If you’d ask about Joichiro Nagase’s opinion on that particular teaching device, he’d respond none-too-kindly. For him, it was an educational representation of the capitalist-system and how it propagates wealth for the wealthy and poverty for the poor. The already-outgoing and confident of the students who were able to voice their opinions and have them rejected in a public platform would learn from that experience and become more intelligent, more outgoing, and more confident.
The more withdrawn portion of the class would find it hard to muster the courage to ask their questions and learn from their mistakes. They would still wallow in ignorance, occasionally having their questions answered or statements explained by their colleagues who happened to have those questions in mind already.
Today’s topic in global politics was, as preposterous as it might sound, medieval warfare. Our eccentric history teacher, Mr. Fujiwara, decided to embroil his students in the fundamentals of civilization and politics by issuing ‘missions’ to his students. These missions sounded like the wet dream of any isekai otaku, but to a class of high school seniors who were, for all intents and purposes, above the idea of being transported to a new world, they sounded like nothing more than over imaginative hypotheticals more at home in a chuunibyou-sufferer’s scrapbook.
“Here’s another mission. Let’s say you are the general of an army of eighty thousand soldiers in a certain generic kingdom during the medieval ages. Imagine there is a neighboring kingdom which is similar to your own, but slightly inferior. Your king wishes to conquer the enemy kingdom. From what I have taught you regarding the basic building blocks of a civilization, how will you go on about conquering said kingdom for your king?” asked Mr. Fujiwara.
From the back row of the class sat Eiichiro Ida, the resident delinquent. Typically, he wouldn’t deign to pay any attention to the teachers during any of their lectures, but Mr. Fujiwara, being infamously eccentric, had somehow managed to pique his interest enough to participate minimally during class discussions. At the teacher’s question, he raised his hand.
“All out war, of course. You said the other kingdom was slightly inferior, didntcha? In an all-out battle, my troops would have won, wouldn’t they?”
Mr. Fujiwara chuckled before replying. “You certainly are a smart one, aren’t you? There are ways to overcome an army slightly superior to your own using pure wit and tactic. Are you not aware of that?”
“Yeah, I know,” muttered Eiichiro. “I never said I’d never use ‘tactics’ myself, did I? If they use tactics to bridge the gap, I’d use tactics to tear the bridge down and we’d still be back in square one. Us being superior.”
“Ah. Mr. Ida, that is easier said than done. Do you know why?” asked the teacher.
Kano Asamiya, the attractive high school athlete, raised his hand, a smug look on his face.
“Because sometimes a pyrrhic victory doesn’t cut it,” said Kano, not even waiting to be picked by the teacher, not that the eccentric middle-aged man would care much. “Your soldier’s lives aren’t just hit points. They won’t just let you chuck them at the opposition until only one remains. Well, unless they’re all barbarians and berserkers,” chuckled Kano.
Akihiko Koutama, the brains of the class, raised his hand to speak. “I concur. The strategy of throwing troops against a wall as though war was a numbers game isn’t the brightest tactic if if the first World War has taught us anything.”
“Isn’t your father supposed to be a politician?” sneered Kano, eliciting a grunt from the disgruntled delinquent.
“Ora, watch your fucking mouth,” muttered Eiichiro in reply.
“Or..” intoned the female class rep, Saika Furinji. “We don’t fight at all? A lot could be gained from an alliance instead of conquest.”
“Yes, Miss Furinji, it could. That, however, wasn’t the question,” Mr. Fujiwara waved his index finger while grinning.
“Why?” Asked Saika, frowning. After finally having enough, Joichiro Nagase, who sat in the middle of the classroom, spoke up for the first time in that lesson.
“Cuz King douchebag says so,” he muttered lazily.
“He actually said something?”
“Wow, that’s the first time I’ve heard him talk since he transferred here.”
“Guy sure is non-chalant.”
Murmurs arose the moment Joichiro spoke up. He wasn’t particularly talkative, especially after the sixth transfer, in which he basically gave up on participating in the classroom at all. One too many iterations would do that to you. Even transferring to this school, he never introduced himself vocally. Writing the characters for his name on the blackboard became a task easily accomplished after his fifth transfer.
The teacher continued, unabated. “And what would you do about that, Mr. Nagase? And may I express my joy that you’ve finally spoken. I was expecting your voice to be a bit deeper considering… ah, nevermind.”
A few of the students chuckled at the teacher’s joke.
“Let’s pretend,” continued Joichiro, eyelids drooping. “That we didn’t hear that attempt at a joke. Well, the general’s in charge of the troops, right? How about a military coup?”
“And what of the soldiers within the army loyal to the throne?”
“Slow and steady, right? A little scheming in order to make the royal family look bad. Botch a few skirmishes against the enemy kingdom and make sure that the soldiers know it’s the king’s fault their brothers-in-arms die. Then organize a coup. Pretty easy.”
“Then why doesn’t it happen commonly?” asked the teacher, his grin never leaving his face.
“The king would probably pick a general loyal to him. Probably his sibling or someone he trusts. Common sense, right? But… teacher, I’ve gotta ask: what the hell does that have anything to do with global politics, which I believe is in our current curriculum aside from the war-mongering?”
“The question I was waiting for. Honestly, students, what do you take me for? A fantasy-otaku?” he asked, eliciting a few chuckles from the students. He continued. “The term just began and I’ve been teaching here for two weeks, now. If I’ve learned anything from you at all is that none of you truly know history.”
“Then,” asked Joichiro again, slightly piqued, but mostly bored. “What is history?” He hardly expected anything substantial as an answer. The teacher would most likely give a profound one liner about how it was ‘everything and nothing’ or ‘civilization’s construction manual’.
“Plagiarism. Plain and simple. Adolph Hitler plagiarised Bonaparte’s failed attempt at invading russia, giving additional strength to the infamous line ‘Don’t invade russia during winter’. Lee Harvey Oswald plagiarised John Wilkes Booth pretty nicely, too. Fella woke up one day thinking… ‘I feel like killing me some president’. Also, fun fact: both assassins have 15 letters in their names, both shot Lincoln and Kennedy on a friday, and they fled to opposite locations, Booth fleeing from the theater to a tobacco shed warehouse, and Oswald fleeing from a warehouse to a theater before getting caught. Seems almost… kabbalistic. Genocide is plagiarism. The holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, you name it. Pretty much the same thing. People dying in swathes because one tyrant can’t even tolerate their presence on earth.
“See, academic honesty is all about the avoidance of plagiarism. That is, after all, what our ‘noble institution’ stands for. Learning history is all about not repeating the same mistake, sort of like reading about an adventurer’s traveller log before setting out on that same adventure, now knowing what not to do. History is basically the dos and don’ts of the present. Why does history repeat itself? First answer my question.
“Who makes history?”
A few students began to raise their hands in an uncertain manner.
“Uhm, Mr. Akiyama?” the teacher selected one of the students raising his hand.
“The powerful?” he answered. The teacher rolled his eyes at the question.
“How poetic,” he replied sardonically. “Ok, but what is someone powerful? What are they?”
“Hard workers?” the same student replied again.
“Cut the profundities. I’m asking in literal terms,” the teacher all but snapped.
“A person, I suppose?” said Akihiko, speaking out of line, not that the teacher would mind.
“Correct, Mr. Koutama. A person. People. Humans. Are there any true major differences between human beings?”
A few of the girls raised their hands. The teacher picked one absently.
“Ms. Furinji? Remember, no profundities.”
“Their drives… their motives and wishes. What they want for themselves in the future.”
“Ah, true. As good an answer as any. Let me let you in on a fun fact. There has been around a hundred billion human beings on this planet. Most of them are dead. Do you think the chances of picking out your doppelganger both in terms of appearance and personality are low?”
“Excuse me,” asked Kano, slightly confused. “But what does this have anything to do with anything?”
“You’re not letting me finish,” said the teacher with a somewhat frozen smile.
“They’re pretty high,” said Joichiro.
“Exactly!” said the teacher. “History is the actions of our predecessors. Our predecessors are human beings. Human beings are limited and therefore similar. My point is. History is a scratched record. It keeps on repeating. Over and over and over until someone has the good idea of… I dunno, blowing it? Dunno much about records, to be honest. I’m more of a CD-enthusiast, myself.”
Some of the students laughed.
“It doesn’t matter what point in time it is. Throughout the thousands of years of civilization, human beings have always been there. It’s all the same. It’s whimsical. It’s laughable, but it’s interesting in the very least. 1% of history is original. The rest is ceaseless plagiarism. Royal assassinations, coups, betrayals, circumvention of difficult routes like when Hannibal Barca crossed the alps of all places, and survived to tell the tale. I mean, it’s all the same. One human had the good idea of coming up with, well, an idea. It worked, but it didn’t have to be written down for someone else to come up with the same gosh-darn idea decades, centuries or even millennia later. I mean, Hypatia was so damn close to figuring out what keeps our solar system, nay, the universe together. A few occurrences later and she’s dead at the hands of fanatics, her research continuing with an englishman who slept beneath an apple tree, fortunate enough to have an apple hit his head at the right moment a millennium later.
“Ideas repeat because our brains are the same. How can I prove that our brains are the same? When you feel hungry, what do you want to do?”
Most of the students in the class spoke in unison, a tad lazily. “Eat.”
“Oh no,” the teacher grinned while waving his index finger in a scolding manner. “Food isn’t free. To get food you need to work for it. Work for an employer who gives you money to afford the monthly grocery shopping or invent farming, thus securing a stable source of food for you and your local village. Do you see where I’m getting? A single universal emotion can drive us to do the same thing regardless of communication. The first few civilizations were spread across the globe. South America, Africa, Eurasia. None of them had telegraphs, phones or fax machines. Who told them that farming was the first step towards civilization?”
“But that’s too obvious, isn’t it? You need to eat to live, so that isn’t a good example.” said another female student.
“Ah, Ms. Nibutani. People are obvious. Predictable, too. Wave what they want in front of them and they’ll snatch it from your hands. If they don’t do that, you can conclude that they are too shy to do so openly and circumvent that. We’re all made from the same stuff, the same way, with minor tweaks. You are all carbon copies of each other, students. So far, I’ve memorised all your names, but few of your faces stick, because I know deep down that a thousand years down the line, there’ll have existed people with your names and faces, and that in this fleeting moment, you are all just a speck in the vast canvas we call history.”
Joichiro couldn’t deny that he felt, if nothing else, slightly moved by the teacher’s speech.
“Current affairs? What a joke. Current affairs were yesterday’s affairs are going to be tomorrow’s affairs. The present is a joke because it’s only going to be a rehash of the past. The future is ludicrous because it’s only going to be a reenactment of the present, plus a few extra gizmos. It doesn’t matter where you go, students. As long as there are people, honest-to-god greedy, malicious and self-centered people, it’ll all be the same. Sad, but true.”
At this exact moment, the lunch bell rang. Mr. Fujiwara sighed before continuing.
“I hope I have captivated some of you. Anyhow, class dismissed.” And with that, he walked out of the classroom.
The classroom suddenly exploded with chatter.
“I’ve never looked at it that way!”
“It makes sense.”
“Now I’m kind of depressed.”
Joichiro slowly turned around and looked into the school-bag that hung on his chair, digging through it before concluding: ‘I forgot to pack lunch.’
At this exact moment, Takeru Murayama, the class pariah, and believably enough, Joichiro’s only ‘friend’, dragged his desk over to Joichiro’s and brought out two lunch-boxes. The rotund boy always kept a spare lunch box.
“Take your pick. This one’s octopus while the other’s chicken,” he said, pointing at each of them. Joichiro went for the one with chicken, opened it up and picked out the chopsticks inside the box before pulling them apart. And without even saying his graces, he began to dig in.
“You never chant the graces before eating. Why’s that?” Asked Takeru curiously after he finished saying the phrase ‘itadakimasu’.
Joichiro continued digging through his food. “I don’t really care to,” he replied shortly. Nodding, Takeru continued to eat.
“Congratulations on your class participation. It was really brave of you to finally speak.”
‘Brave?’ Joichiro thought. ‘If you say so.’
“Hmm,” he hummed in between mouthfuls. Before putting in another piece of his food into his mouth, he paused. “I like Mr. Fujiwara.”
“He’s pretty eccentric. Those are the best teachers, though.”
“His philosophy: that it’s all the same. It spoke to me.” muttered Joichiro.
“Ah, you must have quite some experience, then! How many times have you transferred schools?” Asked Takeru.
‘Too sharp for his own good,’ thought Joichiro icily. He lowered his chopsticks and gave Takeru a cold glare. “Don’t pry.”
Takeru swallowed saliva before shutting his mouth and continuing to eat.
A few minutes of silence later, Joichiro began to think. Currently, he was feeling ridiculously bored. Because of that, he abruptly stood up and looked around the classroom, looking at all the student’s faces as they were eating. His abrupt stand immediately caused his surroundings to silence.
“Fellow students,” he began as he began to ascend his chair, standing on top of it.
“Psst, Joichiro-kun, what are you doing?” asked Takeru, slightly concerned.
“I feel like I haven’t been fair with the most of you. I haven’t been quite open, but I soon plan on rectifying that. You are the 50th class that I’ve been subjected to. I can honestly say that I’m sick of being normal. As of today, 14th of April, 2017, I declare a war on every single one of you. None of you are spared. Whether this does anything to alleviate my boredom, that’s for me to worry about. Remember, it’s not you, it’s me. Also, fuck all of you.”
Loud gasps and grunts were heard throughout the class. The girls were outraged while the boys were vexed. Needless to say, Joichiro stirred up quite a ruckus with that last insult.
“Yes, fuck every single one of you unoriginal cunts. I will bury you all alive. And with that, I conclude, thank you for listening and fuck you for existing.”
“You goddamn creep!”
“Who do you think you are?!”
Eiichiro stood up, along with his three friends: Daimonji, Hideki and Otani. Eiichiro was the typical thug, with shaved sides and bleach-blond hair. Daimonji was a fat judo practitioner, and Hideki looked like the typical 80s delinquent, with the pompadour, thin stache and baggy uniform. Otani was bald and had eyes as sharp as that of a hawk’s. His gaze alone could frighten most people.
“You weren’t talking to us just now, were you?” asked Eiichiro, attempting to conceal his ire.
“Especially you guys. My war against the four of you will be one of utmost simplicity. It’s a fight you want, right?” Asked Joichiro, preparing to don the studded gloves that were in his pockets.
“Orrra, Fuckin’ bring it, creep.” yelled Hideki.
Just as the two groups began to move against each other, almost everything turned white. The walls became white, and the desks began to dissolve.
The transformation was slow. It was as though someone spilled a bucket of white paint on the floor and that it became sentient, spreading itself thinly as it began to encompass the entire room with thirty students inside.
Joichiro quickly paused and stood there, dumbstruck as he looked at the slowly whitening room. He looked towards the door, seeing a group of girls trying to exit the classroom, but discovering that the door wouldn’t open. Towards his left, he saw a few students trying to open the windows in the hopes of escaping throu-
A haymaker found its place directly on Joichiro’s cheek, causing him to reel backwards, doing his best to maintain balance while assessing his injury. He quickly reached for his cheek, feeling something wet and warm on it. Inside his mouth he could taste iron. His molar was also chipped.
The offending party, Eiichiro, waved his hand, shaking of the pain of the punch before he, too, grew stunned by what was going on. By now, the whiteness was converging on this singular point ontop of the ceiling that wasn’t white. Not a single desk, chair or backpack remained in the class. Everything was white.
“What is going on?!” yelled one of the students. Some even shrieked in horror.
And like that, the world was just a white box that contained thirty students.
A hum began to reverberate around the room, too dim to break through the hubbub of panicked chatter. The volume grew as time continued, and after twenty breaths, the hum made the room sound like a construction site. The volume began to rise until it became uncomfortably loud, prompting the students to shut their ears. A moment later, the hum ended.
Thus began the first barrage of meaning.
A letter popped into everyone’s heads. Following the visual representation of the serpentine letter came a jolt in the form of a sound. The sound maintained highest priority across the minds of the poor students, inhibiting them from thinking about anything else but that singular letter and the sound it presented.
The sound for the A in Larry, Gas or Ant. The sound that a human being first makes once it exits the womb. The first sound. The sound of a new beginning.
Without giving anyone a break, the barrage of meaning continued. New letters began to emerge along with its sounds, representing various phases of life all the way to final letter, the letter and sound of a last breath. The last true letter that any being may utter before slipping into a state of an eternal and dreamless slumber.
The letter and sound of H.
Once the impromptu alphabetical lesson concluded, the shell-shocked students began to fall on the floor. Some began to palpate themselves, making sure that they were not dead, while others began to make tentative sounds, exercising their voice boxes for whatever reason. The one thing they all concluded however: the letters were still there.
“Congratulations,” said a voice in a heavily accented manner. “Pardon my Japanese. I just learned it. Now initiating language learning. Second phase of the ‘Barrage of meaning’. Best of luck. Try to stay awake the whole process. There will be a reward if you do.”
The voice came as quickly as it went. The students only paid half-attention to it as they were still trying to shake of their drowsiness of having learned an entire alphabet in the span of minutes.
Thus came the second phase of the barrage of meaning.
A dog, a farmer, a cat, a donkey, income-tax, door-knob, palpitate, booklet, calipers, bottle, sack.
Metal, mustache, innards, grass, games, noblemen, garbage, royal decrees.
The sun, ambitions, the number 8, duvet covers, true love, ninjas.
To pray, to learn, to value, to emancipate, to perambulate, to reimburse.
Literally every object, adjective, verb and adverb, both abstract and physical, figurative and literal, began to stream into every student’s mind at an impossible pace, along with a word that wasn’t familiar to them at all. Each and every word began to add up to a miniature thesaurus which began to grow as the stream of meaning continued.
Animalistic howls and shouts reverberated around the room. Students were gouging their eyes out in abject terror, seeking solace in the pain, attempting to hold onto their sanity with all their mights.
Joichiro kneeled on all four and panted, sweat, and tears dripping from his face, and urine from his pants.
Joichiro was many things, but a coward was not among those things. Thus, he clinged onto his consciousness. With all of his mental power, he tried to ignore the stream of meaning, relegating the stream to the back of his head as he focused on not losing consciousness. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he did not want to die.
As such, he resorted to self injury, like most of the others in his class. By now, half the classroom was unconscious, and nobody was upstanding, save from Kazuma Koetsuji, the enigmatic free-loader of the class whose family owned a karate dojo. He was barely upstanding, but he was managing.
Joichiro put his index finger in his mouth and bit down. The bite wasn’t enough to completely sever the tip of the finger, but it drew blood. With this blood, he drew the character for ‘Awake’ on the flash-white floor. Thus, he focused wholeheartedly on this simple task.
Awake, awake, awake. Staying awake was of the utmost importance to Joichiro. He had the nagging feeling that nothing good would come from losing consciousness.
“FOCUS!” Joichiro grunted, biting his tongue to stay awake. Almost half the language was interred in his memory now, and the pain was only increasing.
The thin thread that was Joichiro’s consciousness was finally about to snap when Joichiro brought his index finger to his mouth and violently bit down on the tip of his finger, biting it off.
“GRRAAAH!” Joichiro howled in agony, but welcomed it nevertheless. The more agony, the more ability to remain awake.
Around him, nearly everyone but four other people hadn’t lost consciousness. Those were the class brains Akihiko and Saika, the delinquent Eiichiro and the enigmatic Kazuma. They looked absolutely horrible.
Akihiko was missing hair in several patches, and on his hands were clumps of them, along with blood from the uprooted hair on his scalp. Saika’s right eye was gouged out, and she was in a state of equilibrium between consciousness and stupor, with only her upright position and the slight twitches in her left eye giving evidence that she was still awake.
Eiichiro’s hands were mangled. Bones protruded from each of his knuckles, and his fingers were no longer straight. There wasn’t a doctor in the world who could repair such damage, and yet he continued to hammer the floor unabated, relishing in the pain. Each hit was as hard as his first ones, and despite the damage, he continued. His wrists were almost completely pulverised, yet he continued.
Only Kazuma seemed relatively unscathed, the only one among them still on their feet. His back was turned on Joichiro, but if he could see him from the front, Joichiro would notice that Kazuma no longer had… a face. Like a rabid primate, Kazuma was clawing at the raw flesh of his face, still trying to elicit as much pain as possible.
Eventually, the language importation concluded, too.
“Congratulations to Joichiro, surnamed Nagase, Saika, surnamed Furinji, Akihiko, Surnamed Koutama, Eiichiro, Surnamed Iida, and Kazuma, surnamed Koetsuji. You have stayed awake throughout the process. This is a testament to your potential. Your bodies are in terrible shape, however. It seems that you resorted to self-injury in order to sustain yourselves. Was it because you were aware that I could heal you?”
None of the five listless students replied. Instead, they enjoyed their moment of solitude. Their brains were no longer being attacked, and they planned to relish the opportunity for as long as possible.
“You will all be horrible heroes if you depend on your healers in such a haphazard manner. Fine, though. Some of you have crippled your body parts, so it would be a shame to transport you like this. Initiating full restoration mode. Manual mode: God’s Hand.”
A warm yellow glow tinged with orange began to encompass all of the students, passed out or not. The glow began to heal the students. Missing body parts grew back from nothing, wounds closed and blood was restored. By the end, Eiichiro and Joichiro had their hands healed, Kazuma his face, Saika her eye and Akihiko his scalp.
Saika’s listless expression cleared up as she regained lucidity. Her pupils constricted before she tried standing up as quickly as possible with her wobbly legs.
“W-what?!” She could do nothing but exclaim.
“Barrage of meaning hasn’t concluded just yet. There’s still the final grammar phase and then the localization phase. Those are easier, but still impart psychological strain.”
“Wait! Wait!” Joichiro quickly looked up towards the ceiling and began to yell loudly. “Don’t, not again! Please!”
Not even Eiichiro could restrain himself from crying out loudly. Joichiro had snot running down his nose, tears streaking down his face as he begged for mercy.
“Okay. Since none of you believe you can keep your consciousness throughout, I will simply reward you now. As it stands, your reward is a simple stat-bump and High-Rank Classes. There are five of you, so I shall ascribe five to you. To the one who is surnamed Iida, who could endure the most pain, you will become a Dragon Knight. Trust me, this pain you’ve endured thus far was but the stinging of a hornet. A High-Class draconic transformation have done in greater men. I wish you good luck.”
“What is going on?!” asked Joichiro.
“What the fuck is this?”
“As for the one surnamed Koetsuji, your class will be that of a Martial Artist, because a real Martial Artist isn’t afraid to lose face. Heheheh, that was a joke on my part. The one surnamed Furinji will be imparted with the class of the Battle Mage, with the potential to evolve into a War Mage, because of your aptitude with studies, destruction and your willingness to annihilate your own eye, your window through the world, in order to protect your mind.”
“You are not answering any of our questions!” yelled Kazuma, veins threatening to pop out from his forehead.
“The one surnamed Koutama shall become the revered class of a Scribe. The ability to affix any kind of magic onto pieces of paper, and to bend the world with nought but ink and paper shall be yours. You sustained the lightest injuries because your mind was powerful enough to withstand the devastation of the barrage of meaning.
“The one surnamed Nagase… hmmm…. You were lucid throughout the Barrage. You even spoke intelligible words. The brain usually inhibits one from biting off fingers, but you overrode that with relative ease. You were even ready to bite off another one. You’re a warrior, and you’ve got the talents for a spell-caster. For that, I shall impart you the mystical class of the Spellsword. Swordsmen who cast spells in tandem with swordplay.
“Welp… that’s basically it. Those are your rewards. You can go to sleep now and let the process continue without hurting yourselves any further.”
“You need,” began Joichiro through gritted teeth. “To explain what the fuck is going on!”
“That’s not a part of my job-description, welp. I’ve had it with your yelling. Sleep, all of you!”
Just like that, they fell.
- Climbing towards the peak of perfection, only to realize that the mountain isn't actually a mountain, but more like a circle that doesn't really make any sense.
Bio: I was born from a hammock, my biomass oozing from the two trees that suspended my birth crib. Ever since that fateful day two years ago, since I was born, I decided to write for fun.