Chapter 11:

Kurayami vs. Tanaka

Soul Weapon

April 30th, 3184

Monday - Noon

Seeing the audience surround me as they get excited for the match sends a little bit of anxiety down my spine. But it soon disappears as I look off in the crowd to see Kiyoko simply smiling, giving me a thumbs up. I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I see Tanaka slowly approaching the arena. Thinking about it, how can she even activate her Soul Gear without speaking since she’s deaf? Well, I guess I’m about to find out. As Tanaka approaches, she smiles as I do the same. The referee steps in between us and speaks.

“Are you ready, Tanaka Nura?”

Tanaka nods her head.

“And are you ready, Kurayami?”

“Yes,” I say with a nod.

The referee took a few steps backward and yelled.

“Then three! Two! One! Activate your Gears!”

“First Gear,” I yell.

A scythe forms into my right hand as I swing it around and grip it with both hands. Tanaka raises her right hand and starts to move it around with her index and middle fingers extended. Her two fingers appear to have been dipped in some kind of black liquid as the tips are painted black with something. The way she moves her fingers in the air appears as though she’s writing the letters ‘First Gear’ in the air, but that’s not it. Tanaka is definitely writing something, but it isn’t in English—rather, it looks like she’s drawing a symbol. Nearly impossible to see, a very faint trail of black marks stays in the air as she draws the symbol. Finally, she returns her fingers to the center and presses on the symbol. Suddenly, the black markings in the air flash a dim white before disappearing.

Tanaka lowers her hand as two thin banners form on her wrists. They have some kind of sharp wave design imprinted into them as it appears to move. I guess she's in her First Gear, now. The two of us stay locked in eye contact for a few moments before I dash toward her, ready to slice her.

With a wave of her hands, Tanaka makes her banners slap against each other and in an instant I drop to the floor. An intense ringing pierces my ears as I let go of my scythe and cup my ears as hard as I can. The ringing gets louder and louder until I realize it’s not going away. Despite the intense pain, I manage to look forward to find Tanaka looking at me as though she’s sad for what’s happening to me. This definitely is no coincidence, then. This is her Soul Gear.

Through the intense pain, I climb my way up and grab hold of my scythe. I begin to step toward Tanaka when she then starts to flick and move her wrists in a rhythmical fashion. The ringing in my ears rise and lower with each flick as the sound around me gets amplified, then suddenly quiets. With the seemingly random change of drastic sound, I start to lose my balance and find it hard to keep my footing.

Using my scythe to rest upon, I try to look forward to Tanaka, but can’t focus on her. She’s going to continue to do this until I faint from the torture, so if I don’t do anything, I simply won’t win. I push off against my scythe as I try to stand on my own two legs. Shakilly, I grab hold of my scythe with both hands as I prepare to dash at Tanaka. She still stands there waving her hands and flicking her wrists without any care of my imminent attack.

Regardless, I start to dash toward her in a clunky fashion as I nearly trip over my own foot multiple times. I ready my swing when suddenly—it’s quiet. No, it’s more than that. It’s dead silent. With the sudden lack of sound, I lose my balance in my swing and crash to the ground. Still recovering from the intense blast of sound I just received, I slowly look up at Tanaka.

Now, instead of focusing on me, she pays more attention to the crowd and scenery around her. It’s almost as though she’s completely forgotten about the fight. I notice her hands are off to her sides, staying as still as possible. Not missing this opportunity, I take a swing at Tanaka’s legs, however, as I swing, it simply goes right through her. Slowly fading away, Tanaka becomes transparent, until there’s nothing left. I flip my head around the ring, attempting to search for her when everything starts to distort. Any light I see starts to drag with a tail effect causing all of the images in my eyes to distort and blend together.

Despite all that, however, the one thing I can still see clearly is the outline of my scythe. With everything else blending together, as I now notice a deep frequency in my ears, I crawl toward my scythe. I fumble around and grab hold of it as I rise to my feet. Not sure as to where I am in the arena and where I’m facing, I can’t use either my sight or hearing to locate my position.

Compared to what my sight and hearing was like before, this is somewhat manageable. At least I can stand on my own without writhing in pain. I stand as I scan my surroundings which are covered in nothing but white light.

Suddenly, to my left, I see some kind of dark movement for a split second. Not missing my opportunity, I spin around and swing in that direction. I don’t feel any contact physically, but a sharp slice could be heard—despite all that is happening with my hearing. Suddenly, I can now hear faint footsteps as a short cry shrieked out. My vision, still a blended mess, becomes a little less so as I can now barely see my surroundings. Looking slowly around, I notice that I’m on the edge of the arena. Turning around, I face Tanaka who now only has a banner that hangs around her left hand with her right one sliced in half.

I must have somehow cut the banner which halved Tanaka’s power—whatever it even is exactly. All I need to do is get the other one and then she’s powerless. Tanaka then spins her wrist as the banner coils around her arm. Suddenly, everything starts to sound like sharp static as that happens. She then grabs hold of the base of the banner and unwinds it with a fast pull, dragging her fingers across it. A stinging sound scrapes what feels like the deepest parts of my ears as I clench my eyes shut and cover my ears.

Dropped to my knees, the sound starts to echo away. Slowly opening my eyes, I see Tanaka standing in front of me. I can finally see clearly again—and my hearing isn’t messed with either. Did she give up? I pick up my scythe and dash toward her. Tanaka then gently moved her hands up to her ears. Then glides the back of her hands to her ears with her single banner dragging across after.

With a sound so indescribably loud and painful, it starts to pierce my ears with an intense force that makes me want to instantly vomit. Not missing this opportunity, I push through the pain and shove her back with the handle of my scythe. I spin around and swing the scythe in front of her as I grab the handle from behind. Pulling it back toward me, she gets caught in between the blade and the handle as I press her body against mine. The handle digs deep into her neck as the blade rests against it, just barely cutting the side of it.

Both of us try to hold on as I try to power through the pain of the ungodly sounds I hear as she tries to hold on through the blade I press slowly deeper into her neck. We stay there for a while, pushing each other to give up, and then, suddenly, the sound stops. As it does, Tanaka slaps her hand against mine, signaling her retirement from the fight. I instantly lose control of my First Gear as I let my scythe dissipate. I fall backwards and collapse to the ground as I can’t find the strength to even move.

Tanaka crouches down as she applies pressure to the side of her neck where I slowly sliced—a gash nowhere deep enough to fatally injure, but just to cause intense pain. Within moments of trying to catch my breath, I pass out.

Before, I saw nothing but light, but now—nothing but darkness. The purple armored figure stands in front of me again. Mentally exhausted, I simply fall to my knees as I wish just to have a sleep with no dreams.

“Good,” a deep, echoed voice says.

I shoot my head up toward the figure, thinking the voice came from it, but it stands motionless, just looking at me. But then, it shoots its head to the sky as I follow. From above, yet another intense light blinds me until it fills my vision with nothing but white.

I snap my eyes open and find myself on the ground surrounded by the academy’s nurses. Above me, something eclipses the light above me. Focusing my vision, I realize what I’m staring at. I shoot straight up as a shriek can be heard. I spin my head around to see Kiyoko sitting on her knees behind me.

A lap pillow.

I was so startled by the fact that I didn’t stop to bathe in its glory before I shot up. Kiyoko stares at me in shock as I stare back at her in disappointment for what I had wasted.

“Are you okay,” Kiyoko asked, “I’m sorry. The ground didn’t look comfortable, so I…”

“N—No, no,” I stutter, “It’s okay, I’m fine.”

As I speak, my head starts to split. I grab my head and wince in pain as a nurse hurries to my side.

“Hey, settle down, please. You’ve had massive damage to your eardrums, and we’ve fixed what we could,” the nurse with a clipboard said, “But I advise you to stay away from anything that may cause loud noises for the next day or two.”

“So this headache is normal,” I ask.

“Yes, that’s normal, especially for what you experienced.”

What exactly did I experience? I give a glance to Kiyoko as I scan the room. Off to my left sits Tanaka in a chair with a nurse beside her, talking about something. After a moment, the nurse gets up and leaves. As the nurse exits, I stand up and motion Kiyoko to follow me. I approach Tanaka and take the seat the nurse was just sitting in as Kiyoko sits beside me.

“Hey,” I greet.

Kiyoko waves as Tanaka returns with a small wave back. She then pulls out her APM, stares at it, and shows it to me.

“Hi. I’m really sorry for what I did. I hope you don’t hate me.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” I chuckled, “What did you even do?”

After updating her APM, she then extends it to me.

“My Soul Gear allows me to manipulate sound. My First Gear lets me manipulate a person’s hearing with my banners. They act as an extension of their eardrums, in a way. The more I touch and mess with them, the more intense the sound is for that person.”

“Oh wow, that’s super cool,” I say, excited.

After blushing, Tanaka shows me her APM again.

“I’m also able to swap hearing with people.”

I tilt my head, confused.

“That’s what I did to you at the end,” Tanaka’s APM reads, “Near the beginning, I swapped our hearing, too, but turned yours down so you wouldn’t be hurt. But at the end, I did it again. That really intense sound… is what I hear on a normal basis. Well, I believe you only heard half of what I hear. Since you cut one of my banners.”

“What,” I exclaimed, “How do you—That’s what you hear? All the time? Like, right now?”

Tanaka nods her head.

“Why not use your Soul Gear to make it so your hearing is normal so you don’t have to go through all that?”

Tanaka shows me her APM.

“Well, I’ve been like this since birth so I’m quite used to it. But as to why I don't change it, that’s because I can’t. I’m only able to swap my hearing with someone else, then manipulate their hearing from there if I want to. But even that is only temporary. I’m not able to manipulate my own hearing aside from that. Maybe my second or third Gear could, but who knows.”

“Wow,” I say in awe as I slowly nod my head, “That’s amazing. I mean, that’s not great that you’re forced to hear that. But the fact that you can just handle that with ease is mindblowing to me.”

Tanaka blushes for a short moment. From behind her marches Ryuu. Approaching her, he quickly places his hands on her shoulders and moves his face in front of hers, making her jump in her spot.

“Hey,” he exclaims before slowly backing into a reasonable distance.

She smiles flatly at him.

“Did you win?”

Tanaka looks down for a moment before glancing with her eyes up at me. Ryuu follows his attention to her line of sight and lands on me.

“Oh, it’s you,” he says, disappointed.

“Do you really not notice me,” I asked.

“Wait a minute,” Ryu says looking from her to me multiple times before keeping his attention to me, “Did you win?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Even after I told you not to.”

“It was tough, but I did it.”

“Well, if it was so tough, then you should have just given up,” Ryuu says as he clenches his fist, “Cause it’s only going to get worse from here.”

“Look, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to give up just because you told me to. How about we settle this after the tournament?”

“Or I beat the shit out of you so you can’t even make it past the next round?”

Tanaka tugs on Ryuu’s shirt as he pushes her hand off.

“Hey,” Kiyoko, previously quiet, yells, “It won’t just be him that you have to deal with. I’ve got strong people I know, and you won’t want to mess with me, either!”

Ryuu laughs.

“I’ve heard about you. You’re quite famous, you know?”

“I… am,” Kiyoko asks, skeptically.

“Yeah! For being the only first year in history to have never unlocked their First Gear! You’re a walking joke!”

Ryuu looks between both of us and laughs once more.

“I’m talking with a murderer and a clown! That is hilarious… The kinds of people you meet, am I right?”

Tanaka tugs on Ryuu’s shirt, harder this time, as he still pulls it off.

“I’ve been saying this a lot lately,” Kiyoko sighs, “But I’ve just unlocked my First Gear and I’ll give you a live demonstration at seven, okay?”

“Oh, wow! Really? Well, I do love me a good circus, so sure. Make a good show and I’ll let you off the hook for now.”

Ryuu then steps back and extends hand toward Tanaka.

“Come on, let’s go.”

She hesitantly takes it as he starts to talk away with her hand in his. As Tanaka leaves, she gives us a deep apologetic look. After they exit the room, Kiyoko looks at me.

“What an ass,” she exclaimed.

“Not so loud,” I shushed her, “But yeah… Total jerk.”

“I don’t usually get mad over stuff like this, but it’s when people target my Gears. That’s when it hurts.”

“Well, don’t worry. They don’t have anything to target anymore now that you’ve unlocked it.”

“Yeah, you’re right… During my match today. I’ll definitely give them something to talk about, that’s for sure.”

Kiyoko and I leave the fighting grounds as we find somewhere to eat. Her match isn’t for another few hours, so we’re just relaxing for a little while. However, before that, I am excited to see Isamu’s fight. I wonder how well he’ll do against a first year, in this case, Genji. Only time will tell, I suppose.