Soul Nemesis [VOLUME I]
Another school day.
Another lunch break.
It had been roughly a week since the Kisaragi station incident, and despite some minor exorcist patrols, all was mostly quiet during the night around Shina lately.
“Senpai, here, try this!” Naomi urged Eiji on, holding out some pickled radish with her chopsticks.
“I’ll pass.” On the other hand, the young man nonchalantly refused with a shake of his head.
Naomi though wasn’t one to back down from a challenge, even if it meant force-feeding her upperclassman some of her homemade bento.
“Come on, say aaaaah!”
“Nope.” Eiji retorted once more, deciding to nimble on his canteen-bought melon bread instead.
Inside the occult clubroom, where Eiji and Naomi recently started eating their lunch at, a serene silence usually hung in the air. Save for the times Naomi went on and on about matters insignificant to both Eiji and herself. If one decided to do the math on that, they’d realize that meant almost every passing minute. Even so, Eiji preferred THAT, over the hustle and bustle of his class.
“Okay, then say nitroglycerin!”
And just as Eiji was about to question the nature of such a ridiculous demand, the young girl before him did not hesitate to stuff his face with her mom’s delicacies within the margin of a split second.
Just as the young man quickly gulped down the foreign object within his mouth, a very visibly penetrating glare surfaced across his face.
“You dumbass, what the hell do yo—“
Right as Eiji was about to tap into delinquent mode, Naomi’s camera flash caught him completely off guard once again.
With a smirk so wide and evil it could probably even bring Joker himself to shame, Naomi tapped away on her phone like a woman possessed.
“Oye what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Pouty senpai, he probably didn’t like my mom’s lunch… exclamation mark… a heart. Aaaand post!”
Naomi hummed to herself giddily, as she clutched her phone to her chest.
“You, explain.” Eiji simply stated, staring daggers.
“Don’t worry senpai, it was just a picture for my picstagram blog!”
“Yes, it’s a blog made up entirely of photos of you!”
“Hand over the phone.”
“Now.” Eiji demanded, his gaze icy cold.
Reluctantly, and with a head hung low, Naomi sighed. With a resigned look, she stared back up, and in a moment…
“See you after class, senpai!”
…Left the room in a flash, as fast as the wind.
“Oye!” Eiji got up from his seat at once too, but even somebody with his athletic prowess and almost superhuman capabilities could not stop her when she was protecting such closely guarded treasures.
Instead of running out in pursuit of her, Eiji made a mental note of creating a picstagram account himself and reporting the hell out of her blog for good measure.
With a sigh, he too withdrew from the clubroom and locked the door behind him, with the spare key he was handed by none other than the club president herself.
As Eiji now roamed the hallways towards his classroom, his not-at-all persistent servant made an appearance out of thin air.
“Eiji-dono! Meh has something to report!”
“If it’s about the weather, then spare me.”
“No, Eiji-dono, it isn’t! It’s about malevolence…” Meh lowered his tone at once, even though nobody in a kilometer radius other than Naomi could possibly be able to hear.
“I’m listening…” Finally intrigued, Eiji came to a sudden halt just beside the staircase leading to his classroom’s floor.
“There’s been some sudden spikes in the malevolence inside the school grounds as of late, but they keep disappearing just as quickly as they appear… Meh really doesn’t know what to make of them!”
“Again inside the school…?” Eiji sighed in exasperation at the memory of what transpired the last time he had to deal with a fellow cursed schoolmate.
Despite his clear disappointment, it really was common for schools to have one too many cases related to the occult. After all, specters were attracted to negative emotions like bees to flowers, and God knows how many of those surface during one’s teen years.
“Indeed! But due to its sudden climbs and descends, I can never locate it!”
“Just perfect…” Eiji shook his head in response, and began walking once again.
And as fate, or most likely luck would have it, a female schoolmate stumbled on her way down the last three steps of the staircase right across him. With a thud, she hit the ground, her arms doing little to cushion her fall.
Despite it taking place some ways ahead of him, Eiji wasn’t quick enough to do anything other than pick up the scattered items that burst from within the student’s blazer pocket as she fell.
As the young man examined the items at hand, his eyes focused on the peculiar looking member card aside her phone. It was a purple matte card for a dance club called “Move”
Didn’t someone Eiji knew also attend those classes?
“Uhm…” After the girl had gotten up and dusted herself off, she very clearly turned to Eiji.
Without being fazed though, the young man simply handed the phone and card back to their rightful owners. “Here.”
“Thank you…” The girl smiled timidly for a brief moment.
Her eyes were big and perfectly round, and held an emerald-green hue within them. As she bowed briefly in gratitude, her wavy hair tied in a tail across her shoulder, and her parted fringe to the side bopped along with her. She stood in average height for a woman, and her figure was quite slim and elegant, albeit her posture did betray a lack of confidence.
Her smile quickly faded, giving way to her normal expression, which accentuated her maturity and the fact she was probably a senior.
Beneath her loose and askew ribbon though, a certain emerald glowing trinket caught Eiji’s eye. It was a beautiful silver necklace. Her choice to wear it in school despite the rules advising against accessories however, begged quite the question.
With hurried steps, Eiji’s supposed upperclassman made her way down the hallway.
“Eiji-dono! Eiji-dono!” With a start, Meh the Shikigami flew about in circles in typical “crucial information” fashion.
“Please, do not tell me that girl…”
“…Is the source of that sudden spike of malevolence! As she fell down the stairs Meh most certainly sensed it!”
With another shake of his head, the young man exhaled deeply. “Did you see anything? A specter pushing her down or something?”
“No… Meh didn’t see anything quite like that.”
“Then it was probably just a coincidence. If something was really targeting her, we’d have been able to see it.” Eiji reasoned, as he went up the stairs.
“That is quite true, indeed…” The Shikigami too, couldn’t help but agree with his disbelieving master,
After a typical uneventful day of classes wrapped up, Eiji, unemployed as he was, decided to pay the occult club a visit as he had plenty of times during lunch. After all, he knew all too well whose wrath he would incur, should he not attend at least twice a week.
Despite her senpai very visibly being there with her, Naomi though didn’t seem to be in the best of moods.
And despite Eiji’s attempts of ignoring her, as he read through his palm-sized book in silence, her unusual grumbling noises managed to avert his attention toward her.
“…What is wrong with you?” Eiji asked, looking up from his text.
“I think Karate practice is taking its toll on me, senpai!” Naomi exhaled in visible exasperation, as she pressed her squishy cheek against the table. “My body is sore all over…”
“Maybe you should quit, then?”
“I can’t possibly do that, senpai! How else am I gonna get the skills to fight by your side, as your sidekick?” Despite her unconvincing body posture, Naomi’s eyes suddenly shone with determination.
“You are no one’s sidekick…” Eiji sighed. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact she was still going on strongly about that subject.
“Hehe, don’t worry, senpai… I know you’re a tsundere.”
“For fucks sake…”
It seemed not only Hatsue had had the same kind of conclusion as regards to Eiji’s character archetype.
“Oh, that reminds me!” Suddenly Naomi perked up. “Can you please take over these documents to Sawada-sensei? It’s the final papers needed to make you an official member.”
Following the trail Naomi pointed at with her finger, Eiji quickly found a clear set of three papers stacked by the side of the table.
“I’d go myself but I’m just… Haaaah….” The girl sighed despite herself.
She really did look quite exhausted, Eiji observed. That didn’t mean he should be anyone’s errand boy, just because they can’t be bothered to do their job. His instincts and petty nature urged him to refuse.
“Fine. Be right back…”
Despite the overwhelming odds, Eiji ultimately accepted the trivial task and arose from his seat.
In response, Naomi smiled weakly.
“Thank you, senpai.”
The faculty room was located on a whole other building than the one used for clubrooms, so Eiji’s trip wasn’t quite as short as he would have liked. Even so, it wasn’t that long until he had reached the room where all the teachers gathered during lunch and after classes.
After a brief, light knock on the door, Eiji slid it open and stepped into the lightly air-conditioned room. The layout of it was simple, with the teacher’s desks forming an O shape around the center of the room, and a space for kitchen furnishings positioned by the side of the wall.
Just as Eiji was looking around, a voice called out.
A short middle-aged woman, stared at him in puzzlement, probably taken aback by a problem student’s uncalled for visit to the teachers’ office.
Eiji frowned. Despite recognizing the woman behind the desk as the Home Economics teacher, his brain’s hard drives failed to load her name. It was also quite possible he never paid enough attention in her class to remember.
Thankfully, the small silver nameplate on her desk helped jog his memory.
“Suzuki-sensei…” Eiji nodded.
Regaining her composure, his teacher’s dependable attitude resurfaced. “It’s rare to see you here, can I help you?”
“I need to give these to Sawada-sensei.”
“You do? Can I see them?”
“Sure.” Without any hesitation whatsoever Eiji handed over the papers at hand.
“Oh, you’re joining a… club?” Suzuki’s eyes narrowed in surprise as she read through the documents. Soon though, her expression lit up. “Well done, Kanzaki-kun! I’m glad to see you’ve decided to engage on some school activities!”
Her smile felt genuine, and despite not being as young, her facial features gave the impression of a gentle, and kind person.
On the other hand, unsure on how to reply to such a statement, Eiji shrugged. “Uhm… thanks?”
“Now, Sawada-sensei isn’t here. He’s off to the counseling room with a senior student, but it will probably be over soon so you can head over there yourself.”
For the record, the counseling room was located on the same building as all the clubrooms, and of course Eiji knew all too well exactly where that was. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be called there, at least once per month…
Going there now however, meant Eiji had to take yet another trip.
With a sigh, Eiji retrieved the papers, and made his way to his next destination.
This time, the trip felt significantly shorter, as he thought back to what had transpired during lunch break. The fact he had yet another exorcism possibly revolving around a schoolmate of his coming up, couldn’t possibly slip his mind.
Just as Eiji was about to knock on yet another door, a pair of voices from within stopped his hand midway through the motion.
“Takenaka-san, we really need to do something about those grades of yours.”
A calm, yet raspy voice came from within the room.
“I… I’m aware, sensei.”
The reply was muffled, probably due to the speaker’s low tone, yet the context of it wasn’t lost on Eiji nonetheless. The voice was light. Feathery, and brittle, but there was a hidden element to it too, making it sound somewhat ethereal on its own.
And its unnatural mix of attributes to it aside, there was a sense of familiarity to it. Eiji had heard that voice somewhere before.
“Your scores were near-perfect last year, yet come senior-year you look nowhere near focused enough.”
“You’re right, sensei.”
“Is something distracting you? Something you may need help with?”
“No, Sawada-sensei, it’s just that… I haven’t been sleeping well lately. It’s just… fatigue.”
Despite the teacher’s attempts to appease her, the female student before him didn’t seem like budging.
“I… see. If it’s about your mother then—“
“Sensei! I have that essay you asked of us last week.”
Desperate to change the subject, the student very audibly fumbled with her schoolbag.
“Okay... That paper was due on Wednesday, though.”
“It… was? It was!”
The girl almost panicked as she remembered, rummaging through her bag with even greater urgency.
“Still I have it right her—“
Right as the girl spoke and probably handed over the essay to her teacher, the sound of a glass, or a cup being knocked over was heard, causing quite the commotion within the room.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry sensei!”
The set of voices turned hasty and urgent as the both of them were heard rising from their seats.
“Don’t worry about it, Takenaka-san, but your essay…”
Judging from that exclamation, and the sudden pause, her essay must have been drenched with whatever was within the cup without her noticing.
“I-I ah… I’ll just rewrite the whole thing, sensei!” In a hurried manner, the student fumbled with her bag, and moved towards the door.
With a bow, the girl opened the door, and stepped hastily out the room, clutching her bag and essay close to her chest.
Despite making eye-contact with Eiji beside the entrance though, the girl’s emerald eyes withdrew from him just as quickly.
And of course Eiji had recognized the voice. It was the same girl Meh had deemed as the source of malevolence in the school this morning.
That sure was a lot of bad luck for one day, Eiji silently thought as he entered the room.
“Kanzaki?” Sawada, who was cleaning both the table and himself within the room voiced in bewilderment. The substance spilled, appeared to be coffee.
“I came here to deliver these to you, Sawada-sensei.”
“No more essays, please.” The teacher said, as he caught ahold of the papers.
“They’re not, sir.”
“Oh, yeah it’s about Mizuno’s Occult Club… Are you really joining?”
“Seems like it.”
“What is that supposed to mean…?” With a sigh, the young-looking teacher spoke as he pushed his black framed glasses up his nose. “All seems to be in order, so as your club advisor, I welcome you.”
Sawada was a fairly young teacher, that had only recently joined the school as a literature instructor. He was a rather tall man, of average build and had a clean shaven face as well as a very neat short hairstyle. Seeing as to how no other teacher wanted the position, he agreed with Naomi to turn up as the occult club’s advisor on paper.
“Thanks.” With a nod and a slight tilt of his head, Eiji turned on his heel and made for the door.
His advances though were swiftly halted, “Oh, Kanzaki!”
“Yes, sensei?” Eiji turned around, just before he left the room.
“Please inform Mizuno-san, that despite my efforts to keep this club afloat, there might a problem in the long run if there aren’t any more members other than the two of you.”
“I… see.” Eiji spoke, with a light furrow of his brows.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying. This school is all about freedom when it comes to clubs and the like, but occupying a clubroom for a purpose as abstract as the “occult” isn’t doing much in your favor.”
Probably puzzled that such an important discussion fell on the ears of someone as indifferent about the club as Eiji, the young man remained silent for a moment.
“That reminds me, I hope you’re not really messing with anything paranormal in there… I’d rather not have a demon released on campus if I can avoid it.”
“Don’t worry, sensei. There won’t be any demons.” Of course the same couldn’t be said about specters, but Eiji decided it was best he left that bit out.
“Good, then you’re free to go.” Sawada spoke, dismissing his student.
Finally free of errands, Eiji retreated back to the occult club to retrieve his schoolbag. It had cost him quite some time and mental energy to get to and fro during his side quest.
As the young man returned, he was greeted by a flush-faced Naomi, who smiled weakly upon his arrival.
“Hey, senpai…” With a voice just as weak, the girl muttered.
Instantly picking up the root cause of her exhausted demeanor, Eiji threw his bag over his shoulder.
“Come on, I’m getting you home.”
“Eh, but it’s still early…” Naomi whined like a kid denied of a lollipop, as she rubbed her cheek against the table.
“Come on…” Eiji helped her up despite her protests, before grabbing her own schoolbag too.
Despite Naomi not realizing the cause for her lightheadedness, her forehead’s temperature and flushed face definitely indicated some kind of fever was setting in.
“I think I may miss practice today…”
The two exchanged a few words, as Eiji led the girl just outside the school gates. To both of their convenience, the young man had decided to come to school on his bike, resulting in him being able to drop off Naomi quicker.
It was evident she was in need of immediate rest after all. Turns out the fatigue she had accumulated these past few days had taken quite the toll on her.
After Eiji drove up to her apartment complex, and successfully completed his escort duty, he decided to go for a ride instead of going home. There was still the matter of malevolence potentially gathering around that senior girl from his school, after all. He needed the time and place to think, and only one location came to mind…