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Kyo

Dorama-rama Kojima Gakuen

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The sun had decided to make an appearance today. The air was cool and crisp. Conditions were about as good as they could have been for the time of year. The seats were packed with people. Anticipation was building within his audience. He looked to the recently shorn grass pitch to his left. Then a familiar voice came from his right as the person jogged past him to take their place.

"Good luck, Hira-kun!"

Hira looked straight a head at his team mate who was running along the track to take his position while Hira stood at the side. He ran his hand through his damp, sweat-soaked hair and adjusted the band that was tying his medium length reddish coloured hair back in a short ponytail. After a few moments there was a buzz of excitement and a starter pistol shot rang in the air. It had begun already. His team mate had a late start, but he was quickly making up for it. As he disappeared up the red track another took his place at the starting area.

People were whooping and cheering as the boy began to take the lead after gaining speed at the either side of the track. He came round the second bend and made a dash for his team-mate who was waiting for him with his arm outstretched. As they met they exchanged the metal baton and the other member tore off down the track. It was Hira's turns to take his position. The current runner would lag behind. He could maintain consistent speed but one of the other schools had pitted him against a sprinter who took the lead from him.

They rounded the second bend and the boy made a mad dash for Hira. As his turn approached it was as if time had slowed down. It was always like this. His hearing became muffled, the cheering crowd a dull thundering in the back of his mind. He let out a deep breath and the heat mixed with the cool air, causing a visible cloud to expel from his mouth. He held his arm out-stretched. He clasped his hand as the metal baton touched his palm.

His feet were moving on reflex. Everything came rushing back in to existence as he felt the force of moving forwards and the chant of the crowd. The familiar signs were there. Adrenaline flowed through him. His muscles were spasming, his chest becoming tight. This was nothing out of the ordinary. He had done this more times than he could remember. Yet as he approached the first bend of the track he could feel his heart thumping and a chilling feeling washed over him. Was this panic?

He steeled himself and pressed on. What had he to fear? This was everything he had ever wanted. He had been working up to this moment all year. There should have been nothing for him to fear, he was in the lead. Yet he could not escape the horrible feeling that he was going to lose. He thought of the rest of the team. They were counting on him. This was the pressure of relays. When he was sprinting alone the only person he could disappoint was himself.

He saw someone pass him out of the corner of his eye. Raiga Academy, his school's rivals. To lose to them would be even more shameful. His teeth clenched as he pushed forward, adrenaline and fear pushing him to his limit. It was his job to keep them in the lead, so that their endurance-based 4th member could maintain his speed with an easy lead and bring them victory. The first bend was over and the path ahead was straight. With a sudden burst of speed Hira pushed ahead of the rival runner, his feet hammering along the track.

He felt confidence return to him as he regained the lead. He had pushed through his wall and came out the other side. He was going to win, he knew that now. However it seemed that fate had other plans. He felt something crack. The adrenaline protected him from the pain but his brain was telling him something was wrong. He stumbled, tipping to the left and rolling on to the grass. He lay there for a moment unable to move. After what felt like hours people began to gather around him. As the group of attendants gather the adrenaline began to fade. The pain that had began as a dull throb was soon shooting up his leg like knives in his veins. He had lost.


Hiraku Kajiyama shot up in his bed, his hair hanging limp and stuck to his head from the sweat. He held his head for a moment his eyes clasped shut, straining from the offensive ringing that had roused him from sleep. He blindly swatted to his right and eventually found the alarm clock, silencing it with a slap. Slowly he opened his eyes, yawning. He moved around in his bed before shifting out of it, resting his bare feet on the floor.

He rubbed his left knee tenderly. The scarring was neat, the result of surgery. Mostly it was fine now, but it was always a little tense when he first woke up in the morning. He stood up and looked around his room, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, his eyes a similar red to his hair. He scratched his chest and stalked his bedroom for a towel, pulling one off of the back of his chair next to his desk. On his walls were certificates and medals for various sprinting contests ranging from as far back as pre-school sporting events.

With a sigh he made his way to the bathroom, pulling off his shirt to reveal a lean, muscular build common of an athlete. Yet he was no longer such a thing. As he got in to the shower and let the cold water jolt his senses awake he thought back to his dream. Well it was more like a memory. He really had lost that relay race for his team due to sustaining a knee injury. However that in itself wasn't anywhere near as painful as the news he had received after surgery.

He would never run again. At least not professionally. Any strenuous exercise would likely cause him further damage. Despite what his figure might suggest, even in only a few months he had noticed he was out of shape, at least compared to his former self. He could still go jogging and go to the gym, but he lacked the motivation these days. Running had always provided him with an escape from the banal and tedious routine of life. The rush it had given him was his catharsis. Now he had no escape. Nowhere to channel his passion.

Worse still, he thought as he exited the shower and dried himself off, he was now in his second year at Kojima Gakuen, a school that was well known for it's excellence performance records and prestigious clubs. To not be part of a club in Kojima Gakuen was akin to becoming a pariah. It was simply unheard of. Hira had been part of the Track and Field team, in fact in one short year he had become a star athlete. Now that was all over though. His career as an athlete was over, and in that knowledge he felt that being part of a stupid school club seemed trivial and pointless.

Hira was lost. He was simply drifting between school life and home life. School had been back for two weeks already and it had all passed by him without incident, without anything of note. He had lost his dream and yet life simply went on. There was no trouble, no news, no laughing or crying, not for him. His life had become calm and flat. No drama whatsoever.

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In a petite house not far from the prestigious school of Kojima Gakuen, Watanabe Yasu sat on the front step with his legs curled under him, checking that everything he needed was in his schoolbag. Behind him, an extremely muscular man with nothing but a towel wrapped around his legs walked along the corridor, whistling merrily. When he was right behind Yasu, he suddenly turned around and did a random bodybuilder pose, flexing his muscles. With precisely the same expression on his face, he turned back, and promptly bumped his head against a low-lying beam on the ceiling. No one seemed to have noticed, and he moved on quickly, rubbing his head.

“Yasu-kun, is your bento in the bag too?†His mother’s voice floated out from the kitchen. Yasu raised his head as she came into view. He nodded.

“It’s all in there, okaa-chan,†he answered.

“Yasu-kun, are you wearing that to school?†She pointed to his pink floral T-shirt and matching pink shorts. “Are you sure you wouldn’t be caught without your school uniform?â€

Yasu inclined his head to the side. “It’s been a fortnight and none of the teachers have made any mention of it yet.†He turned around and slipped his feet into tiny pink shoes as well.

As he got up, he suddenly remembered something.

“Oh, okaa-chan,†he said. “I haven’t told you, I’ve joined a club.â€

“Oh, how lovely,†cried his encouraging Okaa-chan. “Is it the calligraphy club or the literature club?â€

“Oh, no.†He squared his shoulders as best he could, with how round and weak they were. “I’ve joined the drama club.â€

“Drama?†Okaa-chan exclaimed. “But are you sure you’ll be able to do well in there? They need people with… with, well, dramatic personalities, you know.â€

“Yes, I’m sure I can,†Yasu said resolutely, looking straight into her eyes. His own bright blue eyes were shimmering, having coincidentally caught the light at the right angle. “It’s always been my dream to go into drama, and I’m determined to do well in it!â€

His eyes met Okaa-chan’s eyes. Both pairs of blue eyes stared silently at each other for a moment. All of a sudden, her lips quivered and she slowly pressed both hands against her face.

“Yasu-kun… you’re too cute for words!†she let out a squeal and squeezed Yasu’s cheeks mercilessly. He tried gasping for help and flailing like a chicken, but he was sadly on his own. It took a few seconds of pulling away and struggling before he managed to break free of his mother’s over-enthusiastic grasp.

“Very well then!†Okaa-chan declared. “I, as well as the rest of our family, will support your endeavour on the stage! We’ll turn up to watch all your performances! So do your best and do us proud!â€

It was with her words echoing in his mind that he sat down to “goal-setting and personal development†class that morning. All first-years had to write down their life goals for the year, be it academic or for other sectors. Yasu took out his bright pink pen and wrote, in neat and extremely small handwriting:

“My goal is to play a demented serial killer in a school play in the drama club by the end of this year.â€

He looked proudly at his own goal. This shouldn’t be too difficult. All he must do is wait for a school play with a serial killer in it to come along, and then volunteer for the role, right?

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Kusanagi Residence, sometime past midnight

Gai was awoken by the sound of conversation from downstairs. This was definitely unusual; Father was rather renowned in his field of expertise, attracting all sorts of customers from rich foreign Japanophiles to certain very nice men with missing ring fingers, but most of them had the decency to show up during opening hours. It wasn't right, showing up in the dead of the night like that.

Quietly, he climbed out of bed and tiptoed down the stairs, following the sound of voices towards the doorway to his father's workshop. Leaning beside the door, he peeked inside, getting a glimpse of who was inside.

As expected, his father was there, sitting beside a large, slowly turning grindstone -- his father was a tall man with a chest like an oak barrel and arms like tree trunks, corded with toned muscle. His black hair and beard were unruly and speckled with grey, wildly pointing in every direction at once as if he'd been struck by lightning, his face was of ruddy complexion and lined from years of hard work, and his broad fingers were covered in calluses. He didn't exactly look the part of Kenta Kusanagi, possibly Japan's best sword smith, but appearances frequently belied the truth.

The customer was an odd one, too. There wasn't much demand for traditionally-made weapons nowadays save as curiosities and display pieces, so the majority of Father's customers looked like rich people with nothing better to do than blow close to a million yen on a beautiful, period-accurate wall ornament. This customer, however, definitely looked too young -- and too poor -- to warrant stepping into Father's workshop. Rather short, chin-length grey hair, a white hoodie, blue jeans, battered old sneakers and a guitar case slung over one shoulder -- if Gai had been inclined to jump to conclusions, he'd have figured this customer for a robber.

The stranger spoke, and to his mild surprise, it turned out to be a girl, albeit one trying a robotic Keanu Reeves impersonation. "... So, can you fix it?"

"Of course. Who do you think I am, some village hick with a hammer?" Kenta harrumphed. "These skills have been passed down the Kusanagi line for generations! I just hope this craft doesn't die with me, though -- my progeny have a long way to go before they're ready, and one of them's just a lost cause."

"So...you can fix it, then?"

"Yes, yes, that's exactly what I just said. Hand it over, if you don't mind." Kenta sighed, and motioned towards the guitar case, which the girl obligingly handed over. He opened the case, peeking at its contents, and nodded sagely. "You've done quite a number on it, but it's definitely my family's work. Should take me a few weeks to get it fixed good as new. Of course, there is the matter of payment."

The strange girl slid something across the table covered under her palm. Father received it, looked at it and raised an eyebrow. "You have yourself a deal, young lady."

She nodded, and promptly left the house, not even sparing Gai a second glance. There's something odd about this whole thing... Aha! Gai's eyes lit up with the joy of a sudden realization, and he pumped a fist, struggling to restrain the urge to shout "YES!" at the top of his lungs. I've figured out what's so suspicious about her... That girl smells like a vegan! Just what is my father doing, brokering deals with a member of that megalomaniacal conspiracy? Is he abetting that worldwide effort to eradicate the joys of eating meat?! ... No, I can't think out loud. I might still be in range of her psychopathic field! Immediately, Gai started thinking of completely innocuous, inoffensive things, like cupcakes, cute kittens and whether it was safe to set off fireworks indoors. Thus, he was caught completely on surprise when his father walked up behind him and suddenly laid a hand on his shoulder. "Shouldn't you be asleep, son?"

Gai stiffened, momentarily paralyzed by shock. "S-Shouldn't I be asking you t-that? What on earth are you up to this late at night?" he blurted out, a bead of sweat lazily rolling down the side of his face.

Kenta paused, and coughed into his hand, before unleashing the floodgates of exposition, his expression not changing a bit as he spoke. "That nice young lady is actually a demon hunter -- no, I know what you're thinking, she's not a Soviet, a zombie Nazi, a Soviet Zombie Nazi or whatever hare-brained idea you've come up with this time -- who pried the thing in the guitar case here, a mystical weapon with the power of a fallen god, from the cold, dead hands of its previous owner, a centuries-old demon in human guise."

Gai chuckled, scratching the back of his head. "Oh, you're such a kidder, Dad. I should have known you'd never give me a straight answer."

"Well, off to bed, son. You need to be ready for school tomorrow." Kenta said as he nudged Gai back towards his bedroom. Gai nodded sleepily, stifling a yawn as he trudged back up the stairs back to sleep. Then, when Gai was out of earshot, he sighed, placing a hand to his face. "Kids these days can't even handle a straight answer, can they?"

...

For once, Father had been right about something -- the lack of sleep had taken its toll on him. His head didn't feel like he'd been brained by a lead brick -- more accurately, he felt like his head was a lead brick. His eyelids must have been weighed a ton, such was his effort to keep them from slamming shut, and the homeroom teacher's talking was muted to an incessant drone in his ears. He barely registered it when the sheet of paper was passed down. Good thing he sat at the back then; turning around to pass on more worksheets seemed a task as herculean as, well, something Hercules actually did. Like, throttling an invincible monster lion with his bare hands or something.

He glanced at the worksheet -- apparently, he had to write down what he wanted to be in the future; some career guidance thingy or another that didn't particularly interest him. Easy enough; he scribbled in something and passed the paper forwards again. Just hang in there, Gai. Hang in there. It's only two periods more before it's time for club activities. Perhaps this time, you'll actually score a leading role! You just need to stay awake for a couple of hours more-

Immediately, there was the thud of a head hitting the table, followed by the sound of snoring.

...

The homeroom teacher leafed through the worksheets, and snorted in disapproval as she read on. She so dearly wanted to smite these silly kids with a dose of reality, but alas, that would shatter their precious self-esteem and cripple their chances of becoming dynamic, assertive and competitive members of society in the future, and obviously it would be her fault. Takahashi, you can hardly string two sentences together without breaking out in a sweat. And you want to be a lawyer? Seriously? Fukagawa, I'll be surprised if you can even hold down a job at a Lawson's, let alone be... a 'super galactic pretty boy idol'. Have fun trying to pay for those Shonen Jump volumes on minimum wage. You want to be an engineer, Okabe? Well, good for you, it's a valuable job, and this society needs more people like you... hopefully ones with actual talent. I hope I don't have to use anything you design.

Then, she turned to the next sheet on her list, and her expression became something quite indecipherable as she slowly mouthed the words written on the last worksheet. "I, Gai Kusanagi, swear on my honor that I shall not be taken in by the lies and misdirection of the Thule Society, and will dedicate my heart and soul to discovering the truth about the Ethereal Horizon that lurks beneath Kojima!"

In her mind, she started composing her resignation letter.

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