Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
“Okay, don’t forget to revise the parts from page 27 to 32 until tomorrow. Class is dismissed.”
Despite the lack of any affirmative voices from the students, you could feel the excitement bubbling in the room after being released from yet another boring lecture. What added to the atmosphere, was also the fact that this was the last lecture of a long day.
Lost in his own thoughts as per usual, Eiji started packing that one textbook lying all by its lonesome on his desk, inside his schoolbag.
Eiji already knew who that voice belonged to, so he didn’t even find it necessary to look up, nor reply for that matter.
The usual suspect, Hatsue, spoke again.
“Oye! Can you hear me?”
“Unfortunately? Oye! What do you mean by unfortunately?!”
“Just get on with it.” Eiji sighed, as he placed his bag onto the desk before him, and finally raised his head.
At the face of such unexpected obedience, Hatsue grinned triumphantly “See? You CAN listen!”
“…I’m leaving.” Eiji simply turned around.
“Oye! Wait!” Hatsue stomped her way forward and closed the distance, “Tomorrow, you and me.” She stated, dead serious.
“Hm…” Eiji stared at her briefly, “No, thanks.”
“Huh?! I’m talking about cleaning duty, bozo! We’re on cleaning duty tomorrow!” Hatsue huffed, probably reaching her limit.
“Oh, my ass. What did you think of in the first place?”
“Doesn’t matter. See ya.” Eiji casually waved, and turned to the exit of the classroom, leaving Hatsue fairly bewildered.
“How did I get rejected without even asking?”
“Hatsue! Come on, we don’t got all day!”
As the class rep was muttering to herself, her livid group of friends called out to her over from the door.
“Comiiiing!” Hatsue turned around to leave herself, but not without addressing Eiji one last time. “Don’t you dare forget now, ‘kay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” The young man waved her off.
Eiji never really understood why Hatsue would spend so much time talking to him, and on occasion pestering him, since last year. She had no shortage of friends and popularity, yet she used her role as class rep as a pretense to keep talking to him. What was her goal, he wondered?
“How come you’re always so chummy with Kanzaki-kun?”
One of Hatsue’s friends asked, as the group of girls walked down the hallway.
“Chummy? Gimme a break!” Hatsue retorted.
“I think he’s kind of scary…”
Another one of the girls added.
“I think he’s rather cool, if you ask me.”
And another quickly fired back.
“He’s neither scary, nor cool. He’s… just a dork.”
Hatsue gave one last comment before their voices and footsteps grew further and further out of reach for Eiji to hear.
Leaving the classroom for the day, Eiji gazed upon the almost empty hallway. Classes for the day were done, and while probably the building besides the main one, hosting all the clubrooms, was starting to burst with life, this one’s liveliness had significantly died down.
Yet despite that, Eiji didn’t feel alone. Nor was he really. With his eyes scanning the perimeter, he came across a mysterious girl standing by the entrance to the building. She wore a school uniform unlike the one from their academy, and had her long hair tied in a braid over her shoulder. What really caught Eiji’s eye though, was the weird blue glow she was emanating, and her lifeless, almost hollow eyes.
A translucent, glowing figure. The girl before him was a spirit.
“Yes, Eiji-dono!” Meh quickly appeared beside his master.
“Is she…?” Eiji pointed at the girl with his eyes. It was rather peculiar for a spirit to appear during daytime after all.
“Meh would say her presence is unrelated to the malevolence in the school. Or rather…”
“Her presence as a whole, is a mystery. Despite her standing before Eiji-dono, Meh can’t quite sense her soul. She almost feels like a projection.”
“A projection, huh?” Eiji muttered lowly, “Like she’s not really here.”
Just as Eiji began walking towards the entrance of the school, the figure was no more. In a vanishing act, it simply disappeared, without a single trace left behind.
Despite its peculiarity, Eiji decided to let the matter rest. For now.
“Move it, already!”
Right as the young man had almost exited the grounds, a familiar, ringing voice caught his attention. It was the same gyaru and quiet girl from earlier in the day. Although this time, the blonde primadonna had brought along her underlings, like the cowardly antagonist straight out of a weekly anime would.
The group of girls had surrounded their prey, and looked almost ready to lung at her. Although Eiji doubted it would come to that. They seemed rather spineless at first glance, having to rely in the strength of numbers only to harass a single girl.
“She said stop it!”
The group cackled like a circle of evil witches.
“You didn’t what?!”
“She wants to say she didn’t do anything!”
Another set of cackles.
“Get lost already! First you try to act all cute and innocent, and now you want us to leave you alone?”
“Yeah, why didn’t you apologize when you should have, ey?!”
Another witch came out the circle. With one twist of her elbows, she pushed the petite girl down, her things scattering across the ground.
“Shouldn’t Eiji-dono he—“
Eiji shushed the squeaky voice by his ear. Rushing in when he didn’t know the nature of the aforementioned curse could end even worse than things were escalating now.
“Ho, would you look at that?” The girl from earlier, or more like the gyaru leader, smirked at the contents of the girl’s schoolbag at full display.
With a stomp forward, her foot landed on top of the sketchbook before her, and with a swift kick she tossed it across the courtyard, right into a puddle.
“This one likes to draw… I bet she’s one of those freak otakus!”
The group laughed once more.
“You gonna apologize now or—“
Right as the girls tightened their circle, the girl being harassed rushed forward and broke through their defenses, running straight for the club room building.
The circle of gyarus turned to look in awe, realizing she had given them the slip.
“That stupid bitch… We’ll show her next time.”
Having finished watching the scene unfold before him, Eiji sighed and started walking towards the group.
Was that girl really the source of the curse? Or was she cursed herself? The former seemed way more likely.
Eiji walked over to the spot the girl stood a minute ago, and eyed the supposed bullies.
“W-what?” The leader of the ring stuttered slightly. It wasn’t Eiji’s fault he couldn’t suppress a glare.
“Can’t you see we’re…talking?” Another girl spoke up, hiding inside the comfort of her group.
“Do I look like I care?” Eiji stated.
“I said, get lost.”
The girl up front gritted her teeth at Eiji, a sense of fear visible through her eyes. Eiji knew her type all too well. Bullies were nothing but big cowards on the inside, and those stupid first-years before him even more so.
“You can’t just—“
With another glare from Eiji, the leader of the group stopped her yapping at once.
“Let’s go girls.” She finally announced, walking away with long hurried strides.
After muttering their affirmation, the group followed closely behind their leader.
When the group was out of sight, Eiji walked over to the puddle and picked up the wet sketchbook.
Inside the air-conditioned, and mockingly-friendly atmosphere of the convenience store, Eiji was standing behind the counter, looking slightly less amused than usual. Which was quite the sight, since he rarely looked amused at all.
Right as the customer who had just entered the establishment was looking around, Eiji’s manager, who wore the same, plain work uniform as him, and looked around his mid-40s with his short, and full physique, gave him a disapproving side glance.
“Kanzaki-kun… Didn’t I tell you to sound more excited when greeting customers?”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Too much of a hassle, sir.”
“Kanzaki-kun!” The manager whisper-shouted.
“Haah…” The middle aged man slumped against the counter, ultimately defeated. “I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since you work here, and you can’t even greet the customers correctly…”
“Uhm…” The customer in question, a young woman in her 20s, stood in front of the counter, looking at the man almost melting on the counter in puzzlement.
“E-E-Excuse me!” The manager jumped out of the way at once, unable to contain his stutter.
“Here.” The young woman placed her items on the counter, and smiled sweetly at Eiji, who in turn bowed lightly. With his unruly hair hidden away by the store’s cap, Eiji seemed significantly more friendly at work than he did during any other time of the day. And despite the lack of energy in his gruff voice, he at least did try to contain his habit of glaring at people while at work.
With mechanical movements, Eiji scanned the items one by one, and placed them in a plastic bag for the customer fairly quickly.
“Here you go, that will be 2,830 yen.”
“Thank you.” The woman smiled once more, and handed over a bill. “Keep the change.” With a slight wink, she made for the exit.
“Thank you very much.” Eiji bowed once more, before the manager beside him finally perked up.
“D-D-Do c-come ag-gain…!” Like a stuttering mess once more, his manager bowed too. His behavior really was a testament to how poorly he handled the presence of beautiful women.
Since it wasn’t the first, and likely not the last time Eiji was witness to that, he simply removed his cap and walked to the back room.
“It’s already 11. I’m off the clock.” The young man simply replied, as he went to get changed out back.
“This kid…” His manager sighed, before looking back through the automatic doors from whence the young woman had left.
After Hifumi’s and Asahi’s death, Eiji was left with next to nothing in terms of inheritance money, to make ends meet. With his mother having fallen into a state of coma shortly after she learned of her daughter’s death, Eiji was left to fend for himself all alone. Despite being taken care of up until high school by someone else, he decided to rent an apartment all on his own, and get a part-time job so he won’t have to worry about the expenses too much, despite the compensation pay from his mother’s work being quite sufficient. Eiji didn’t want to spend that money if he could avoid it. He’d say he’d wait for his mother to wake up, so she could one day spend it herself.
As Eiji left the convenience store shortly after 11, the number of people walking the streets had significantly dropped. Night had set in for good, and the moon hung up above the night sky, whole and round, like a bewitched jewel.
The young man breathed in the chilly nocturnal air and sighed. A full moon always reminded him of the day before he lost his family, and his world came crushing down. Clutching the jet-black helmet on his arm, he turned around.
With long, natural steps Eiji walked over to the alley separating the store and another liquor shop, and rested his gaze on top of a bike. It was a polished, jet-black Honda CBF250. Although it was quite an old bike, Eiji made sure to keep it in tip top shape, at least appearance wise. He rarely had the kind of money needed for the regular engine services, and when he didn’t, he opted to fix it up himself. Despite his young age, fixing and tuning his bike’s engine seemed to him as the most fun way to pass the time.
Eiji walked up to it, and rested his hand on the seat. Plenty of emotions welled up within him when he rode that bike, and no shortage of them popped up even while simply gazing at it.
That used to be Asahi’s bike after all.
No matter how easy his life would be if he had sold it back when he lost him and his sister, his feelings for that engine and its owner would never allow it.
He had sworn to ride a bike just like that when he was older after all, that’s why he had gotten his license for it as fast as he could. And what could top riding the exact same bike he had idolized for so long?
Only riding next to Asahi himself, perhaps.
As Eiji raised his head from the bike and down the shady alley, a glowing blue figure caught his eye.
And of course it did, since it was the exact same one he had come across back at school.
As Eiji stepped over the seat of the bike and grabbed its leather handlebars, he turned towards the deserted road.
Just then, the figure that stood at the back of the alley, reappeared in front of him, just a few ways down the road.
“Eiji-dono, Meh thinks we need to follow her!”
The one-eyed, or simply the EYE, companion of Eiji spoke up, after manifesting from seemingly nothing.
“I thought the same… Weird.” Eiji muttered, and placed his full-cover helmet on his head. Setting the main stand of the bike back, and popping the key into the ignition. With a flick of the wrist, the engine roared to life and with a tap from Eiji’s foot, the gear changing pedal clicked into place.
As the bike was propelled forward, the translucent figure disappeared, and reappeared at the end of the road.
“Heh…” Eiji scoffed and popped the clutch. The engine purred sweetly underneath the young man’s touch, its voice filling the silent street with life.