Millennium Match: Millennium Mystic 3 – Duel 32

It’s been a long time since my last Millennium Match chapter.  This is the last Millennium Mystic chapter, but Katsumi’s story continues through Millennium Body and Millennium Revolution.  If I don’t get another Millennium Match chapter done by the end of the month, I probably won’t get it done until winter.

The next chapter is a Millennium Body chapter.  Hoo boy.  It’s not that I hate writing Millennium Body chapters… it’s just that I tend to get stuck on them oh so very often.  I really don’t know why I have so much trouble writing them.

FYI, every Millennium Mystic chapter title ends with a number.  It should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: This number is Katsumi’s age during the chapter.  It’s a convention that probably would have been way more helpful if I wrote more Millennium Mystic chapters.  And I very well could have.

Millennium Mystic 3: Duel 32

I could feel it. It was time for me to leave. Abandon this borrowed life and resume my quest.

That’s what I thought. But weeks passed, and I still hadn’t done so. Something was keeping me anchored down.

I didn’t know where my target was, but I had a clue. I had been sitting down on it for a while now, but I didn’t follow up on it. Why did I wait until now? The leaves had already started to change color.

Katsumi: The hokora is dark…

Seven stones, each one corresponding to the alignment of a mystic. It was how I detected threats and made preparations before they appeared. Normally, no stones glowing meant no other mystics were nearby. That usually meant I could relax and focus on teaching. However…

The stone for “wood” wasn’t lit either.

* * *

Katsumi: And so… I guess starting tomorrow you’ll have a substitute to take over until a permanent replacement can be found.

I got a mixed reaction. Honestly, I was hoping for more disappointment. Well, it’s not like I was one of the popular teachers. I suppose it couldn’t be helped. And it’s not as if it would have changed a thing.

Classes passed by smoothly. I was actually expecting a little more drama. Then again, the most likely source for that wouldn’t have come until after classes ended.

Seino: Sakai-sensei!

Seino was waiting for me right after my last class ended.

Katsumi: Can’t talk. I have to file all of these papers away for the sub.
Seino: Sakai-sensei… why do you have to leave now? Can’t you wait a few months?
Katsumi: This doesn’t concern you. You’re just a student. And because you’re just a student, I know that even if I told you where I was going, you wouldn’t be able to follow me. Whatever you think you’re looking for isn’t worth it.

I brushed her aside and walked straight to the teachers’ lounge.

Sasai: Hey, Kazu. Let’s go drinking tonight.
Katsumi: No.
Sasai: So mean… And it’s your last day, too.
Katsumi: It would be pointless if I refused you all this time only to give up on the last day. Hm?

There was an envelope on my desk.

Katsumi: What’s this?
Sasai: Oh, that. Some woman left that for you. Hey, you don’t have a girlfriend, right? I asked you a lot, and you always said you didn’t… but then where would you have met someone like that?
Katsumi: Someone like who?
Sasai: Hmm… She looked like… *fwoo*
Katsumi: *fwoo*?
Sasai: Yeah, *fwoo*
Katsumi: I’m afraid I don’t speak in whistles.
Sasai: One of those stereotypical dark-haired beauties. But the kind you see in those psycho-thrillers that are just a bit touched in the head.
Katsumi: Can’t say I’ve seen anyone like that before…

I opened the envelope. Inside was a letter with a single word: “Crossroads.”

I ran to the construction area where Crossroads Academy once stood. She was standing there, looking just like how Hizuki described her. She had black, perfectly straightened hair right down to her hips, and what appeared to be skin-tight one-piece outfit I had only ever seen in some Hollywood spy movies. Just like Hizuki said, she had a cold expression in her eyes, but a subtle sneer forming in the corner of her mouth that tipped you off that she was a little off-balance. Less subtle were her leather boots and the katana in her hand.

Katsumi: Are you Shidow?
Shidow Agent: Stop your search immediately.
Katsumi: I take it that’s a “yes.”
Shidow Agent: It’s not too late. If you agree to stop your investigation, I won’t have to kill you. This is your only warning.
Katsumi: Heh… You appearing in front of me merely tells me I’m close. You only have yourselves to blame, Shidow. If it hadn’t been for you… I wouldn’t even give a damn.
Shidow Agent: I have no room in my heart for regret.

The girl reached for the handle of her katana. At that moment, two hands burst out of the ground and grabbed my ankles, then pulled me under until, except for my head, I was completely buried.

Illogically, a man popped out from the ground like a dolphin leaping from the surface of the water. He was completely bald and probably had some other defining characteristics, but I focused on just how uncommonly bald he was for a man that looked so young. It was like he never had a hair on his head in his entire life.

Shidow Baldy: Heh heh heh… Eat this!

The jerk shoved his heel in my face repeatedly.

Michio: Sorry, but I won’t be needing your help. Let the boss know that Ishida Michio defeated the wood mystic single-handedly.

He did it again.

Michio: Helpless, aren’t you?
Katsumi: I must admit, there’s nothing I can do to get out of this. My friend, on the other hand…

As a wood mystic, I have the ability to grow a tree from a seed. The tree that grows this way has a much shorter lifespan and bears sterile seeds that can’t germinate, but it’s incredibly useful in situations like these. I used an acorn to grow an oak tree under the mystic. He got tangled up in the branches, but freed himself and rolled off. Not in time to stop me from escaping his pit, however.

Michio: Wood mystic… That’s right. Tree roots are known for burrowing through even hard stone. But that was just a taste of my powers. I can do so much more than this! The very earth will swallow you whole into an unending abyss!

Bending the very laws of nature, Ishida opened up an instant trench, creating what was apparently supposed to be a bottomless pit.

Michio: HAHAHAHAHA! Scream! Scream! Your despair will echo to the center of the planet!
Shidow Agent: YOU IDIOT!
Michio: Hm?

Summoning powerful winds below me, I flung myself directly at Michio’s body. I think I broke a few of his ribs in the collision.

Michio: GGGGGGHHH… H-how?
Shidow Agent: He’s also mystic of the air! Did you forget something as simple as that?!

Undeterred, the earth mystic created a sharp spire of stone and extended it to where I was floating. Of course, riding on the freedom of the wind made me far more maneuverable than his predictable attack. He seemed to have run out of ideas, however, and just kept making more.

I sent a powerful gale at Ishida, which he blocked with a stone wall. Unfortunately for him, I also sent some oak seeds with that blast, which grew and shattered his stone wall. This was the opening I was looking for.

Katsumi: I don’t have the time to play with you.

I pulled all the air out from his lungs. The earth mystic crumbled to the ground and desperately clawed around in a futile gesture to gasp for air.

Katsumi: Just a little more… Hm?

The other Shidow agent rushed toward me with sword in hand. I needed a little more time to completely choke the life out of the earth mystic, so I threw more seeds and formed a tree barricade. That bought me enough time to finish Ishida off. But it didn’t slow her down for long. My barricade was cut down in a flash.

Katsumi: What?!
Shidow Agent: I gave you a chance.

What was in her hand was not a katana. The handle looked the same, but instead of a blade was something that looked more like a thin wire, almost like a whip. But it had to have been impossibly sharp and dense to cut through my trees like they were made of paper.

The Shidow woman raised her arm to attack. She was too close. I summoned another powerful gale to create some separation between us. I was pushed back at least 10 yards, but the woman kept her ground by stabbing her katana into the ground.

Katsumi: The whip’s gone… When did she…

Suddenly, something flew at my shoulder and pushed me down. Before I could get my bearings, another thing flew and hit me in the same spot, this time tearing through my flesh and pinning me down.

It wasn’t an arrow. It looked like a solid rod of metal. I looked at where it came from. That woman was standing there with a bow in her hand.

Katsumi: Dammit… how many weapons do you… Wait…

Upon closer inspection, her katana was missing. Again. The grip on her bow, however, closely resembled a katana hilt. No… It WAS a katana hilt. The SAME katana hilt.

Katsumi: M… Metal mystic?!

And here I was making fun of the earth mystic just because I outclassed him with an alignment advantage. If I had known the other one was a metal mystic…

The metal mystic walked up to me. She transformed her bow back into a katana. No, not a katana. A metal rod. She swung the weapon down on my leg. I’m pretty sure she broke something.

Metal Mystic: Unlike my colleague here, I read up on your kind. You can heal from this kind of damage as long as it isn’t fatal, right?

She swung again. Despite my best attempts to keep cool, I whimpered like a bitch.

Metal Mystic: You can still save yourself. Give up. Stay away. If you don’t…

The metal mystic transformed the metal rod into a proper katana. It seems she was about to kill me when…

…No, I had to have been seeing things…

…but it looked like a ninja walked up and punched her in the back

Metal Mystic: Ugh…

She fell over instantly and convulsed a short while before going silent.

Katsumi: What the…?
Ninja Girl: You look like you’re in a bind. Can you recover from that?
Katsumi: It’ll take me a few hours.
Ninja Girl: It doesn’t look like you can move like that. Can you fly?
Katsumi: I don’t think so. I might not even have the energy for leaps. My body’s focusing everything on restoring the damage I took.
Ninja Girl: I guess it can’t be helped.

The girl knelt and tried to carry me on her back. Upon closer inspection, it looked like she wore a store-bought ninja mask over a boys’ school uniform.

Ninja Girl: I don’t know if we can get away fast enough like this. I’ll have to carry you on my bike.
Katsumi: I can at least… do this for you…

I used what power I could to try to levitate myself. The effect wasn’t strong enough for me to move freely in the air, but at the least it should have made me lighter.

Ninja Girl: That’s good. It’s like I’m carrying a backpack now.

The girl ran up to a nearby bicycle and had hopped on.

Ninja Girl: It should be better now. Just focus on holding on and try not to bleed.

I did as she asked and closed my eyes so I could focus on nothing but trying to heal my body. I have to prioritize closing my wounds.

After some time, I sensed we had stopped.

Katsumi: This is…
Ninja Girl: Sekihara Shrine. Let’s get you inside.

It had been a long time since I entered this shrine. I already took everything I needed from it years ago. Still, even if it had been left attended, it was surprisingly clean. Well, cleaner than I expected, at least.

As soon as she carried me inside, I pulled the mask off her head.

Katsumi: That’s enough, Seino. How do you know about this place?
Seino: I did my research. Don’t worry, it was really difficult to find the trail. What tipped me off was the hokora in your apartment. By the way, after you left this morning, I took these.

Seino pulled the stones I kept in my hokora out of her pocket.

Seino: These are how I found you. Once I started researching local shrines, it didn’t take long for me to find out about Sekihara Katsumi.
Katsumi: But why?
Seino: At first, I thought if you found out these were missing, you would stay until you found them. But then I remembered that these have a function. I saw that the green stone wasn’t glowing, and the last time that happened, you were in serious trouble. But I couldn’t imagine you would end up like that so soon after leaving your apartment. And that’s when I did this…

Seino arranged the stones in the correct formation, then removed one of the stones. The stone corresponding to “void.” As soon as she did that…

Katsumi: The “wood” stone… and it’s faint, but the “metal” stone, too…
Seino: Strange. There were three glowing stones last time.
Katsumi: It’s because I killed the mystic of “earth.” That surprised me…
Seino: What did?
Katsumi: At the time… I thought you killed the mystic of metal.
Seino: That dark-haired woman? No, I just hit her with this.

Seino pointed to a strange glove on her right hand.

Seino: It’s a glove that has four built-in stun devices that trigger on impact. It takes a while to recharge, however. There’s a rare chance that it’s lethal, but I figured superhuman people like yourself and that woman would be able to take it.
Katsumi: I see… So, is this your plan? I owe you my life, so now you want me to take you with me?
Seino: No.

I wasn’t expecting that.

Seino: Even though I thought I was prepared, I just got lucky. If these people who are after you knew about me, there’s likely a good chance I would be dead. But even so… I want us to help each other.
Katsumi: Each other?
Seino: If there’s any way I can support you, I’ll do it. But in exchange… promise me you’ll come back. Promise you’ll tell me all about your story.
Katsumi: That’s it?
Seino: That’s it.

Seino Rie… she’s smarter than I gave her credit for. I didn’t want to get someone like her caught up with me, but I still owed her.

Katsumi: In that case… Hm… No, maybe not.
Seino: What?
Katsumi: I was thinking you might use your skills to research someone… but if I asked that of you, that woman might target you. If you really want to know everything, I’ll tell you. But only if you do something for me.
Seino: Anything! Name it!
Katsumi: Well… this shrine has been a little rundown since I stopped living here. If you could take care of it, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Seino: Huh? Er… okay, I can do that… but won’t whoever’s after you get suspicious if someone starts tending the shrine again? They might make a connection.
Katsumi: They might. So it’s up to you to manage this task without getting on their radar. If you can’t do something like that, then I can’t trust you.
Seino: I… I understand. You can count on me, Sensei!
Katsumi: Heh… I’m leaving, remember? You don’t need to call me that anymore.
Seino: Oh… Sorry, habit I guess. Um… Do I call you Sakai-san or Sekihara-san?
Katsumi: Neither. Even Sakai Kazuya won’t be safe anymore. If I ever need to contact you, I’ll use a codename.
Seino: But if we’re face to face like this, I don’t want to use a codename.
Katsumi: Of course. You can call me Katsumi when we’re face to face. But if it’s by phone or e-mail… Ah, I’m no good at names…
Seino: How about… Hoseki?
Katsumi: “Jewel?” I don’t know…
Seino: And as for me…
Katsumi: If you’re going to give me a codename like that, it’s only fair I pick yours.
Seino: You have something in mind?
Katsumi: Yes.
Seino: What is it?
Katsumi: I’ll tell you next time we meet.
Seino: Aw, no fair.
Katsumi: You pass my test, you’ll get your codename. Now, there’s just one last thing that bothers me.
Seino: What’s that?
Katsumi: That “void” stone. When you concealed it, the other stones started glowing. So, rather than a “glow,” the void stone gives off a “veil.” But if that’s true…
Seino: A void mystic?
Katsumi: Yeah… I have no idea what kind of power a void mystic possesses. I just know it’s supposed to be on a completely different level than the main five…

Was I being watched? Followed?

I could usually tell how close a mystic was depending on how strong the glow of their respective stone was. I had never seen the veil of the void stone before, however. Just the presence of the void mystic alone was enough for me to doubt my next move. But I had to move, no matter what the risk. I suddenly felt like I shouldn’t leave Seino alone… but if I stayed behind, that too might have been part of their plan.

Katsumi: It doesn’t matter. I have to leave as soon as I can. That’s the only way I can move forward.
Seino: Only after you’re fully recovered.
Katsumi: Naturally. I’m not so reckless.

I went into a deep sleep. It was the most efficient way to recover.

I woke just before dawn. Seino was still there. I guess she stayed to keep guard. If the void mystic showed up, I doubt there was anything she could have done. Still… I was appreciative of her efforts.

The stones were on the floor. The wood stone was glowing brightly. The void veil was not active. Neither were the glows of any other stones.

I knelt over and picked six stones up and placed them in my pocket. I left the final stone, the “wood” stone, in the sleeping Seino’s hand. I wasn’t going to be needing it.

The metal mystic warned me not to get too close to the truth. That meant I was close to it. I was on the right track. But I could feel that whatever I was close to would only be the start of a long path. How can I even begin to imagine where the path ends when I am just now picturing the starting point?

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