, knowing what’s about to come.

“Shit,” I mutter.

I slowly turn around to face her, already knowing she’s fuming. When I do, Ena is marching toward me with a finger out. Startled, I trip a step back.

“How dare you say that to me,” she says, poking my chest with her sharp nails with every word, making me back up as she marches forward, “If you think you have any right to talk to me like that—let alone at all—I’ll have to smack some sense into you.”

With the sudden commotion, students getting ready to head home stop to see what’s happening. And knowing I’m already this deep into it, I thought I might as well all the way. Let’s give 'em a hell of a show.

“You know what,” I retort.

“Huh? What? What does the puppy want to say?”

“I’ll let you try to ‘smack some sense into me’, sure,” I say as I straighten my posture, “Let’s have a match. Just you and me. Tomorrow. ”

Unexpectedly, she bursts out laughing, causing me to shrink down to my normal posture.

“W-What’s so funny,” I ask.

“What’s funny,” She exclaims, “What’s funny is that you think a mut like you can even stand a chance against me! Do you even know who I am? My name is Princess Ena Minamoto, and I come from a great family known for crushing pup—taming puppies like you. Fools who think too highly of themselves before crumbling down to my feet. I’ve already unlocked my Second Gear, yet I’ve never once had to use it in battle—not even against the second years I’ve fought. You know, I hear that people call me the Princess of Fear because of how deadly my Gear is. Ironically, that name is similar to my—nevermind!—But in our fight, I won’t take even one step forward. Just to give you a little handicap. And when I still win—and I know I will—I’ll make you kiss my feet and become my pet. I’ll train you to become a cute little puppy like you were always destined to be.”

Nodding while barely paying any attention to her ramblings, I simply respond with, “I’ll make you do the same when I win, kitty cat.”

With that, I grab Kiyoko’s hand and take my leave, with both the crowd and Ena in complete shock behind us. Not looking anyone in the eye, I continued with Kiyoko out of the school and back to our dorms. Before we arrived at the rooms, Kiyoko shoved off my hand. Surprised, I looked back at her.

“Are you sure about this,” She asks, worryingly.

“Oh,” I relax, “If that’s what you were worried about, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure? You know how strong she is. Actually—You don’t. That’s the scary part. Who knows what’ll happen if you...” Kiyoko doesn't finish her sentence as she looks down, gripping the sides of her skirt.

“If I lose to her? No… If I lose control.”

She looks up at me, confirming my suspicion.

“Trust me. I won’t use my Second Gear. I won’t lose control.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

With that, Kiyoko reluctantly left for her dorm, leaving me alone. I head back to my room and lock the door. Normally, I’d study, play video games, or do some extra training, but today? I want to sleep. Today was a big day, but I’ll need a rest for the even bigger day that lies tomorrow. I change into my boxers, hop in bed, and eventually…

I fell asleep…

Into a deep dream…

My eyes open. Much like the ending of that dream, I stand in a void of blackness. Despite the nothingness that surrounds me, I’m once again able to see myself clear as day. Just the thought of being here gives me anxiety and forces me to stiffen in my place.

Without being able to see anything around me, I can tell—or rather sense—that someone is standing in front of me. They feel imposing. Not necessarily in a negative way, but I feel a great sense of pressure coming from them. Using most of my energy, I muster the strength to speak.

“Hello,” I say into the void, “Is anyone there?”

No response.

Anxiety fills my spine as it tingles, knowing someone is in front of me but they deliberately don’t want to speak. Are they a threat after all? Or am I just crazy?

After what felt like hours being stuck in place, too afraid to move, let alone blink, it moves.

Materializing out of nowhere, a hand appears a few feet in front of me. Despite the true black background, I’m still able to see its black skin, covered in royal looking armor. Slowly, bit by bit, more of it comes into existence, revealing itself to be completely black in skin with no face. Covering it lies more purple and black armor in bits and pieces. The more I look, the more I realize that it's not armor, but rather it’s a part of it.

It, without saying a word, extends its hand toward me. Both in fear and curiosity, I stand there as silent as it. But then I reach out and—

“Kura, come one! We’re going to be late!”

My eyes snap open and see Kiyoko standing over me with her arms crossed.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m awake. Thanks,” I mumble as I rub my eyes and stretch.

I swing my feet off the bed and lean forward, looking at Kiyoko who had moved near the door.

“You know,” I say with a smirk, “It is a big day for me. Instead of yelling, you could be giving me some encouraging words and maybe even compliment me.”

With eyes glaring at me, Kiyoko speaks.

“It’s not my fault you ticked off Ena. You spoke back to her so you deserve anything she does to you.”

Shocked, I became silent with a loss for words.

“You seemed so concerned for me just yesterday, but now… Are you okay,” I ask, standing up, walking toward Kiyoko, “Did I do something?"

As I get closer, she flinches away with a guarded look in her eye. We stand there in silence for a moment before she looks down.

“I’m sorry,” She says, slowly looking back at me with an apologetic look, “I don’t know what came over me. Maybe a bad dream or something?”

Concerned, I don’t speak, but only slowly nod my head.

“But compliment you,” she asks with a forced smirk, “Why would I compliment a guy who’s about to get his butt kicked by a tiny girl?”

“Hey, hey, hey,” I exclaim, “Ye have little faith. This is an underdog story to the public. People like me always win.”

“Yeah, you’ll definitely be a dog under her when you kiss her feet,” Kiyoko giggles.

“How dare you,” I mutter.

With a laugh, I get ready and we both head out to the academy. I don’t know what’s happening with Kiyoko, but I’ll act like everything’s fine. It would be smart to keep an eye on her, though.

Kiyoko and I enter the school as other students file through. The fight against Ena will happen during break, before our Soul Weapon classes so that doesn’t give me much time to practice.

“Oh, right,” blurted out, “How’s it feel with an APM that finally works?”

“Oh my god,” She sighs, “It’s so nice! I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about randomly losing my clothes in public or something.”

“Yeah, that would be terrible,” I say dryly.

Kiyoko smacks the side of my arm as I laugh.

As we continue walking through the building, I notice something odd. Everyone is staring at us. Or is it just me? Is it my imagination? No. Definitely not my imagination as I glance over at Kiyoko who visibly looks uncomfortable from the stares that are being given to us.

From down the hall I see Miho skip toward us.

“Hey bro,” he exclaims as he waves his hand, “You excited for the fight? Ready to tear her a new one?”

Miho makes a ripping motion as he continues to walk beside us.

“How do you know about the fight?”

“How do I know,” he scoffs, “Everyone knows. You know how fast news travels around here.”

“Okay,” I say slowly, “But why are people even interested in this fight? I understand the fight with Takashi and Ryuu—a fight like that would have everyone buzzing. But why does this feel just as big?”

Miho laughs as he places his hand on my shoulder. Slightly annoyed, I brush it off.

“This is a fight against the 'Princes of Fear, Ena’ and ‘Shinigami Kurayami’. Of course it’ll get the attention of everyone—even the third years.”

“I’m sorry, what’s that nickname?”

“Princess of Fear? It’s because she’s—”

“No,” I snap, cutting Miho off, “The other one.”

“Ohh,” Miho says innocently, “Shinigami Kurayami. It’s, uhh… because of what you did. A few years back.”

I look down and stop in my tracks.

“Hey, I’m sorry man. I didn’t know you hadn’t heard that yet,” Miho apologizes, “But that’s why people are interested in this fight. With Ena’s immense reputation and your… reputation. It’s rare for Ena to accept fights, let alone challenge one. And no one thought that you’d ever fight seriously like that again.”

“Alright,” I say, nodding my head, “I understand. Thanks for explaining.”

“Anytime, bro,” Miho responds as he rubs the back of his head, “I’ll see you in class, then.”

With that, Miho walked ahead of us and escaped our sight. Kiyoko rubs my arm as she looks into my eyes, concerned.

“I’ll be fine,” I reassured her, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. And this is just a simple fight, nothing too serious.”

Unconvinced, she slowly nods her head as we make our way to class. All 4 of them sped by in a heartbeat. As the bell for break rang, I headed to the training grounds. With faces aimed in my direction, their voices are being spoken as they travel in my ear and directly out the other. With every step my anxiety slowly gets higher and higher as it feels like I’m walking in slow motion until—

“Mr. Kurayami,” Dr. Mundoch says as he stands outside his classroom’s door.

Snapped out of my bubble, voices come flooding back into my years. I look around for a second before I lock eyes with him. Concerned about what he might think about this fight considering his… relationship with Ena, I nervously respond.

“Yes, Dr. Mundoch?”

With a pause, he grins.

“Give it all you got, son. You better win.”

Surprised by his reaction, I laugh as I nod.

“Will do, sir.”

I head down the hall to the training grounds. As I enter, I scan the room. The bleachers are completely packed, alongside the views from the top balconies. Due to the lack of seats, people are even sitting on the floors just to watch. Someone catches my eye, however, as I make my way through the room. Takashi’s eyes, from the balcony above, stare at me intensely. Almost like he’s going to be assessing me during the fight. Ignoring his glare, I see Ena already standing in the middle of the arena with her arms crossed.

“It’s not nice to keep a lady waiting, you know,” Ena puffs.

“Is that so,” I ask, scratching the back of my head as I glance around the room, “Good thing there’s no lady in sight, then.”

Ena scoffs as I continue to the arena and stand a couple feet away from her.

“Don’t have your followers with you,” I ask, referring to the two girls that are always with Ena.

“This is between you and me,” she snaps.

A referee, different from yesterday, approaches and stands between us.

“Are both fighters ready,” the referee asks.

“Of course,” Ena sharply responds.

The referee looks at me.

“Yes,” I nod.

With that, the referee raises a hand in the air.

“Three! Two! One!”

Taking a few steps back, the Referee pauses as we ready our stances.

“Activate your weapons!”

Simultaneously, Ena and I yell at the top of our lungs.

“First Gear!”