Chapter 16:

16

Densetsu Kenshi: Beginnings


   "S-Sensei!! What are you doing here?"

   The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them. There really wasn't much resistance due to my mouth being wide open in shock at this unexpected visitor.

   "What do you mean? I'm your sensei! You're going through a tough time and it's my responsibility to help you out, okay?"

   I didn't answer him right away because I had literally just heard from Takenaka that Maekawa-sensei wasn't to be trusted. This situation was unusually suspicious. The timing was just too perfect. Like it was all a setup. 

   "C'mon Seiji-kun. What's the big idea? I just want to talk to ya, okay? You know I gotta fulfill my responsibilities as your sensei."

   It honestly felt like a trap. He was so insistent with his words. Using "sensei" and "responsibility" several times as if he was trying to butter me up with his words. My gut was twisting over and over from the anxiety building inside me. I did the only thing that came to mind.

   "P-please come in! Sensei!"

   My stupid mouth betrayed me again and dissolved all of the tension in the air. Completely  acting out of line, I'd have to ask Shoko to give me a good punch right in the mouth to teach it a lesson. Sometimes I wonder if there is really something wrong with me.

   Sensei entered in and quickly made himself at home. I tried my hardest to not let the surprise show on my face. My lack of body control showed itself again. I was able to successfully hide the surprise and anxiety on my face, but my discomfort for the whole situation made itself known in the form of an awkward laugh.

   "HA! Ha ha, HA!"

   Sensei looked at me with his eyebrows raised so high it looked like they were going to pop right off his face.

   "Seiji-kun, sit down. You're making me anxious just watching you stand there like that. Please, we need to talk."

   "Sit down? That's like so old-school, w-we could like, stand up!"

   "What are you playing at? Look, Seiji-kun. I know Takenaka-baka came over. I'm not the least bit concerned about what he said to you, okay? I'm sure you have a lot of questions and things to say going through your mind right now. But listen to me. It's important. Why are you associating with that girl from Thermo Corp.?"

   Maekawa-sensei flipped the conversation over to a completely unrelated topic.

   "Huh? Izumi-chan? I-I don't know. She's just nice to me, I guess. We get along fine."

   "You guess? Seiji-kun, you know she's not on the same team as us. She's the enemy."

   "B-but she saved me several times... we even hung out together the other day."

   "Did you know she tried to kill you? She tried to kill you on that night we first met. I saved you from her. She can't be trusted, okay?"

   I opened my mouth to answer that I did in fact know that she tried to kill me. I did recognize that Maekawa-sensei had saved me that night, but I hadn't shared with anyone about my time with Shoko, and I didn't feel comfortable sharing right now.

   Maekawa-sensei continued, ignoring whatever time I almost had to say something.

   "Seiji-kun. Do you really know what it means to be a swordsman employed by Thermo Corp.?"

   The way he worded that question sounded off the warning alarms in my head.

   "Swordsmen employed by Thermo Corp.?" I asked.

   "Yes, that's the best way to describe it. You do understand how the factions work, okay?"

   "Yeah, I do. More or less."

   "Alright, that makes this easier then. But, to help you understand everything, I'm gonna sum up some stuff real quick, okay?"

   "Yeah, go ahead."

   "You already know that factions are established to protect the people in a regional area, right? So, there really shouldn't be a need for more than one faction to overlap with another and protect the same place. It only creates competition and bad feelings toward each other. Well, Thermo Corp. steps all over these unwritten rules and acts like the other factions don't even exist."

   "I guess that makes sense."

   "It does. Keep listening. Thermo Corp. is a global organization. Doesn't that mean that they get in the way of all of the factions all across the world?"

   "That makes sense, but isn't it necessary for all the eidolons out there?" I asked.

   "Good question, I'm glad you're listening. Although eidolons are a problem everywhere, most aren't a big enough threat for more than one faction to get together to take it out, okay? That being said, the way Thermo Corp. goes about their global campaign is simple. They employ mercenaries."

   "What?"

   "That's how they work. They're just a giant firm that hires reject swordsmen all across the world to poach eidolons in places where they normally wouldn't be able to reach. Specifically the territories where some factions have been established for years."

   "I mean, I get that that's not fair, but it's all for the benefit of the people, right?"

   "Seiji-kun. People devote their entire lives to being a swordsman. It's a job. They get paid for their work. They're manipulating the system and it's wrong, okay?"

   "But how does this directly involve me?"

   I had my reservations about this entire conversation from the beginning. It was clear that Thermo Corp. uses some underhanded techniques to get the job done, but that didn't concern me very much. I was more worried about the way this conversation could turn. Takenaka mentioned that I had a target on my back, and I wasn't looking forward to a global enterprise like Thermo Corp. hunting me down. Their playground was the world, there was no place for me to realistically hide.

   "Seiji-kun, think about it. Thermo Corp. is a successful company. They know what they're doing. Don't you think they would hire the appropriate people whose skills and characteristics correspond to their assigned job?"

   "Skills or characteristics..." I muttered.

   "Like for example, a teenage girl assigned to hunt down an eidolon hosting male teenager. Just an example, okay?"

   "A-a teenage girl..."

   A broad sense of realization spread throughout my mind. A teenage girl assigned to hunt down an eidolon hosting male teenager. That narrative sounded extremely familiar.

   "... Izumi-chan," I said after a pregnant pause in the conversation.

   Could she really have been manipulating me the entire time? Did she gain my trust just to craft it into a wicked dagger and ruthlessly stab me in the back?
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   "It seems that you're coming to the same conclusion that I made. There's more to all of this, Seiji-kun. Listen carefully, okay?"

   I tried to calm down the hurricane of thoughts and emotions and feelings flying around inside my head and brought my attention back to Maekawa-sensei.

   "They're completely cheating the system, okay?"

   "Are you serious??"

   I couldn't believe what I had just heard. If it was true, then Thermo Corp. was an organization rotten to the core, and an absolute abomination to the world.

   "Yeah. It's true, Seiji-kun. They have a few restaurants and charge you for the so-called 'free samples' that they offer you before you order."

   "That's horrible! But I'm honestly more concerned about the other thing!"

   Telling a customer the sample is free and then adding it to the check at the end is despicable!

   "Ah. Right. It's true. Thermo Corp. has been artificially planting eidolons all over the world, and then issuing anonymous bounties for the factions to eliminate them. Of course, the swordsmen from Thermo Corp. get first pick."

   "That means they're just directly putting people in harm's way just to increase their credibility as a faction?"

   "Yeah, looks that way. It's all for the money of course... Even though only under extremely rare circumstances can an eidolon be seen by normal people, they still receive financial compensation from the locals. Usually under the pretext of a wicth hunt or exorcism of some spirit."

   "They're not even concerned about the people, are they?"

   "I wouldn't say so. But, hey, Seiji-kun. Do you remember what you saw on our little hiking adventure before that bear eidolon attacked?"

   "Uh, I remember something weird about the whole thing... Oh! There was some guy running around in the trees in a suit..."

   "By now, surely you're familiar with the work uniform of Thermo Corp."

   "Pinstripe suits... formal... suits and ties and fedoras..."

   "Ah! Now that I think back to it, wasn't there a ton of swordsmen from Thermo Corp. at the high school? Most were unconscious or injured, but those two were still active and seemed just fine, okay."

   "Sensei. Are you saying that they planted the hydrangea hydra at the school... they killed my mother..." 

   My words were choppy and my thought process scattered all over as a familiar feeling of rage and hatred began to boil inside me.

   "That, that would be the logical conclusion, okay?"Bookmark here


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   I nearly forgot everything Takenaka told me just a few hours earlier. Nevertheless, the rage inside me overcame me and a lust for revenge was born. I had slowly been connecting the dots between everything that had happened since I became the host for Shoko. It was obvious that someone wanted me dead and was trying to manipulate me.

   "Maekawa-sensei. I trust you. What's the plan to take down Thermo Corp.?"

   "Ah. I knew you'd see it from my perspective after all."

   "Tell me. I won't let them get away with this."

   "Okay, okay. A few nights from now, there'll be a large commemorative party in downtown for Thermo Corp. My sources say that one of the executive officers will be in attendance. I'd say that this is the perfect opportunity to put your name out there and take the first step toward overthrowing their corrupt criminal reign."

   "A few days from now... I have a commitment in the morning, but I'll be there. What's the full plan?" I asked.

   "Well, based on how everything should play out, I think it'll go a little something like this, okay?"Bookmark here


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   I wasted a good amount of time thinking and reflecting about the previous days' events. Nearly everything corresponding to the funeral had recently finished. There was still a few people mingling about, talking about who knows what. As for me, I was released from this cruel responsibility and I gladly took my leave. 

   There were still several hours before the appointed rendezvous. Coincidentally, the attack on Thermo Corp. was the same day as the funeral. It didn't bother me. I was free for the night and looking forward to releasing some stress. But first, I had a prior commitment to attend to.

   I opened up my Inverse Rift and entered in. Lately, I had been spending a lot of time in here. I enjoyed talking with Shoko and passing the time with her company. The real reason I had come today was to coordinate for the upcoming battle. If I found myself in a pinch, Shoko's help would be invaluable. 

   "Yo. My love, how ya feeling? That was like such a depressing party. I saw the whole thing."

   Shoko greeted me with those words as soon as I fully walked in. The rift closed behind me with its signature shloop sound effect.

   "It wasn't a party, but I'm glad you were watching. Did you notice anything weird about the whole thing? There was one guy that didn't talk to anyone but I couldn't feel any spectra energy from him."

   "Ooh-ooh, you sound a little paranoid, my love!"

   She was right. I was definitely paranoid. Ever since Takenaka came over and warned me about Maekawa-sensei, I'd been on edge. Every moment I had, I'd spent with Shoko inside my Inverse Rift. Honestly, everything from the last few days really got me thinking. It was obvious that Izumi-chan's, Takenaka's, and Sensei's visits weren't for nothing.

   Takenaka warned me about Sensei, and then Sensei showed up a bit after and warned me about Izumi-chan and told me his grand plan to topple Thermo Corp. The only comforting thing among all this was my free time with Izumi-chan. I felt like we bonded, but the fact that she was essentially a member of the enemy team was something I couldn't ignore.

   "My lo-oooove, worrying about it isn't going to get you anywhere. Remember that you have the Shoko backing you up in your corner!  There's like not a single person that could even take a punch from me when I'm serious."

   "Yeah? Is that true? Takenaka mentioned that you had a counterpart. Maybe they'll show up tonight and stop us." I argued.

   "Nooope! Not likely! I say not likely because it's wise to include all of the possibilities. But, you and I know that there's no way that he'd show up."

   She was right again. Considering the circumstances and the pieces in play right now, it'd be too risky for that eidolon to show up. Of course, Shoko and I assumed that it's already found a host, but it might not even be in this side of the world.

   "Ahh, talking with you really takes a load off my back, Shoko! I appreciate it. You always listen to me and have valuable comments to actually converse the topic on the table."

   "Ooh-ooh, my love, getting emotional?"

   "Huh? No, I'm not about to cry or anything. I'm over it already," I replied.

   "Nooo! Sadness isn't the only emotion, right, my love? My love love love!"
 
   "Are you saying I'm crushing on you? Not in a million years, my lo-o-ove!" I taunted.

   "Ooh-ooh, so I only have to keep you alive for the next million years? I can do that! It'd be worth it for me, my love!"

   "Sounds good to me. We'll be in speaking, Shoko!"

   I flashed her a thumbs up and a goofy winky face.

   "Yes, my love! We will be in speaking! I can't wait for your answer! I wonder if it'll change!"

   "Huh, a million years from now. Really makes you think about how short your life actually is."

   "But that's why you're sooo cool, my love. You know life is short, and yet you choose to protect others' lives by sacrificing your own."

   Our relationship had really grown these last couple days. I'd spent hours with her. Training, talking, laughing, training some more, yelling. Anything and everything we tried to do so that we could get along better. I'm not sure how it came about, but instead of saying "we'll be in contact" or "we'll be talking", we joke around and say "we'll be in speaking". It doesn't make much sense at all, but I don't think there needs to be a good reason for all the things that make you happy.

   That's right, I was happy with her. I chose to spend my time with her. She'll argue that I'mjust paranoid and doing my best to avoid an assassination attempt on my life and she's not completely wrong, but I guess that just goes to show how far we've progressed in our relationship.

   "Hey, Shoko. I'm gonna head out and change into something else for tonight. I'll be waiting for your help."

   "Ooh-ooh, my love. I'm gonna stop you right there. I-I think you look rather dashing, my love!" She said gleefully.

   "Huh? You think so? But wouldn't it kinda get in the way?"

   "My lo-ooove, there is nothing better than getting revenge in style! I mean look at me! I'm hot!"

   "That is pretty form fitting, hmm. Yep, you look good."

   I agreed just to try and wrap up the conversation.

   "Just good? Pshht. Jerk."

   "Uh, I mean, like, you honestly took my breath away and I was only barely able to say good."

   I covered my blunder. Call me creamy peanut butter because I was ultra smooth.

   "Ooh-ooh! My lo-oove! You make me so happy! Go on and kill em' all! I'll be cheering you on every step of the way!"

   "Thanks. Hey, Shoko, we'll be in speaking!"

   I winked at her and left the quiet paradise inside my Inverse Rift.
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   Shloop.

   Time to face the world. Seiji Yoshino against the corporate entity hell-bent on taking everything away from him. That'd make a good name for a light novel, but alas, I am no poet.

   I walked on over to the rendezvous point slightly before the scheduled time. It seemed best to arrive early, so that there'd be no bumps in the plans. With my newfound confidence in my spectra energy abilities, and the people lifting me up and fighting with me, I felt confident in the plan. The only thing left now was to wait for everyone to arrive. To arrive at the rendezvous point: Occult Club Inc.Bookmark here

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