Extinguished Samurai Spirit
By Takashi Yama

1

"You will not be able to go to any university, even if you pass those entrance exams."
This wouldn't have happened if he didn't tell me such a nasty thing ...

The bad headache was probably caused what the teacher said. I entered a big building near the station, my mind totally blank. But surely the department store here would have a food court type restaurant. 

I'm Yusuke Yokoozi, a high school junior. In spite of the fact that it was an important season for studying, I was taking a breather; escaping from the pressure at school, well, actually, I was skiving off. Enthusiasm to study for the examinations was waning.

I was waiting for an elevator on the first floor, to go up to the restaurants on the 6th floor. Nearby, a foreigner and a Japanese were speaking in fluent English. Blue name badges were attached to their chest pockets. They came into the elevator at the same time as me. Were they in town for an international conference, or were they from a foreign capital-based company in the center of town?

The foreigner glanced over at me. The sound of "chi" was clearly audible, but it sounded like "te" - the sound made by the teacher at school. The sound irritated me into mouthing "F-U-C-K".

It caused the foreign man, whose face was beet red, to glare at me harshly. This malicious behavior of mine was completely unsuitable for the occasion, but I maintained it until the next floor. By then his face was clearly trembling.
"Shit ..."
The elevator finally arrived at the 6th floor.

I watched the back of the foreigner as he strode out of the elevator.
As I got out, a girl who wore the same gray uniform as the high school I was attending came out of another elevator.
"Ah ..," I uttered unintentionally.
She was surprised and immediately turned her face away, passing quickly as if to hide somewhere.
"Was that Yanagida from the same class?"
I could not help also be aware of the back of a man who was walking in front of her. Were they together?

She was a student in my class, an extremely normal, placid girl. She didn't particularly excel in her studies, at sports or in cultural activities either. Also she was not the charming type, not a girl who would typically become this man's lover. 
Her friends would gather around her desk, chatting often. It didn't seem as though she had been especially ignored by her friends, either. Simply put, there might have been some reason that she wasn't at school today.

My mind wandered back to my own problems. I had been feeling nervous during morning supplementary lessons and some small daily tests, and study for taking examinations was unrelenting. Today, the results of a pre-test revealed that a university that I would be able to commute to from my parent's house would accept me. It was not that I had abandoned my interest in the entrance exams of a few famous universities, but they probably would not accept me. Recently, I had been feeling that I was able to easily escape from this pressure to a faraway place.

- Home.
Listening to Jamiroquai, I was solving a math problem. I usually studied without being too bored. Especially when solving math problems, I needed some quality music and some quiet. I didn't have my own room, but I could hear my music well enough through my headphones. I listened to my favorite songs on repeat.


The following day.
I grabbed my bag just as the chime for the end of class sounded, and I went out to the corridor as quickly as possible, and ran outside.
A few minutes later I arrived at a Dojo (Japanese martial arts hall). The kendo and judo training halls had been built in the same building, but separated structurally into Kendo and Judo training halls. It was like as a huge flat house containing two big rooms. And there was a door between these halls so that we were able to go between them.

Compared to other high schools in the same area, to be honest we were weaker than the others. A lack of decent advisors was not only the reason but also the majority of our students were beginners at kendo. So there was no pain at all for me to exercise kendo - I could freely release my stress from this stupid school life. Of course, my previous experience in kendo training when I was a junior high school pupil helped.

"Hey Sasaki, louder!"
"Yes, Sir!"
"Inui! Squeeze properly."
"Yes, Sir."

Most junior pupils in other clubs had retired already, so that I might be only the remaining junior pupil in this school. The other decent junior pupils were probably more worried about their future, which meant entrance exams.

"Come here and line up."
Some freshmen and sophomores made a line at the center of the dojo. Only 6 pupils: all of our club members. This was the least number of pupils which would be able to participate in some competitions. There was only one pupil who was experienced at kendo among these.

"A kendo competition for this area is coming soon. So we are going to have a test match with ABC high school in the next week, all right?"
"Yes, Sir!"
"Okay.. divide into Inui team and Sasaki team. The 3-bon match, also no time-limit!"

- Inui and Sasaki
They were the pupils who I trained hard with. These two became strong enough for me to feel honorable and worth to teach them what I knew.
"Yokoozi-san, he will come soon."
As Inui said so, he watched the entrance.
"I see ..."

The guy he was talking to was Hattori.
He was the advisor of this kendo club, also the head teacher of my class.
The subjects which Hattori was teaching, were those which I disliked to study. The latest test results of all subjects he taught were low enough to stand out badly. Additionally classical and Chinese literature were extremely bad, far below the bar of dropping out.

Memorization for those words of classical literature and recitation for sentence examples of Chinese literature were being repeated every day. Practice needed patience. I just though them boring.
In any case, I disliked everything that Hattori was related to, also the existence of Hattori. There were fans of Hattori, but not me.

"Yokoozi!"
"Are you preparing for taking the upcoming examinations?"
He said loudly.
Hattori was always wearing sandals like what you would see in bathrooms. He affected or infected all of my high school life, any other thing outside of this school also had been likely to be entwined too, even though it was an important season that would change my future.

"Classical and Chinese literature probably will not be included the second test of the university which you wish to attend, but unless you study these seriously, you will regret it afterwards anyway."

What Hattori said was finally at least true. Perhaps a key of passing and disqualification, classical and Chinese literature might be a point to pass the entrance exams.
"In addition, it is impossible for you to be nominated because of your attitude."

Recently, there were rumors around of recommendations for universities. The pupils whose records of the student council, club activities, and routine tests were good enough, were designated early in order to pass the exam of the university which they wanted to join. There was also consideration only for those pupils who were the head of the class: in short Hattori's favorites. He surely would consider me negatively. In any case I had to ask this stupid man to allow my application first, which was an unbearable thing for me.

That night at home ...
Listening to a radio program, I had been solving a problem on physics.
"...Next song is, with a request of Jamiroquai from Ms Yanagida, who's a high school.."
Waves caused by a piano, was coming out of nice guitar sound. In the small waves, they turned and produced new sounds. This kind of feeling had been spread in my head. It was my favorite tune.

"Anyway, the person who requested this song, was 'Yanagida' ?" 
"Does she normally listen to this program? I saw her some days ago at the department store. She has been absent from school lately. Since she is listening to such a radio program, does it mean she isn't doing so badly?"
I had an afterimage of Yanagida in my head. I had never ever expected I would think of her.


2

The following day ...
Yanagida was sitting on her seat in our class. There wasn't any difference of the atmosphere with or without her.
"Yanagida.."
Since becoming a pupil of this class, perhaps it was the first time for me to talk to her.
"Hum?" She seemed just a little bit surprised and annoyed.
"Ah.. Yokoozi-kun.."
"What were you doing in such a place?" My question hinted I was suspicious of what she was up to.
"Nothing in particular." She appeared to expect being asked about that day.
"That's okay.."
But she only looked down at the floor, seemingly with mixed emotions. 

"Maybe we have something in common. I only come to school for club. Maybe you too?"
"No, it doesn't mean... as you do."
She almost shouted at me, still looking determinedly at the floor.
"There is nothing at all ... sorry"
As I made to move away, I tried one more time.
"Is Jamiroquai your favorite?"
Her face showed instant surprise, and finally a small smile.

Tests will be done today also tomorrow ... forever.
Until we could pass, the cramming would continue. Would these sorts of tests be useful in our future, any other reason than for just for taking examinations? I already started thinking an excuse not to study.

"The most important test is going to come several months later. Probably most pupils will take the center exam. Study of the second test is important of course. But, first it is the center test which we should focus on."
Like a magic spell in order to cram or brainwash us, such words were repeated every day. I would have liked to be washed away by such a spell, if it was effective, but it was Hattori's voice and his voice was enough to cause my repugnance and sleepiness.

"Listen! Yokoozi!"
When Hattori shouted, everyone turned to stare at me. The atmosphere was frozen, then a girl sitting next to me, was poking the back of a friend sitting before her with her pencil.
"Shit ..."
Gradually, I was finding it harder to control my stress, like a small boat whose pilot was lost.
"Well.., we don't recommend junior pupils like you to join and have club activities, even though some are still attending, you should have finished club. Change your mindset - we want you to strive for your study."
Hattori talked and glanced at me.
"It's boring."
I was yawning, besides wishing this boring lecture to be finished soon.

"Well, classical literature's word test is going to start, put away your text and note books."
An usual a well-known small test, we would be free with of 8 out of 10 correct answers, and pupils who couldn't reach that point had to remain in the classroom like a prisoners. And would have to take additional tests. Classical and Chinese literature, also English, there were tests 3 times a day.

As we checked scores in pairs, the girl next to me was contemptuous. 
"4 points.."

"Remember anybody who couldn't get more than 8 points has to have a re-test."

I sigh lots of time a day. Once I had counted how many times a math teacher said "because therefore" in a class. But counting my own sighs might be more boring. Thinking such a stupid thing during the class, the ending-chime sounded.
My graded test paper was crumpled in the pocket of my blazer.
The classical literature class ended, and as usual my headache went away temporarily.

As break started, Yanagida was calmly standing by my desk.
"Ah .." I was surprised to see her.
"What?" I asked.
"Just a little .."
She furtively pointed toward the veranda. The veranda during the morning was quiet. There weren't any other pupils.

Yanagida was looking down, I was guessing that she probably would talk about private things, so that I expected to receive a love letter or something.

"Well ...," she murmured.
"To tell the truth, ..."
"It was ......"
It seemed that she was sexuality assaulted.
Hearing such a shocking story, I could not react instantaneously.
This was far from my expectations of normal life.
"Who did that to you?" My voice became much smaller.
"I ... can't ..."
"Why?"
".."
She looked like she wanted to answer, but just seemed confused. After looking at my face, hers became blank again.

"What were you doing there.., were you doing something bad..?"
I was worried about other pupils coming out, so I put my hands on Yanagida's shoulder to make her sit down.
"Never ..."
Yanagida hesitated.
"...."
I just waited.

"Hatto .." Yanagida looked at my face quickly.
"...Hattori?"
"......"
She didn't reply.

"Fuck.. that bastard! "
I was guessing that this bastard might have done a sexual sort of deal with his pupil.
".... with his own pupil!"


"...."
Her face was even more glum
".. You won't tell anyone, will you?"
"I won't talk to anybody.."
"...."
Yanagida became calmer.
"I had decided to ask for a recommendation for a university before that"
"So?"
"When I asked about it to Hattori teacher, then..."
Her face suddenly showed her hatred .
"...."
"Shit!"
I quickly figured out what she suggested.
"With that.., instead of the recommendation.."
"Okay.. that's enough.."
I didn't want to talk about it any more.

Recommendation as a bribe for his own pupils...
Some days ago, when encountering her at the store, she was wearing her uniform even though she didn't attend class that day, it was probably Hattori's sexual deviation.

"Please don't tell anybody, Hattori teacher."
She pleaded with me
"I didn't dislike Hattori teacher so much, it was just lunch in order to get the recommendation. What happened then, it was just an accident with him, so .."

I couldn't understand the thoughts or intention of this girl.
Why she had talked to me about the fact which she allowed an incident to happen, which would be called "sexual assault" by anyone reasonable? She shouldn't have talked to me about it if she didn't want me to do anything. It was just increasing my hatred against Hattori more. 

In the center of the city, I was riding my bicycle and passing by the station.
"The Yanagida.., such a girl.."
She had never stood out in our class, even if she had tried to do so. I hadn't been at all curious about her absence from class. It might have been because of sickness or any other reasons. 

Anyway, is Hattori doing such weird things normally? First how would they go to such a hotel without attracting attention? A teacher of a high school and a female pupil in the daytime .. it seems difficult to do.

I was considering how I could make life hard for Hattori. Possibly, I could inform to the board of education. But then it would end too smoothly. I wouldn't be satisfied: my malice had been accumulating for some years.

To act indirectly would mean I was scared of him. He would recognize my weakness which would be unbearable. The perfect answer would be to face him directly.


3

- Kendo hall (Dojo)

"Inui ..."
Before club started, I called Inui.
"Around one hour, you guys are going running today, what do you think?"
"It could be, ...no problem, but ... why?"
Inui looked a little worried.
"Okay.., I asked you to." I was glaring at Inui. Almost close a threat.
Inui seemed to wonder what I was up to.
"Please be careful."
"Shut up!"
"One hour later, we will be coming back here then."
Inui went to where other club members were gathered.

"We are going."
Inui bowed to me like a samurai in an Edo-era TV drama. The other members didn't look at my face. They seemed unwilling to recognize me.
I saw them off, smiling artificially.

"Well ..."
I checked over my bamboo practice stick. I rubbed the head point, which was covered with a piece of leather, with my fingertips. I did this absently while looking at the trees and shrubs on the other side of the windows.
"Fuu ..."
I felt completely different from what I had felt before. Some other feeling made my nerves more sensitive. Maybe insecurity and expectation. It was probably caused by human instinct.

"No one is coming?"
Hattori was looking around the empty dojo, standing near the entrance.
"They were just going on a little run."
"Oh, really?"
Hattori entered the dojo.
"Only you are here?"
"Yes."


To be continued...





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