Chapter 2 – Hidden Shield
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Between him and one of his oldest friends stood a man dying, much like how Yuki felt like at the moment.  Though it came as a hard view to take in.  Which shocked him more, witnessing a man, a real person, dying in front of him or seeing a girl he had known to be innocent and sweet completely covered in the man’s blood.  Painted dark in crimson hues, Ayumi nearly looked like she walked off a horror set.  If he had the strength he would have backed up a little.

Confusion along with panic began to crawl over his body.  What secret did his friend hide from him?  Why did she have such a cold and dispassionate expression drawn over her face?  Who attacked him?  If she killed once, would she again?  What did she want?  Questions stacked in his head like reports delivered from a dozen assistants all demanding equal attention.  Yuki doubted even one would get answered.

“...what’s…Ayumi…”  New flashes of pain reminded him that his life remained in danger.  It jolted his limbs and sucked in air through his teeth.  “...I feel so…”

Removing the Xiphos from within the chest of the assassin, Ayumi stepped back.  Emptying her mind of the sword, it faded away along with the rest of the sand field.  She promptly changed the law sets within her mind tasking it with two objectives.  Eliminating any evidence of the attack along with the assassin and repairing the damage the mission objective sustained.

She firmly marched around the soon to be corpse as a blue ripple shot out from her footsteps.  Within moments faint blue particles of light rose up maintaining a tight formation around her body.  The blood once soaking into the school uniform separated from the fabric.  Absorbed into the particles, they evaporated into the air broken down into base atomic components to return back to the natural cycle.

Kneeling down next to the wounded, she examined his condition and status of the repair.  ‘Bone on the fingers are already reconstructed and bleeding halted.  Looks like the shock did more to him than the attacks.’  While her field worked to restore his body and clean up the blood, she turned to the two civilians that accidentally intruded into the scene.  ‘This will be more problematic, but no other way.’

“S-stay away from me!”

“I-I d-did-dn’t see any-ything!”

Neither could escape.  Manacles from the ground tied both firmly to their locations.  With their voices unable to breach her territory, she had the time to consider her mission.  Ayumi walked stoically towards the two.  No hint of a menacing presence, yet they didn’t need one considering what they witnessed.  Both cried and pleaded for their lives.

Slowly kneeling down between the two, she placed a hand over their eyes.  “You walked around the gym continuing to talk uninterrupted until you returned.”  The flailing and screaming from the two quieted to a still silence.  Released from their restraints, she left them alone.

Confirming the assassin’s body completely broken down, she returned to her objective.  The wounds finished mending themselves.  He would recover, though the shock probably would inhibit him.  Ayumi reached out, grasping his arm and hefting him back up to his feet.  “Can you hear me?”

A sharp bold voice echoed through the soup of Yuki’s mind.  It took a moment, but the voice acted like a wind on the fog that numbed his senses.  Pulled back on the baited line, his consciousness leapt back into his body.  The last few minutes currently missing as he stared at his friend.  “Ayumi?  What are you doing here?”

He slowly panned his vision around the back of the gym seeing absolutely nothing.  ‘Did I imagine it all?’  Yuki searched out more carefully for anything disturbed.  Nothing.  No signs of a prank gone wrong, no bullies getting their laughs off, nothing.

Conflicts between his memory, which slowly started to clear up the recent blurs, and reality fought a battle of duel brushes to assert the truth.  He didn’t know which to believe.  And the lack of evidence carved doubt into his mind.

Yet while he considered the offer to forget everything that reality attempted to barter, the truth slapped him with an objection.  His knees buckled for a moment and he lost focus for a moment.  A tight hand kept him from collapsing.  “Why do I suddenly feel so lightheaded?”  Another pull of gravity rattled him.  “W-woah?!”

“It’s the blood loss.  I repaired the wounds, but you still bled out for a minute.”

“Blood…?  So all that happened?”  The last frames flashed back to him reminding him of Ayumi killing the man.  It jolted him sober.  “What the hell’s going on, Ayumi?  How are you involved in this?”

‘He’s sharper than I guessed.  Most don’t have the clarity to already just make such connections after a near death encounter.’  Scanning the sports team in the distance, she assessed the risk quickly.  “This is not the place for such a conversation.”

“What?!  You can’t–”  She released his arm.  It surprised him how much support she provided him as more than lightheadedness washed over him.  Muscle fatigue and low energy slammed his body all at once.  The high of adrenaline finally disappeared.  For as familiar a feeling as the drop from the high was to him, he never felt so drained before.

Looking to Ayumi for help, his childhood friend that he thought he knew just walked away from him.  If Saki didn’t run to his aid first, she would be next to him before he knew it.  Yet she just showed an oddly tall strong back in silence that demanded he follow and on his own.  “Dammit!  I want something to make sense!”

Running to catch up turned out to just be a fantasy in his mind, his legs completely refused to give him anything more than a sluggish pace as if he were an old man.  And to make matters worse, Ayumi just marched on pretending like he didn’t just nearly die.  Right, he almost died, he needed to circle back around to that as well.

Order of operations, answers from Ayumi came first, if he just caught up to her.  “Can you walk slower?  Injured over here.”  He hoped that would at least pause her for a response, but nope.

“You’re not injured.  You hardly even fought.”

“Not sure throwing sand counts as fighting, but daily bullies aren’t actually trying to kill me.  So my apologies for not being in peak physical condition to defend my life.”

“You’re going to want to fix that.”

“Fix what…ah dammit…”  Hopping a little to force his body into motion, which it really wanted to decline, Yuki got enough brief momentum to carry himself into a light sprint.  Each step reverberated through his legs.  It all felt worse than he cared to admit to him.  Rushing the distance caught him up, though he prayed the future didn’t demand interest for the effort.

He grabbed Ayumi's wrist.  “It should be safe now.  Ready to explain yourself?”  Half a dozen possible plot theories filled his mind in just the walk, given time he’d find tenfold more.  Which trope and cliche made the foundation of her lies?

The first bell sounded through the grounds cutting off any further words.  Ayumi turned away heading to the side door.  “You can’t be serious.”

She paused, glancing back.  “Would you rather be late and raise questions from Saki?  You obviously have many questions and for now the danger’s past.  When we won’t draw unwanted attention, I’ll answer you.”

“Dammit…”  Immediately, his mind conjured striking imagery of Saki filled with panic running through the halls.  “She’d probably shake down half the bullies in the school…  Against my better judgment, after school.”

Chapter 2 - Hidden Shield

Afternoon couldn’t come soon enough for Yuki.  Once his obligations to the class ended, he disappeared swiftly with Ayumi.  Unfortunately, those delays cost him his moment.

“Hey Yuki!” called out a familiar voice.  Tilting his head, Yuki confirmed Hiroshi hurried over with Kazuhiro and Tatsuya behind him.  It completely slipped his mind that they would be meeting him today.

He turned to his approaching friends.  “Right, it’s Tuesday, Saki’s got after school practice.  We’ll pick this up later.”  Before Hiroshi got too close to notice anything, Yuki straightened up and pulled back up the usual smile he carried around for everyone.  “Hiroshi!  You guys were able to find me!”

“You did sort of just ninja yourself out of the class.  I thought you were on cleaning duty.”

“I’ve been practicing the art!  Glad to see it worked!”

“I don’t know about that, I still found you!”

“And here I thought standing out in the open was the perfect disguise!”

“It was the wind, you didn’t take that into account.”

“Right, dammit!  I’ll get better next time!”

The two laughed a little as the bit ended.  “Ready to go?”

“Just need to get my bag–”  Suddenly, his bag dropped in his arms off screen.  “From class.  Thanks, Ayumi!”  He tried to sneak a look over to her to figure out if he had missed it on her.  Clearly he was more blind than he realized.  Or her secret turned out to be a magician, theory number thirteen.

“Y-you’re welcome!  I’m surprised you forgot your books.”

“I was taking the trash out, so I planned to return.”

“Good to go then?”

“Would seem that way!  What place you got picked out today?”

“You know I’m gonna run out of new places to show you eventually, Yuki.”

“Not today though,” he grinned with excitement.

Hiroshi stopped mid point and tilted his wrist a little admitting defeat.  “I guess that’s true.  This is one that Kazuhiro and Tatsuya discovered with me back in our crazy junior high days!”  Quickly, he reverted to a casual walk towards the school gates.

Dropped with such an interesting backstory detail, Yuki hurried along to keep pace with him.  “Oh will I get to hear about the wistful days of youth?  Mistakes of good intentions and bad deeds!  Tales of friendship and blood!”

“I think you’re overhyping someone so average.  You can save the dramatic tales for your books.”

“You’re anything, but average, Hiroshi!”

“Coming from someone like yourself, I’m not sure where that puts me.”  A small smirk drew over his face as Yuki tried to peek a read of his expression.  Just a disappointed pout in return for not finding a clue to if Hiroshi spoke the truth or not.  “Perhaps I’ll share something with you after we’ve been friends longer.”

“I can’t wait!”

Hiroshi thought, ‘Between the rumors, those that went to his junior high and what I see next to me, I really don’t know what to make of someone like him.  If even a couple of the stories told about him are accurate, he’s far more crazy than anything I’ve done.  Staying close seems the smartest thing for now…’  

Warm evening light painted orange highlights across the city.  Low hums of traffic kept the view from being too perfect as the adults started leaving daily jobs.  A different routine filled the city no longer dominated by the youth.

Exchanging waves, Yuki and Ayumi saw off their friends.  He watched the three boys make it to the intersection, before Ayumi’s voice cut through even haze of the city noise.  “You’re rather impressive.  Keeping up that mask of yours the whole time.”  The smile he always held dropped as Yuki turned to face Ayumi.

Cold dark eyes with a heavy shadow painted across his face stared at the girl that became a stranger.  Immediately, his gaze dug into her features and expression trying to pick out what was real and where the lies began.  Memories contradicted reality, which was right.  Who was Ayumi?  “Not nearly as impressive as a childhood friend hiding that they’re a killer from everyone.”

“A soldier.”

“As much as I can appreciate the distinction, that’s not really the matter at hand right now.”

“Fair enough.  You want answers.”

‘I’ve had so long to think about what she would say, I don’t really know what to expect or to believe.  All I know is that something that should be completely impossible happened and this is all feeling like a dream.’

“Speaking plainly, you’re a key figure in a political battle that will decide the future of my people.”

“That’s the elevator pitch, give me the back of the book summary.”


“I was attacked by a man that could defy the laws of reality and physics!”

“He, like myself and you, are part of a group of people who can rewrite the laws of the world to create anything that our imaginations can come up with.”