It’s a new Millennium Match! Holy crap, there may even be a VG Lucia update! (not bloody likely….)
Chapter 13: Millennium Body 3: Fixing a Hole
The boy named Sekihara Katsumi… he was responsible for destroying the school and the secret lab hidden underneath it. He didn’t know it, but he killed my mother and myself. Well, my future self… it’s complicated.
Akiyama: Your story sounds unbelievable, but even if it is true, why tell me this?
Sekihara: There’s no way I can persuade you otherwise. You need to know the seriousness of my mission. If you want, I can show you a demonstration of my power.
How cute. He thinks he’s intimidating me.
Akiyama: No, I think I’ll pass on that. Just tell me something, though…
Sekihara: I’ve told you enough, haven’t I?
Akiyama: Your name is Sekihara. Are you related to Sekihara Shiro?
Sekihara: Huh? You know my father?
Akiyama: Ahhh… so, you’re his son, huh? He told me about you. You were never around when I visited though. I used to buy charms from him from time to time.
Sekihara: (Someone actually bought those?)
Akiyama: Yes, someone actually did, thank you. There’s no reason to tell me that story. I owe him a few, so I’ll help if you think I can.
Sekihara: Oh… Well, there was no way I could have known… It’s quite the coincidence, isn’t it? I suppose I should get straight to the point. I’m looking for someone that was in your Biology class during 1998.
Akiyama: 1998? That was a ways back. Got a name for me?
Sekihara: I’m afraid not. I wasn’t exactly acquainted, but I should be able to identify him from a photo.
Akiyama: Well… Maybe a yearbook would do?
Sekihara: A yearbook? Yeah, I should have thought of that…
Akiyama: I’ll go dig one out. By the way, can I get you something to drink?
Akiyama: I’ll get you a can of black tea.
I opened up the fridge while thinking about where I kept those old yearbooks. Did he mean class of 1998?
Akiyama: Heads up!
I tossed the tea can at the young Sekihara and went to work looking for those yearbooks. I never really cared much for looking through them. There might be four or five really stand-out students in any given school year, but all the best memories were never captured in these things. But I get them for free and I’m not exactly hurting for space, so I can’t complain. At least they’ve got a use today.
Akiyama: Here you go. Class of ’98 and ’99.
Sekihara: Thanks. I don’t remember him clearly, but I’m sure I can recognize him if I see him…
He flipped through both yearbooks, then set aside the ’98 one and spent more time looking through the ’99. Judging by the faces he was making, he wasn’t having much success.
Sekihara: Dammit! Why can’t I find him?
Akiyama: Maybe your memory’s not as good as you thought. Maybe you got the year wrong.
Sekihara: No, I’ve got the right year. Look here.
He pointed at a cute young girl.
Akiyama: Hmm… Oh, I remember her! That’s Mizuno Yui! She had an adorable little sister!
Sekihara: Mizuno Sayu was a classmate of mine. Her older sister had a boyfriend. That’s the guy I’m looking for, but he’s nowhere in here.
Akiyama: Oh? Ahh, now that you mention it… Yes, that was a fun year. I guess it makes sense that his picture’s missing, though. After all, he’s a mob boss’s heir.
Sekihara: He’s what?
Akiyama: You mean to tell me you’ve been looking for him and didn’t know about his connections? Oh, you did say you didn’t know his name… It was Ryogo. Misaki Ryogo.
Sekihara: And you don’t have any pictures of him?
Akiyama: Hey, what kind of teacher do you think I am? Well, was… Thanks a lot for the number you did on the school, by the way.
Sekihara: I told you that wasn’t… entirely my fault.
Akiyama: Not that it matters. If anything, you made a certain decision easier for me to make. But as for your problem… it’s going to be tough for you. Ryogo didn’t make it to graduation.
Sekihara: What? You mean he’s dead?
Akiyama: Dead? Oh, no no no… Well, hell if I know, actually. But he disappeared before the end of the school year. If you believe the rumors, he moved to America.
Sekihara: America? Well, it’s better than nothing. I’ll have to go.
Akiyama: Huh? And just how do you expect to get there?
Sekihara: I have my ways.
I wanted to stop him, but something deep inside of me stopped me. It was a nauseating feeling, as if my gut knew something about his destiny and that I shouldn’t interfere. But even so, if my conscience doesn’t agree with my gut, I’m not staying silent.
Akiyama: Wait! Just wait a moment. You don’t have any solid leads, and America is a huge place.
Sekihara: It can’t be help. It’s something I have to do.
Akiyama: What are you, stupid? There’s duty, and there’s idiocy. You’re being an idiot! No one ever lives their life solely for duty!
Sekihara: I do.
Akiyama: You just think you do.
Sekihara: It’s all I have. And it’s not something forced on me either. I want to do this.
Akiyama: Then do it. But don’t throw your life away. If duty is important to you, then success is even more important. If you go wandering around aimlessly, you’ll accomplish nothing.
Sekihara: That may be so, but…
Akiyama: But nothing! Look, I know you don’t have any family to depend on. But you need someone helping you if you want to get anything accomplished. So… just stay with me for a week before you run off to America.
Sekihara: Huh? But… That’s kind of…
Akiyama: Like I said before, I’m not that kind of teacher. I’ve got another job lined up, actually. It’ll take me at least a week to get everything set up to move out. You can crash here in that time.
Sekihara: Sounds like a good offer, but how does this help me?
Akiyama: Is it going to hurt you?
Sekihara: . . . Well… you might be in danger.
Akiyama: I’ll take that chance.
To be honest, I made the offer because I was hoping something interesting might come out of it. I’d been bored and lonely for a long time. The first time I met this kid, he’d just torched a school. Maybe with help. I knew someone like this might give me the jump start I needed.
I had been planning to rejoin the Shidow organization for years now, but I didn’t want to do anything that would take me out of this idyllic life I’d found myself in. Thanks to him, I don’t have that anymore. And he shook me out of the illusion that I would ever have a normal life.
I gave Shidow the call to offer my services and continue the work my father did for them. Of course, there was no guarantee that they would take me in. I was just talking big for the kid earlier. I just sort of hoped that, now that I actually went and said it, the universe would take a cue and graciously cause everything to fall into place.
Not waiting for a response, I dove right into the extreme fantasy I had cooked up in my head.
The first thing I needed to do was create a new identity for him. Spitballing names took the better half of a day. He settled on a name that was similar enough to his real name for us to get used to, but different enough that it wasn’t obvious.
Creating a new look for him was much easier. I took him to my favorite salon and forced him to adapt a more fashionable hairstyle. Something neat, but not boring or preppy. I introduced him as Sakai Kazuya, the son of a colleague and a former student of mine. With the school destroyed, no one could confirm or deny that he was enrolled there. A faceless transfer student that got lost in the shuffle. I of course made sure to falsify some records and hack him in later, just to be sure. That was after I joined Shidow, of course.
We opened up a bank account, and I transferred a sizable portion of my savings to him. I told him not to worry, but advised against using too much of it at a time.
Katsumi really should have been more appreciative of everything I did for him, but for the most part he had this confused, quizzical look painted on his face.
Sekihara: You’re really going out of your way to do all this for me.
Akiyama: Don’t sweat it. I’m having fun.
Sekihara: Yeah, I noticed. To be honest, it’s disturbing.
Akiyama: We’re both stepping into new phases of our lives. And let me tell you, until you’ve experienced an uneventful life of sustained regularity, you’ll never be prepared or appreciative of the exciting days you have ahead of you.
Sekihara: Maybe so, but that still doesn’t explain why you’re going through all this trouble.
Akiyama: Well… I don’t know. It’s exciting for me. I never had a pet.
Sekihara: I’m a pet to you? I’m 20 years old!
I chuckled softly to myself. My body was still that of a 20-year-old. Of course by now I had been using makeup to make myself appear older and I tried to conduct myself in a more mature manner. But it would still appear strange to any outside observer that I would be lecturing him like this. I didn’t look that much older than him.
Akiyama: If you want, you can go back to being a stray, struggling by yourself just to survive.
Sekihara: When you put it that way, this is smarter.
Akiyama: Exactly. Now trust me. Live a boring life. Stop carrying a sword around. If you apply yourself, I may even be able to pull some strings and get you a job in education.
Sekihara: Education? Someone like me?
Akiyama: Sure. I may have some fancy credentials, but the actual job itself is pretty easy once you get used to it.
Sekihara: Easy to you, maybe.
Akiyama: Trust me. A few years of prep, and you’ll be adequate. You’re planning to go to America, right? Maybe you should focus on English. I’ve got a few books that should help.
Sekihara: I’ll… think about it.
His progress in mastering English was slow. In the end, he decided on history. He grew up around stories detailing the history of his clan, and even though he couldn’t teach those secret histories, he was well-versed in the background of the times. Some of the textbooks I kept at my apartment covered eastern European and American history as well, and he had nothing but time on his hands for a year. It was a natural fit for him.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
It was a week after we first met. He was asleep in my storage room as was the arrangement when I received the call.
Akiyama: This is Akiyama.
Jacob: I am Jacob. I was an assistant to your father and continued his work under the the Shidow Group. I hope you understand that I had to order certain background checks before contacting you about your request.
Akiyama: Well, it’s about time. I thought you folks at Shidow were faster than this.
Jacob: I personally made sure the checks were thorough. Shidow isn’t a charity, Ms. Akiyama. What could we possibly gain from hiring you?
Akiyama: Do we need to play this game? You wouldn’t have made those background checks if you thought there wasn’t anything I could offer.
Jacob: I won’t deny that. But bluffing and claiming possession of something vague isn’t going to help you get any information from me.
Akiyama: Isn’t that what you’re doing? You want me to offer you information for free. Then you really won’t need me. Or, at least, that’s your process.
Jacob: I see we’re at a stalemate.
Akiyama: Not really. I just don’t want to bother playing footsie with you, Jake. I never forget a voice. You were never a big shot, just my father’s gofer. So either tell me what I want to hear, or connect me to someone who won’t waste my time.
That shut him up. Of course, I desperately needed this job and was severely overplaying my worth. But I couldn’t let that come across. Finally, Jake either found the words or was fed them.
Jacob: Things have changed since you were last with us, Marie.
Akiyama: I trust I’ll be able to see these changes first-hand.
Jacob: We’ll send you the details by e-mail within the hour.
I made absolutely sure our call had ended before I let out a triumphant squeal.
No consonants necessary. In my excitement, I failed to notice the kid had crept up behind me and positioned his sword to my throat.
Sekihara: So who are you, really?
Akiyama: Now that’s hardly polite.
Sekihara: I overheard you. Talking with the Shidow?
Akiyama: What’s it to you?
Sekihara: They’re my enemy. And that makes you…
Akiyama: Very disappointed.
My cybernetic body wasn’t built to be a terminator. I couldn’t produce enough torque to do more destructively than the human body is normally capable. But it was built not to break.
I grabbed the blade with my two bare hands and pulled it away from my neck.
Sekihara: That’s not…. Doesn’t that hurt?
Akiyama: Actually, it hurts like hell! Didn’t I tell you to ditch the sword?!
He put the sword away, and I shoved my palm into his face. Just to make sure he took a good hard look at my bruised but unsevered hand.
Akiyama: You want to know who I really am? Take a good look.
I went to work wiping away the heavy makeup on my face, revealing my smooth, unwrinkled, unblemished skin. I took off the wig that concealed my actual vibrant, non-decaying hair. I removed the contacts that fooled others into thinking I had anything other than impossibly clear eyes.
Sekihara: You’re… a spy? Wait, you’re my age?!
Akiyama: I wish. I’m just a girl that was destined for more than the life of a high school teacher.
I told him everything. It was a story that was no more ridiculous than his. Now we were on even footing.
Akiyama: So, do you believe me? I’ll admit, I’m still not sure I believe your story either.
Sekihara: I’ll believe you.
Akiyama: And you’ll ditch the sword?
Sekihara: It’s one thing to change my way of life, but to keep myself defenseless?
Akiyama: A sword doesn’t suit you. Your element…. it’s “wood,” isn’t it? It should be dangerous for you to stay around “metal.”
Sekihara: You know about that, do you? Then… what about you? Aren’t you “metal” too?
Akiyama: I suppose I am. But that’s why we’re not going to be together for very long. I’ll finally be living my life soon enough.
Sekihara: Well… But then what was all of that advice, then? About living a boring life?
Akiyama: I’ve known about my true nature for years. Ever since then, I knew I was destined for a different life. But this life is all I’ve ever really known. It was hard to let go. Even though I like to pretend I’m in complete control, I don’t have any idea where we go from here. But, Katsu… No, Kazuya. I think it’s necessary to make destiny wait a little bit longer if it means gaining perspective.
Sekihara: What do you mean, perspective?
Akiyama: Do you know what we are? We’re born prodigies. Our destinies were already plotted in the stars for us. Just passengers on a ship, really. But our captains left, and we were forced to take up the wheel before our time. What could anyone do when put in that position? I guess I just stopped at the nearest port and waited for a new captain. But I have to captain my ship myself. You kept sailing forward, thinking you knew where you were going.
Sekihara: You’re saying I’ve been going down the wrong path?
Akiyama: No. I’m saying you’re sailing blind. You might actually be going down the right direction… but you have no idea. You’ve got skills that other people your age… or any age… simply don’t have. But a good ship can only take you so far. Maybe you’ll run out of stock, or you’ll hit some rocks and before you know it you’ll just become a forgotten memory in the Sargasso. People reach their destinations with less capable ships all the time. To meet that fate would be a real waste, don’t you think.
Sekihara: I think that makes sense… but what about you? Are you using your skills the right way?
Akiyama: I’ve picked up a few tricks here and there. I should be able to manage.
Sekihara: I… might need to restock.
Akiyama: Well, that’s a start.
Sekihara: I’m not good with metaphors.
Akiyama: I’ll admit, it’s not my forte. I teach bio, not lit.
Sekihara: I think you should make a switch.
Akiyama: I think I’m sick of teaching. You’ll be my last student. I have high hopes for you, Sakai-kun.
Sekihara: I hope to live up to them, Akiyama-sensei.
I had gotten so carried away with my plans that I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I would be losing those words. I never thought I’d miss them.
I know I told him to stop and get perspective, but it’s not like I was certain about the path I would be going down. But it’s time I stopped wondering where I will go… and just go. That’s the difference between me and him. I always knew the way. I just wasn’t sure if I was going to like where I belong.