Emperor of One
Act I - Outlook
Out of the frying pan, into the fire
“The year is 39 PA (Post Apocalypse), current time 11:32 AM. My name is Kurou Kou, and I am a student at Kyu Kyoto North Highschool (KKN). The school is famous for its immaculate dirt, intellectual delinquents, and last but not least, its age. Who would have expected out of all the miracles of architecture, before and in the war, this towering matchbox would be the only thing still standing; good job pigeons.” For a moment Kou looks to his left at the crows on the nearby building. “So much for our friendly constipated pigeons.” he whispers to himself.
Several minutes pass but Kou fails to write even on more word.
“TEACHER!” he shouts
“What is it this time, Mr. Kurou?” said the teacher
Kou takes a glance at the sea of wires above the class.
“I was just wondering.” says Kou “Does writing this actually count for our grade?”
“Hhm hm—” the teacher chuckled, “Do you know the difference between school and life Mr. Kou? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
“In your case, you’ve failed at school plenty already, so just consider this a lesson in life.”
“Or do you want to make this room permanent residence?” said the teacher with a smirk on his face
“Now get back to work, all of you! Those class piranha in the back could have finished this simple task by now.”
The teacher then went back to reading his newspaper and the rest of the class diverted their attention back at the assignment. All but one, Mao Manami.
“Life, is a tale told by an idiot. Idiot.” she muttered as a gush of wind racked the glass and churned the trees outside.
Kou takes a breath and with the sun falling behind the clouds continues writing.
“Today is just another day, like any other. Though I continue to lay still the groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism and fabrication continues to swirl around me. Perhaps bad luck really doesn’t bring good luck, but more bad luck instead.”
“Before coming to this school I was a student at, another school. Because of unforeseen circumstances beyond my control I’ve ended dropping three years in a row. It was sad leaving the few friends I (still) had, but the looks and rumors were very compelling. Months ago I transfered to KKN in the hopes of starting anew in the presence of a gathering of people much stranger then myself; a choice not entirely of my will. It’s been one month since I transfered here and I’ve somehow managed to fit in. Good fortune willing my crappy attempt at kansai-ben earned me some humor points with everyone in class, and somehow I’ve fit in.” Kou looks towards the rest of class 0-N, most of which was diligently ignoring the assignment. “…or it could be they are just a bunch of uncaring people.” he whispers to himself
“My seat is near the window in the left corner, at the deep end of the class. The classroom is towards the sun and there are no trees that reach this high, so the rest of the row is empty. The whole building is like a tower. Most of of the class has positioned themselves on the left side in the shade. I am isolated, under less conspicuous context I might feel humbled by this arrangement, as an old fool on a mountain peak passing for a sage, but under the circumstances I feel more like a troll trapped in his cave; even more so with Mao behind me.” Kou looks at a reflection of Mao in the window, but the sun blinds him and adverts his eyes. “Her record of arguing with everyone speaks more then mine. Since I came here she’s given me the same look. For someone who doesn’t ever raise her voice her knack for arguing about everything is bewildering. Being too lazy and cool to speak with anything more then a whisper I have often been forced to repeat everything she says each time one of the geezers asks her something. I suppose me rephrasing her words might have something to do with her bad reputation, but sadly it’s quite hard for me to listen to her fast talking much less repeat it in all it’s redundancy—”
The teacher looks down at Kou.
“And who might these bastards be Mr. Kurou?” he asks
Kou remains silent and doesn’t look up.
“Well, in any case, after school come see me, again.”
The time is 1:49 PM. Kou enters the office of Nicholas Lore. The scent of tobacco greets him at the door; the inside a big mess of papers, flour pots and cigarettes. Even though called a office there’s just a chair and a table and mountains of various student papers everywhere. The schools lost and found would probably be a more accurate description.
“How many times have I told you to remember to knock first.” said Nicholas while still reading some papers.
Kou confused takes a few steps back and tries to turn around. In the corner of his eye he notices a picture of someone on a otherwise empty white wall. “It’s most likely a acquaintance of the the teacher by the looks of it.” he thinks to himself “Or, it could be the janitor’s so called mistress. He probably forgot it when he moved out of here and in with the cockroaches.”
Nicholas drops the piece of paper to the desk, “Wait idiot—” he shouts.
“Just come over and sit down.”
Kou looks around.
“On the floor this time?” said Kou
“What? What the hell happened to that chair?” said Nicholas
“Anyway, sorry, just stand for now.”
“I’ll make this brief. How much do you know about the girl Mao?”
Kou pauses for a moment.
“Aside from the fact she has excellent grades in PE, and attends a stupid amount of clubs? Nothing.”
“Is there something I should know about her?” asks Kou after glancing at the desk
“Maybe.” said Nicholas
“Could it be you’re suspecting her of the murders from last year?” said Kou
“That was random. And whatever gave you that stupid idea.” sais Nicholas
“On your desk there is a pile of files.”
“Go on.” said Nicholas lighting a cigarette.
“Well, the top file reads Riku, Ren— which happens to be the name of one of the students that got killed.”
“Must have picked it up by mistake.” said Nicholas picking the file up
“What of the other four files on the bottom. Did you pick them by mistake too?”
“The two at the bottom are black, so, it’s looks to be a staff file.”
“I heard two teachers were murdered last year.” said Kou
“I thought you quit the force last summer due to a unrecoverable leg injury? Mr. Lore.”
A deep silence covers the room.
“Hahahaha—” laughs Nicholas hysterically
“With that kind of thinking you will make for a fine detective …shoe polisher.”
“I didn’t quit the force, this is just a extended vacation.”
“My leg will heal but the process takes several years, so I just took this as a side job; beats sitting at a desk doing everyone else’s paper work.” Nicholas giggles and just throws flings one of the finished cigarette stubs at Kou
“After the incidents this school was in due need of personnel so you can think of my presence here as charity work.”
“But yeah, the files are of the victims, however you got some facts wrong.”
“The murders didn’t happen last year. Not all of them.”
“Only the girl was murdered last year, the others happened the year before.”
“I’m not even from, this, district you know, though my friends here told me the two cases were considered to be distinct and currently they are both closed.”
“Quite the mess too. They were both closed by this districts lord.”
“Anyway, partial truth is no different then lies, I’ll be subtracting from your grade for that miss. Try harder next time.”
Kou seems to want to reply, but keeps silent.
“Anyway back to the topic.” said Nicholas, getting a picture of Mao out.
“So whats this business then?” Kou replied
“Follow Mao? What if she doesn’t want to be followed.” said Kou
“You have my permission to use whatever means necessary blah blah blah. Just get back to me when it’s done.”
Kou takes a moment to take it all in, but all that’s going to his head and his longs is the smell of tobacco in the room.
“So what’s the catch?” replies Kou
“You have to write a report. And I’m gonna make it count for your grade.”
“That’s a catch?” said Kou
Nicholas doesn’t respond immediately and just keeps blowing more cigarette smoke.
“The better you the less points I’ll subtract.” said Nicholas
“Win-Win situation, wouldn’t you agree.”
“Are there others getting this special treatment?” said Kou with a heavy voice from all the smoke
“You want to play that guessing game again?” said Nicholas
“No. I’ll do it.” said Kou after pausing for a moment
With out another word from the teacher Kou just leaves to escape the smoke and confusion and slams the door behind him.
The time is now 2:07 PM. Some classes have started, along with club activities, but for Kou the day has ended.
War does not determine who is right, only who is left. All great wars had their weapons. Sometimes it was the weapons that made the war. After discovering the first forms of Velocity Altering Technology (VAT) humanity did not take long to convert it to military use. “Praetorian Guard” they came to be known. According to the (natural) laws of physics, as first discovered by Newton, every body remains in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force. This simple law of nature indirectly makes bullets kill, explosions hurt and was the foundation for all weapons before the war. With the advent of the preatorian guard the threat of bullets was no more. Guns became nothing more then toys. It was not just guns that became obsolete, explosions relied on shock waves, shock waves relied on speed, velocity and speed went hand in hand, and so the shock wave was nullified by the guard and explosions became far less effective where guards were present.
Some thought this new technology heralded a new era of piece and prosperity. However, peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it. As horrible as the old weapons were, they were part of the old balance. With them gone balance was lost, and the war began. It is lost to us when exactly the war started, or who started it. But what we do know is that it was in the name of freedom, and democracy that the first stone was flung. The flames of the endless hell were brought to consume this world. Men faught their wars everywhere. For many decades the great war didn’t even have anything that could be called sides, nor countries or alliances for that matter. It was all just chaos. Whatever framework to society there was before, was burned to ashes in nuclear fire. Death had no honor in those days, death had no purpose, it was all just for the great vain of the world and mankind’s arrogance fueled it ever onwards.
Inevitably chaos gave way to ordered chaos. Cities rose in the ruins of the old ones, build up on people’s fears. For protection great flying fortresses were build to guard against the madness of the world around them. Inevitably cities took over other cities, and in time two major factions emerged in one corner of the world. One called itself the Empire and preached order, another called itself the Republic and preached peace; yet both did not have either. In the end the Empire lost, and the world came to settle in a tangible peace, but the mighty Republic payed a heavy price for it’s victory and now stands as a mere shell of it’s former self.
Even now, death still lingers. The war was not kind. Many weapons were used, horrible weapons. And each day new horrors are discovered, relics from those dark day. One can not even walk outside the cities with out potentially falling prey to madmen or sleeping weapons, or worse. The majority of the population is living in cities, or ruins of old cities. The life expediency of anyone living outside the cities is not even a year. The rest of the world, the so called outside world, is split into yellow zones and red zones. The administration tries to clean out the old threat but judging by the death toll the efforts seem to be counter productive and more symbolic and political then anything.
Emperor of One
Act II - The Chaser
The current time is 4:13 PM. Several days have passed since Kou spoke with professor Nicholas. At the moment Kou is in the library, located not far from school, sitting in a room and waiting…
“You’ve been reading that piece of trivia for a while now, are you not done yet?” said Kou
“My sincerest apologies. It would appear I have had completely forgotten you were waiting. Please excuse my rudeness.” said Isolde
Isolde puts the book down and grabs a cup of tea.
“I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting for so long. Would you like some tea?”
Kou ignores her, and just heads to the nearby bookshelf. The top row is littered with archives of the war.
“Well, first let me introduce myself.” said Isolde
“I know who you are. You’re the librarian.” said Kou
“That is true, but actually aside from being the librarian, I am also the student council president; well more like the student council, since I am the only member.” said Isolde
“I know who you are counselor.” said Kou
“Ah-yes, that would also constitute part of my responsibilities.” replies Isolde
“You sure have a lot of jobs.” said Kou
“They overlap so it’s fine.” said Isolde
“Well, anyway it happens you’re caught my interest. Professional interest, of course.”
“I’ve received some complaints, and require some explanations if you were to be so kind.”
“You just received complaints now?” said Kou
“Well unfortunately these complaints are straight from the city guard, so they are harder to overlook.” said Isolde
Isolde pours herself more tea.
“You may sit down, and talk to me, or you can talk to them. The choice is your.”
Kou doesn’t say anything but his face shows he’s willing to talk.
“Before we get started, are you sure you don’t want some tea. I can have Walter bring you any flavor you wish in no time.” said Isolde
“I thought you said you were alone.” said Kou
“And I am, relatively speaking. Walter is not exactly human.” said Isolde
“Having him around does conveniently bypass the guardian law, making it easier for me to get around.”
“I know what you mean, I have a similar arrangement.” said Kou
“Though I wouldn’t say it makes it easier to get around; if nothing else it’s probably much more of a pain.”
“How wonderful! I should come over some time. A professional visit of course! If that is not a bother.” said Isolde
“You are very strange for a counselor.” said Kou
Isolde smiles in reply, and just sips more tea.
“Well, time is passing us by, so I’ll jump to the point.” said Isolde
“Several weeks ago, three to be exact, you were called to the office of Sir Nicholas Lore.”
“Since that day you have not made any other contact outside of class that anyone is aware of. Is this true?”
“Maybe.” said Kou
“I know you were asked to follow the girl Mao.” said Isolde
“I need you to tell me everything that’s happened in those three weeks, starting from the beginning.”
Kou pauses for a moment.
“Very well. But don’t blame me if this is a waste of your time counselor.” said Kou
Kou sits back down on the couch and prepares to start, while Isolde pours herself a full cup of tea. As she finishes pouring a tremor hits. Some books fall off, and the broken glass in the window shakes loose and breaks on the floor. Not even a quarter of a minute passes and it stops.
“One moment please.” said Isolde as she moves into the forest of bookshelves
“Yes, madam.” said Walter
“Please fix this mess for me.” said Isolde
“Of course, madam.” said Walter
“And fix the window as well.” said Isolde
“Understood madam, return books to their previous position and replace broken-broken glass with new broken glass in windows.” said Walter
“Yes. Thank you Walter.” said Isolde
Isolde then returns to Kou and picks up her full cup of tea, much to Kou’s disbelief.
“Is there something wrong Mr. Kurou?” said Isolde
“Do you perhaps have seismophobia?”
“No. It’s, nothing.” said Kou
Kou continues to look at the cup as dust keeps raining from the ceiling but any logical explanation escapes him, so he decides to just leave it be.
“Where do you want me to start counselor?” said Kou
“Anywhere is fine. How about right after you had that meeting with professor Nicholas?” said Isolde
“Very well.” said Kou
“It was right after school, and as you know already, I was persuaded to follow Mao. Everything seemed pretty straight forward. I already knew all of her friends so I just did the obvious thing, I asked them…”
“And they just, answered?” asked Isolde
“They did. Yes.” said Kou
“Mao’s relationship with even those somewhat close to her is, how you would put it, professional.”
“I didn’t ask for anything special either. Just chatted about what clubs she was in.”
“Afterwards I checked the club schedule. The times she got off were very discouraging. I was planning on just accidentally leaving school at the same time and accidentally going the same direction home.”
“Couldn’t you have pretended anyway.” said Isolde
“The last club she was attending just happens to be the only one to end that late.” said Kou
“You, could have joined the club perhaps.” said Isolde
“I took it into consideration, but the ballerina skirt didn’t quite fit me.” said Kou
“I see, please continue Mr. Kou.” said Isolde
“Tailing her in the evening, on almost empty streets would be a pain. To make matters worse, that day they stayed up longer. By the time she left it was getting dark, and all the shops were closed. Bumping into her under those circumstances would draw too much attention. So, I did the only thing to do. I ran.”
“You went home?” said Isolde
“No, I didn’t.” said Kou
“It seems I got ahead of myself, let me clarify.”
“Normally I would trail her using the crowd, noise, and such; however this time non of that was feasible. So what I thought to myself was, ‘what methods have now become feasible that weren’t earlier’, and so I came up with the method of running. I went and changed to my sportswear at school and ran two blocks in front of her to the nearest intersection. I waited a while until she was near me, gave her a look, then ran forward towards the next intersection.”
“What if, she does’t go forward.” asks Isolde
“If she goes left, I don’t stop and just go left as well at the next intersection.” said Kou
“Same procedure if she goes right.”
“Won’t she be suspicious of you bumping into her so often?” said Isolde
“Since I always go forward, in that situation she looks like the one intercepting me.” said Kou
“I suppose it’s it does make it hard to draw accusation when you are neither hiding from her, nor trailing her.” said Isolde
“I find it hard to believe it was that effective, however.”
“Well, about that…” said Kou
“After pulling off this little dance about four times, I lost her. So now the normal conclusion here would be, that I found her home. However, the buildings in the area dead. They not just merely unsafe, they are uninhabitable, nobody could live there even if they wished to. I looked over map when I got home, in hopes of finding some information on the buildings, however what I found instead filled me with dread. It’s not immediately apparent when you simply walk initially into the area, but out of the roads, only two lead into and out of it. Even more so, the one she used was only recently cleared, so previously the one I had used was the only entrance and exist out of tha area. I could pretend I was jogging if she asks, but it would be very strange if I was just randomly wondering, and that place is no place anyone would plan as a route. In other words the little witch got me into checkmate position and then vanished.”
“So anyway that’s the story, can I go now?” said Kou
“That’s very hard to believe.” said Isolde
“It’s the truth counselor.” said Kou
“I swear it!”
“Oh, I’m sure it is.” said Isolde, sipping more tea
“What’s very hard believe is the story ends there.”
“Do please continue.”
“Is there something I should know counselor?” said Kou
“Now, now, I asked you first?” said Isolde
“Very well.” said Kou tacking a deep breath
“After that bitter defeat, I had Mercury—think of her as the equivalent to your Walter—make some tracking devices, like cameras and sensors, from the usual trash she picks up. And it shames me to admit it but she did it again, that day she simply went the complete opposite way she went the day before. So I had Mercury make even more devices, and covered both paths. I thought that would stop her but no, she again went a completely random path.”
“At this point I didn’t care about the Nicholas bastard anymore, it was personal. Seeing as all the direct attacks failed miserably, the obvious rational thing to do is to change strategy to more indirect attacks. However, my pride wouldn’t take it. So, rational planning aside, I yet again went with a direct approach. It took a full three days to prepare but I was sure it would not fail again. What I had done is create a super scent. To our primitive nose it would be unnoticeable, but given the right equipment you could follow a fly if it had just an ounce of the stuff a thousand kilometers away. The problem now was simply delivering it, so that’s how I joined the martial arts clubs she was in. Initially I joined only one; sadly she kicked my ass the first day, and then the second day as well. So I stated all the others she was in, Now, I don’t even recall if that decision was rational. It makes sense to do that, but after getting several bruises all over my body, all I could think at the time was how much I wanted to win against her in a match. On the weapons at best I got a tie, but barely. And out of all the others I only managed to best her at hand to hand combat. But it was enough, I had accomplished my goal. What do you think happened counselor?”
“I don’t suppose your plan worked this time?” said Isolde
“Actually, every technical detail worked perfectly.” said Kou
“You don’t sound very happy saying it.” said Isolde
“Because I’m not.” said Kou
“That day she asked me for a favor.”
“I agreed; it was the logical choice. Although looking back it would have probably been better if I hadn’t.”
“Favor which involved going with her to her workshop, which just happens to be her house as well.”
“And guess what we do there…”
“I suppose cake is out of the question.” said Isolde
“She handles me a bunch of posters and has me follow her around town putting them up.”
“They were more or less directions towards her repair workshop. Complete with a stupid map no less.”
“Mr. Kou. May I ask something?” said Isolde
“Yes?” said Kou
“Don’t you think it might have been better to ask her where she lives to begin with?” said Kou
“Well…” said Kou
“I did ask her.”
“She just called me a idiot in return.”
“I asked the school too, at the time at least there were no records.”
“I see. So what happened next?” said Isolde
“I went to see Lore with my so called findings.” said Kou
“He pretty much told me to get the hell out and continue with the task.”
“That my job was to follow her, not stalk her, or some such nonsense.”
“Well I suppose Sir Nicholas can be ambiguous at times.” said Isolde
“He was happy with the location for some reason, even though I explained I didn’t find it by myself.”
“It’s okey Mr. Kouro, let’s just continue with the story”
“Up to the middle of the second week nothing really happened, not until that day.”
“Ah yes, that unfortunate incident.” said Isolde filling her cup back up
“Isn’t that the real reason I’m here?” said Kou
“I’m sure it’s not really worth your time to worry about old farts playing pranks on their students.”
“Heh. Yes, I guess that would explain a lot of what happened to you.” said Isolde
“So is that what you think happened.”
“No.” said Kou
“But at the time it was a very compelling possibility.”
“Well, until that happened anyway.”