Chapter 77:

The World's Greatest Mind (Vol.3 END - Announcement In Comments)

Red-Black Course

Before he could realize it, Zain and co. were already out of the area and were sitting comfortably in a well-lit room, complete with a tea set on the single table in the middle, a large couch where the current woken ones sat on, and some hospital beds for the unconscious. Neither Zain nor Mike could figure out how they were able to travel so fast; one second ago, they were still in the secret room where the battle took place, but only after a snap of the finger from the plain man known as Sato Tanaka, they had already been sitting here.

And so, the first thing that came out of Zain’s mouth was the appropriate question:

“How did you…”

But he didn’t get the chance to finish it, for the man had already flipped over his tablet’s screen to show his opposition. On the monitor was a diagram of a complex system, but Zain, and especially Mike, could see some vaguely familiar aesthetics that they had once seen.

“Sensei, you managed to complete the large-scale portable teleporter?” Mike gasped in awe, constantly swiping sideways, pinching, and zooming to see every detail possible.

“Yup,” nodded the average-looking man. “Using a tablet’s camera, the device can scan over a large area for quantum swapping – switching molecules’ positions in a designated place. It does still take a lot of power though, so unless we manage to hook it up to a source of Infinite Energy…”

“Okay, stop right there,” Zain, seeing that the conversation might go to no end if he didn’t intervene, disregarded his politeness to interrupt the two. “Can we go to the important bits first? As in, why were you there when we fought, and how did you just up and stop the fight like that?”

“Oh, that?” The man chuckled, turning his attention to the only one left in the room that hadn’t uttered a single sentence. “Yusei?”

“… Really? You’re not explaining it?”

“Why should I?”

“… Fine,” letting out a sigh, Yusei continued. “Mike, Zain… you two were asked by him to investigate Aoba’s data breach separately, right?”

“Uh… yeah,” both were hesitant, but nodded, nonetheless.

“Well… long story short, there is no data breach,” Yusei gave a reluctant shrug, gesturing towards the nonchalantly-drinking scientist. “He’s behind everything.”

It took a second for both Zain and Mike to process that information in their heads. And once they’d realized the implications behind everything, both jumped off their seats and shouted out their lungs:


Immediately after, the two realized that there were still three other people sleeping near them. Mike covered his mouth in panic, while Zain nervously glanced over to the hospital beds, only to breathe a sigh of relief as he saw none of them showing any signs of waking up.

To reassure the two, Yusei nodded:

“Don’t worry. I gave each of them an extra dose of sleeping serum. They won’t wake up until noon, at least.”

Having the confirmation lifted Mike and Zain’s worries as the former continued, but in whispers this time:

“Sensei, you’ve set us up from the start?”

“Indeed,” nodded Tanaka. “But don’t get me wrong, Michael. I never do anything without a purpose.”

“Then what’s your gain in all of this?” Continued Zain, gesturing to Yusei. “And what does this guy have to do with anything?”

“Sato-sensei wanted to test your abilities,” Yusei was the one to explain. “Mike, Zain… and even Lewis, since you three were the ones who signed up for the NLS Club. That’s why he created this entire situation for two reasons: to see how well you would handle yourselves, and to see if you have the conviction to follow the darkness behind it.”

“The darkness behind it…” Mike, piecing together the events from summer, mumbled. “Then, does it mean that…”

“I’m aware of your meeting with Leonardo, yes,” Tanaka continued. “And your guess is not too far from the truth: Ryuuhan is planning something with this next NLCS. That’s the true reason why I disbanded the NLS Club – I can’t afford to have students joining in and then competing in a tournament that could jeopardize their lives.”

“And Yusei here is the proctor to judge our abilities?” Zain asked.

“Yeah,” nodded the young man in question. “But that’s not all.”

He then reached into his pocket and showed the group his cadet ID card – the same one he showed Lewis.

“This is…” Zain, upon seeing the card, gave a look of caution to his target.

“It’s real,” Tanaka answered. “But Yusei was a double agent from the start… Or rather, he used to just work for Ryuuhan, but defected with me somewhere along the line.”

“And the girls too?”

“… No,” contrary to Zain’s expectations, the answer from Yusei was a shake of the head. “Those two are Fuuma ninjas under Ryuuhan’s direct control. Like Sato-sensei having me around to track Aoba’s students, their job was the same for the World President. In other words, they’re here to search for prospective candidates.”

“Candidates… for what?” Mike questioned.

“We don’t know,” Yusei let out a sigh and shrugged. “Even if I’m their clan leader, I can only get so much information out of them. It’s also why I acted as if I was trying to kill you; to maybe learn more about their project.”

“And them going after me was also for this project?” Zain continued to guess.

“Oh, that… No. But you must have realized somewhat, right? Their true motive, I mean.”

“… I was hoping you didn’t say that…” It was Zain’s turn to let out a sigh, the act of which had caught Mike’s attention:

“What do you mean?”

“Ever since I first saw them through my bug, I was wondering why those two were so familiar… You’re a cadet, so you’d know, right?” Turning to Yusei, Zain asked. “Are they really related to Rose and Love?”

With a light nod, Yusei answered:

“Superintendents Rose and Love… those are the names that they’ve taken since they started working in the Infinite Prison. But before that, I knew them as Mikazuki Yoshiko and Mochizuki Ai – Mikazuki Hanabi and Mochizuki Mirai’s older sisters, and Fuuma clan’s best shinobis of their generation.”

I get it… ‘Rose’ from her sister’s name and ‘Love’ from her own name… Mike thought but didn’t want to interrupt the conversation. And so, the boy would quietly sit as Yusei continued the story:

“You’ve learned of what happened to them, right?”

Replying to him was a shake of the head from Zain. “I only knew through Jack that Rose passed away, but nothing else with Love.”

“… Her body was also in critical condition after you broke out,” Yusei paused for a moment before continuing. “Unlike Yoshi… I mean, Rose, they managed to save her life. But even as we speak, she’s still in intensive care with no signs of progress… And it’s also why Mirai was so hell-bent on killing you.”

“For personal vengeance, huh…” Zain nodded in understanding. “But why didn’t the other girl, Hanabi was it, show the same kind of hostility towards me?”

“Mirai has always been an emotional child. Even within the clan, many said that she wasn’t fit to be a shinobi, but her talent was still brighter than most others… Hanabi, on the other hand, was as much of a textbook ninja as you can get – excellent technique and stealth, while always maintaining a poker face in any situation she might be in. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I understand her from time to time.”

Those were the final pieces Zain needed to fully understand the situation at hand. Finally able to relax himself, the young man reached for the cup of tea in front of him, took a long sip, then asked:

“So, with that in mind… you said it was a test for all of us, right? Then what’s the verdict?”

“Both you and Michael passed with flying colors,” Tanaka let out a smile. “I’ve heard your exploits before, Zain, but your skills are the real deal. Meanwhile, Michael really surprised me with his intuition, and especially mental prowess, both during your fight in real life and in the game world. As your teacher, I have to say; good job.”

“T-Thank you, Sensei!” Mike excitedly bowed at the news, his face flushed in joy and embarrassment. Next to him, Zain was also letting out a content smile, but not for too long.

“Well… I say that, but for you, Zain, there’s a bit of an issue that I see,” Tanaka continued, taking another sip at his tea. “I’ve been wondering since I saw your files, and by now, I’m almost certain, but… why do you insist on using Soccer Style?”

“… What do you mean?” The question was confusing for Zain, to say the least. Soccer Style was proof of his first encounter with Ryuuro, and it was Soccer Style that had helped hone him into the fighter he was. Naturally, when someone questioned it, Zain’s reflex would be to doubt their claim.

“Surely you’ve noticed, right?” On the other hand, Tanaka only squinted in doubt. “Soccer Style is an inherently skill-based set of techniques, meaning that it relies on your dexterity and quick reaction timings to control a projectile – the ball. But Zain… your strength doesn’t lie in skill expression; it’s brute force. Learning Soccer Style has turned you into an excellent all-rounder, but I think it’s time to let it go and return to your true strength.”

Even if the remark was blunt, Zain couldn’t counter it, for he knew it was true. The fight against Yusei just now was his biggest proof: Zain could only beat Yusei thanks to a brute-force attack that converted all his strength into speed in a split instance – something that Soccer Style wouldn’t be of much use.

“… I’ll consider it,” in the end, Zain could only rub his chin in deep thought. Mike, meanwhile, continued asking Yusei:

“Oh, right. You mentioned Lewis too, right? How did he do?”

The final candidate was something that even Tanaka hadn’t heard of, and so, he also turned his attention to the young man next to him. Yusei, however, answered with a firm shake of the head:

“Utter failure. I can’t accept him.”

Hearing those words was like being stuck a knife to the heart for Mike.

“But… How come?”

“He’s a walking contradiction,” continued Yusei. “The guy said that he would do anything to fulfill his dreams; but couldn’t bear the thought to fight against his friend when said dream was challenged, opting for words to solve his problems. He accepted the life-or-death bet; but didn’t have the guts to finish you off. And in the end, while everyone either accepted their fates or fought to the bitter end, he only cowered and cried – unable to come to terms with the fact that he was about to die, but unable to do anything about it… In other words, he’s just a normal kid.”

As Yusei finished explaining, Mike couldn’t protest anything. It was only natural, because every word the young man had spoken was the truth. And Mike also knew it – that was the reason why he never told Lewis about his adventures in the underworld.

Tanaka, on the other hand, had other ideas:

“I agree… But I want to give him another chance.”

This time, all of Yusei, Mike, and even Zain gasped in shock and uttered simultaneously:

“What did you say?”

“Look, I’m also against having him on board,” before the astonished gazes of his students, Tanaka took a light sip at his tea before continuing the explanation. “But I want those two to join us – Mirai and Hanabi.”

“Then shouldn’t I be more suited to whatever you have in plan?” Yusei asked.

“Not really. You’ve known them as kids, so like it or not, you’d have personal bias against whatever their agenda is. Having a third party to convince them to join us is a much easier task.”

“Then why not convince them yourself, Sensei?” Asked Mike.

“Did you forget who they work for?” Tanaka raised his eyebrows in doubt. “Do you really think that they, under Ryuuhan’s influence, would trust his biggest betrayer?”

“You… have a point,” Mike scratched his head in embarrassment. Meanwhile, it was Zain’s turn to voice his thoughts.

“So, you need a third party to convince them… but doesn’t Lewis himself still hold some hostility towards us? How do we convince him to help, let alone them? I can’t imagine telling him the truth now would be a good idea.”

“That’s true,” nodded Tanaka. “Originally, with that test, I thought he was going to see the act unfolding before his eyes and learn how to judge people with his own experience, but it seems that idea is a bust…”

“Wait,” upon hearing those words, Yusei sounded in worry. “You’re not thinking what I’m thinking… right?”

“I think it has to come to that,” answered Tanaka. “We’re throwing him in jail.”

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