A Name I Dare Not Speak
Jaycee, Sage and Aiko arrived at school. Despite having had time to heal from their run in with James, the trio still wore numerous scratches and bruises. But the most noticeable thing about the group was how demoralized they looked.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go back home?” Aiko asked Jaycee. “If you want, I can take you home right now.”
“No, I’ll be fine,” said Jaycee.
“We could all use something to take our minds off recent troubles,” said Sage. “Being here is probably the best thing we can do for ourselves.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” said Aiko.
As the three made their way down the hall, Jaycee came to a sudden halt, prompting her friends to do the same.
“What is it?” asked Sage. He and Aiko then looked in the same direction as Jaycee and discovered James. He was up ahead staring out a window.
A growling sound could be heard coming from Aiko. She instinctively clenched her hands into fists and visibly began to shake.
“Calm down,” said Sage. “Don’t do something you’ll regret.”
“What makes you think I’m going to regret this?” asked Aiko, who immediately began her march toward James.
“Come back here,” said Sage in a voice not loud enough to draw attention.
Aiko was quickly closing in on James, and the instant he turned to face her, Aiko slapped him across the face with as much force as she was capable. The sound of impact echoed off the walls, prompting every student in the hall to gawk at the scene.
“You bastard!” exclaimed Aiko. “How dare you show your face after what you did to us!” The fact that there was no change in James’ demeanor only enraged Aiko further. “Don’t look at me like that! Show some damn emotion!”
“Would you rather I act like you?” asked James.
“Arrogant bastard,” exclaimed Aiko, grabbing James by the chest. “Do you understand what you’ve done? Why’d you do it? Answer me!”
“Aiko,” whispered Jaycee.
“I don’t care that you hurt me,” said Aiko, tears filling her eyes. “I don’t even care that you hurt Sage. But when someone hurts Jaycee, then I swear I’ll make that person pay for what they’ve done to her, even if that person is you.”
“Are you about through?” asked James.
“I can’t believe Jaycee would ever waste tears on you,” said Aiko. “You’re not worth crying over. And you sure as hell aren’t worth Jaycee crying over. You’re not good enough for her. You will never deserve someone like her!”
James grabbed Aiko by the wrists, forcing her to let go. “For once I agree with you,” he said, squeezing Aiko’s wrists. “I don’t deserve someone like her.” Aiko let out a pained squeal, prompting Sage to come to her aid. His advance would come to an abrupt halt, however, when James shoved Aiko into him.
“The next time you come across someone like me,” said James, “make sure to thank them when they allow you to walk away still in one piece.” Before departing, James took a long look at Jaycee, who immediately turned her timid gaze to the floor.
A group of girls nearby had witnessed the spectacle.
“So, the new guy had something going on with Annadale,” said one of them. “But it looks like it’s over after that.”
“Which means he’s available,” said another girl. “This could make for a very interesting possibility, don’t you think?”
Three male students who had also watched the show were within listening range of the girls. They stormed off after hearing what the girls had said.
Later in the day Jaycee was leaning against one of the sinks in the bathroom and gazing blankly at her reflection in the mirror. Had someone walked in and seen her, they surely would have looked twice to make sure the somber looking girl was still breathing.
Aiko exited from one of the stalls and went to wash her hands. “There’s nothing quite like a flushing toilet,” she said. “Remember the old days when we had to squat behind a bush? We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”
Jaycee gave her friend no reply.
“Come on, Jaycee,” said Aiko. “Cheer up. I know you feel bad now, but things are gonna get better, just wait and see.”
Jaycee was once again unresponsive.
“What you need is something that’ll take your mind off things,” suggested Aiko. “So how about you come to my house after school. We’ll do whatever you want. I’ll do anything. And I mean anything. So what do you say?”
“I think I just want to be alone for a while,” said Jaycee.
“Okay,” replied Aiko. “If that’s what you want.”
Having been called out, James made his way to the roof of the school. Facing him were the three male students who had watched the scene in the hall earlier that day.
“We heard our girls talking about you,” said one of them, cracking his knuckles. “And we didn’t like what you made them say.”
“Then by all means,” said James, “rectify this problem.”
Two of the boys charged in an attempt to catch their opponent off guard. With amazing quickness, James charged as well. One swift strike to the chin and a knee to the stomach were all he needed to finish off his first two aggressors.
“I guess I should have asked around to see what kind of fighter you were,” said the remaining boy.
“There’s so much about me that people don’t know,” said James. He then charged his remaining foe and did away with him with a devastating blow to the stomach. “Imagine what I would have done if you had actually made me angry.”
Sage was waiting for James at the exit. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he said.
“Then why didn’t you stop me?” asked James. There was then an uneasy silence between the two. “Oh, that’s right. Because you couldn’t.” With those taunting words as his last, James took his leave.
Being just as proud a warrior as James, Sage felt as insulted as one could be at that moment. He desired nothing more in the world than to restore his honor and make sure James never said such a thing to him again.
When the school day had come to its end most of the students went home. Jaycee, on the other hand, was still lingering around school. She had no specific task to finish before leaving, she merely wanted a place to be where she didn’t have to feel so alone, though the empty halls and classrooms did nothing to make her feel any different.
On her way down the hall Jaycee found James waiting for her. Not wanting James to know her fear of him, Jaycee continued toward him. She kept her gaze on the floor, however, and moved in a more hasty fashion than usual.
When Jaycee was close enough, James thrust his arm out, placing his hand on the wall and blocking Jaycee’s way. He then placed his other hand on the wall behind Jaycee, capturing her in a makeshift prison of his arms.
Though she knew James was staring at her, Jaycee couldn’t bring herself to look back. All she could do was clutch her book tightly and tremble.
“Why are you afraid of me?” asked James.
Jaycee’s trembling became worse and tears began to fill her eyes.
James placed a finger under Jaycee’s chin and lifted her head so that she had to look him in the eye. “If you really want, I can give you a reason to be afraid of me,” he said. James then brought his body closer to Jaycee’s.
“Why are you doing this?” asked Jaycee.
“When you saw me that night, what color were my wings?” asked James. “They were gray. And do you know what that means? Let me give you a couple hints. Black wings signify a demonic being, while white wings signify a spirit of divine nature. So, what do you think that makes me and my gray wings, my dear little Jaycee?”
Jaycee looked to the side, not wanting to look at James when she answered him. “You’re a monster,” she replied.
Jaycee’s answer made James grin. “I seem to recall you referring to me as a monster once before,” he said. “The truth is, I have become far more than just some monster. For I have the power of the light and the darkness within me, which makes me unstoppable. I have attained human perfection. But if you would rather just call me a monster, then go right ahead. I have absolutely no problem with that.”
“Is everything alright here?” asked Vice Principal Takagi, who had arrived unnoticed at the end of the hall. Her arms were folded and she was tapping her foot against the ground, making herself look more like an angry parent than school official.
James pulled away from Jaycee. “If you really want to save me,” he whispered to Jaycee, “then you’re going to have to try a lot harder than that.” He then walked away, passing by the vice principal as he did. “Consider yourself fortunate,” he told her. “Had the circumstances been different, that would have been you.”
“He wants me to save him?” thought Jaycee.
“Come, Miss Annadale,” said the vice principal. “I’ll give you a ride home.” She then placed her arm around her student and led her down the hall. On the way, Vice Principal Takagi looked back at James, who was watching the two leave. The grin the vice principal flashed at James stretched from ear to ear.
The last traces of the day were fading away, giving way to the night. Sage and Aiko were at their favorite café having cold drinks. They both had near full glasses before them, though, as neither was in much of a mood to put anything into their unsettled stomachs.
“Did I do the right thing?” asked Aiko, stirring her drink with her straw. “Was it wrong for me to do that to James? He did use to be one of our friends.”
“You had every right to do what you did,” said Sage. “The only thing regrettable about what happened was that Jaycee was there to see it. She shouldn’t be subjected to such things. She’s far too sensitive.”
“Still,” said Aiko. “Hitting James did feel good.”
A pulsating red light similar to the one the group had seen before presented itself to Sage and Aiko. It was coming from the roof of a building across town.
Jaycee and Vice Principal Takagi were motoring down the road in the vice principal’s luxurious German sedan. The buildings and other cars blurred by as the powerful automobile exceeded all posted speed limits.
“I’ve had my eye on you, Miss Annadale,” said the vice principal.
“You have?” asked Jaycee.
“You’re not like the others. Especially not like that friend of yours. That obnoxious Nakamura girl. She has some attitude on her. It isn’t very appealing to act that way when you’re supposed to be a lady.”
“Aiko’s not so bad. You just have to get to know her.”
“Well, she certainly doesn’t make people want to get to know her better,” said the vice principal. “But she’s not the one that I’m concerned about.”
“You mean me,” said Jaycee.
“You’re a very special girl, Jaycee,” said Vice Principal Takagi. “Out of all the other students, you’re my most prized. But don’t tell anyone I said that. You see, I’ve looked through your file and I must say I’m impressed. Your scores are always at the top of the school. And none of the other students have been through what you have.”
“Thank you,” said a blushing Jaycee.
“But I’ve noticed a change in you. Though I don’t really know you all that well, I can tell something’s troubling you.”
“It’s that boy James, isn’t it? The one that just transferred to our school. It’s clear that you and he have some kind of history.”
“We used to know each other,” said Jaycee. “But that was a long time ago. Now he’s a completely different person.”
“He’s changed,” said the vice principal. “That’s what people do. And the saddest thing about that is, they never change back. It’s for the best just to forget about those people. They’ll never be what you want them to be, so you should just move on.”
“I can’t,” said Jaycee. “We’ve been through so much.”
“Like that little scene I stumbled upon today? It didn’t look like much of a happy reunion to me. Jaycee, that boy is nothing but trouble. You would be wise to stay away from him. For your own good. One day he’s going to hurt you like no one has ever hurt you before. Is that something you want to put yourself through?”
“No, but I can’t just move on,” said Jaycee. “I know he’ll change. If I can just make him see things the way that I see them.”
“He’ll never change who he is, Jaycee,” said Vice Principal Takagi. “My advice is to forget all about him. You’ll find happiness with someone else. Besides . . . it’s stupid to love someone who doesn’t love you back.”
Jaycee gave no reply as her focus was on a pulsating red light in the distance.
The sun had since sunk behind the horizon, leaving the city once again at the mercy of the night. It had taken little time for the eager feet of Sage and Aiko to take them to the roof of the seventh tallest building in the city. And it was there where they found James.
“What do you want with us now?” asked Aiko, standing safely behind Sage.
“Is that anyway to talk to an old friend?” asked James.
“You, a friend?” asked Aiko. “Don’t make me laugh.”
“Does your hostility stem from me not treating Jaycee in a manner that you deem fit? You really have to start letting that girl take care of herself.”
“Don’t ever say her name again. You haven’t earned that right. You’re just a stranger to her now. She deserves better. Jaycee’s a good person. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like that. All she wants is to be happy.”
“And I’m the one who’s supposed to make her happy?” asked James. “I hate to burst your bubble, but I’m not in the business of making people happy. And even if I wanted to, I doubt I could pull off such a feat. Not for someone like her.”
“What an obnoxious bastard,” said Aiko.
“Words won’t do any good with someone like him,” said Sage. He then summoned his sword. “It would be a good idea for you to stay out of this.”
“Sage,” whispered Aiko.
“So, you came looking for a fight,” said James. He then summoned a sword of his own. “Don’t ever say that I don’t give people what they ask for.”
The warriors charged and clashed swords with tremendous force. With their weapons locked, the two were so close that they could taste each other’s breath.
“It’s been such a long time since we last did this,” said James. “I hope your skills haven’t diminished over the past thousand years. That way, I can have a real challenge for once.”
“You couldn’t beat me then and you can’t beat me now,” said Sage.
“Is that so?” asked James.
The two pulled away from each other, then immediately began trading attacks. Neither fighter was willing to give up any ground. They held their positions as if their very lives depended on it, which they most certainly did. With both fighters’ proficiency with a sword equal, the fight seemed destined to go on forever.
Much to Sage’s surprise, James floated into the sky. “Tell me something, Sage,” said James. “I can call you by your name, can’t I?”
“What kind of trick are you trying to pull?” asked Sage. “Get back down here so we can finish what we started.”
“I just wanted to ask you something,” said James. “You and Aiko, you didn’t start out liking each other very much, did you? In fact, you attacked one another the first two times your paths crossed. I’m not making anything up, am I?”
“That was a long time ago,” said Aiko. “Don’t bring up the past.”
“You eventually developed feelings for that little loudmouth. But how would you feel if you hadn’t? Would you consider it fair for everyone to pressure you into feeling the same way about her as she felt about you?”
Sage took some time before answering. “No, I wouldn’t,” he said.
“Sage,” barked Aiko. “Don’t let him manipulate you.”
“Exactly,” said James. “You can’t force someone to fall in love with you. If someone doesn’t feel the same way about you, then move on. Because if you don’t, then those feelings will turn on you and devour you. There won’t be anything left but a hollow shell. Besides, I don’t recall ever giving Jaycee permission to have feelings for me.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” exclaimed Aiko. “How could you? What if Jaycee had been here to hear that?” The grin that formed on James’ face prompted Aiko to turn around. Standing at the far end of the roof was Jaycee.
“Better she hear it from us, right?” asked James.
“You bastard,” said Sage.
Jaycee began making her way to James but Aiko stepped in front of her. “I have to save James,” said Jaycee.
“Save James?” asked Aiko. “What are you talking about?”
“Get down here and fight me,” demanded Sage.
“Careful what you wish for,” said James. He then lowered to the rooftop and was met with an immediate barrage of attacks, each of which was repelled.
“They’re fighting?” asked Jaycee.
“Jaycee, come with me,” said Aiko, trying to lead her away.
“They shouldn’t be fighting,” said Jaycee. “They’re friends.”
“Jaycee, please,” said Aiko.
Before Aiko could react, Jaycee had already summoned her staff and begun a mad rush toward James and Sage.
“Jaycee, no!” screamed Aiko.
Neither James nor Sage had time to react as Jaycee’s staff came crashing into their locked weapons. Both fighters were sent stumbling back from the impact.
James was the first to regain his footing, and the instant he did, he thrust the tip of his blade to within an inch of Jaycee’s throat. Seeing this, Sage immediately did the same to James. “You make any move whatsoever,” said Sage, “and I won’t hesitate to kill you.”
“It seems we’ve come to a crossroads,” said James.
Jaycee began shaking and tears began to fall from her eyes as she gazed at the person who meant the most to her holding her life so frivolously in his hands.
James backed away, lowering his sword as he did. Sage, however, kept his weapon at the same threatening level. “Go ahead,” he said. “Call me weak now. Then we’ll see what someone as weak as me will do.”
Aiko rushed to Jaycee and pulled her away. “You bastard!” she shouted. “How dare you turn your weapon on Jaycee! You’re going to pay for that!”
“I doubt that,” said James.
“I must say, I’m terribly hurt that I wasn’t invited to this party” said Alenia, who was now hovering before a radiant cherry moon. “All the players are here, so why was I left out? Are you intentionally trying to hurt my feelings?”
“Great,” said Aiko. “Just what we need.”
Jaycee broke away from Aiko and fled from the scene.
“Well, James, have you had enough time to consider my offer?” asked Alenia. “The time I’ve been given is running out. So if you don’t decide, then a choice will be made on your behalf. Are you willing to let someone else make this choice for you?”
“You want me to choose a side, which would result in me losing half of my power,” said James. “All so I can call someone my master?”
“That’s the plan,” said Alenia. “So, how about it?”
“You’re even stupider than I thought you were,” said James. “I bow down to no one. I am my own master. And some day, I might just be master to all of you, as well.”
“I strongly urge you to reconsider,” said Alenia. “Before something very bad happens. You know deep down inside that you belong with us.”
“I grow tired of this pointless back and forth,” said James, flicking his wrist and dismissing his sword. “I’ve wasted enough time on you.” He then floated into the sky and spread his wings. Without another word, James departed.
Seeing Alenia not get her way, Sage couldn’t help but smirk.
“You think this is funny?” exclaimed Alenia. She then summoned her sword. “Maybe this will wipe that smile off your face!” She then plummeted to the roof.
“Sage!” shouted Aiko.
Bracing himself, Sage was able to block the attack.
“You still think this is funny?” asked Alenia. She then let loose a series of furious blows, but Sage was up to the task of defending himself.
“I don’t care how powerful you are,” said Sage. “Your skills with a sword can’t match mine. As long as you persist in battling me this way, you can’t win.”
“Finally something we agree on,” said Alenia. A burst of energy then shot from her body, sending Sage stumbling back. Sage regained his footing just in time to defend himself from another series of powerful strikes.
“Resorting to cheap tricks,” said Sage. “Why am I not surprised?”
Alenia ceased her onslaught as something had captured her attention. What she had begun staring at soon caught the attention of Sage and Aiko.
Standing at the far end of the rooftop was Hikaru and Daisuke. It was impossible to tell if they had just gotten there or had witnessed most of the events that had taken place. Whatever the case, they looked ready to play their parts.
“The new students,” said Aiko. “What are they doing here?”
Hikaru and Daisuke then made their way to the combatants. Hikaru stopped before Sage, while Daisuke stopped before Alenia.
“What is this?” Alenia demanded to know. “What the hell are you two doing here?” Her sword then disappeared from her grasp, as did Sage’s. “What’s going on?” Alenia’s rage was quickly nearing its climax.
Hikaru wrapped her hands around Sage’s. Daisuke did the same with Alenia. The new students were then consumed within blinding white light. The radiance of the light was so great that it forced everyone to look away.
“Sage,” shouted Aiko.
When the blinding white light faded away, Hikaru and Daisuke were gone. Left behind were the Sword of Hell, which was now in Alenia’s possession, and the Sword of Heaven, which Sage now held in his trembling grasp.
“Unbelievable,” said Aiko.
“The Sword of Heaven,” whispered Sage, gazing at the magnificent weapon he now held in his hand. “Am I truly worthy?”
Alenia began laughing. “What a pleasant turn of events,” she said. “To think, the Sword of Hell has just fallen right into my lap. Now there’s no way I can be stopped from fulfilling my mission.” She then directed her glare at Sage and Aiko. “As much as I would love to finish things with you two, I’m in far too good a mood to think about fighting. This will have to wait for another time.” And with that, Alenia flew off into the night.
“Jaycee’s not gonna believe this,” said Aiko, making her way to Sage’s side to get a better look at his magnificent new weapon. “I hardly believe it myself.”
Jaycee had run all the way home and locked herself in her bathroom. She was slouched against the sink and trying vainly to stop her tears from falling.
“Stop crying,” she said, staring angrily at her reflection. “I told you you weren’t going to cry any more because of him.” Despite her best efforts, Jaycee could do nothing to stop her tears from falling. “I said stop crying!”
Feeling as if she had no control over her body, Jaycee’s face slammed into the mirror, shattering it and severely cutting her forehead. Amidst a twinkling cascade of broken glass, Jaycee crashed to the floor.
With a trembling hand, Jaycee picked a shard of broken glass off the floor and held it against her wrist. Realizing what she was about to do, Jaycee dropped the glass and curled into a ball. She then buried her bleeding face in her hands and sobbed tear after painful tear.