Volume 9, Chapter 2-1: Mantan Connection

Winter Break 201X Week 1 Day 1

I blinked, finding myself in bed. Crap, what date was it this time? I grabbed my phone. Mid-December? Winter break, right? It was weird to think about, but I couldn’t remember, despite being a senior in high school only a year ago.

“Hello,” I answered, seeing Chihiro’s name pop up on my phone.

“Yuki, it’s winter break, but we still have school! We have a makeup day, I’m so sad. Don’t forget!” Chihiro reminded me.

“Oh s***,” I muttered, checking the time.

I hurried downstairs, noticing Ichizen at the dining table. At this point, I wasn’t fazed anymore. It was still nice to see him again even if he wasn’t real.

“Morning, Yuki. You almost forgot we have class today. Come on, when did you become so forgetful?” Ichizen teased, laughing at me.

“As long as I’m not you, I’ll be fine. Let’s get going, we’ll be late!” I said, dragging him to the front door.

“Yuki! Don’t bully him so much!” Mom called out.

I breathed a sigh of relief, arriving at first period with five minutes to spare. The teacher still wasn’t here. I wonder how long this experience would last. These were actually quite interesting, much better than mind dives, since I could participate in them.

“Yuki, you’re almost late. What did Ichizen do this time?” Chihiro asked, glaring at Ichizen.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that. Yuki was the one who woke up late. I made sure not to play games past midnight,” Ichizen replied.

“Oh, I’m impressed,” Chihiro remarked.

“Please, it’s not that big of a deal. Anything for Yuki so she doesn’t yell at me,” Ichizen said with a large smile, looking over at me.

“What? Oh sure,” I said.

This was becoming too surreal. Part of it was based off my memories, but where did the other stuff originate from? Emily mentioned my grimoire as a possible source. It really bothered me now. Whatever, might as well just enjoy it.

Everyone fell silent as our substitute entered. He wore a rumpled suit, no tie, and a thick pair of glasses. His dress pants were disheveled, full of creases, not ironed in months. He looked around the classroom, sighing.

“You’re probably expecting…. I don’t remember his name. Call me Old Stone. I’m the sub, because your teacher is probably lazy, wanting to start break early. In fact, I got dragged in here, because they threatened to not pay me, unless I did this. If you like gossiping and other crap, I teach at Mantan High usually,” the substitute introduced himself.

Mantan, huh? Zhuyu’s doppelganger attended that school. It couldn’t be coincidence. What the hell was going on?

“Um, Mr. Stone, the file cabinet is where our teacher usually gets his stuff,” a girl in class informed him with a wavering voice.

“Kid, just relax. You don’t have to be that scared. Damn twins forcing me to do this crap,” the sub muttered.

He bent down, pulling on the cabinet door. He muttered underneath his breath, pulling out a switchblade. He jammed his blade into the keyhole, fiddling it around for a few seconds. There was a click and the teacher yanked open the door.

“That is awesome!” Ichizen said.

“I really don’t think he should be doing that,” Yuka disagreed.

“Do you see how he didn’t even care? So cool. I wish he was our regular teacher,” Ichizen continued praising him.

“It’s certainly…. not normal,” Chihiro remarked.

Mr. Stone certainly did not, well, give a s***. He rifled through the papers, discovering a pile of worksheets. The man then went over to the board.

“Whiteboard?” Old Stone tapped the writing surface, grabbing a marker.

I guess he expected a blackboard, considering the chalk stains on his pants and suit. Old Stone appeared disgusted with the marker, but wrote down our class assignment. He certainly was an interesting substitute teacher.

“Pass them around. If you have any questions, just ask. I probably can’t help, but you never know. Problems are up here. Turn them in by the end of class,” Old Stone directed, glancing at his watch.

“Mr. Stone, I really want to see you use that knife again,” Ichizen shouted.

“You’re bothering everyone around you. That girl next to you looks really angry. Stop talking and we’ll all be fine,” Old Stone refused, taking out an attendance sheet from his breast pocket.

He unfolded it, the piece of paper wrinkled up, as if it had been balled up and unwrapped multiple times. He slammed it down onto a nearby student’s desk.

“I rather not waste time calling out names. Pass it around and check off your name. Cover for your friend, I don’t really care. I just need to turn this in, not my problem if they aren’t here,” Old Stone instructed.

Damn, this guy really did not care. How did he even become a teacher? I was surprised he hadn’t been fired yet. Then again, he carried a knife around with him.

“Mr. Stone, may I have….,” Ichizen started his sentence.

Old Stone glared at him, scary enough to shut him up. Impressive, teacher. This guy wasn’t so bad after all.

“Yuki, you know how to do any of this?” Chihiro asked, glancing at the worksheet.

“I haven’t looked yet. Isn’t it just review?” I replied, passing the worksheet over to Ichizen.

“Maybe. It looks kind of hard,” Chihiro said, staring at the paper with a hopeless expression.

“I’ll be making corrections to some problems,” Old Stone added, writing them up on the board.

Wait, what class was this again? I checked the worksheet, seeing passages everywhere. History class, of course. A bunch of reading like always. Some of the passages were faded, hard to read. I flipped it over, seeing an entire page of questions pertaining to the material covered.

“Isn’t this a lot more than usual?” Chihiro scanned through the questions.

Wait, some of these questions covered material not even on here. Were we missing something? Old Stone also looked at the worksheet, no longer writing on the board. He returned to the cabinet, glancing through the material.

“Your teacher is terrible at organizing things. He left the other three pages down here,” Old Stone critiqued.

“Yuki, you should get started. We don’t have much time left,” Yuka said.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I nodded.

When class finally ended, I finished everything except one question. It involved writing a short five paragraph mini essay. I only managed three, but didn’t care. Surprisingly, Ichizen completed all of it, five minutes still remaining in class. He was good at that sort of stuff, or he just wrote down a bunch of random thing, hoping for points.

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“Thanks for your time today. Half of you hate me which is great. I hope to never see you again, since that means my pay is getting withheld. But if I do, don’t feel too bad, there are worse subs out there,” Old Stone concluded, collecting all of our worksheets.

“Mr. Stone, here you are. You missed some,” our class representative said.

“Thanks,” Old Stone nodded, throwing all the papers into his briefcase.

The bell rang, signaling the end of first period, and the next teacher came in. Old Stone stuck a cigarette in his mouth, passing by the other teacher. Our second period teacher glanced at him, shock and horror on his face.

“Morning, I’m Old Stone from Mantan. I was filling in for what’s his name, doesn’t really matter. I’ll let you get to your class, don’t want to disappoint those kids now, right?” Old Stone greeted the other teacher.

“Uh…. I’m….,” our second period teacher began.

“Don’t waste your breath. They’re waiting. I have to get going, gotta deliver these worksheets,” Old Stone cut him off, cigarette still hanging from his mouth.

Ichizen’s face lit up with obvious admiration. He stared over at me and I sighed. Damn, what a morning. Old Stone had balls, or just didn’t care. The latter seemed more likely.

“That was an utter disgrace to the teachers of our school. Never ever look up to that man as an example. He was unkempt, rude, and most of all dispassionate. Now, myself….,” our second period teacher rambled on, before officially starting class.

He repeated the same five things. In the end, he tired us out, rather than actually educate us on anything. When lunchtime finally came around, I rejoiced. I walked toward the lunchroom, but Chihiro stopped me.

“Yuki, did you forget? We’re going out for lunch today,” Chihiro reminded.

“Huh, oh, where are we going again?” I asked.

“To the sandwich place. Ichizen really loves it there,” Chihiro replied.

Sandwich place? S***, that was new, didn’t exist in my memories. Might as well see what kind of surprises were in store for me.

“I’m so excited. We have an hour lunch today, so there’s plenty of time!” Ichizen pumped his fist in the air.

“Yeah, yeah, just don’t get too excited. You’ll trip on your way there,” I warned him.

We walked for ten minutes, finally arriving at our destination. The establishment was much more refined than I expected. I seriously thought it might be a food truck, but it was an actual restaurant, filled with tables and waiters. I noticed four people seated in the front. One was the tennis captain, Kanshou, I think? The other was Meshino, the Ichaival look-alike, except he was much rounder and not as fit. As for the other two, I recognized their faces, but didn’t know them. At least not in this world. Could I even call it world? More like fabricated reality. There they were, doppelgangers of Kisai and Kuan. Ichizen selected a table near them, allowing me to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“Nakadachi, are you serious?” Meshino said.

“It’s easy. Just, you know,” Nakadachi replied.

I turned my head around, pretending to survey the restaurant. Nakadachi was the Kisai of this reality. Kanshou, the tennis captain, sat back in amusement, observing the banter between Meshino and Nakadachi.

“These are pretty good sandwiches. Of course Nex recommended it,” Kuan remarked, taking a bite of his food.

“Hey, what’s that mean?” Meshino asked, shaking his head.

“Come on, we all know you love food. That’s how we bribe you,” Kuan answered.

“F*** you, Hako. Hey, Seiji, pass me the menu,” Meshino insulted his friend.

“Here you go. Too bad Ryuu and Itsuki couldn’t join us,” Kanshou obliged his friend.

“He wouldn’t want to. How are you and Mikoto?” Nakadachi asked, giving a sly smile.

“I told you, man, nothing’s going on,” Kanshou denied.

“I’ve been your friend since we were four. I know when something is going on. Right, Nex?” Nakadachi solicited his friend’s opinion.

“Mm, yeah…. whatever he said,” Meshino said, taking multiple bites of his sandwich.

“Nex agrees,” Nakadachi said.

“That doesn’t even count. Look, Mikoto’s our manager, and that’s it. Nakadachi, don’t you have a swim meet later this week?” Kanshou shifted the topic of conversation.

“It’s cool, I don’t have to worry about it. Besides, I have to practice for my chess game before that,” Nakadachi responded, a nonchalant attitude in his voice.

“Of course you’re able to do that, you’re f****** Nakadachi. The “King of B*******”. There’s nothing you can’t do,” Meshino declared.

“Nakadachi is pretty lazy, you’re right about that, except he finishes everything on time. I’ve been his friend for so long and I still can’t believe it,” Kanshou agreed, nodding his head.

They stopped talking, eating their food. Ichizen stared at the menu for a long time, staring at all the pictures. His sandwich fetish ran really deep.

“What do you think I should get, Chihiro?” Ichizen asked, glancing over at her.

“Why are you asking me? Go ask Yuki,” Chihiro replied, peering at the menu as well.

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“Why are you so mean to me today? Did you not have a good breakfast or something? You know, the best thing you can have….,” Ichizen started.

“Just stop. Yuki, are you okay? You’ve been looking around a lot,” Chihiro noticed.

“Oh, nothing. Just admiring the interior. It’s my first time in here, so I just wanted to see everything,” I lied.

“Right,” Chihiro said, giving me a knowing look.

“Ichizen, you have my back on this one, right? The inside is pretty nice,” I said.

“Of course. I’ve been to a lot of different sandwich places, but this one is by far the best. You see….,” Ichizen launched into a long explanation.

“I get it. Yuki, you decided on anything yet?” Chihiro placed her menu down.

“I’m not sure yet. Probably will just go with the five ham and cheese,” I replied.

“It’s a tough decision. I was debating between….,” Chihiro said, but I ignored her, in favor of more eavesdropping.

Kanshou stood up, walking toward the bathroom. Meshino stared at his friend’s food and Nakadachi laughed.

“Damn, Nex, how desperate can you be?” Nakadachi finally blurted out, still laughing in small spurts.

“What? Hey, don’t assume things. I should have ordered Seiji’s sandwich, looks more appetizing,” Meshino denied.

“Looked like you wanted to grab it,” Hako pointed out.

“F*** you guys,” Meshino sighed, shaking his head.

“Of course you weren’t. Nakadachi, are we playing tonight?” Hako asked.

“Let’s do it. Nex, you’re in too, right?” Nakadachi replied.

“I’ll try, but I might have things to do,” Meshino answered.

“You have nothing to do. I’m your roommate, I would know,” Hako said.

“You don’t know that. I might head out somewhere, you know, and do stuff,” Meshino countered.

“Come on, lighten up on Sueo already. Let him do what he wants,” Kanshou advised.

“Seiji, you really believe he’s going to do something?” Hako questioned.

“It doesn’t matter what I think. What’s important is Sueo might actually have plans, so be nicer to him,” the tennis captain replied.

“Always the nice one around, huh? Nakadachi, what time you want to play?” Hako asked.

“Probably seven or eight. Just tell me,” Nakadachi answered.

The four exited as the waiter approached our table. Ichizen went all out, ordering sandwiches to go, and their special for the day. He left for the bathroom soon after.

“Yuki, who caught your eye?” Chihiro asked, staring straight at me.

“Huh?” I responded.

“I saw you looking at those four. Don’t give me that excuse you were checking out the restaurant again,” Chihiro clarified.

“I wasn’t checking them out. They were talking about something interesting,” I denied.

“Come on Yuki, don’t give me that. You didn’t even pay attention to what we were saying. Do you really expect me to believe that?” Chihiro saw right through me.

“I was just seriously listening to them talk,” I repeated.

“That guy, the one with the brilliant smile, was dazzling. He’s the tennis captain for Mantan, right? I saw him in the newspaper,” Chihiro remarked.

“Seems like he’s pretty popular,” I nodded.

“Of course, he’s good at sports, and has a nice face. Almost too perfect,” Chihiro pointed out.

“What is?” Ichizen returned, carrying two bags.

“How much did you even buy?” I stared at the bags which looked heavy.

“About twenty sandwiches and other stuff. It’s for snacks and when I need to study,” Ichizen answered.

“You eat sandwiches as snacks?” Chihiro questioned, shock on her face.

“Yeah, sandwiches are a great snack. Slice it in half and eat it before studying. You have to try it out, Chihiro!” Ichizen urged, placing the bags down.

“You need help, Ichizen,” Chihiro said.

“It’s a great thing to love, like a fine art. You appreciate it like wine,” Ichizen compared.

“Okay, I’m done talking to you, Ichizen. I’m just going to eat my food,” Chihiro ignored him.

“Hey, you never answered my question!” Ichizen realized.

“Yuki and I were talking about those boys near us,” Chihiro informed him with a mischievous smile.

“Eh, doesn’t matter to me. Thought it was something cool like discounts, or a new sandwich coming out,” Ichizen showed disinterest.

“How can you not care? It’s about Yuki, you know,” Chihiro protested.

Before he could answer, the waiter placed our food down on the table. Ichizen said nothing, devoting all his attention to the sandwiches. When I bit into mine, it was really good. The bread meshed well with the meat, creating a delicious taste. Ichizen really knew his stuff.

“Oh, this is good. Ichizen, you did a good job,” Chihiro praised him.

Ichizen did not respond, staring at the sandwich, as if it were a deity. His motions resembled that of a villager or farmer worshiping the skies for good fortune. This was really ridiculous, even by his standards. I would let him have his fun, not like it did anyone harm.

We finished our food, heading back to class. I saw police cars out in front. What happened during our absence? Teachers and students were gathered outside, trying to keep warm. Our normal security guards were nowhere to be seen.

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- my thoughts:
Curious about these Mantan fellows? Find out more at: https://lanterndragonworks.wordpress.com/other-projects/a-dragons-revolt/
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