Chapter 4:

sword dance

Yu-Gi-Oh! :Another story

“So, what do you think we should do today?” Anzu asked as Yugi put his stuff into his backpack. “Hmmm… I don’t know. You can pick.” “Don’t look at me, I don’t have any more good ideas than you do!” “I really don’t know.” “Well neither do I! Just say the first thing that pops into your head! I’m not very happy after the score I got on that quiz, so I’m really not in the mood for pointless debate.” She said, annoyed.
“Hey, You two!” Mami-San came bounding over uninvited. “I know what you can do! They are having kendo club try-outs today, and there is apparently a big argument going on in the practice room right now because of some new student trying out. It’s pretty much been made up of the same guys since freshman year, you know! They have a few new guys today though, and one of them is causing a stir!” she said. “Come on, let’s go!”
Neither Yugi nor Anzu were particularly into school sports; Yugi just wasn’t the athletic type and Anzu just didn’t like the people on the school teams, but they desperately wanted something different to do, so they let their classmate drag them to the kendo room. As they walked along, Anzu found it necessary to whine a bit. Bored as she was, she still found martial arts and such totally uninteresting. She was also just in one of her rare whiny, foul moods and felt like being a jerk.
“Seriously, why does this club even still exist?” She complained as the three headed to the practice room. “So what if it is traditional? All it really is is a bunch of guys in pads trying to hit each other with a stick. Too bad they don’t have basketball or soccer try outs today, “she added. “Because those are the sports I actually like. No matter how much you honor-ize it or make it about technique, skill, stamina, and form, all martial arts and stuff are just about power and fighting.”
As someone who aspired to be a professional dancer, she found martial arts to be boring. Dancing was an art form; it was free-thinking, you could get as creative as you wanted with it, and it was universal; there was no one right way to dance and anyone could make up a new, acceptable style effortlessly. Martial arts were all about the ‘honor of proper form’ and that sort of thing; many of them weren’t well known or understood outside of Asia, and they all had strict rules and regulations that had remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Bleck!!! A really unpopular view to have, true enough; even her family had commented that she sounded like an ignorant westerner with her anti-martial art's ranting.
Mami skipped along happily. “I wonder who the new guy is. Why is he causing such an upset? I mean, there were a few freshman who wanted to try out this year; why’s the captain nearly giving himself a heart attack over this one person?” She blabbed.
When they reached the room, they had to weave through the crowd, but they could hear the loud yelling. “Why the hell…” “No!! It’s not happening, ever!” “Why don’t you pack your ass up and leave, because we don’t want you here!” “This is… you’re just mocking us!” “Boys!” bellowed Mr.Karita, the rude, mean, and obnoxious gym teacher. “Quit your whining! And You! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“You have got to be kidding me!” exclaimed Mami as the three finally saw who was causing the uproar.
Hanoata Atsuka, looking calm and undisturbed, stood in the center of the room, facing a barrage of insults from the boys on the Kendo team. In contrast to the guys, who were all wearing varying degrees of athletic clothes and body armor, she looked …well… un-athletic and a little tomboy-ish. She wore a white athletic tank top, black tights, an extremely short pale pink skirt (that appeared to be more for looks than anything else), and grey flats; not a very movement conducive outfit. She had wrapped up her hands and arms for a better grip on the wooden sword she held and had her hair tied back, so that was something. But still, track skills and speed aside, she didn’t look very strong; why was she so determined to join the kendo club, especially knowing it was made up of all boys? They would kill her, and possibly not just metaphorically; they all could be a bit violent and machinist, of course, because Karita passed his strength supremacy and sadism onto them when he observed the pratices. Atsuka may have been fast, but she looked about as strong as a twig; it wasn’t hard to imagine her having an arm or a leg broken just by engaging someone in a duel. ‘Is she freaking INSANE?!?’ was the question on every observers mind. None of the kendo boys were happy that a cutesy little girl had intruded upon their territory; many of them were known to be sexist bullies with big heads, so it was obviously the highest possible insult to them.
“Why are you so upset?” Atsuka-San asked calmly. “I already did my research. There is nothing in the school code of conduct or the Kendo club rules against a girl joining. When you formed this club, you never specified that it was to be boys only, therefore, it is technically a co-ed club under regulation. Also, it is against the code of conduct to refuse to allow a student to try out for a club or sport on the basis of bullying, hazing, or sexual harassment. I checked. There are no legal or logistical reasons why you can deny my right to try out. Your club could be disbanded or penalized if you don’t allow me to try out.”
“You damn bitch!” screamed the club president, Shiro Fujuko. He was visibly enraged beyond all logic.
Mami knew about him from firsthand experience. They had lived next door to each other since she had moved to Domino City last spring. He was incredibly loud, high strung, and rather rude and smug; he looked down on anyone who he considered weak, and believed that girls were inherently weak, mindless, and inferior to boys. She knew he clearly intended to fight the law, which was on Atsuka-San’s side, until his last breath. “Come on, Shiro-Chan!” She yelled mockingly, “Get over yourself already and just let her try out!” He looked like his jugular was about to burst.
“Just go on, Fujuko-Kun,” Mr. Karita said smugly. “If she wants to try out so badly, let her; you’re going to beat the crap out of her anyway, so you shouldn’t get so worked up. Just make up something; look at her, she’s too pathetic to amount to anything. The duel will be over pretty quick!” He taunted. “Set up whatever rules you want, Fujuko! Get as creative and… challenging as possible! I’ll be the ref! There’s no real point in having three referees like a real match, because this whole thing is a sick joke!”
Shiro smirked sadistically as he stripped off his pads and tossed them to one of his friends. “Okay, fine, you dumb Bitch, I’ll humor you. Seeing how you want to be mutilated so badly, let’s make this match more fun! We both hit each other wherever, but aim at the critical points per the kendo guidelines for points. Whoever has the most points doesn’t matter; the winner is the one who is left standing at the end! And we don’t wear any armor at all!” Some members of the audience looked uncomfortable. The rules were brutal; kendo was designed to be an armored sport and didn't allow random attacks for a reason; being hit with a wooden sword was agonizing and bone cracking if you were hit hard and had no padding. This was more like an ordinary duel, and it was made ever more horrific by the fact that the opponent was a young girl who's body most likely couldn’t handle such violence.
Atsuka-San blinked, blind to the tension in the air. “Your rules are contradictory. Who’s gonna win when we are both left standing?” she asked simply. “What?” “I know I’m going to last until the end. I wish I could say that you will lose, but you look pretty strong and not entirely stupid, either, so you are probably still going to be able to stand. So your system is pretty confusing.”
Was this girl even dumber than she looked? Shiro grimaced. She had the stature of an elementary schooler and obviously had to have weak muscles to match. He had heard about how agile and fast she was; the track team hated her guts , as she had turned down their desperate offer to join the team. But that didn’t matter; he practiced his technique at least three hours a day; in addition to team practice; weight trained for an hour every morning, and ran ten miles at night after school. He took pride in keeping his body in peak shape; there was no way an underdeveloped, maimed, and awkward girl would be able to beat him! She was a cocky little Kisama, he’d give her that. He figured he’d just tell her what she wanted to hear. There was no way she’d win, so he had nothing to lose either way.
“Fine! Whoever has the most hit points will win. But we don’t have to stick with formal guidelines. We can make up whatever moves we want, and hit each other on other parts of our bodies besides the critical points. Say I knee you in the gut; it won’t count as a hit point, but it will be totally legal. Our time limit is three minutes, per the official guidelines. Okay? Happy? Are you ready?” “Yes.” They took their marks.
“What do you think?” asked Mami-San. She personally wanted Atsuka-San to win. Shiro was a jerk; her next door neighbor needed to be knocked down a few pegs. She remembered being so excited when the cute boy had come over to visit her after she had moved to Domino City; they had hung out a lot once they discovered that they were both MMORPG addicts. She had hoped they would become friends, but he had quickly shown his true nature. After he made some sexist criticisms about her gaming technique, she had kicked him out of her house. She wanted him to realize what a moron he really was to look down on an entire people group just because they were born the way the way they were; maybe getting his butt handed to him by the weird new girl would be the wakeup call his over inflated ego needed.
Anzu frowned. She wasn’t real thrilled with the match; it was quite obviously rigged in Shiro-Kun's favor, and it was clear that he planned on playing dirty; neither Karita nor any of the other boys in the club would be upset if Hanoata-San ended up in the hospital. “Well…I really want her to win. But this could be really dangerous. I DO at least know the basic rules and set up of matches, and this is not an honorable match AT ALL. It’s not even legal! This isn’t a kendo match, this is basically a no -holds- bared, free for all beat down! Shiro-Kun knows what he’s doing and I don’t trust him to play fair. He could cause serious damage to her. She’s so tiny, who knows what even a minor injury could do to her?” “I think she should do it.” Yugi Chimed in. “She knows what she got herself into; she wasn’t worried at all about coming to try out, and she was smart enough to do some research ahead of time. She’s the only person in the room right now who’s calm. I think she is smarter than everyone gives her credit for. If she thinks cautiously, plans her moves, and thinks fast, I think she has an about equal chance of winning as Shiro-Kun.”
“Don’t worry, Fujuko-Kun! You can beat this moron!” “Yah! Give that slut a good ass kicking!” “Show her what happens to people who laugh in our faces!” “Yeah! Look at her! I bet the little bimbo has never actually used that sword in her whole life!” The kendo boy’s egged Shiro on; it was obvious they wanted him to actually hurt Hanoata. The audience was just as bad; many of them called out jeers to the girl that none of them wanted at their school in the first place. Anzu, Mami, and Yugi were the only ones in the small room who believed in Hanoata-San.
“BEGIN!” screamed Mr.Karita.
Shiro instantly lunged toward Hanoata, aiming for a vicious Do-bu blow to her left side. To his shock, she twisted her torso, and kicked him in his knee, resulting in his attack becoming a weak gut attack. Her wooden sword moved quickly, crashing into his left wrist, and then his right, in a double Kote-bu hit,
‘Damn it!’ Shiro cursed in his head. ‘The idiot just scored first! And she was able to hit me twice in under a minute!’ He swung his sword, aiming for the side of her head, and she parried the blade. She moved in for another wrist hit. But he wasn’t falling for the same trick twice. He swung his leg out and kicked her violently in the gut, causing her to let out a loud, gasping cough. He smashed his sword into the side of her head, earning a Men-bu point. As she staggered back, he wrenched her arm, throwing her to the ground several feet away.
“Oh my god!” Shrieked Mami. “Seriously, why is no one doing anything? Screw Hanoata-San’s feelings; this is brutal!” “How does it feel? Ready to surrender?” taunted Shiro. The three simplest of tricks had brought several unfortunate guys to their knees, so the stupid brat had to be feeling the pain right now!
To everyone’s shock, Hanoata STOOD UP. “Owie! That hurt!” She winced as she raised herself slowly to her feet. She massaged the side of her head. “Your technique is good, Shiro-Kun!” “What the-! How the hell are you still standing?” He screeched in horror. What was going on? How could this girl just get up like she had simply tripped or something? He had seen top competitors thrown off their game by the pain inflicted from headshots!
Suddenly, Hanoata lunged, darting behind Shiro with the same speed that had made her a track star in gym class. She cracked him on the side of his head, returning the favor. “Damn!” He cursed as he staggered backward, raising his sword for another strike at her shoulder. But Hanoata quickly reacted, blocking the hilt of his sword with her own. He struggled for a second, straining his muscles. How was this small girl so strong? He couldn’t dislodge her sword! How... he'd bench pressed weights quadruple what her weight had to be!
He swiftly twisted his wrist, freeing his sword, and aimed his fist at her side. Hanoata reflexively blocked the blow with her elbow, horrifying him. ‘Where did she learn to fight like this?’ he thought.
“Yes! Go Atsuka-San!” Yugi screamed in encouragement. “Yeah!” Mami cheerfully pumped her hand in the air. “You can do it! Don’t let that jerk win!” Anzu stared in shock. Was the new girl really this strong? ‘Not just that, ‘she thought, glancing at the girl’s stance. ‘She knows what she’s doing! Every single one of her moves is planned exactly to counter his!’ Hanoata let lose, punching him on the side of the head with her free hand, then kneeing him in the chin.
“One minute left! “Bellowed the gym teacher. “Oh my god!” “That Atsuka chick is going to win!” “A GIRL beat Shiro-Kun!” The room buzzed. Shiro glanced around quickly. No! NO! It couldn’t- He couldn’t lose! Not like this! Not to someone like her!
Hanoata rushed him, striking his sword hilt so hard, he nearly lost his grip on it. “40…39…38…” She began a blitz attack, alternately hitting the hilt and his left shoulder so hard and fast that he was unable to return the attack or guard himself. “10…9” She let up and he began to slump to the floor. “5…4” ‘I can…I can’t…’ he thought. ‘I lost.’ “0! Time! By a score of fifteen to…two”. Mr.Karita grimaced with distaste. “Hanoata Atsuka wins!”
“Yes! Yes!” Mami and Yugi chanted. The crowd buzzed in shock. ‘Wow!’ Anzu thought in amazement ‘She’s… She’s… I can’t even describe it! It was like a dance! She was so graceful, dodging almost all those attacks! She’s… really cool, actually!’ This was the first time Anzu had ever enjoyed or appreciate a martial arts match.
“Hey Anzu-Chan, Yugi-Kun, this place is getting kind of crazy now, and there is nothing left to see, anyway. Maybe we should get out of here” Mami suggested. “Okay, that sounds good. Ready Anzu? Anzu? Hey Anzu, are you okay?” Yugi asked “Wha- oh nothing! I just zoned out that’s all” She answered cheerfully. Yeah, let’s go.” She glanced back. Shiro-Kun was kneeling on the ground in a daze; she guessed from the guy’s over confidence in himself that he had never lost a match before. Hanoata-San was leaning over him with her hands on her legs. She looked relaxed and didn't look like she was gloating; she moved her mouth, obviously addressing Shiro-Kun, but Anzu couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other.
“Urg, I’m HUNGRY now after all that.” Complained Mami-san as the three walked out of school. “Wanna go get something to eat, guys? My treat! I’m in a good mood after seeing that dummy Shiro get his butt kicked!” “Yeah! How about we got to that one burger place?” “Eww, Yugi-Kun! Please do not tell me you are one of those people who like that cheap, gross, western fast food!” “What wrong with that? Burgers are good!” “No, they are not!”
Anzu wasn’t focused on her friend’s bickering over their food choices. she wasn’t hungry herself, actually. She couldn’t stop thinking about that “kendo match”. ‘Did Hanoata-San get what she wanted, a spot on the team, after all?” She thought. Knowing those boys, probably not; they would probably be even more offended by her now that she had wiped the floor with their leader.
Tripping suddenly on the front walkway, she dumped the contents of her school bag all over. “Anzu-Chan!?” “Are you okay?” “I’m good!” She assured them. “You can go on ahead. I’ll catch up once I pick up my stuff.” Mami and Yugi left, still bickering over which place they wanted to eat at.
Anzu was in a foul mood again; why was she always dropping stuff? As she reached over to pick up her phone, a cheerful voice called out. “Hi down there!” She looked up. Hanoata Atsuka was leaning out one of the front windows. The girl was SMILING and obviously happy as she waved down to Anzu. “Thank you for cheering me on with your friends! I really appreciated it!”
Had Hanoata-San actually talked? TO HER? Anzu glanced up again. Hanoata was gone. “Hey, Anzu-Chan, are you coming yet?” Complained Mami-San. Anzu looked up again. Nothing there. “Cool it! I’m coming!”
• * *
Anzu glanced at Hanoata Atsuka. Did the other girl even remember that? Probably not; she hadn’t even remembered! She never told anyone about it. It had seemed totally surreal; the outcast famed for her coldness and snobbery had SMILED AND LAUGHED! ‘Hanoata-San was a totally different person then,’ she reflected. ‘She looked… sweet, radiant. She didn’t seem at all cruel. She could have just ignored us, but she thanked us, even if only I heard it.’
Actually, somehow, Hanoata-San had made it into the kendo club. Obviously, the amazement of the students had instantaneously turned to mocking about her masculine hobbies, but it was shocking that she had even been allowed on the team… Anzu thought back to her classmate leaning in to talk to Shiro-Kun. What had she said to the Kendo club student president that had changed his attitude toward her?
* * *
Hanoata could feel the girl across and behind her staring at her. She tried her best to ignore it, but failed. Her eyes felt hot and scratchy. Why was it such a big deal that her sister had a temper? Why did everyone laugh at her and say weird things? Why….why was she always alone? And why did she even care? For the most part, she didn’t care about having …friends…if that was what it was called. She never felt the absence of something she never had or needed before, so why did she feel so crummy now? Today sucked. She just couldn't wait to go home and curl up in bed.

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