Kentarou's log

Broken Chains

The day started like any other…

The alarm went off and I slowly got in to the chair and went for breakfast. The kitchen was empty. Mom had taken Haruka to the hospital to check up on her sprained ankle and had left me breakfast in the fridge. Cold miso soup… again.

I made my way to school at a slow pace; I prefer getting there a bit late since it means less risk of running in to someone and less time for anyone to notice me. I arrived at homeroom just in time for Yamaguchi sensei to take attendance. He had barely begun the class before Principal Kurushimi entered the classroom. He took Yamaguchi sensei outside and yelled at him, probably about the curriculum. Regardless, Yamaguchi sensei soon came back and continued the class on…something, old literature? I wasn’t paying much attention and apparently it wasn’t going to be on the test anyway. After class, Akimoto-san was bullied by Matsumoto-san again; honestly it was something of a relief, if the attention was focused on her, then there was less risk of me getting targeted as long as I didn’t involve myself and looked the other way. It is at times like that I am reminded how much I’ve changed since the accident, no wonder Kiyo no longer wanted to be my friend.

My relief was short lived however, since when Akimoto left the classroom, Tsuyo-san and her friends showed up. It was in the middle of the rest of the classroom, so she didn’t do anything physical or dangerous to me, she simply made sure to remind me of the difference between us, how she and the rest of the class were going to run, play and exercise while I…wasn’t. I’ve gotten used to it, but hearing it still hurts.

Me and Akimoto-san were asked to see the school nurse for vaccination, it seemed odd at the time, but it meant I could skip “special” PE-class, so I didn’t mind. Akimoto-san walked with me trying to make conversation, seemingly careful not to say anything that would upset the cripple. I disliked that almost as much as what Tsuyo-san did. I mostly ignored her and hurried to the nurse’s office.

I hadn’t gone there for a while, I used to go there regularly since I knew the old nurse there and she understood my bullying problem and let me stay there during recess. She was kind, but she had been replaced. I didn’t know what to expect from the new nurse, but it definitely wasn’t what awaited us. Kannon sensei was young, beautiful and somehow alien. She spoke, smiled and gesticulated as though the actions had been taught to her recently and without her entirely understanding the meaning behind them.

She took me inside one of the rooms and produced an enormous syringe, I thought she was joking at first but somehow I knew she wasn’t. As the syringe and its content pressed in to me, she warned me that it might kill me. I had been scared for so long since the accident, but hearing that didn’t really frighten me; I was ready to leave that hell behind me.

I remember what seemed like an endless struggle from within the darkness, chains and bonds clawing at me but finally yielding against me as I climbed in to the light.

I awoke in a forest, naked and alone. My head was blurry and ran primarily on routine, I looked for my wheelchair but it was nowhere to be seen. I lay next to a small pond, I looked in to it and barely recognized myself. My hair was cut and cared for, and I looked stronger and healthier. I called out into the forest but there was no response. I was alone but strangely the thought didn’t scare me. Instead I wanted to get my bearing and began to crawl across the grass and dirt that somehow felt more real than what I remembered, scrape against my chest and legs. I stopped.

I felt the grass on my legs. It should have been impossible but I could feel and move my lower body. At that moment the pond behind me began to stir and from within it appeared Kannon. She was naked and smiled at me, somewhat more genuinely this time and took my hand and helped me up to my feet. I could stand!

At first I thought it was a cruel dream, like the ones I had during the first year after the accident, but Kannon assured me that it wasn’t, and I believed her. It all felt too real to be a dream. For a moment I reflexively worried about each other’s nakedness but I couldn’t quite remember why that was something to worry about, so I stopped. Neither of us had anything to hide or feel embarrassed about. Kannon explained about this world but truthfully I did not listen as closely as I perhaps should have; my attention was firmly set on my now working legs and the feeling of walking once again. I did understand that I had died and gone to hell and she had helped me escape and wanted me to save others in return. And she wanted me to fight. I didn’t know how, but the thought excited me. She asked me to try out my new, real, body and I was happy to oblige.

I was harder, better, faster, stronger than ever before. She directed me to a village along the road and I followed it and could no longer contain my excitement and finally started running. The feeling was incredible and the trees blurred past me as I went past them. I reached the village Kannon had spoken about far too quickly. It was guarded by what seemed to be roman legionaries. They called themselves The Empire of Bronze and said they were guarding the village from a beast or ogre.

After commissioning a short kilt to somewhat hide my nakedness, I told their Centurion, a man called Gaius, that I might be joined by another, Aiko, and he sent out a man named Scipio to investigate, with orders to shout in case the beast showed up. I went with him and soon ran into Aiko. She like me looked different, she no longer wore glasses, instead she had red confident eyes and was donned in armour. We had barely had time to exchange greetings before Aiko noticed movement in the forest, the ogre we presumed. I told Scipio to run back and warn the commander while me and Aiko went on ahead. I assumed that Aiko would have a similar physiology as I but It seemed as though we had arrived here with different powers and I quickly left her behind me. I found a man, dressed similarly to myself in a quarry within the forest. As I approached him he threw an enormous boulder at me, memories of the car speeding toward me, and the possibility of ending up lame in this world as well filled me with a sudden rage and defiance. I stopped the boulder and was about to simply send it back towards the assailant but then I noticed the man regretting his action, wavering and I thought I could recognize Ikuro from our class behind the disheveled hair and grime.

The hesitation didn’t last long as the man transformed in to a hairy monster before my eyes. Aiko joined me but now wore a different armour to the one she had worn just a few moments ago. There was no time to ask question however and I hurled the boulder back at the creature. We fought and finally I took a hold of him and drove him in to the ground head first to have him calm down. To my surprise it worked and the creature returned to looking like Ikuro once more.

He said his name was Umat and had been cursed by the actions of his father. His father had damned his clan in his search for power and had turned them all into mindless ogres. Umat still had a hold of his humanity and was fighting his former clansmen. He said that they would be coming for him, the village and god knows who else. We offered to aid him and brought him with us to the village to prepare a defense. It was clear that Umat was taken aback by this, it must have been a long time since anyone reached out to help him. As a sign of gratitude and good faith, he brought with him a moose he had killed.

We explained to Centurion Gaius about Umat and even though they were unwilling to let him inside the village when they learned that he was the beast they had been defending against, they were happy to have him defending them outside. I guess it’s easier to have someone else risk their lives as it means less risk of you getting targeted…

I went to work building a basic palisade, it was hard work and I was still getting used to my new physique. I tired myself out fairly quickly but it seemed like sufficient protection as long as we were there to intervene. Aiko meanwhile prepared a meat stew, using the moose Umat had brought. it was an odd decision right before a battle I thought, especially since she clearly felt uncomfortable handling the animal’s innards but she pulled through and let us fight on a full stomach so I certainly didn’t complain. I supposed that Aiko wasn’t that different from the one back in Hell, she is thoughtful of others, even though the way she express it is at times a bit clumsy. I didn’t mind that though.

Soon after we had eaten the ogres attacked. There were three of them. I picked up a wooden spear and hurled it at the nearest one as I ran towards them. I knew that there was a very real risk of dying but the struggle, pitting everything my body could muster, testing myself against another, even as the monster tore into me, filled me with a ferocious joy. Two of the monsters came after me and Aiko tried to draw their attention my questioning their honour for going against someone weaker than they. No, not anymore. I was no longer a weak scared child, I was Yamamoto Kentarou and I needn’t be afraid of anyone anymore.

The fight did not take long, I rammed the last ogre into the palisade and went with Aiko to see to Umat who had been hurt badly in the fighting. Again Aiko showed a surprising power, as she laid her hands on Umat’s wounds, the wound knit itself back together. Not entirely, he was still grievously injured but it allowed him to move by his own strength, so good enough. She healed us as well and I was filled by a great sense of accomplishment, we had won.

That is when it happened.

The ground opened underneath us and chains, stronger than the last latched on to me, dragging me downwards. I howled in defiance desperately struggling against it, watching as an unsurprised Aiko merely accepted it as the chains wrapped around her. I failed; the chains surrounded me and dragged me down with them, back in to the darkness, back into hell.

I awoke still fighting, desperately thrashing and fell down out of my wheelchair. I was back in the nurses office. Kannon sensei was there, looking at me in pity. Akimoto san soon joined us, she had known. She had known that it wasn’t permanent; she had known that I would return to being…this and she hadn’t warned me. Kannon sensei made excuses as why they had lied, spouting nonsense about me needing to help others in this world. She reached out her hand to help me up in my chair but I immediately swatted her away and crawled up myself. Ridiculous, I can’t help anyone like this, I can’t even help myself.

I am Yamamoto Kentarou, and I am afraid.

Friends

I left Akimoto san and Kannon sensei behind as I left the office. I couldn’t remain in that room, not with them. They had lied to me, frightened me. Whatever they might say, they were not my friends. Kannon looked disappointed, perhaps even hurt but it’s hard to tell with her strange mannerism. Even so, she should have thought of that before doing…whatever she had done to me. It was strange, going to that world was amazing, I could walk, run, and jump again. I could be ME again. And it even seemed as though I might be able to go back there. But even so, returning from that place, returning into being…me opened up old wounds. I had almost forgotten the joy of simply moving and running, and now that had been taken away from me, again.

I went past the track field to clear my head and see how Haruka was doing. The sprain on her ankle didn’t seem bad, but sometimes she forgets to be careful and take care of herself. I ran into…I met Fuji san outside by the fence. According to him he was simply there to leer at the girls during training and assumed that was why I was there as well. I was a bit taken aback by the question, and it helped me shift my thoughts. While I was a bit embarrassed by the suggestion I somewhat admired the courage it took to be so bluntly honest. Even so, I got the impression that he wasn’t telling me everything, but then again, why should he? I explained that I came to see Haruka and make sure she was alright. He promised me that he hadn’t been leering over her but was able to point her out in the crowd. She was walking alongside another senior, a man Fuji san said was named Isamu Hideyoshi.

Haruka looked happy around Hideyoshi san. They seemed to be getting along well with each other. I wasn’t sure if that meant anything special, Haruka had always had a lot of friends and several admirers, but even so, I was happy for her. It had always seemed as though her guilt and worry about me had kept her from taking the times for things like that. That happiness was somewhat marred when Fuji san said that Hideyoshi san was the reason he quit football and that he was an asshole. I hope that isn’t true, but there definitely seemed like there was some resentment between the two. Fuji san opened up a bit when talking about it, and said he missed playing, but then as if brought back to reality he cut the conversation short and went to the theatre club.

Haruka seemed to take it easy on the bench while the others finished up practice, so I decided to wait for her by the gate so as to not be in the way. As I walked towards it, I met Uemoto san. He was kicking around an empty can by himself near the bicycle rack. At first I planned to simply avoid him, we had nothing to do with one another in this world after all. Then, just for the fraction of a second, I saw Umat. For just that brief moment, Uemoto san and Umat’s movements seemed to meld, and then just as quickly it was over. That’s when Uemoto san noticed me and started talking. We had never really talked much before that, he was dangerous so I had made sure to stay away from him, but even though the conversation was a bit awkward, I noticed that he was easy to talk to. In many ways it was similar to talking to Umat. As with most of my conversations with Umat, we didn’t actually exchange that many words, but what we said conveyed a great deal. He resented grownups because of his family situation and had led him to be angry which in turn had made people afraid of him, expecting him to act violently until finally he began acting the way people expected him to. He missed the basketball club that according to him he had been kicked off from unjustly and was afraid to have the same thing happen in any of the other clubs. He also suggested that I should look into playing wheelchair basketball. The comment hurt, since I knew my time for sports was over, I had lost whatever will or courage I once had that it took to truly compete in something, but I didn’t want to show that, so I simply nodded. Uemoto san was surprisingly thoughtful; perhaps he isn’t the monster people at school make him out to be.

I continued to the gate to wait for Haruka, but as soon as I got there, Tsuyo san and her friends approached me. Tsuyo san began belittling me again. After a while I stopped responding and simply waited for it to be over. Shad had just grabbed onto me when Haruka came and they dispersed. She asked what happened but I didn’t want to throw even more problems on her, and told her they were just playing. She didn’t seem to buy it though. Then she asked about the rest of the day. Obviously I couldn’t tell her the truth so instead I only told part of it, I mentioned the vaccination and that I got tired. She seemed to accept it and left it at that. She changed topics and told me that Kiyo had beaten Tsuyo san in track, and that that might be why Tsuyo san had been extra irritated. I’m glad, Kiyo had been in a slump and stopped improving for some time, I guess she is moving on with her life as well…

Haruka made dinner for us. As she prepared the bath, Kiyo came over. Or Sugita san, now I suppose. She came to deliver Haruka’s gym bag. She had forgotten it while changing. It was strange talking to Sugita san again after so long, we had only exchanged a few greetings when we happened to see each other. Ki.. Sugita san seemed to be feel awkward as well and left in a hurry. Haruka went in to her room to listen to love songs and I went into the bath. Both Haruka and Kiyo seemed to be moving forward. It was only me who had stopped walking forward since that day. After all, how could I without the use of my legs? I was trapped, chained to that day that changed everything.

Once again chains tried to drag me down, to stop me from going where I belonged. Once again they yielded against me as I continued forward

I was back in the same glade where I first arrived. Aiko was there as well. I remembered being angry at Aiko. It is true that she had kept things from me, but somehow none of that mattered anymore. It was in the past and I had no intention of wasting the present with such things. We were both here and we were allies in this strange new world. That was all that mattered. Instead of worrying about the past or present I stretched and took a deep breath, breathing in the new day.

It was only then I noticed that I was naked again and judging by the way Aiko’s cheeks were rapidly starting to match her eyes, so had Aiko. Thankfully she didn’t have to be embarrassed long as Scipio came towards us. It would seem as though he had been given orders to await our return and he offered me a new kilt to wear. Aiko on her part was once again donning her armour

We hurried back to the camp. They had continued working since we left and had solidified and expanded upon the makeshift palisade I had set up. Even though we’ve never seen them actually fight, it seemed as though they were serious about protecting these people. That was all well and good, but I also noticed young recruits being sworn in to their legion. Devoting their lives in service of a kingdom they’ve never seen…I hope they are not making a mistake. We were greeted Centurion Gaius who filled us in on where we left off. He told us that Umat had gone ahead of us towards Albion, in search of answers. They warned us that New Albion would be dangerous for him, so we made hasty farewells and made our way towards New Albion.

As we began moving I could no longer restrain myself and excused myself from Aiko and once again I could run freely. I rushed on ahead and saw farms and pastures stream past me. Far too quickly I reached the edge of a large forest. We would have to go through it to reach Albion. So I turned to run back and join Aiko, who was jogging along slowly, having now changed her armour for what seemed like running or hiking gear. It is definitely an odd power she had been granted.

We didn’t speak much on the way towards the forest, partly I supposed due to Aiko’s heavy breathing as she jogged along, but primarily because we didn’t need to. We made our way to the forest in comfortable silence. As we reached the forest, Aiko stopped, looking around as if hearing sounds coming from all directions and changed back to her armour as a result. I didn’t hear much besides the normal rustling of forests, nor did I pay it too much head and we continued on into the forest. We had been walking for maybe half an hour when suddenly, from one second the next, we were surrounded.

A woman, clad in little more than myself and riding an almost horse sized Black Panther pointed her spear directly at me. Her companions, entirely silent among the trees hefted weapons of their own to our sides. I made myself shift into a more relaxed stance and greeted them calmly. The woman seemed to accept me, and turned her spear on Aiko instead. She said their people, The Luddites, reviled steel and iron and apparently took offense to Aiko’s armour. As she moved her spear, I followed along with it, I don’t like bullies and wasn’t about to sit and watch as they threatened a friend.

There was a tense period while I locked eyes with the woman, almost daring her to make the first move. It only lasted for a few seconds but I found myself quite enjoying it. The woman, going by the name Sra, put her weapon down and me and Aiko explained our reasons for going through their forest. Sra brought us deeper into the forest to meet their leader, a man named Noad. I wasn’t sure but he reminded me of the singer of one of our schools band, “The Smashers” or something to that effect. Like Sra, he had an animal companion, an enormous wolf of some kind, but unlike her and the other Luddites, he wore a piece of metal. It was an emblem which had carved words in what seemed to have been a foreign language, probably French of English.

Aiko could read parts of it “Ambassador”. This made the Luddites even more wary of her since she could read their enemy, New Albion’s language. Aiko tried to explain that she had never been there and that her armour didn’t come from New Albion but from her soul. The Luddites seemed skeptical at best, especially since Aiko herself didn’t seem entirely sure about how her powers worked. So they devised a test, to have her wear their clothing instead. After some time and trial and error, Aiko seemed to come to grip with her powers and managed to wear an improvised Luddite armour. This allowed her some begrudging respect among the luddites, but they still seemed weary of her and gave her the name of “Steelheart”. They were more accepting of me, and gave me the name Bull. I wasn’t sure what the named signified, but I believed it was meant to be complimentary.

Speaking of which, since our first exchange, Sra had made a point of staying in my general vicinity, making no attempt at hiding her interest in me. It reminded me at times of a cat stalking its prey, but I couldn’t say I particularly minded. I found that I liked the Luddites, I didn’t agree with them on many things, but at their core they seemed to simply want to live free. After explaining our purpose for going to New Albion to Noad, he gave me one of his wolf’s fangs. He said he was part of the city’s council and the fang would show our connection to him and might help us gain access to places otherwise barred to us. We thanked him and Sra and some of the “Owls”, the Luddite scouts I assumed, led us to the edge of the forest.

What waited us was a strange scene, mechanized animals working farms and cutting down trees and airships flying in the air. We found a road near the forest and had not gone long before we met with a carriage transporting a caged group of women. The merchant of the carriage greeted us and nonchalantly told us about his slaves. I ignored him and approached the caged woman to make sure I understood the situation. A woman named Frida answered me and told us how they had taken them from their various homes and families. That was all I needed to know and quickly turned to knock out one of the merchant’s guards. I was about to call Aiko to see if she would support me, but before I even said anything she had already cut the horses loose and began fighting the merchant. I smiled, she was good people.

It was a short-lived battle, I quickly took out the other guard and Aiko drove her sword through the merchant, but not before he had time to send off a flare, alerting the patrolling airships. I picked up the merchant and by the urging from Aiko, one of the guards as she cut open the cage, freeing the slaves. The Airships were hot on our heels and began opening fire. We ran into the forest for cover and I called for Sra. There was a long silence, and suddenly she was simply there, standing among us. She quickly understood the situation and brought us to a Luddite safe house, The Bear Cave. The Luddites, who we had just met a few hours before as potential enemies had now once again aided us and given us shelter.

*I was among friends, I had almost forgotten that feeling and I silently swore never to forget it again. *

Kentarou's log

The Transverse Chronicles Riklurt Sydow