City Series:Volume4a Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Everyone’s Movements (Basic Controls Tutorial)
One of Osaka’s landmarks was a tower known as the Tsutenkaku.
It was about one hundred meters tall, it towered above the streets of houses and shops, and no thought had been given to the danger of it collapsing. There was a small plaza around its base, but that was it.
The hundred meter tower sat right alongside people’s homes.
The structure brought the word “local” to mind.
Currently, a boy stood on the tile-covered stone pavement below the Tsutenkaku.
It was Hizaka Shoui.
He drank a can of coffee while looking to the city lights shining into the dark night.
He was waiting for a girl.
That girl was Yamashita Taeko who he had met at Prefectural #2’s front gate.
“Later, let’s meet up at that place called the Tsutenkaku. I’ll treat ya to some food once the meetin’s over.”
He had been obediently following her casual suggestion, but…
“It’s been almost two hours now. And curfew was at seven…”
He looked up, wishing he had walked around Osaka for a bit instead.
Far overhead near the top of the Tsutenkaku, the bottom of the observation deck looked like a dark shadow.
He had not looked up at that tower for a long time.
Even after two years, Osaka remained the same as in his faint memories.
Not long before, he had learned that it was his own situation that had changed so drastically.
…I didn’t stick with that training for two years because I wanted to…
It was true he had gained permission to enter the Mountain during the winter two years before, even though he had not been in high school yet.
His training should have ended half a year after that, but for some reason, he had repeated the same training four times.
That previous Chancellor’s Officers member may have been right that it simply was not for him.
Still looking up, Shoui leaned his back against one of the pillars forming the Tsutenkaku’s base.
He brought a hand to the bandanna on his forehead.
There was no phantom pain, but it would appear if he tried to remember.
Everything from that time would come rushing back if he thought back to what had happened one night during the winter two years before.
It had all begun two years ago.
It had been a night with a chilly wind when he had made Yuuki Yuuki, history’s youngest Koto Guardian and Koto Chancellor, kill someone
It had been a cold night.
Everyone had been holed up in their homes, the only lights in the streets had come from windows, and a silent liveliness had seemed to highlight one’s existence like a form of shadow puppetry.
The same had been true of the shopping district in front of Nara’s Kofuku-ji.
There was a park there containing a large lake called Sarusawa Lake.
During the day, the locals would have been resting in the park, but it was simply an empty space with a lake during the night.
A wind had carried a sobering chill as it had raced across the lake and through the park.
Shoui had been with Yuuki there.
He had sat on the stone bank of the lake while she wore a red blazer.
They had not been looking each other in the eye and Shoui had been holding his reddened right cheek.
“Do you really need to slap me just because I touched your butt, Yuuki?”
He had called her name, but the intellectual face behind her glasses had not turned his way.
That was due to the headphones in her ears.
A terribly refreshing holy sound had escaped them.
Based on the volume he could hear, it had to be easily over an Octave of 320,000.
“The Geist Middle Rhythm…”
His words had trailed off and vanished because he had noticed the many lights floating around her.
The lights had been the size of a fist.
Those cool, bluish-white fluorescent lights had flown around her, landed on her shoulders, hair, and hands, left her again, and continued to dance about.
The light had illuminated her black hair, white skin, and red clothing, making it all stand out in the darkness.
He had briefly watched in fascination, but then he had come to his senses.
“Y-Yuuki, that’s too many spirits… If you’re dragged in…”
She had not turned toward him, so he had sighed with a look of exasperation.
Her lips had begun to sing a refreshing song as if his sigh had been a sign.
—Yuuki – Geist Middle – Take – Speak with the Dead – Hit.
The winter cries out frigidly
Someone cries in loneliness
- They speak words yet nothing is said
- They speak Words yet nothing is said
- They simply wait for the ice to melt
- They draw near and never give up
As he listened to her Words, Shoui had looked to the lights floating around her.
“They draw near and never give up, huh? That fits perfectly for the spirits in Koto that can’t rest in peace, but in a way, those are really dark Words.”
She had finally turned around at that.
“That can’t be helped. My Words were originally for an ice god.”
“…You could hear me?”
“I could hear all the awful things you said about me.”
“Is that so?” He had rested his head in his hand. “It’s weird that you can communicate with the spirits of the dead without using specialized Words.”
“You’re the weird one, Shoui-kun. What with being a Dis-Worder and all.”
He had shrugged at that.
“I don’t really mind.”
“But it is weird. People normally get these powers from Rhythms, but you can use them all without a Rhythm.”
“But it’s all weakened since I don’t recite any Words. Even with High Rhythm powers, an Octave of 150,000 is the most I can manage.”
“I wonder why. Why don’t you have your own Words?”
“Well, wouldn’t that be because during the Kinki Riot-…”
He had smiled bitterly and lightly shaken his head.
“Because my wife has been sucking them out of me every night?”
Yuuki had narrowed her eyes offensively when she heard that.
“You moron… Did you forget your promise?”
“Ha ha. I remember that promise just fine.”
“And I just had you promise again the day before yesterday. …Hey.”
Yuuki’s words and gaze had fallen toward Shoui’s hand touching her butt through her skirt.
“What’s so fun about that?”
—Yuuki – Mind Tech – Take – Intimidation – Hit.
—Shoui – Mind Tech – Counter-Take – Intimidation Reflection – Hit.
“You’re right. I probably need to stick my hand up your skirt for it to be really fun.”
“What do you mean ‘need’?”
“You’re the one that begged me with the ends of your eyebrows lowered last nigh- ow, ow, ow, ow! Is that really worth a backhand blow!?”
“Honestly, why do you have to bring up those things?”
“You’re the one that asked!”
“Shut up. Anyway, why are you here?”
“I’ll push you in the lake? Five, four, three…”
“Don’t count so fast! Um, Grandma Senga contacted me and said representatives of each region are holding a meeting about Ixolde. It’s apparently about whether to run a startup test.”
“I see.” Yuuki had nodded. “A startup test, hm? That tragedy may be more than a decade old now, but I still can’t believe they’re trying to create the ultimate Rhythm with that giant word accelerator. Prefectural #2’s Chancellor’s Officers are really being a nuisance.”
—Shoui – School Tech –Take – Recall Memory – Hit.
“Either way, Prefectural #2 was only recently built, so it’s the only place that can gather the funds needed for that kind of facility. The academy rules ban financial support from corporations and the government, after all.”
“Shoui-kun, you intend to go to Prefectural #2 next year, don’t you?”
“Your grandma is too strict, so she won’t open Nandaimon up to boys.”
“There were apparently some boys as guards just after the Kinki Riot twelve years ago, but things have calmed down now with Japan still split between east and west.”
“Ixolde is going to bring some trouble, though. Tokyo sees the ultimate Rhythm as a danger, so they’ve held several world-class meetings about it, right?”
“Yes, but Osaka loves being the best in Japan.” Yuuki had sighed without changing her expression much. “In the past, they even crushed our plans to build a tower called Babel. …Well, I guess there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Yuuki had stood up and Shoui had followed her lead.
Their difference in age had put a difference in their heights.
Yuuki was a year older than Shoui, so her eyes were positioned one step above his.
She had looked down at him and removed the MD headphones from her ears.
“Well, it’s my job, so I have to go. Where’s the meeting?”
“At Prefectural #2 of course. You have to change trains three times.”
Just as the two of them had started walking, the north wind had blown in.
A moment later…
—Shoui – Sight Tech – Auto-Take – Spot – Hit!
Suddenly, Yuuki’s glasses had shattered and a Japanese sword had thrust up.
Her body had floated up and fallen onto its back with a dull sound.
She had made a small groan on the ground and covered her right eye with a hand.
Blood had spilled from between her fingers.
When Shoui had seen it, he had started to run over.
—Shoui – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Detect Killer Intent – Hit.
He had turned around.
—Shoui – Sight/Dodge Tech – Multiple Auto-Take – Dodge – Hit!
He had rolled forward on reflex as a silver arc swept by overhead.
He had punched the ground to propel himself back to his feet and he had faced forward.
A tall boy in a combat coat student uniform had stood there with a bloody sword.
Shoui had recognized his somewhat slanted eyes and tense face.
“Nagoya Vice Chancellor Yamashita Gihei!? …What’s someone that important doing here!?”
Without even nodding, Yamashita had suddenly released his Words.
The Words had contained an intense low rumbling that called in lightning.
At that point, the phantom pain ran through Shoui’s forehead.
That pain came from the wound he had received soon afterwards.
He had known he had to win, but his memories refused to play back any further.
He returned to reality.
He was below the Tsutenkaku and not by the Sarusawa Lake in Koto.
What had happened afterwards raced through his mind as facts, not as memories.
…Breaking my promise, murder, and a unilateral farewell.
“If only I hadn’t passed out…”
The pulse behind those words was racing.
Once his vision returned, all five senses grew clearer.
He realized he was now sitting down with his legs outstretched and his back still against the Tsutenkaku’s pillar.
The can of coffee lay by his feet with its contents pooled up around it.
He smiled bitterly, but then heard the continuation of the lightning Words that marked the end of his memories.
They were Words and they were sung in a female voice unlike the voice of that former enemy.
Nobody takes the middle road
Nothing lives or dies
It all either falls into ruin or survives
Everyone, everyone, everyone
The Words reverberated in the singer’s throat with a somewhat fast tempo and they contained a rumble much like thunder.
Shoui knew whose voice that was.
He turned around to find Taeko standing there.
“Were ya waitin’ long?”
“Eh? Yes, a very long time.”
“Ya sure are honest,” replied Taeko with a slight smile.
She laughed out loud and used her giant false left arm to grab Shoui’s collar as he sat on the ground.
“Ya really don’t change, do ya!? I wouldn’t have it any other way, though!”
He was quickly lifted up higher than her and he sighed while dangling down like his clothes were placed on a hanger.
“I’m glad to see you haven’t changed either, boss.”
“Of course I haven’t. In Nagoya, we take pride in the fact that we don’t change no matter where we go. More importantly…”
“Can ya go up on the Tsutenkaku this late?”
“They close at six. See?”
Shoui pointed toward the gate at the bottom of the tower that was only lit by the emergency lighting now.
Realizing the truth, Taeko sighed in obvious disappointment.
“Ahh, ahh. If only the meetin’ had ended sooner.”
“What was the meeting about? Or is that a secret?”
“Ixolde’s gonna be activated in two days, so they needed our final approval. Ixolde’s pretty neat on the inside.”
“Oh, you went inside?”
Taeko showed off her white teeth in a smile.
“Well, all the important bits were still closed off behind shutters. They showed us a room full of computers and stuff, though.”
“Is something the matter?”
“So all the Kansai Chancellors really are gathered at #2?”
“Not all. Kobe’s still a mess after that earthquake last year, so they haven’t selected a new Chancellor. And Kanazawa never responded to the request and didn’t send anyone.”
Taeko lowered Shoui.
Even when standing, she was about three sizes taller than him and she looked at him with a perfect look of indifference.
“Then again, yer precious Koto Chancellor didn’t show up either, sayin’ she had other business to take care of. I was hopin’ to say hi if I met her.”
“Have ya met her? Accordin’ to that Saki guy who was attackin’ ya, ya only just left the Mountain yesterday.”
“Yeah, I took my things here and moved into the dorm yesterday.”
Unable to look Taeko in the eye, Shoui looked down.
“And I haven’t met her yet. I haven’t contacted Nandaimon either.”
“Why not? Because I beat ya and become Chancellor?”
“Or because yer precious Koto Chancellor killed my brother? With that flash freezin’?”
Shoui looked up and started to say something, but Taeko smiled and patted his shoulder.
“Let’s just leave it at that.”
—Taeko – Mind Tech – Take – Persuasion – Hit.
“I’m glad even a guy like you would try not to hurt my feelings.”
“I feel like you keep insulting me here…”
“Don’t worry about it. Now, how about ya go visit Nandaimon Shrine?”
“I plan to eventually…”
—Taeko – Boxing Tech –Take – Headlock – Hit.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow!”
“What’s this ‘eventually’ nonsense? If ya don’t get goin’ right away, I’ll bully ya. I heard what ya really think back at the Mountain. I forced it out of ya, remember?”
“Yeah, that Boston crab was no laughing matter… But that’s not the- ow ow! M-my brains are gonna come out!”
—Shoui – Gym/Dodge Tech – Multiple Counter-Take – Escape – Hit.
“Ahh, I think you changed the shape of my head.”
“It’s what ya get for not pullin’ yourself together.”
Taeko tapped his shoulder with the thumb of her false arm.
“I got this Eighth Dragon Emperor after our fight, but am I any different than I was before? Even the Koto Chancellor is-…”
“But Yuuki is different.”
“Because she killed someone?”
Taeko let out a deep sigh.
“Then ya should become a Chancellor, too. Then ya’d get permission to kill. And when it comes to the Koto Chancellor…well, I can see how yer thoughts get the better of ya.”
“But I don’t have my own Words. …And I let other people influence me too much. Like with that 1st Special Duty Officer.”
“Ya’ll find yer words somewhere eventually. Mine only came to me durin’ our fight…and they were the same as my brother’s. More importantly,” she added. “Lecutrin’ ya here isn’t gonna help, so just go meet her.”
“You’re probably right. …Then for now, how about we get something to eat? Where do you want to go?”
“Ya moron. I can’t do anything if ya don’t lead the way.”
“Do you not know your way around Osaka?”
She shook her head, so Shoui accepted it.
“Then let’s walk around and find a dote-yaki place or something. They have large counters.”
As soon as he made that suggestion, he saw a light.
A bolt of lightning fell on Osaka.
When they heard the deep, tearing Live rumbling around them, Shoui and Taeko turned to the west.
An electrical discharge filled the sky over the Yodo ward.
“Winter lighting? That sure was flashy.”
“No! That wasn’t lightning!”
Shoui took a few steps forward.
He did not turn back toward Taeko’s voice.
—Shoui – Army Tech – Take – Projectile Recognition – Hit!
“What’s the matter!?”
Taeko ran up behind him, but he still did not turn her way.
He focused on a single point in the sky and spoke.
“I’ve seen this once before. That wasn’t lightning. It was ether being loaded from Suzaku Ver. 40!”
“Suzaku Ver. 40? You mean that combat satellite!?”
“Yes. Since they can’t use an orbital Word Particle Cannon in urban areas, Nandaimon has Suzaku Ver. 40 provide the ether that powers holy spells.”
“Um, so that means…what?”
“That light would only fall toward the person who can directly contact Suzaku Ver. 40…and that means Yuuki.”
Shoui slowly walked forward.
When Taeko called after him, he reflexively broke into a run.
“Ya moron! Is that what ya do after worrying someone!?”
His shoulders tensed at her voice.
A sort of fascination filled his gut.
On that night two years before, the injury to his forehead had caused him to pass out for a few moments. By the time he had woken, her opponent had already been dead.
Not even a single drop of blood had stained the ground and only Yamashita Gihei’s right arm had remained.
With blood staining half his face, he had supported her as she nearly collapsed and he had called for Senga in the blowing wind of Sarusawa Lake.
Two years had passed since Senga had determined Yamashita had died of “disintegration” due to an impact after being flash frozen.
The hands that had embraced her back then were now tightly clenched as he ran forward.
Saki Seiji had called her Killing Holder.
Even back then, she had not showed her emotions much, so it may have been an appropriate name for her.
…Are you still the girl I know?
He hid that question in his heart and ran forward to find the answer.
He ran to meet her.
The wind blew.
Osaka had plenty of geographical ups and downs, so the wind would weave through those lower areas.
One such path for the wind followed the Yodo River as it cut through the city east to west.
The wind picked up the scent of the river as it blew along it.
This time of year, it was the scent of a winter river.
The scent of the dried grass along the bank was stronger than that of the water.
It was a dry scent.
A hint of iron was mixed in with the wind.
It was a rusty smell.
The dry wind held that iron fragrance as it blew along the bank of the river.
Shoui and Taeko broke through that wind as they ran.
They soon realized the source of the iron scent in the wind: blood.
They did not even need to confirm it with a Tech.
After smelling it several times in their training at the Mountain, it had permeated their bodies.
Police and ambulance sirens blared in the distant center of the city as if to prove their sense of smell was not deceiving them.
“Does it bother ya? Ya’ve been hesitatin’ all this time.”
“I’m still hesitating a hell of a lot right now.”
“Do ya take anythin’ seriously?”
“A cool guy doesn’t let anyone see how he really feels.”
“Ya moron. …Why are ya so obsessed with protectin’ girls?”
“That’s simple,” answered Shoui. “Because it’s cool.”
“Do ya want the Koto Chancellor to accept you?”
He did not answer that question.
He picked up speed and saw their destination up ahead.
A school had a wall around it by the riverside and he saw definite destruction there.
The large schoolyard of Private Showa Academy, which was known for both its academics and combat training, was utterly destroyed, one school building included.
One of the southern school buildings had a large hole torn in the front as if a giant mouth had bitten into it.
And the two hundred square meter schoolyard had a large mortar-like hole covering it.
…Did Yuuki do this?
He ran down the straight bank with that question in his heart.
“Hey! Shoui! Wait up!”
He ignored her.
He ran from the bank to the asphalt road of the city.
In five seconds, he was running through the residential area near the school.
He could see the wall surrounding the school and several vehicles were parked in front of that concrete wall.
There was a crowd near the main gate.
That was the only bright area, so he could not see past the wall.
He ran closer.
He did not hesitate to cross the road and to jump on top of one of the cars parked in front of the wall separating the school from the city.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing!?”
He ignored someone’s shout and kept moving.
He used the car’s roof to jump toward the wall which was at least five meters tall.
—Shoui – Gym Tech – Take – Great Leap – Hit!
The boys’ body flew through the darkness.
He flipped through the air to cross the wall in a single breath.
The wind carried an even stronger iron smell now.
By the time he sensed that, he had already entered Private Showa’s grounds.
—Shoui – Gym/Savate Tech – Multiple Take – Super Landing – Hit.
He twisted his outstretched body to silently land on the schoolyard and then he looked around.
The large schoolyard was in an even more unusual state than it had looked from afar.
It had been torn into along with the school building and it had transformed into a sea of red sand.
The red came from the clay laid out over the schoolyard, but…
“Why is there sand here?”
He touched the thin coat of red sand covering the ground and found it was cold.
It was even chillier than the winter air.
…What is going on?
“It’s called an intense freeze drying. This entire space was instantly frozen to get rid of all the moisture until it completely disintegrated. It’s the same technique used to kill former Nagoya Vice Chancellor Yamashita Gihei.”
Saki Seiji, the boy he had met just that evening, stood in front of Shoui.
He looked to Shoui while wearing the student combat coat that was essentially the official uniform of Osaka’s Chancellor’s Officers.
“But what was that jump you just made? It was a hell of a lot better than the one you showed me before.”
“Oh, hi there. Good evening. Um, where’s Yuuki?”
“Hey, do you have a habit of ignoring people or something?”
“I don’t have my own Words, so I don’t want to let in any extraneous voices.”
Saki clicked his tongue at Shoui’s joking answer.
“I should’ve dealt with you before Souichirou showed up back there.”
“C’mon, calm down.”
—Shoui – Sight Tech – Take – Search for Individual – Miss.
He could not find the person he was looking for.
The only people there were the Tuners and Busters carrying Devices on the schoolyard and in the school building.
They were apparently starting to fix the damage with Tuning, so cats and birds would occasionally appear near them.
“…This is horrifying.”
Saki responded to his absentminded comment.
“What? You were taken in by Nandaimon, so didn’t you see stuff like this on a daily basis?”
“It was a long time ago when I saw Suzaku Ver. 40 activate. …So Yuuki did that?”
“Yeah, the Koto Chancellor can apparently use the transmitter installed in Phoenix, her false eye, to really let her opponent have it.”
“Her false eye?”
“The Killing Holder’s vermilion eye. It’s just like Nandaimon to go with the vermilion of the Suzaku.”
Shoui sighed at the boy’s explanation.
“I can’t believe this,” he muttered before pulling his bandanna over his eyes.
“But why are you here?” asked Saki. “Did you really come here to meet the Koto Chancellor?”
“Yes, I did. What about it?”
—Saki – Boxing Tech – Counter-Take – Strike – Hit.
—Shoui – Dodge Tech – Take – Swayback – Hit.
“Wow, that was close. What was that for, Saki-san?”
“So you dodged it. I tried to catch you off guard, but mine got the counter judgement.”
“Of course I dodged that. …You’re kind of scary, you know that? I bet you don’t have many friends.”
“Shut up. And get lost. I’m in charge of dealing with this incident, so it pisses me off when someone comes wandering onto the scene.”
“I see. That must be tough. But what do you mean by ‘this incident’?”
“Apparently, the Nandaimon girl took out one of the idiots here at Private Showa, so they wanted revenge.”
Shoui looked around the schoolyard again.
“Girls sure are scary when they’re mad.”
“These things are normally done with a duel between representatives, but Private Showa must have thought they could overpower her with numbers. It only lasted an instant and you can see how it turned out. There were thirty-two serious injuries and five minor injuries, so this is no laughing matter.”
“Where are the injured?”
“They were already taken away in ambulances. Tuners are treating the worst ones in the emergency ward over there. We’re not talking about a landmine race at an athletics festival here.”
At that point, Saki glared at Shoui.
“You aren’t going to follow me to the hospital too, are you?”
“Again! Why are you so suspicious of me?”
“What? My intuition, of course.”
“I appreciate the nonscientific reasoning. Now, um, do you know where Yuuki is?”
“You really don’t listen to people, do you?” Saki sighed. “Besides, what are you even gonna do if you meet the Koto Chancellor?”
“Grab her butt or fondle her breasts.”
“Eh? …What was that?”
“Oh, um, just speaking to myself. It’s been two years since we’ve done anything like that after all.”
“Two years since doing anything like what? Was it just me or did you say something pretty weird just-…”
Saki was cut off by a girl’s voice.
“Hey! Outta the way!”
The voice came from overhead.
Shoui recognized the voice, so he took immediate action.
—Shoui – Gym/Dodge Tech – Multiple Counter-Take – Leaping Dodge – Hit!
Taking time to look up proved unwise.
A giant false arm and a girl were falling toward him.
And they landed on him.
The impact sounded a lot like metal striking flesh.
—Taeko – Gym Tech – Take – Balance – Hit!
Immediately after punching Saki to the ground like a cushion, Taeko performed a cartwheel and ended up on her feet next to where Saki lay on the ground.
“That was a close one! Hey, boy! Ya alive?”
Saki did not respond, so Shoui did so in his stead.
“Hm, I think he might be a goner.”
“Oh, ya think so too? …I tried to copy ya, but it didn’t turn out too good.”
“You lost your balance due to that heavy Dragon Emperor, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Wah ha ha ha ha!”
“Ah ha ha ha ha!”
“Wah ha ha ha ha!”
“What do you think you’re laughing about, you morons!?”
Saki jumped to his feet and pointed at Taeko.
“You bitch! Don’t think I’ll hold back just cause you’re the Nagoya Chancellor!”
As he shouted at her, a trail of blood flowed from his hair and down his forehead.
The number of flowing red lines quickly grew and covered his entire face.
“Ohhhhh! I’m bleeding!”
“This guy sure is noisy. Is he really one of Osaka’s Special Duty Officers?”
“He has been pretty bloody and noisy, but he really is. Right, Saki-san?”
“Don’t give me that ‘Right, Saki-san?’ nonsense! Anyway, why are you here, Nagoya Chancellor!?”
Still shouting with blood flowing down his face, Saki glared at Taeko and Shoui before looking around the area.
Shoui followed his gaze and found a lot of people looking their way: the Tuners who were repairing the schoolyard, the police officers investigating the scene, and the many students.
“Oh, look. I’m the center of attention. I’m so cool.”
“Shut up! …Hey! Quit letting us distract you and get back to work! You want me to punch you!?”
Saki’s angry voice set everyone in motion again and Shoui nodded.
“That looks just like the townsfolk obeying their ruler’s reign of terror.”
“Do you want me to kill you?”
“Ya like saying scary things, don’t ya? Don’t tell me ya actually think ya can beat Shoui.”
Saki Seiji wiped the blood from his forehead and answered Taeko.
“A member of the Chancellor’s Officers would never lose to an amateur. But more importantly…”
“More importantly? …What is it?”
“Why are you even here, Nagoya Chancellor?”
“Explainin’ that would take a while.”
“Keep it short.”
“I felt like it.”
“What do you mean you ‘felt like it’, you utter moron!?”
“Oh, shut up. I just followed Shoui.”
“And that made you crash into me? …Are you really Nagoya’s Chancellor? You take everything you do too lightly!”
“Lookin’ for opportunities and changin’ yerself when they come along is the heart of Nagoya. ….The Nagoya Chancellor needs to be able to do what she wants and keep tabs on what’s goin’ on.”
As soon as she narrowed her eyes and smiled, Taeko suddenly grabbed Saki’s chin with her Dragon Emperor hand.
“Now, it’s my turn to ask. …Where is the Koto Chancellor?”
—Taeko – Mind Tech – Take – Coerce – Hit!
Saki frowned and answered.
“You can’t see her? She’s sitting perfectly still right over there!”
He used his chin to gesture toward a cherry tree to the left.
The tree had split down the center due to the localized low temperature that had hit the school.
There was a glimpse of red in the shadow of the split trunk.
Shoui observed that fluttering red cloth hidden by the color of the tree.
—Shoui – School Tech – Take – Uniform Recognition – Hit…
There was no mistaking it.
It was the uniform of Nandaimon Academy’s main school.
That was the girl’s school attended by Koto Chancellor and Koto Guardian Yuuki Yuuki.
The color moved.
The girl taking a break in the shadow of the broken and split tree trunk stood up.
The moving colors were the black and red of her uniform, the white of her blouse, and the pitch black of the hair that fell all the way to the back of her knees.
He saw her face look back his way.
In that instant, he saw the two years he had missed.
Yuuki had always had a mature look to her face, but in the past two years, she had grown to adulthood on the inside and transformed from being a girl to being a woman.
Her expression and movements contained a sharp, quick, cold, sleek, and powerful strength.
As if to confirm and smile at his surprise, her right eye glowed somewhat vermilion.
That false eye was known as the Phoenix, an alternative name for the Suzaku.
That eye of the vermilion bird faced motionlessly forward as if to more easily communicate with its main form floating in the heavens.
In contrast, her left eye slowly moved toward Shoui’s group.
—Shoui – Sight Tech – Take – Sense Gaze – Miss.
Shoui could not tell if Yuuki’s eye was looking only at him or not.
Meanwhile, she began walking around the fallen tree.
She moved toward Shoui’s group.
“Here she comes, Shoui. This is what ya wanted.”
Shoui responded to Taeko with several forced nods.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what are you supposed to say when seeing someone again like this?”
“When it’s been a while since ya’ve seen them, ya should probably say ‘fancy seein’ you here’ or something.”
“You moron,” said Saki. “Don’t pretend this is some kind of coincidence. And when you meet someone again after a long time, you need to greet them with a smile to calm their heart! That’s the Osaka way! …Ow! Don’t grab me with that metal arm, you bitch!”
“Quit movin’ around and stay quiet. …Here she comes, Shoui.”
“Eh? Oh, right, um… Well, it’s true I should probably smile.”
Shoui turned around and found Yuuki there.
She was within arm’s reach now.
The past two years seemed concentrated into the spot at which she stood.
He wanted to say something but was not quite sure what.
After a few moments of silence, he raised his head and looked her in the eye.
It was too late now to say “fancy seeing you here”, so he causally raised a hand and did his best to sound cheerful.
“Hi, chancy seeing you here!”
Yuuki gave a short greeting in response.
It was only two words long.
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