Chapter 5:

see no evil

Our School is Perfectly Ordinary

“Stay there for a bit!” Saori calls. Her muffled voice disappears with the sound of her fading footsteps, as if she’s running back in the direction they came from. Shun is left alone, bewildered, and more confused than when he first came to find her. He glances at the strip of paper at his feet. Then he crouches down, and pinches it between his fingers.

It reminds him of ofuda, but the writing on it is unreadable, like an archaic script instead of kanji. The sensation of static electricity jolts through his fingertips, and the paper slips out of his grip. Ouch. His first thought—no wonder Saori wears a single glove on her right hand.

The door flings open, and Shun flinches, pulling himself to his feet.

Saori, out of breath and still in her kyudo uniform, leans heavily into the doorframe. She’s breathing hard, and her cheeks are flushed like she just ran a marathon. Her ponytail is undone, messy, and locks of loose, silvery-white hair frame her face.

“Um, are you okay—”

“No,” she snaps, and Shun realizes this is her real personality, irritable and violent. “Look, you have to get out of here.”

“Sure,” he says agreeably. “I just need to get my shoes and—”

Without warning, she’s tackling him to the ground, knocking the breath out of his lungs when his back slams painfully into the floor. He makes an effort to speak, but he chokes on the taste of leather when she covers his mouth with her gloved hand. The words die in his throat when he notices that she looks more distraught than he is. Her gaze darts anxiously around the room, searching for something he can’t see.

Then, Saori leans toward him, slow and deliberate. Her long hair drapes over his shoulders like silk, and he can feel her warm breath against the shell of his ear.

“Don’t make a sound. Close your eyes. Trust me.

She’s on her feet in the next half-second, her movements so quick and agile it doesn’t seem humanly possible. There are several paper talismans clenched in her hand, and she throws one toward the door like a dart.

The thin paper shouldn’t have that kind of trajectory. Shun isn’t exactly an expert on physics, but even he knows that. And it shouldn’t land vertically in midair either, like being stopped by an invisible force. The ofuda-like talisman floats. Then it shudders.

And then, it moves.

It moves as if stuck to an invisible force, hovering near the ceiling in a very…alive way that it freaks Shun out. He turns back to look for Saori just in time to see her launch herself upward, sending a spinning kick in the direction of the talisman. Her foot stops abruptly in midair, as if connecting with something solid. She falls back, landing with catlike grace on top of a desk.

There’s a flash of silver, and she draws a blade out of nowhere with her left hand. Shun pulls himself closer to the wall, watching her throw more paper strips and exchange blows with the invisible enemy. It almost looks like she’s fighting nothing at all, but there’s resistance in each of her strikes. And when the talismans start to stick, Shun realizes that the place is swarming with these unseen creatures.

It’s terrifying. It’s the worst experience of his life. He wants nothing more than to cower under the desk and shut his eyes. The thing is, Saori told him to do exactly that—but it’s even harder to look away.

She’s terrifying too, in an ethereal way. She’s hiked up her hakama for better range of motion, and her hair flows loose over her shoulders. Her kicks are powerful, and she carves mercilessly through the air with her shortsword to complement them. Shun imagines each of the invisible creatures disintegrating into dust every time a paper talisman stops moving and drifts quietly to the ground.

And then at long last, it’s over.

There are crumpled talismans all over the floor. Saori jumps down from the desk, landing softly in the midst of them. In one smooth motion, she sheathes her sword and braces herself against the wall for support. Shun scrambles to his feet, nearly tripping on nothing because his left foot fell asleep. Surreptitiously, he taps it against the floor to try and get the blood flowing again.

“I hate this,” Saori says, and Shun’s heart drops a little lower in his chest.

“I—um, I’m sorry.”

What else can he say, after having witnessed all that while being powerless to help? He feels a little guilty he didn’t close his eyes like she asked, but he stayed silent and trusted her. That ought to count for something, right?

“Why did you have to wreck everything?” Saori mutters to herself. “Why did you have to barge into the library, why were you even here today—why won’t you just forget? What a pain.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Shun says immediately. “That goes without saying.”

She gives him a mocking smile. “I wish that were enough.”

The numbness in his foot is starting to fade, but his face is beginning to feel numb too. The awkward tension in the air is thick, fueled by the guilt of accidentally stumbling upon her secret. A secret is an understatement—he’s discovered the earth-shattering fact that he has a classmate that fights monsters he literally can’t see.

“This isn’t good,” Saori is muttering to herself. She’s rubbing the handle of her shortsword absent-mindedly with her thumb, and Shun is reminded that the blade looks very, very sharp. “Can’t have someone at school knowing…I’ll be a liability to the Order…”

“I promise I won’t say anything,” Shun says. His gaze flits nervously to the sword, then back to Saori again. “I’ll even…um. I’ll sign a contract in blood, or something.”

“Quit being so theatrical,” she says, making a face. “It doesn’t matter what your intentions are, or whether or not I trust you. Hold still. I’ll just knock you out again.”

Shun takes a nervous step backwards, thinking back on the way she beat up all those invisible creatures without breaking a sweat. “Um, please don’t. Kicking someone in the head isn’t a reliable way to wipe their memory.”

“My ‘reliable way’,” Saori says sarcastically, moving closer, “isn’t working on you, in case you haven’t figured it out by now. I’ve tried! Twice! And frankly, I’m quite pissed because this is extremely inconvenient. Stop backing away! I’m not going to stab you—”

She pauses, and there’s a dangerous glint in her eye.

“Ah. I could get rid of all of your memories.”

“Could you not say something so scary with a straight face?” Shun asks weakly, taking another step back.

“It’ll be an accident,” Saori continues, ignoring him. “You get hurt all the time, it’s nothing unusual. And this time—”

“Be reasonable about this,” he pleads. His back hits the wall, and actual fear starts settling into his bones. “I don’t know anything. I didn’t even see anything. I’ll just stay out of your way. I didn’t ask to be caught up in all of this! At least let me pass my exams! I studied really hard this year, and I can’t let all that go to waste!”

He’s panicking, rambling pathetically to save his own hide. He’s not even sure what’s spewing from his mouth anymore, and the knife-like sharpness of Saori’s stare isn’t helping at all.

“You can take my memories if you have to! B-but at the end of the school year. At least let me fulfill my lifelong dream of pursuing academics. Please, I’ll do anything! All that studying, lost just like that…”

Saori looks conflicted. But it looks like she’s considering it at least, which is a good sign. Curiosity is a fickle thing, and Shun deeply regrets sticking his nose into her business. If he had known trying to get to the bottom of all these strange happenings would lead to this, he would’ve turned a blind eye to it all.

But it’s a little too late for that.

This is why you should just mind your own business, the loud, insistent voice in his head chastises him. Do you want to lose everything trying to chase a world you do not belong in?

He doesn’t. He doesn’t, but he’s already witnessed something he shouldn’t and there’s a price to pay for knowledge.

“Okay, I’ve got it.” Saori’s voice cuts through his fearful thoughts. “I’ve decided I’ll give you until the end of the school year. But after that, if I can’t find a better solution, you’ll let me wipe all your memories without a struggle.”

Shun nods, not trusting his own voice to speak.

“It’s settled then.” She’s smiling, oddly amicable all of a sudden. She raises a hand, tracing a delicate pattern through the air with two fingers. The paper talismans scattered everywhere lift off the floor, gently drifting upward like snowflakes. Shun stares, transfixed.

“Oh, and Takeuchi!” she calls, making him jump a little. “If you’ll forget in due time anyway, then I don’t need to hold back. I can tell you the reason you quit aikido last year.”

Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Nika Zimt
Pope Evaristus
Ataga Corliss
Kya Hon
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