Hayami’s Home, Musutafu, 7:03 PM
January 19th, 2141.
The greatest hero in the world was a strange man, or that seemed to be the case at least.
I hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time around many people, but even so, I’d never seen someone else smile quite so often as All Might-not even Nanami was quite that cheerful. Almost every single video of the man showed him with a brilliant smile on his face.
There was a lot of footage of him available on the internet to prove the point.
Nanami had recently developed an interest in the hero’s deeds, and as a result, I was expected to know what she was talking about when she started listing off all of the cool things the man had done.
There were a lot of those things as well-If the footage could be considered to be a lake in quantity, the sheer amount of articles about the man was an ocean. The most recent interview I had seen was when All Might worked alongside a man with wild brown hair; in the United States of America, no less, it seemed to be part of some kind of international tour the man was doing.
Nanami’s determination to become a hero hadn’t wavered; her recent obsession had probably contributed to it becoming even stronger than ever if anything. Almost all of our conversations eventually hit upon the topic in some way.
I didn’t mind the topic choice; it’s what most of the other students wanted to talk about when they were at school, so it was useful information to know for socializing with others.
Not that having that information actually allowed me to use it.
As a direct result of my actions against Haru in my first year, I’d damaged my reputation irreparably. Even now, almost two years later, it still hadn’t recovered much. Sarada had gone on something of a social crusade against the principal, the school, Hayami, and me.
The entire incident had made it into the newspaper, into articles online even-Haru had been pulled from school entirely and enrolled at another; He’d received his own share of backlash for the revelation of the constant bullying, but I almost considered him the lucky one.
Nanami was the only person at school who wanted to engage with me at all; the other students were either scared of a potential repeat of my first year or had parents that heard of the incident and were told to keep their distance for safety reasons.
If I hadn’t already been used to a diluted version of the social ostracization, it might have crushed me. Nanami wasn’t as lucky; she wasn’t at all used to being avoided or the target of mean spirited comments.
Even still, she’d stuck by my side in the aftermath and had been excommunicated by most of her friends as a result. Some of those had stayed in spite of their peers, but none of them felt safe when I was around, or so they had told her.
It had put an unspoken strain on our friendship, and although Nanami had refused to acknowledge it, I had brought it up on two separate occasions. I’d managed to upset her quite a bit the second time when I’d proposed that she should stop talking to me at school as a measure to improve things with her peers.
I still had to attend weekly meetings with the school counselor; I didn’t mind it honestly; the man was friendly and always explained things at length when I asked.
The problem came from when someone had figured out I was required to go there. That had only happened a month later, and the information had spread quickly, sending out a fresh wave of rumors, whispers, and nervous glances.
My home life hadn’t changed in any really significant way, but there were some small changes.
Uncle-Saijin and Hayami had come to some kind of agreement for one, which resulted in Hayami vanishing for weeks at a time while Uncle-Saijin took care of me. Trips to places she wanted to visit but hadn’t had a chance too.
Hayami’s disposition always improved greatly after she returned, seemingly rejuvenating her mental. I couldn’t complain about the decision either, because I got to spend a lot more time with my uncle, which was something I found value in.
Saijin had enrolled the both of us into three different martial arts classes over the sixth last month before I’d found one that I stuck with; Jeet Kune Do and Kickboxing were first, but I’d only learned enough in the first two classes to realized I hadn’t liked them very much.
I eventually settled on Muay Thai, more out of an attempt to stop forcing Saijin to run around the city and look for more places to enroll at than anything. Every lesson left my legs aching badly and everything else sore, but according to the older boys and girls, it would hurt less over time as my body was strengthened.
I personally thought they had just grow used to the pain-or dealt enough damage to themselves that they couldn’t feel it as much anymore.
High End Restauraunt, Musutafu, 6:01 PM
March 5th, 2141.
Nanami’s birthday was an interesting affair.
Hayami booked a table at a very expensive restaurant and paid in full before delivering the news to the Kureta’s. As a result, they couldn’t exactly say no, given how much it had cost in all-and they never seemed to be quite as comfortable with spending large sums of money as Hayami was.
“This is too much, Hayami, really, you didn’t have to do all of this,” Kana said embarrassedly. “If you’d asked us first-”
Kana trailed off as the waiter arrived, and Hiroshi looked sheepish as the woman placed his plate down in front of him.
“You’d have said no-hah! That’s why I didn’t ask, obviously.” Hayami said happily, waving her hand to ward off their embarrassment. “Hisoka wouldn’t have let me hear the end of it if we didn’t do something nice for Nanami’s birthday.”
I was pretty certain I’d never mentioned anything about it to her, but I was willing to take the blame, especially given how happy Nanami seemed as she smiled up at Hayami from across the table. Kana patted him on the shoulder gently, probably understanding that he hadn’t had much to do with it, and he turned to focus on his own plate.
“A birthday? I’m jealous.” The waiter said pleasantly as she was placing the glasses. “Oh my, how old are you today, miss?”
“Ten!” Nanami said smugly as if I were some kind of competition. “How old are you, miss?”
“I’m twenty-nine, sweetie.” The waiter said, laughing lightly.
“Wow, you’re old!” Nanami said, impressed.
“Nanami!” Kana said, flushing. “Don’t say that-I’m sorry-”
Hayami covered her mouth with her hand in a failed attempt to hide her amusement, and I watched curiously as Hiroshi failed to stifle his own laugh.
“That’s quite alright, Ma’am!” The waiter giggled. “Enjoy your special day, sweetie!”
“Thank you, miss!” Nanami said happily.
They spoke between mouthfuls of the expensive food, and Hiroshi eventually had to insist that he was going to eat all of Nanami’s birthday cake if she didn’t behave herself. Nanami looked shocked at the threat and complied with all the seriousness she could muster.
I was mostly sure it was just a ruse.
At some point during the dinner, I found myself distracted from the conversation by the large array of people sitting at another private table not too far behind Hayami’s chair. All of the ones seated there were interested in their own way.
The only thing they shared in common, however, was the expensive-looking business suits they were wearing, albeit they were in a range of dark colors, three women and four men, all shapes and sizes.
The three that I had the best view of stood out in very different ways.
The first was a tall man with exceptional sharp eyes; he was shaking his head with a bland smile on his face. The reason he stood out was that his skin was actually blue, which wasn’t something I had seen before, a lighter shade that could almost be described as gray, with two serrated fins sticking out of his elbows, and behind him, you could see where his suit allowed them through a custom hole sewn into the material there.
The other man I could see stood out purely because of his ridiculously bushy mustache and his noticeably short stature. While Saijin possessed a large, flamboyant-but neatly trimmed one, this man’s facial hair was wild and stuck out to both sides, covering most of the bottom of his face while ensuring that the expression of his mouth was truly unreadable. Despite sitting indoors and with-relatively low light, he was wearing a thick pair of sunglasses over his eyes.
The third person I had a good position to see was a woman with bright pink hair that reached all the way down below table level and out of sight. Her mouth was pulled into a permanent wide grin, with a series of sharp, perfectly interlocking teeth.
The reason I had even noticed them at all, considering how many people were inside the restaurant was that the man with the mustache kept on glancing over at us. He wasn’t particularly obvious about it, but I was positioned to look directly at their table, and I had grown quite adept at noticing surreptitious stares-so I couldn’t help but notice the attention. The blue-skinned man followed the shorter man’s gaze and caught my eye.
We stared at each other for a very long moment, and neither of us looked away.
“Hisoka?” Nanami said curiously, “Stop ignoring me, dummy!”
I broke eye contact with the narrow-eyed man and turned to face her.
“Sorry, Nanami,” I said quietly, “What did you say?”
Beach, Musutafu, 10:52 AM
March 13th, 2141.
“It feels like it’s been a decade since I’ve actually been to the beach,” Saijin said honestly, “I’d forgotten how much the proximity to so much sand improves my range- everything is so effortless down here.”
I nodded in agreement as Saijin waved his hand in an arc, and a wave of sand twisted up before solidifying. A single frame of a tidal wave looming high over a city of skyscrapers was left behind in his wake.
“Show off,” I said quietly.
“You’ll get there in a few years, buddy,” Saijin said reassuringly, allowing the scene to continue. “It’s just practice, honestly.”
The sand tsunami crashed down on the city, burying it in an instant, and nothing was left behind except a flat expanse of sand. I tried to copy the manipulation, and the wave was easy enough to recreate. However, most of the detail was missing due to the speed; the city scene was just a series of smooth rectangles.
Saijin snickered, and I let it fall back to nothing privately proud that I’d made the man laugh. He set about creating a series of increasingly complex objects, and I set about unsuccessfully mimicking them, my attempts growing worse the more advance he took his own creations.
We ended up having a pair of humanoids duking it out right there on the beach, one a perfect replicate of All Might and my own mannequin-like fighter. It was a battle that I quickly began losing as Saijin once again showed off his mastery.
“Are they usually this late?” Saijin asked after almost fifteen minutes had passed.
I let my badly damaged figure fall to the ground in defeat, as his own stood triumphantly over it, smiling widely.
“They have been late a couple of times,” I said honestly. “Not this late.”
“You got their number?” Saijin suggested.
I carefully spelled the memorized numbers out in the air, and Saijin tapped them into his phone before holding it up to his cheek.
“Voicemail,” Saijin said easily, “They are probably driving; I’ll try again in a couple of minutes.”
“Okay,” I agreed.
There was a beat of silence before Saijin spoke up.
“It’s like clockwork, huh?” Saijin said, bemused, leaning back on his hands. “All these holidays that she’s going on-Hayami seems happier, so I can’t really fault her.”
That was the agreement they had come to; Hayami wanted time to herself, and Saijin was willing to help out more to make it happen, and he had pulled back on his work hours to look after him when she went away. I couldn’t help but think that Saijin was more upset about the loss of work than he revealed; the man was something of a workaholic.
“If I was older, I could look after myself, and you wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from work.” I said quietly, “Sorry, Uncle-Saijin.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Hisoka.” Saijin patted me on the shoulder and shook his head, “I should have been around more after your parents died anyway. That’s on me, not you-You’re a kid, you don’t have anything to be sorry for.”
I didn’t know how to respond, so I stayed silent.
“Katashi was my brother too,” Saijin said firmly, “I shouldn’t have left taking care of you entirely up to Hayami; it was selfish of me-but I’m here now, buddy, and I don’t have plans of going anywhere, alright?”
“You’re not trying to get rid of me already, are you?” Saijin joked, elbowing him in the side.
“No, Uncle-Saijin,” I promised. “Sorry.”
Saijin laughed at the word.
“It’s like clockwork, huh?” Saijin smiled. “You don’t need to apologize so much, Hisoka.”
I paused for a beat and glanced up at him.
“Sorry, Uncle-Saijin,” I said seriously.
“Brat,” Saijin laughed before pulling his phone back out.
It had been a few minutes since the last attempt, but they still didn’t pick up. Saijin was frowning now; I wondered what they were doing.
“Maybe they forgot?” I suggested.
“They should be answering the phone if that was the case,” Saijin said, non-committal, trying to call them again. “Still nothing? Where do they live?”
I thought about it for a moment.
“They live right near the park closest to Hayami’s,” I said evenly and told him the name of the street.
“The car they drive-it’s that silver one, right?” Saijin said curiously, pushing himself to his feet.
I followed him up the beach towards the parking lot.
“Yes,” I said quietly, “I don’t know what type.”
“No worries,” Saijin said easily, before planting his hand on my head and mussing up my hair. “Let’s go see if they’re at home.”
Hayami’s Home, Musutafu, 7:08 PM
March 20th, 2141.
They hadn’t been at home, but their car was parked in the driveway.
The Kureta’s hadn’t answered either of their mobiles over the next three days, and Saijin told me that he spoke to the police about it. They were officially declared missing on the 17th of March, and an investigation into their whereabouts had started immediately.
I didn’t understand how big of a problem it was until I saw it mentioned on the news tonight. I had thought that maybe they’d gone on a small holiday, like Hayami frequently did, and had forgotten to tell anyone.
I’d spoke to Hayami on the phone; she was on her way back-cutting her trip short in the process. Saijin had sat down and talked to me about it at dinner, admitting that he had been keeping quiet about it until he had some news to share with him.
Nothing had been found, no camera’s showing them walking anywhere, no neighbors spotting them leaving the house, no bags packed, no notes, nothing. Hiroshi hadn’t gone to work since the 13th; Kana didn’t attend any of her usual gatherings and had missed a doctor’s appointment on the 14th, Nanami hadn’t been to school in a week.
They’d just vanished without a trace.
Nanami’s absence was noticed, and the news had already made its way through the school. I’d overheard several nasty comments about ‘the psychopath,’ having done something to her. It was the first time I’d found myself growing angry in a long time. It was building up inside me, no news about their whereabouts, more comments every day, the social exile, and no Nanami to talk to.
Instead of lashing out at someone, I went to Saijin instead, and our Muay Thai lessons became more frequent. An outlet that only resulted in sore legs and a beaten-up bag of sand was better than another incident at school; it didn’t make me any less angry; instead, it left me feeling tired and lost.
When Hayami finally returned, I’d cried again, and she had joined me.
School started up in April, and even after it had been almost an entire month since Nanami had vanished, nothing new had been learned about the situation.
My days were spent in silence, and the day I finally returned to school, I resorted to ignoring everyone around me except for the teachers. I’d started spending my nights looking up anything I could find about missing people, trying to figure out what had happened. There was a wealth of information on missing persons on the internet, and soon I found myself searching through it all.
Hayami was acting strangely, too, talking to me more frequently, asking how I was feeling at any given moment, asking me to spend more time with her doing things like watching movies or going to hobby groups. My practice sessions with Saijin increased in frequency again as well, and my best guess was that they were trying to distract me from the fact the Nanami was missing.
I’d learned some facts about both abductions and missing persons; more relevant was that in the last fifty years, there have been more and more of them occurring every year. The primary cause of missing persons was dementia in the elderly, and the second was custodial battles over children, where one of the parents illegally removed the child from the legal guardian somehow.
Neither of these seemed to fit the case for Nanami’s family.
The third most common reason for this was the reason for the increase in the overall rate every year: Quirk related abductions and human trafficking. It was also the most likely reason for Nanami’s disappearance. I brought it up to Saijin, and he’d assured me that it was the first thing they had looked into and that I should focus on my schoolwork.
I’d felt pretty silly for all of ten minutes before I realized that he had known the most likely reason for her disappearance already and had to keep it to himself-to spare my feeling, no doubt, but I didn’t appreciate being left in the dark. So I kept on looking into it on my own; at least then I would have some idea of what the professionals had actually been doing to find them.
Most of all, I missed Nanami.
Hayami’s Home, Musutafu, 3:42 PM
August 29th, 2141.
Hayami was bawling her eyes out when I returned home, and Saijin was seated at the kitchen table, hands resting against his forehead; he sat up when I entered the room.
“Hisoka,” Saijin said carefully, “I have some things to tell you about, and you aren’t going to enjoy them; come sit down.”
I could already feel a knot growing in my stomach at the tone, but I sat down beside him, studying his face. Saijin took a long moment to compose himself before he sighed.
“Five days ago, Hiroshi Kureta, the man you know as Nanami’s father, was found washed up on a beach several hours away from here in a small port city,” Saijin said gently, “They are still investigating, but it’s believed that he died several months ago, the cause of which was drowning.”
The knot tightened, and I had to force myself to unclench my hands to wipe at my eyes. I had several questions, but I was having trouble bringing myself to ask them. Saijin seemed to understand what I was thinking because he continued after a moment.
“The police and multiple heroes have been searching the area since, and on the 25th, they located the body of Kana Kureta; she was… in a similar state,” Saijin said carefully. “Nanami’s body has yet to be found despite the continued search… I’m sorry, Hisoka.”
I drew in a shaky breath and exhaled, thinking of the two adults I’d known for years and the idea that I wouldn’t ever get to hear their voices again, talk to them, or see them scold Nanami for bad manners.
They hadn’t found Nanami, which meant that it was possible that she was alive.
“How did they get there?” I asked quietly.
“We don’t know,” Saijin said gently, “There’s nothing to indicate they drove; there are no transactions on any of their accounts to say they bought anything on the way, no tickets for boats or any other form of transit.”
Hayami stepped into the room and wrapped her arms around me from behind, still crying quietly. I didn’t move, and I clenched my jaw to stop the stinging in my eyes from getting worse.
“It’s going to be okay, Hisoka….” Hayami mumbled, crying into his hair, “It’s going to be okay…”
“The search will continue for another week,” Saijin said quietly after almost a minute, “If Na-nothing else is found in that time, the team handling it will likely disassemble, the Kureta’s will be declared officially deceased, and the case will be closed.”
Hayami shuddered against my back, her hold on my shoulders tensing at the wording. I couldn’t help but notice that he’d refused to say her name, once again, his attempt to spare my feelings.
I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d heard in my entire life that I hated more than the idea of giving up on Nanami.
Park, Musutafu, 9:42 PM
September 8th, 2141.
Saijin’s prediction on the outcome of the investigation had been exact.
The investigation had continued for almost an entire week. A lot of it was publicized; footage, articles, and everything else in between-it was all seen on the news, the internet, and the radio.
Nanami wasn’t found.
The investigation had been brought to an abrupt finish; the news had been spreading the facts of the case to the masses for the past three days. The state of the bodies had been bad enough that they’d never reached the cemetery. Hayami had helped pay for the funeral out of her own pocket, and they’d attended. There had been a lot more people at the funeral than I had realized would be there; the Kureta’s were well-liked in the community. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen so many people crying at once.
I’d had my first real argument with Hayami that night as well.
I told her that she had made a mistake, and she hadn’t taken it very well, which in hindsight was the obvious conclusion given the stress of the situation. For the first time in a year, I’d completely failed to consider the consequences of my actions, and I’d made her cry again-something I hadn’t intended to do.
Seeing my Aunt crying hadn’t helped soothe the anger or quell the pain; it had only enhanced it by adding another layer of pressure on top of everything. So I ran away from the house on my own and, after dark, something that was most definitely against the rules.
I couldn’t find it in myself to care about that; I missed Nanami, and they’d given up on her, without any evidence to say that she was actually gone. I didn’t care that the situation led to the obvious conclusion that she had most likely drowned alongside them months ago.
Nobody knew that for sure, nobody had seen her body, and as far as I was concerned, she was still alive.
It was for that reason that I’d been so upset about there being three headstones instead of two.
The park was different now, drenched in the light of the moon and shadows twisting about in the breeze. The two swings swayed gently in the breeze, barely strong enough for the thick material to be nudged around.
I lifted my hand up to hang in front of me before a swirl of tiny particles washed into existence, spiraling upwards. I could have drawn from the ample sand that cushioned the ground; instead, I used my quirk to bring it to life.
I pushed everything aside and put my mind to the task, even as the world fell away.
The sand spilled over the edges of my hand and drew itself into the shape I’d envisioned, piece by piece. I had to focus hard on some of the details and redo others several times before I was satisfied, pulling it from memory and the pattern I was slowly burning into my mind through sheer repetition.
After a time that could have been an instant or an age, a statue of Nanami stood before me. It wasn’t a perfect replication, and there were pieces of her that were definitely wrong-I should have brought the picture with me.
I would next time.
“You’ve been practicing a lot,” Saijin said evenly. “This is much better than last time.”
I glanced back to find him leaning against the legs holding the swingset up, having appeared sometime during my period of hyperfocus.
“It’s still not right,” I said quietly, “I messed up the spacing of her face again.”
Saijin moved to sit on the swing next to me, a tight fit for such a large man, but he managed it. We sat in silence for several minutes as I attempted to fix the mistakes, and he made a few suggestions on how to improve it.
“Hayami is worried about you,” Saijin said seriously, after another period of silence.
“I know,” I said quietly, thinking of the three headstones. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Nobody is perfect, Hisoka,” Saijin said firmly, “You’re still just a kid, and you’re going to make a lot more mistakes as you get older.”
“Did you?” I said quietly.
Saijin always seemed like he had everything under control, and if he ever made a mistake or doubted himself, I’d never seen it.
“Absolutely,” Saijin said immediately, “I’ve made so many mistakes over the years, and trust me, I ran away from home a bunch of times when I was a kid-I was a fair bit older than you are now, though, I’ll admit.”
I glanced over at him; he didn’t seem at all upset to admit it.
“Want to know a secret, Hisoka?” Saijin said, smiling faintly.
I certainly wasn’t going to say no to a question like that.
“Yes,” I said quietly.
“Hayami, me and your dad, we grew up out in the sticks, and it took a bit before we manage to acclimate to the city after we finally moved-this was back when we were in our teens,” Saijin said distractedly, “First day of big-city high school, Hayami gets into a massive fight with an older girl, I can’t remember her name now, it was two decades ago at least, I can’t even remember what it was about.”
I’d never heard any stories about my parents at school or my Aunt and Uncle, for that matter.
“Anyway, Hayami got suspended, and everything ended up getting an earful from mum and dad over it,” Saijin snickered, “Your dad thought it was hilarious at the time, so did I; we were always trying to one-up each other, or get each other into trouble.”
I had some vague memories of my parents, from what I could remember and what I’d heard from others since they were very kind and responsible. Hearing that they were actually once just as silly as the kids at school was interesting.
“Anyway, Hayami flipped her lid,” Saijin grinned, “Screamed at them both, locked herself in her room and refused to come out.”
I blinked, trying to imagine Hayami doing anything like that and failing.
“Dad sent us up to get her for dinner,” Saijin laughed, unable to help himself. “Low and behold, Hayami didn’t answer the door, and when we finally got into the room-”
Saijin paused and grinned down at me with an eyebrow raised in expectation.
“Hayami had run away?” I said, surprised.
“It’s like clockwork, huh?” Saijin smiled, “Don’t beat yourself up over it too much; Hayami will be mad for a bit, you two will hug it out. Trust me-everything will be back to normal in a couple of days.”
I paid close attention to the words he was using. The idea that Hayami wouldn’t be mad at me forever was a reassuring one, but the notion that everything would be back to normal was a thinly veiled deception, once again crafted to spare my feelings.
I seemed to be discovering these moments with increasing frequency.
“I’m going to ask you to promise me something again,” Saijin said seriously, “Okay?”
I nodded carefully, studying his face.
“A lot has happened these past few months, and I know it can feel overwhelming; trust me, I know.” Saijin said gently, “So I want you to do your best to put all of the bad stuff that’s happened out of your mind for a little while and focus on school. Can you do that for me?”
It wasn’t a difficult promise to fulfill, and I’d accepted many of others just like it from Saijin over the years; Put all the bad stuff out of my mind, and everything would return to normal.
It sounded like good advice, except Nanami was still gone, her parents were still dead, and three empty coffins lay in the cemetery.
“Yes, Uncle-Saijin,” I promised.
I watched him carefully, but he just smiled and patted me on the head. The world didn’t end, and I wouldn’t realize it until years later, consciously at least, but this was one of the most defining moments of my life.
It was the first lie I could remember telling, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.
My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.
I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.