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Shadow Fox - Terror King variant cover by KyuushinArtist Shadow Fox - Terror King variant cover :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0 Shadow Fox Comic Cover by KyuushinArtist Shadow Fox Comic Cover :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 2 0 Absorption in the Shadow of Trees by KyuushinArtist Absorption in the Shadow of Trees :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Literature
WAR OF THE CLOUDS
WAR OF THE CLOUDS
=================
The clouds make war on all below
As they let loose with liquid ammo
To stir the rivers, gullies, streams
To action, war, against the beams
That rise from the soil, blocking the sun,
Natural, man-made, it matters none.
The waters hear, and give reply
By rushing hard and rising high,
Crashing like unstoppable forces
Testing their strength against the voices
That cry Stand firm, foundation's safe,
Until it goes to an early grave.
The soil stands fast, but not for long,
As it runs down its path ere long.
The rocks remain, though shifting fast,
The trees stripped bare, their strength now past;
Till ruin marks the landscape's face
And victory's flag, the cloudy space.
:iconKyuushinArtist:KyuushinArtist
:iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Mature content
STILL ALIVE :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Mature content
DYSFUNCTION :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Literature
HOLLOW DREAMS
HOLLOW DREAMS
=============
My hopes and dreams for life and living
Turned out to be hollow fantasies.
Now, I only fulfill the hopes others have,
Yet I will never fulfill my own.
My past romances have turned to dust
And future romances are uncertain.
Past friendships included treacherous ones
For me to suffer and disown.
True friends disappear, never to return,
And enemies remain like a pestilence;
Booing and mocking, berating and beating
Until in dead dreams I finally drown.
:iconKyuushinArtist:KyuushinArtist
:iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Literature
UNKNOWN
UNKNOWN
=======
My family sees me as "the young one."
My friends see me as "the studious one."
My superiors see me as "the ambitious one."
But who am I?
In my country, I am a citizen.
In this world, I am a human.
In God's eyes, I am His child.
But who am I?
Am I a lost soul begging to be found?
A wanderer searching for a faraway goal?
Just another cloud up in the sky?
Who am I?
I am a person, an individual.
I am everything I choose to be.
Strong-willed, I strive toward my goal.
That is who I am.
A friend, a comforter, a lover,
Compassionate, understanding, true.
In my hands, I hold the gift of comfort...
...that is who I am.
How alone am I in this secular world
Till you break my chains and set me free.
Then this individual's unknown no more...
...and that's what friends are for.
:iconKyuushinArtist:KyuushinArtist
:iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Literature
LOVE
LOVE
====
What is love?
Love is when you give me a hug
Without needing a reason.
Love is when I give you a bouquet
For every season.
Love is the beauty of oncoming dawn;
It does not treat you like a pawn.
It's when we treat our fellow man
With trust and courtesy so grand.
With love between us, you and me,
What a better place our world could be!
:iconKyuushinArtist:KyuushinArtist
:iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 1 2
Literature
Eyes of the Heart
EYES OF THE HEART
=================
The eyes of the heart are upon you.
They sense your anguish, your deep longing.
They can tell your deep desire
For comfort, companionship and truth.
The eyes of the heart can see you.
As sweet incense, they guide your soul;
Until your heart's journey ends at last
And the seeds of your love take root.
:iconKyuushinArtist:KyuushinArtist
:iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0
Kitsune no Ken Cover - Naruto and Gaara's Eye by KyuushinArtist Kitsune no Ken Cover - Naruto and Gaara's Eye :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 1 0 Kitsune no Ken variant art (without story title) by KyuushinArtist Kitsune no Ken variant art (without story title) :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 2 0 Kitsune no Ken - LARGER VERSION by KyuushinArtist Kitsune no Ken - LARGER VERSION :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0 Kitsune no Ken by KyuushinArtist Kitsune no Ken :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 0 Scan0005 by KyuushinArtist Scan0005 :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 0 1 Scan0003 by KyuushinArtist Scan0003 :iconkyuushinartist:KyuushinArtist 1 1

Favourites

Beyond Fantasy by FrostAlexis Beyond Fantasy :iconfrostalexis:FrostAlexis 128 49 Jesus by adryan Jesus :iconadryan:adryan 914 353 Crystal Showers Cave by DrewHopper Crystal Showers Cave :icondrewhopper:DrewHopper 2,154 170 Shower Time by DolphyDolphiana Shower Time :icondolphydolphiana:DolphyDolphiana 846 34 Brand Irony 1 - Just Do It by sharadhaksar Brand Irony 1 - Just Do It :iconsharadhaksar:sharadhaksar 19,812 2,340 Fear the Gung Ho Guns by kheelan Fear the Gung Ho Guns :iconkheelan:kheelan 412 165

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Shadow Fox - Terror King variant cover
A proposed comic book cover featuring one member of Shadow Fox's Rogues Gallery, the serial killer known as the Terror King. He wears a coat with a hood, a black mask with fangs and a black body suit underneath the coat, and is armed with a knife.
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Shadow Fox Comic Cover
This is how I pictured a variant comic book cover for "Shadow Fox," the comic-book Batman-like superhero featured within the fictional universe of my fan-fiction story, "Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox." In-universe, Kinjo Naizen (Japanese name, surname first) is the creator of Shadow Fox, inspired to create her after a chance encounter with a certain person who saved his life during the 365 days' incident perpetrated by the Kyuushingai (Nine Terrors).

This was created using the Heromachine 3 tool, with some editing done on Microsoft Paint.
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Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox

 

Written by Neon Majestic

 

(DISCLAIMER: The Naruto franchise and the characters therein belong to and were originally created by Masashi Kishimoto.)

 

OoOoO

 

GAIDEN CHAPTER 02 – New Challenger

 

(N.B. This Gaiden chapter takes place four months before the start of the main plot in Chapter 1 of the main story.)

 

"Ajisai! Wake up, dear, it's time to head to school!"

 

The red-haired woman stood outside the bedroom door and knocked loudly on it. "Up and at 'em, girl!" she called. "It's the first day of the new school year, and you want to make a good impression on your new schoolmates and teachers, don't you?"

 

"Leave me alone, Mom," a sleepy voice grunted from the other side of the door.

 

"Is that all you have to say?" the woman retorted, a cross look coming over her face. "Well, in that case..."

 

Turning the doorknob and pushing the door open, she looked in and saw a shock of red hair, not unlike her own, strewn messily atop a pillow, with the rest of the hair's owner covered by bed-sheets. With a grand flourish, she walked over and yanked the sheets off. "Get up now, daughter dear!" she announced.

 

"Ugh...come on, Mom," Ajisai groaned, burying her face deeper into the pillow and feeling around fruitlessly for the sheets. "Why do I have to go to this stupid school anyway? Iwa City High was good enough, wasn't it?"

 

"Come now, Ajisai, we've had this discussion before," her mother said firmly. "I had to move to Mist City for my job, and I wasn't about to let you stay in Iwa City all by yourself, ergo, you're here with me now."

 

Ajisai now bothered to sit up in bed, albeit grumpily, and glared at her mother. "Correction, Mom—you volunteered to take up this post for your company's branch office here in Mist City because it gave you a convenient excuse to get as far away from Grandpa as possible, and I'm just along for the ride suffering the collateral damage."

 

The older woman stiffened. "Your grandfather is not a good influence, Ajisai. You know the things he's done. And I am going to do my due diligence as your mother and make sure you are kept in the best environment possible—away from HIM."

 

"And being in Mist City is better, how exactly?" Ajisai challenged. "This place has got the worst reputation out of every major city in the region—or did you forget about the infamous Mist City Butcher, Yagura, and his Blood Mist gang?"

 

"Well, dear, there will be criminals everywhere you go, and Mist City is no exception," her mother said stoutly. "But if I was going to be afraid of every crook in the world, I'd never leave the house. And besides, you have people who still live in Mist City in spite of Yagura—if they were truly afraid of him, they'd have left eons ago, don't you think?"

 

"Whatever," Ajisai growled.

 

"In any event, it's too late to back out now. I've already gotten you placed at Mist City High, and your fees are already paid for this semester AND they're non-refundable, so you're going to get dressed now, you're going to go to your new school, and you're going to like it. Understand?" her mother admonished her. "Now hurry up and get ready, young lady."

 

OoOoO

 

"...and in the future, I want to be a neurosurgeon," a random student in the class was saying.

 

"Very good, very good," the teacher nodded. "All right, we're down to three names now. So..." He scanned the list in his hand. "Kimura Mikoshi, you're next."

 

Ajisai was sitting near the back of the room in her assigned homeroom class at Mist City High, her elbow propped on top of her desk and her chin resting in her palm, wishing she was anywhere but there. She gave only a marginally interested look in the direction of the just-named student, a boy with curly brown hair and glasses, as he stood at his desk and adjusted his glasses slightly with one hand.

 

"Ahem...good morning, Sensei, and everyone," the boy began. "I'm Kimura Mikoshi...15 years old...uh, my interests include the study of English literature, and I also like nature documentaries. My dream is to become a teacher, preferably at the elementary level." And he sat back down.

 

"All right," the teacher nodded acknowledgement. "Next...Roshi Ajisai."

 

Sighing loudly, Ajisai stood to her feet. "Hey, everyone," she waved her hand once to the class at large. "Like Sensei said, I'm Roshi Ajisai. I'm 14 years old. I'm originally from Iwa City, but my mom and I moved here last week for her work. My granddad's the local museum curator back in Iwa City...I've always liked watching action movies with him. Hmm...I like French fries, but I don't like sweet stuff...as for what I want to do in future..." Her eyes narrowed. "After I leave school, I want to be a boxer, and become the world champion female boxer."

 

Immediately whispers began to circulate around the classroom. "Female boxing? Is she serious?" Ajisai could hear a few of the girls speculating.

 

"What a tomboy!" one hissed.

 

"So she thinks she's so tough, huh?" one boy whispered to the classmate next to him. "Well, I'd like to show her how tough she really is..."

 

"Ahem..." The teacher cleared his throat, grabbing everyone's attention. "That's, uh, quite interesting, Roshi-san. Thank you; you may be seated."

 

Ajisai sat down and leaned back lazily in her chair, pointedly ignoring the stares of her classmates.

 

"And now, we're down to the last name..." The teacher looked at the list again. "Yamazaki Omoi."

 

All at once, Ajisai felt a shift in the room's mood—the disdain she'd felt directed toward her was now replaced by a feeling of unease as she noticed everyone looking toward a corner of the class, at the back. Turning to look with the others, she saw a dark-skinned young man with short, spiky white hair and a cool expression on his face; from what she could see, he was built like a brick wall, with arms so muscular one could probably break boards on them. Now he slowly stood up; the students sitting immediately in front of him and beside him looked as if they would have fled the room right then and there.

 

"Yo," the student in question flashed a two-finger salute. "Name's Yamazaki Omoi, for the newcomers here. 14 years old; born and grown right here in Mist City's Seppuku Society part of town. I don't particularly like anything...but I definitely hate people who think they can boss me around and get away with it." He fixed a look on the teacher, who suddenly looked nervous. "As for when I leave school...what I want to do...I haven't particularly settled on anything just yet, but I definitely intend to be my own boss—not answering to anybody." And with that he sat down.

 

"...yes. Well." The teacher pulled at his collar with one finger; if Ajisai wasn't mistaken, the man appeared to have been sweating. "All right, thank you for your introductions, everyone."

 

"Hmm..." Ajisai cast a glance at Omoi, who simply sat there with a bored expression on his face. It seems this class might not be such a drag after all...

 

OoOoO

 

"O-nii-san! There you are, o-nii-san!"

 

"Eh?" Mikoshi, in the process of opening his locker, turned at the sound of the familiar voice coming up the corridor. "Oh, hey, Maki."

 

"What? How can you greet your own little sister so casually?" Maki, a feisty-looking but otherwise pretty girl with shoulder-length dark-brown hair, pouted as she approached him. "You should be more excited to see me, like so! 'Maki-chan, I missed you so greatly!' Or something like that, see?"

 

"Whatever, sis," Mikoshi rolled his eyes. "Just because we're both attending the same high school now, that doesn't mean I'm going to be a genki-kid like you. We see each other every day, as it is."

 

"And that's a crime?" Maki asked accusingly. "Anyway," she resumed a cheerful demeanor, "how's your new class for this year? Got any interesting classmates now?"

 

"Well..." Mikoshi suddenly looked past her. "Funny you should mention that—one of them is coming this way right now."

 

Indeed, coming in their direction was the new girl from Iwa City with the spiky red hair. "Ahem, pardon me, Roshi-san," Mikoshi addressed her.

 

"Hmm?" The redhead cocked an eyebrow at him. "Oh, you're the guy who wants to be a teacher. Is there something you want from me?"

 

"Ah, well..." Mikoshi rubbed the back of his head as a sheepish look came over his face. "It's just that, well, my sister here wanted to know something about my classmates for this year, so..."

 

"So you singled me out. Brilliant." The redhead's mouth curved downward in distaste.

 

Maki stepped forward and looked the other girl up and down. "So...what's so special about this girl, o-nii-san? Is she your newest wet dream?"

 

Mikoshi swiftly clapped a hand over Maki's mouth. "Would you stop saying crap like that?" he demanded. "That's not it in the slightest!" and he glanced around in embarrassment at nearby students, some of whom had definitely heard Maki's comment and were snickering behind their hands.

 

"Oh, don't be embarrassed, big brother. After all, she IS rather pretty." Maki chuckled. "Not as cute as your little sister, though."

 

"I didn't know I was in some kind of competition," the redhead said dryly.

 

"Oi, you there...Roshi Ajisai."

 

The new voice caused the group and the other students around them to look up as one. Immediately the nearby students huddled together, their mirth and banter dipping, and a few began to whisper to one another as they beheld the speaker approaching Ajisai. "It seems I've become popular on my first day here," Ajisai grunted. "You're that Yamazaki Omoi fellow...can I help you?"

 

"Let's just say you've caught my interest—and since that's not something that happens often, that makes you extra special today," Omoi replied, his deadpan look not once faltering as he stared at Ajisai. "You're aiming high with that goal of yours, aren't you—wanting to become female boxing champion of the world and all that?"

 

"What of it?" Ajisai cocked an eyebrow.

 

"Well...I just have to wonder...do you really think you've got what it takes to even become a boxer? You definitely don't look the part—and trust me, I've seen a lot of tough chicks growing up in Seppuku Society," Omoi told her. "They'd kick you around like a football before you could lift a finger to defend yourself."

 

"Don't underestimate me. I can be a real tough cookie," Ajisai said coolly.

 

"Then why don't you prove it?" said Omoi.

 

"Do tell. How, exactly?" asked Ajisai.

 

Omoi focused his gaze right into her eyes. "The dirt track behind the school’s volleyball court, at sundown today. Meet me there. Show me if you've got the courage to take on your dream...unless, of course, you're nothing more than a flyweight biting off more than she can chew..."

 

"I'll be there right at sundown," Ajisai replied.

 

All during this discourse, Mikoshi and Maki had been looking from Ajisai to Omoi and back again. Now, abruptly, Mikoshi stepped in between the two. "Uh, big brother, what're you doing?" Maki asked, a note of worry in her voice.

 

"Yamazaki-kun." Mikoshi eyeballed Omoi. "I'm sorry, but I cannot allow you to put such a challenge to Roshi-san."

 

"What're you talking about, glasses-boy? I already did, and she's accepted. This has nothing to do with you, so butt out," Omoi said, his voice going low.

 

"Oi, oi, don't try acting all chivalrous and cool all of a sudden. I don't need your help," Ajisai growled at Mikoshi.

 

"This isn't about you needing my help or not, Roshi-san," Mikoshi answered, glancing over his shoulder at her. "I just don't believe a man should raise his hand to a woman, no matter what the reason, whether she can fight back or not."

 

"Well, it's not like you can do anything about it now, fella," Omoi informed him.

 

"I beg to differ." Mikoshi's voice was clipped. "I'll have to insist that you take back your challenge, Yamazaki-kun."

 

"And if I don't?" Omoi demanded, his eyes narrowing.

 

"Well, then..." A glint of light seemed to flash across Mikoshi's glasses lenses. "I'd rather not have to show you. It would be very tedious."

 

"O-nii-san, don't..." Maki urged her brother, grabbing his arm.

 

Omoi's brow furrowed. "Better listen to your sister, guy. You don't want to get in my way."

 

"Enough of this." Ajisai shoved Mikoshi out of the way. "Oi, white-head, I'll be there behind the volleyball court at sundown, like you said. Don't be late."

 

"Hmph." Omoi turned on his heel and walked off without a backward glance.

 

Ajisai now turned to Mikoshi. "I don't know what your deal is, but I didn't ask you for help, and I don't appreciate you trying to fight my fights for me. Just back off, got it?" Then she stormed off without waiting for an answer.

 

“Hmph…” Maki pouted as she gave Mikoshi a disapproving eye. “I guess that’s what you get for being chivalrous, eh, nii-san?”

 

Mikoshi gave a longsuffering sigh. “Oh, well. I tried, at least.”

 

OoOoO

 

Ajisai spent the rest of the day in between classes trying to find out whatever she could about Omoi. She needed to know everything she could about him before engaging him in their planned fight later; after all, it would be foolhardy of her to rush headlong into a confrontation with him without knowing what she would be up against.

 

And one thing she was learning quickly was that, at Mist City High School, word traveled fast. A lot of the students seemed to know almost immediately on seeing her that she’d accepted a challenge issued by a guy who was evidently well-known and highly feared by the student populace. And it was really starting to aggravate her that, any time the students spotted her coming toward them, they kept a wide berth of her.

 

Now she was sitting in her last class for the day, waiting for the period to start. There weren’t a lot of other students there, though, and those that were present were keeping their distance from Ajisai, though their conversations were being held in hushed whispers as some of them cast fleeting glances her way.

 

And Ajisai was getting sick and tired of it.

 

“Oi, guys, I don’t have cooties, you know,” she said aloud to nobody in particular.

 

The guys and girls in the room stared at her, but none made any attempt to reply to her snarky comment.

 

“What? You guys want to come see me throw down with this Omoi guy later? Don’t worry, admission’s free,” Ajisai continued in a deadpan tone.

 

She was so caught up in her own sarcasm and the wary looks of the other students in the room that she didn’t notice someone approaching her seat…until a book-bag got noisily set down on the desk next to hers. “You’re not going to make any friends with that attitude of yours, you know,” a familiar voice caught her ear.

 

Ajisai looked up to see the speaker. “Oh…wonderful…Mr. Chivalrous again,” she grunted as she saw Mikoshi. “I don’t need a nerd like you sitting next to me.” She started to get up.

 

“I understand you’ve been asking around to get more information about Yamazaki-kun since that meeting earlier,” Mikoshi said calmly. “Indulge me a little, Roshi-san. I’ll bring you up to speed.”

 

Ajisai cocked an eyebrow at Mikoshi, but nevertheless she slowly sat back down. “All right, then, four-eyes, go ahead and talk.”

 

Mikoshi did not waste time as he also took his seat. “You heard Yamazaki-kun say he’s from this city’s Seppuku Society district. Putting it simply, that place is the worst of all Mist City’s slums; it’s so bad it makes all the rest look upper-class by comparison. It’s pretty much mandatory that anybody who comes from that place has to be able to fight just to make it through there on a day-to-day basis, and if you happen to be in the neighborhood unguarded, you’d better be able to handle yourself, or else you’ll get bruised and robbed—if you’re lucky or the gangs living there are feeling generous that day.”

 

“And Omoi?” Ajisai pressed.

 

“The word is, he’s earned his stripes as a resident of the area,” said Mikoshi. “The story goes that, last year, he singlehandedly sent four guys to the hospital, all of them bigger than himself, all of them in the same fight, and he himself didn’t get so much as a scrape. That’s not someone you want to pick a fight with carelessly, unless, of course, you’re looking to have a bone or two broken.”

 

Ajisai cocked an eyebrow. “Which is why I’ve been trying to find out all I can about him. That’s not being careless, now is it?”

 

Mikoshi sighed. “You don’t intend to back down from this, do you?”

 

“No, I don’t. And if you try and interfere, I’ll rearrange your face, glasses or no glasses.” Ajisai glared at him. “You got me?”

 

“If you say so…” Mikoshi shrugged. “Oh, look, class is about to start now.”

 

OoOoO

 

The rest of the day wore on. The final period ended, and students headed to their various after-school club activities across campus. Those who were sports-minded were engaged in track, tennis, softball, baseball, soccer, kendo, and volleyball; those who were more academic were engaged in English, calligraphy, mathematics, science, and other such subjects.

 

But not Omoi. He’d given a bare-bones mandatory attendance at rugby practice, but after the first twenty minutes or so he’d made himself scarce, and given his reputation, the other club members were only too happy to let him leave, if only because his absence meant less chance of serious injury to them. As a result, he was now waiting along the path where he’d told Ajisai he’d be.

 

Club activities would continue for another hour and a half, he knew. As a new student, Ajisai would no doubt have to be present for the full time at her chosen club activity; by the time she’d be free, it would be 5:30 p.m.; in another half-hour after that, the sun would start to set.

 

Omoi could afford to wait. After all, from what he’d seen of Ajisai, she wasn’t going to run away from any challenge.

 

He leaned against the perimeter fence separating the dirt track from the school’s volleyball court. Beyond the fence was a high wall surrounding said court, built so as to prevent the volleyballs from getting too far away from the players; this meant that he couldn’t see any of the activity going on, but he could hear the grunts of exertion from the players—and these were from the girls’ team—as the ball got knocked about. On the plus side, that same high wall meant that the students couldn’t see him, either; that was just as well for him, as the fewer people that could get involved in the upcoming duel, the less hassle his life would have.

 

The minutes passed. The clouds floated slowly overhead. The sky gradually changed from blue to shades of orange. Omoi felt himself dozing off slightly as he kept leaning against the fence.

 

Approaching footsteps caught his ear. “Ah, time already?” he asked, stretching one arm high to rid himself of the lingering sleepy feeling as he turned to face the new arrival.

 

OoOoO

 

“Geez, track club lasted longer than I thought it would,” Ajisai grumbled as she opened her locker to collect her street shoes. “Well, at least I know I’ve still got speed…”

 

“Roshi-san?”

 

Ajisai turned at the sound of the voice—and Maki was standing there. “Oh…you’re that nerd-boy’s sister,” she remarked. “Sorry, but I don’t have time to talk with you. I’ve an appointment to keep.”

 

“Your fight with Omoi…well, that’s actually what I’m here to talk about,” Maki said quietly.

 

“Really?” Ajisai gave her a narrowed glare. “Are you here to try and talk me out of it like your brother tried today?”

 

“Actually, no…” Maki took a deep breath. “I thought I should at least let you know why he was so insistent.”

 

“For what purpose?” Ajisai wanted to know.

 

“You think Mikoshi-nii-san is being chauvinistic by not wanting you to fight a guy like Omoi,” said Maki. “But it isn’t about chauvinism, or chivalry, or anything like that…my brother just can’t stand to see a girl get hurt fighting with guys.”

 

“Sounds like an old-fashioned patriarchal attitude to me. Excuse me, I’ve somewhere to be and I’m already running late.” Ajisai placed her school shoes in her locker, put on her street shoes, and walked past Maki toward the exit.

 

“Our father beat our mother to death right in front of us.”

 

Ajisai’s hand was just turning the doorknob when Maki’s words hit her ears. Her eyes widened and she froze. “…”

 

OoOoO

 

Omoi frowned as he saw who was standing before him. “You again…”

 

“Yes, Yamazaki-kun, me again.” Mikoshi nodded.

 

“Where’s that Roshi chick?” Omoi asked. “Did you see her on your way here? Or…” His eyes narrowed. “Did you somehow persuade her not to come? If that’s what happened, you’re a real meddlesome guy.”

 

“No, I haven’t seen her since our last class together today. And no, her not being here yet has nothing to do with me. I just decided to come before she did, in which case…” Mikoshi looked around. “I guess I was successful.”

 

“Why are you so interested in this? I told you, it’s got nothing to do with you,” Omoi said sternly.

 

“And I told you, I do not believe a man should raise his hand to hit a woman, regardless of whether she can fight back or not.” A glint of light flashed across Mikoshi’s glasses lenses. “Any man who does that is the worst kind of man alive.”

 

“And what’re you going to do about it if I raise my hand to Roshi?” Omoi asked.

 

“If you do…” Mikoshi reached a hand up and took off his glasses. “…then I’ll raise my hand to you.”

 

OoOoO

 

“We were nine years old,” Maki said softly, not turning to face Ajisai. “We’d grown up pretty used to the sight of Dad coming in at night and…manhandling Mom. Some nights he was sober…most nights he wasn’t. But it didn’t matter either way…the first couple of times it happened, one of our neighbors called the police, but Mom dissuaded them with some full-of-bull story about her being clumsy and bumping into stuff. The cops didn’t believe her, of course…but there wasn’t anything they could do, since Mom refused to press charges against Dad. And then…”

 

Ajisai stayed right where she was, silent, listening.

 

“That night…Dad came home and started his usual accusations…saying how Mom was sleeping around with other men while he was at work…he took up a paper-weight from off the table and smashed it on Mom’s head. She…the paramedics couldn’t resuscitate her. Dad went to jail for manslaughter, and Mikoshi-nii-san and I were sent to live with our aunt.” Maki paused and took a deep breath so as to compose herself. “Our aunt’s really cool and all, but…everything we had to deal with at home before we moved in with her…and everything we’ve had to deal with even while arranging to live with her, because of the whole legal shenanigans and filling out of paperwork just for her to have custody of us…and the living arrangements the state put us in while all that was sorted out…that’s why Mikoshi-nii-san wants to become a teacher, you know. So that he can be to other kids what he thinks is a rarity in this city…a real role model, somebody kids can actually look up to…somebody kids can trust.”

 

The redhead slowly turned around. “…so that’s it…”

 

Maki nodded. “They say the 365 days’ experience was a living nightmare for as long as it lasted. Well…I don’t exaggerate when I say that, between our abusive dad and the foster homes we lived in before Auntie finally got full custody of us, Mikoshi-nii-san and I went through living hell. And…maybe he won’t say it, but I think he feels some guilt, too…”

 

OoOoO

 

“You’ll raise your hand to me?” Omoi scowled at Mikoshi. “You got a death wish, four-eyes?”

 

Mikoshi only smiled. “I’ve looked death in the face many nights, man, long before the 365 days was even a thing. A back-alley thug like you can’t frighten me.”

 

“Pfft. You’ve looked death in the face? Well, so have lots of people living here in Mist City. You’ll have to do better than that.” Omoi walked toward Mikoshi. “And right now, my patience is running dry real fast. You’re only getting one more chance—back off of this, or I’ll make you.”

 

“Well, then…I guess you’ll have to make me…if you think you can.” Mikoshi’s tone was low.

 

Omoi’s eyes widened. “Why, you…!” he snapped, lunging forward with one fist flying at Mikoshi’s head…

 

…only Mikoshi was no longer standing there. Omoi blinked. Where’d he—

 

“Behind you.”

 

Flinching as he heard Mikoshi’s voice from behind, Omoi turned around. “Damn, you’re fast.”

 

“Or perhaps it’s just that you’re slow,” Mikoshi replied. “In addition to which, you’re missing a button on your shirt, near your belt.”

 

“Say what…?” Omoi looked down at his shirt—and indeed he was missing a shirt button. “But…wait…”

 

“Wondering how that happened and what it’s got to do with anything?” asked Mikoshi. “When you punched at me, I ducked under your punch and stepped behind you. While I was evading you…” He held up something between his thumb and forefinger—Omoi’s missing button.

 

Omoi’s brow furrowed. “You pulled the button off while avoiding my punch…”

 

“And in the time it took me to do that, I could have done a lot more damage instead of just vandalizing your shirt.” Mikoshi eyed him. “And if you still want to keep fighting, make no mistake—I WILL show you what else I’m capable of damaging.”

 

Omoi stared at the other boy for a long moment. This guy…he could’ve dropped me flat in less than two seconds and I wouldn’t have even realized it…just who IS he?

 

Abruptly, the white-haired youth turned his back on Mikoshi. “Balls to this. You’re just being a pain in the ass. I’m out of here.” He started to walk away.

 

“Okay,” said Mikoshi. “So…see you in class tomorrow, eh?”

 

“Whatever,” Omoi waved him off without looking back.

 

Mikoshi chuckled as he watched Omoi’s departure. Then he looked down at the confiscated button, still in his hand. “Not often I get to do that…ah, well…”

 

OoOoO

 

“Guilt?” Ajisai cocked her head and studied the other girl. “Guilt for what?”

 

Maki lowered her eyes, still not turning to look at Ajisai. “Because…the night Mom died…there wasn’t anything he could do to protect her. I mean, come on, we were kids—what could we have done against our own father?”

 

“And you? Do you feel guilty like that?” Ajisai asked, more softly than she’d intended.

 

Maki’s eyes were overshadowed. “Roshi-san…you seem to be a tough, strong girl.” She bit her lip. “I wish…I wish Mom could have been as strong as you…”

 

Silence filled the air. Then, abruptly, Maki lifted her head and turned around, her eyes closed and a bright smile on her face. “Sorry. I’m talking strange things all of a sudden. Well…I won’t detain you anymore.” She opened her eyes and her smile lessened a bit. “I just wanted you to know why my brother’s like that, that’s all. Well…see you tomorrow, I guess.”

 

Seeing Maki walk toward the door, Ajisai stepped aside and let the other girl go through it. She herself stayed where she was long after the door slowly swung shut. “…hmm.”

 

OoOoO

 

The sun was already making its way beyond the horizon when Ajisai finally arrived at the designated spot…only to see Mikoshi there, leaning against the fence. “Mikoshi…” Ajisai paused, recalling what she’d learned not too long ago from Maki. “Where’s Omoi?”

 

Mikoshi shrugged. “Well, as you can plainly see, he isn’t here, Roshi-san. And sunset’s already giving way to nightfall, and I doubt even he’ll be out this late. It’s not safe to be out after dark in certain parts of Mist City, including in his neighborhood.”

 

“Yet you’re out,” Ajisai pointed out.

 

“I figured I should let you know so you don’t waste the whole night looking out for Yamazaki-kun,” said Mikoshi. “Besides, when it comes on to certain hours, even the less dangerous neighborhoods in this city get put under curfew and the police patrols intensify. You don’t want to be out without a good excuse in case a cop stops you, and somehow I don’t think ‘taking a fight challenge’ will count as a good excuse in their book.” He eased off the fence and began to walk away. “Well, that’s all I wanted to tell you. See you at school tomorrow.”

 

Ajisai’s eyes narrowed slightly as she watched Mikoshi leave. For a moment, a small internal debate went on in her head. Should I say something to him…about what his sister said…? Or…

 

She opted for silence.

 

OoOoO

 

“I’m back,” Ajisai announced an hour later as she stepped inside the front door of home.

 

“Ah, good, you’re here,” her mother’s voice sounded from the kitchen. “Good timing; you can help me get dinner started.”

 

“All right, just let me get changed,” Ajisai answered.

 

There was a few seconds’ silence. “No sarcasm?” her mother inquired after a moment. “I guess that means your first day of school was interesting, then?”

 

“…you could say that,” Ajisai said absently as she headed for her room.

 

One thing’s for sure…Mist City High won’t be boring after all.

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KyuushinArtist
Christopher T
Jamaica
29 years old, reporter, trying to live a better life than I did in the past
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