Volume 1: Two on the Run
Beyond the Door
What should I say to the students who are crying, looking down in frustration?
Kendo national highschool competition, prefectural tournament finals. In front of the students who lost by the narrowest of margins, I simply said, “Well done. You came in second in the prefectural tournament. You did your best.” That’s all I could say.
The students, however, were devastated by their defeat in a match in which they only needed to win one more game to qualify for the national tournament.
Unfortunately, none of the teachers at our school had any experience in kendo, so I was asked by the principal to be the advisor. The only reason was that my family ran an old Iaido dojo. That was it.
The principal probably chose me because of the same swordsmanship, but unfortunately, I had never learned Kendo, although I was an Iaido practitioner. There were some experienced Kendo practitioners and rank holders who learned Iaido, but it was a completely different thing from Kendo, and I did not have any skills to teach the students.
Since the time I became the advisor, the second and third year students were very resentful of my inability to teach them anything. I knew that the previous teacher, who left last year, had led the school to many national tournaments and was adored by the students like a charismatic figure. Even though I knew that my predecessor had been a Kendo expert, comparing me to him was a bit of a stretch.
Nevertheless, the groundwork I learned from my predecessor and my participation in the “Kenshukai”, a group of local volunteer Kendoists that gathered about two days a week, probably contributed to our second-place ranking in the prefectural team tournament.
Although the team finished second overall in the team competition, the captain of the team, Kyohei Domoto, had won the individual competition the day before, and had earned a ticket to the national tournament.
Unfortunately, the women’s team did not have enough players to participate in the team competition, but one third-year student, Kimishima, did participate in the individual competition at the prefectural tournament. She lost in the quarterfinals, but I think it was a fine achievement.
“Although the team competition ended in a loss, Domoto still has the national tournament ahead of him, so I don’t want to impose on you, but I would like you to practice with Domoto. Okay?”
As for me, in a situation like this, I wanted the students to look forward again by following Domoto, who was the only one who made it to the national tournament, together with everyone else…
“Tsk…, you don’t know anything about Kendo…”
Kohinata, who was the spearhead of the third-year team competition, blurted out. Of all the second and third year club members who had known the previous advisor, Kohinata was particularly hostile toward me.
When I became the advisor, I tried to show up at the school’s martial arts hall to do something, even though I didn’t know Kendo, but Kohinata didn’t seem to particularly like that and turned hostile toward me at every opportunity.
As for me, I didn’t know why he didn’t like me that much, but that didn’t mean I could quit being an advisor. I just had to continue to be the adult.
“Yes, it’s true I don’t know anything about Kendo, but I do know that you guys have been working hard.”
“Don’t be so frivolous!”
… These guys are feeling pretty down after losing the match. Should I leave them alone for now?
“Anyway, it’s time for the closing ceremony, and second place is a good enough result. Show up with your heads held high.”
I managed to get the students to go to the closing ceremony.
This was the spectator seating on the second floor of the gymnasium used for the tournament. Most of the highschool athletes had their own places on the second floor, where they would change clothes, etc. Looking down, I saw that preparations for the closing ceremony had already begun on the first floor of the gymnasium.
The five members of the men’s team and one of the women who competed in the individual competitions lined up for the closing ceremony. I told the other members of the club to stay there and watch the closing ceremony. As an advisor, I had to attend the closing ceremony, too.
“Hey, first year! I left my fencing bag in the lounge; can you go and get it for me?”
Sato, who was the vice captain of the third-year team, called out to a first-year student in a jersey sitting in the spectator’s section as he was leaving the hall. Nishina, who was standing nearby, replied, “Yes, I’ll go.” followed him.
The door behind the spectator seating was supposed to lead out into the hallway and down a flight of stairs that would take them immediately to the venue.
Domoto pulled open the heavy iron door and walked out. The other students followed. I followed them through the door and out into the hallway.
I walked a few steps past the door and bumped into the student in front of me. I had been thinking a bit about the reactions of the students earlier, and I hurriedly apologized to Nishina, who was walking in front of me.
“… Huh? What is it? Where…”
I apologize to Nishina in front of me, but I suddenly feel something strange about my surroundings, “Where are we?”. Nishina did not answer my question. Nishina was still a first-year student in my homeroom class. And since he didn’t know the previous advisor, he treated me, an amateur, in a normal manner., but… I felt a sense of discomfort and looked around.
It should have been the hallway of the gymnasium where the matches were held, but it was surrounded by craggy rocks and seemed like the inside of a … cave. When I turned around, I couldn’t even see the door we were supposed to come in through. Domoto, who had entered earlier, was looking around in confusion.
“Sensei … what is this place?”
Nishina, who was in front of me, asked me in a slightly frightened manner. Naturally, I couldn’t answer that question myself.
It seemed to be a dimly lit cave, but there was a certain amount of light. There was a man-made structure in front of us that looked like an altar made of stone, and the light seemed to be leaking through a round hole in the ceiling about …20-30m high above the altar. The sun was just above us, and it was illuminating the altar’s side in a single beam of light, like a laser.
“Where are we?”
“Huh? We’re in the hallway of the gym, right?”
“There’s no door! What are you talking about!”
The students were just as confused as I was. I didn’t know what was going on, but now, as the leader, I had to deal with their anxiety.
“What is this?” noted Domoto, who wandered off and walked toward the altar-like structure.
“Domoto! Don’t touch it unnecessarily!”
The moment Domoto approached the altar, light from the ceiling came completely directly overhead, and a bunch of light shone straight down from above to perfectly match the shape of the altar.
At that moment. The altar also emitted a dazzling light as if it was responding to the illumination, brightly shining over the entire cave. In the dazzling light, I felt something unidentifiable flowing into my body.
Then that power overflowed, and a shock ran through my body that made me feel like I was going to explode.
… I lost consciousness straight away.