Millenium Match – Chapter 4: Millenium Mystic 1: Intrusion 20

Looks like we’ve got a bonus Fall chapter, plus another one to follow. This is the fourth chapter of Millenium Match.

Chapter 4: Millennium Mystic 1: Intrusion 20

My name is Sekihara Katsumi. I am the last of my kind: the final descendant of a long line of shrine keepers. This particular family shrine is special in that it is empty. Certainly, it was opened up to the public for posterity’s sake. Very few people are able to detect that the hand-carved statues we used to decorate the shrine are completely devoid of spiritual energy. This was the case until five years ago.

My father bestowed unto me my duty. For the first time in centuries, the shrine had actual spiritual power flowing through. It was very weak compared to other shrines, but noticeable. This was not a good thing.

400 years ago, the balance of nature was disrupted. As a result, there was a rapid rise in what we now call “technology.” Humanity gained an edge over nature, devoured it, and turned its power against itself. As difficult as it may seem, it is possible for humanity to expand their territory on this planet 10 times further than it has now. Luckily, nature maintains a fragile balance, even after this rapid growth.

That balance is now in jeopardy.

There exists a society of spiritualists such as myself who, rather than protecting the balance of nature, desire the further encroachment of it.

With my father dead, I am now the sole guardian of the shrine. Of course, there is nothing in the shrine now; but it once held a mystic artifact which is now thought to be lost forever. When it was lost, the balance was disrupted. The society, which my father named “Shidow,” was thought to have stolen the artifact, but it was later learned that they merely sought it. As long as our shrine had no reaction, the artifact was unattainable. That a portion of the shrine’s power had returned meant that the artifact too had returned to the land of the living. As the sole guardian, it was up to me to find the artifact and keep it from the hands of Shidow.

My first few years yielded little fruit. I tended to the family shrine and used the donations to pay for food and travel expenses. I rarely ventured far from the shrine.

On a whim, I passed by this building. Crossroads Academy. I dropped out of this school when my father died. I had five years of pointless wandering, coming no closer to my goal as time passed. I came back here, now at the age of 20, to take a good hard look at what could have been. How long was I to continue this quest? But that was when I remembered something from my days as a student. It was a faint feeling, one that bothered me though I never understood why. It wasn’t much, but it was a lead.

It wasn’t a problem getting inside the school at night. There were no security lights or motion sensor alarms to speak of. It was a simple leap over the wall to get into the campus and a swipe of my sword to break whatever locks got in my way.

My target was the records office. The student records I’m looking for probably aren’t in the system, but I gambled on there at least being some old backups stashed somewhere.

After an hour of searching, I found a file cabinet locked inside a closet. Inside were folders filled with floppy disks. I took two disks and booted up the only computer that accepted them. It was an old Apple Macintosh. Faded gray from years of dirt, but not a speck of dust on it and in perfect working order.

Sekihara: I used one of these before… I think you move this tethered device, and… Hey, it’s moving! Alright… how do I bring up the files on this disk? Hm, probably this text labeled “File.”

It took a while, but I brought up the folder I was looking for. 1998 class rosters. I found my own class and my own record, then looked for the record of a classmate. I had met a person that gave off an aura that made me feel ill. It was just once, but you don’t forget a presence like that. A classmate told me that he was in the same Biology class as her older sister.

Sekihara: What the hell?!

I found the record of the older sister, but there was no data regarding her Biology class roster.

Sekihara: I’ll at least get the instructor name… Akiyama… Mariantuwanetto? Not exactly easy to remember, but very recognizable. Let’s see what we’ve got on her…

I looked up the current records on one of the newer computers. She was still active as a teacher here, so there should be new files. If worst comes to worst, I may have to interrogate her personally.

* * *

It didn’t take long to find a copy of her contact information and make my own copy. I went back to the archive and did more snooping around. It turns out a large number of class rosters were missing. I estimated about a third of the second-year high school data was missing. Someone made sure to erase their presence. Was it the same person I was looking for? Or was it someone connected to him? Or perhaps it was a coincidence and there’s someone else with something to hide. Whatever the answer, it wouldn’t suddenly reveal itself here. I put everything back where I found them and turned off all the terminals.

On my way out, I heard a faint noise. It wasn’t my imagination. It was definitely a low humming noise. Normally I wouldn’t pay it no mind, but I could sense it coming from below me. Since I was already on the ground floor, that meant there was an underground level. Perhaps it was nothing, but underground is where secrets are kept.

I found one staircase leading down, and it led to a boiler room. The sounds here might mislead others, but I know I heard something different. After a couple of passes I found a hidden floor hatch that led to another downward flight of stairs. The staircase seemed to spiral down farther than I could see. I could also hear that same sound coming from below. There might be someone there. Rather than risk alerting anyone that might be down there, I jumped down the center gap and slowly floated down.

* * *

I finally touched down. I must have descended at least ten stories. To call this place suspicious was an understatement. The bottom level wasn’t exactly well-lit, but hundreds of tiny lights could be seen. It seems a number of large computers were up and running – for what reason I have no idea. There was also a single lit monitor, and the faint bluish glow from the screen reflected off a man’s face.

???: You can come out from there now.
Sekihara: ?!
???: It’s no use bluffing. I’ll have you know I actually entered this school after you broke in, Sekihara Katsumi.

This suspicious person knew who I was. No, I have to assume he followed me here. In other words, I led him here. But for how long?

I stepped out of the shadows and faced him. He looked older than me, but still fairly young. Looked to be about 27. He had long hair that reached halfway down his back. He wore a black longcoat, probably to hide that sword he was holding on to.

Sekihara: Who are you? Why have you been following me?
???: Well, it wasn’t by choice. To tell you the truth, it’s been boring the last couple of years. But this… Ha ha… glorious. I had no idea it would all pay off so well!
Sekihara: You are… Shidow?
Yoshikawa: Shidow? Yes, I am of that organization. But you may call me Akira. Yoshikawa Akira.
Sekihara: Yoshikawa? Aren’t you a shrine keeper clan?
Yoshikawa: Indeed.
Sekihara: Then, the other clans?
Yoshikawa: Also a part of Shidow. But you don’t have the luxury of worrying about that. You know about my clan, don’t you? It’s why I was the perfect choice to shadow you.

Yoshikawa charged at me and drew his sword. I instinctively jumped backward while using the air to slow him down. It seems that in addition to being a mystic like myself, he was a skilled iaido practitioner. I wasn’t nearly as quick at drawing, so I made sure to bring my sword out while I had the chance.

Yoshikawa: You won’t win that way. You really have no chance at this rate.
Sekihara: Why do this? Why shirk your duty?
Yoshikawa: Why cling to dusty old traditions? If we are to progress as a people, we need change. To break barriers! And it will be as simple as killing you will be.
Sekihara: It’s that easy?
Yoshikawa: Of course, mystic of the air and wood.
Sekihara: . . .
Yoshikawa: My clan is a clan of fire mystics. Whatever powers you possess, I FEED on!

Yoshikawa sheathed his sword and ran at me again. I held my sword with one hand to guard while I created a short gust to blow him away.

Yoshikawa: Wind might fan flames, but I don’t think you’d appreciate it you’re at the wrong end of the blast!
Sekihara: Ha! Amateur!

Yoshikawa stabbed the ground and held on, then snapped his fingers. The distance between us suddenly lit into an inferno and disappeared just as fast. I was blown backwards from the explosion. I felt like I was suddenly punched everywhere at once. Yoshikawa was scorched, but looked relatively fine.

Sekihara: What the hell?
Yoshikawa: I just ignited the gases in that wind you blew at me. Simple enough trick. But I bet you’re wondering why you’re hurting more. Your wind was spread out thin to cover a wider area, probably to make sure you hit me. As you can see, I couldn’t escape. But the source of all that wind is a tiny space right in front of your palm. I just got hit with the equivalent of a campfire. You were hit by small bomb.
Sekihara: . . .
Yoshikawa: If you want to die, by all means try the same trick again. But I’d much rather kill you with my sword than see you kill yourself, as amusing as that may be.

He sure was a talker, but he was much better than me. He easily pulled his sword out and ran at me again, this time with his weapon unsheathed and covered in flames. I barely crawled to my feet when he swung his weapon at me, striking my ribs and knocking me into a wall.

Sekihara: Kuh… Damn, that stung. I think you broke something.
Yoshikawa: That should have killed you. What… Guh!

His sword was covered by a blackened layer of wood.

Sekihara: I AM a wood-user as well. And, well… you probably shouldn’t have brought a shirasaya. I doubt you’ll get a good handle on that blade now.
Yoshikawa: That’s what I get for sticking with style. It’s a good thing I always bring a gun with me. I don’t think your parlor tricks can stop bullets!

He fired two shots at me. I easily countered that by creating a whirlwind around me for one second. That was about all I could muster, and I’m sure he had more bullets. I created a short burst behind me to propel myself into the air to dodge his next two bullets. I had my sword out ready to cut him down.

Yoshikawa: A moving target is nothing if it’s still predictable!

He moved his arms to shoot, but something held him down. It was the sheath that he carelessly left attached to his belt. I manipulated it to plant itself into the ground and wrap around his left arm. He had to grab his gun out of his left hand, but it was too late. I closed the distance and cut his hand clean off.

Yoshikawa: AAAAAARGH!!! Damn you!!
Sekihara: I may be a novice, but I don’t waste time with taunts.

I kicked his gun behind me. He was weaponless.

Yoshikawa: True, that’s one of my weaknesses, I’ll admit. But!

He was still a flame mystic. He burned the root that held him down and shot a serious look at me. He was about to go all-out with his flame powers, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.

I should note that the only thing a flame mystic is capable of doing is manipulating flame. He can’t simply create a continuous stream of flame or throw fireballs. There needs to be a sufficient amount of combustible material nearby. Show-offs like him liked to do stupid things like cover their sword blades with oil or something like that. He had nothing to use except the clothes on his back, I thought. Then I noticed where we were. A large computer room. He pulled an extension cord out of a wall and lit it up. Now he had a flaming whip.

Sekihara: Think you can really control that thing?
Yoshikawa: Good enough to take you down!

His weapon was dangerous and unpredictable, but slow enough for me to react to. After dodging it once I cut it so it had less range. He responded by picking up a monitor and throwing it at me. I knew he was capable of igniting the static energy in it, so I made sure to dive away.

He had a lot of ammo, and I couldn’t count on dodging everything. I had to take a chance and cut him down for good. I ran at him while he was busy looking for another weapon. When I got close enough he threw his longcoat at me and lit it up. I didn’t expect that and was caught. It was in effect much like a net, and it took me precious seconds to break free. As soon as I did, a chair hit my face. It wasn’t combustible and didn’t contain enough energy to ignite, but it hurt like hell. I ran full speed and stabbed him with my sword.

Sekihara: ?!

I had won… but why was he smiling?

Yoshikawa: Look around you. Do you see where you are?
Sekihara: You wouldn’t.
Yoshikawa: I’m already dead. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Sekihara: Damn you!

I twisted my sword and made one last cut just to make sure I finished him, but the command was already given. I dropped to the ground and used Yoshikawa’s body to shield myself from the ensuing explosion. It still burned like hell. As soon as the initial explosions stopped, I ran back to the staircase and used the last of my power to fly to the top. I had to get as far away as possible. The entire school was about to burn, and there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop it.

* * *

After that, the school grounds were blocked off. The official cause of the blaze was a gas leak, they guessed. Apparently, no one discovered the hidden underground levels. Probably caved in. This meant no one found the body of Yoshikawa Akira, either. I didn’t know how long it would take for Shidow to realize he was gone, but I made sure to stay on my guard.

There were discussions on whether the school should be rebuilt or not. In the end, whatever plans were stalled, and it became a large empty lot of rubble. Rather than clear the area away and do something productive with the land, it was fenced off with a bunch of signs telling people to stay out. That’s government for you.

I guess I’ll never know what those computers were for or what was in them. I had no choice but to follow the only lead I had now, and it was best to do it now while no one from Shidow was tailing me.

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