Chapter Two: Hero and Villain

“The funds will be used to build water supply lines for the following communities.” Mashiro pointed at several locations on the digital map displayed on the glass tabletop. “The incessant drought over the past decade dried up most of the natural water sources used by the locals.” With precise movements, she ran her finger along a major river and indicated several veins spanning across a large African land area. “It is of utmost importance that we finish the construction before the situation gets any worse. Your timely donation will save thousands of lives, Mr. Thompson.”

Jerry Thompson, a fat American with an even fatter wallet, raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just move these people out of that god forsaken place? If they migrate to more industrialized areas, they’ll have more than enough water.”

The bright lights in Thompson’s penthouse office reflected off his balding head, causing Mashiro to blink out of reflex. She shifted slightly in her seat on the black leather sofa while keeping her legs crossed. Next to her, Thompson repeatedly tapped his right foot against a leg of the coffee table that doubled as their touchscreen monitor.

Mashiro shook her head. “Resettling is impossible right now. The nearest cities don’t have the leeway to support this many people. Housing and food we can provide, at least in the short term, but without proper employment, these people will only become a burden to the city population. Worst case scenario, some may turn to crime to meet their daily needs. Moreover, once acclimated to city life, they’ll refuse to be relocated back to more rural locations. At least in their current communities, they have agricultural and livestock industries to sustain them. The real issue is the lack of water needed for those to function.”

“Isn’t that their problem?” Thompson flicked his maroon tie away from his bulging belly, as if it were dirtied by the topic. “It’s their fault they can’t work. In this day and age, only lazy or incompetent people don’t have a proper job.”

Mashiro was tempted to give his balding forehead a slap. She hated that mindset. It was the very thing she wished to change. People enjoying life atop the spires of power and affluence could not see how much people at the bottom suffer.

“They do have work, Mr. Thompson. It’s just not the type of work you’d find in cities. If it weren’t for the rivers drying up, they’d be able to live without assistance, just like they have for hundreds of years.”

“That so?” said Thompson with utter disinterest.

Guess I have to take a different approach.

“Many think that humanitarian aid has fallen out of style in the past few decades, but as an investor, that is a blind spot you can exploit.”

“Oh?” Genuine interest dawned on Thompson’s face.

“Aren’t you Jerry Thompson, the piping industry magnate?”

“Yes. And?”

Mashiro showed a subtle smile. “Beyond just providing funding, this is an opportunity to showcase the expertise that only your company can bring. Any infrastructure business can hand out portfolios of old city projects, but almost none have done a project of this magnitude so far from existing pipeline systems. Successfully completing a project like this will serve as a testament to the quality of your products and services. Excellent advertisement, and a chance to break into an untapped market. African development projects are mostly done by local contractors because of budget constraints, but after seeing the difference in speed and quality with their own eyes, most clients would definitely choose your company despite a slightly higher overall cost.”

“Using charity as an excuse to advertise?” Thompson cracked up. “That’s crazy enough to work…”

“Then you’ll provide the funding and the people?” Mashiro failed to stop a little excitement from leaking into her voice.

“…Still, this a lot of money we’re talking about. It won’t break my bank, but it’s not an amount I’d typically spend without a concrete return. The advertising idea is interesting, but a gamble at best.”

I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Mashiro looked down and placed a hand on her chin, desperately thinking of another way to convince Thompson. She unconsciously switched her crossed legs, a habit of hers when in deep thought. Her unusually short pencil skirt allowed Thompson to take a good look at her tanned thighs as she did so. Upon raising her eyes, she noticed Thompson’s gaze roll up her legs and waist. His eyes eventually landed on her bare shoulders, exposed by her sleeveless white shirt. Feeling vulnerable without her jacket, she crossed her arms in front of her chest, squeezing her skinny black tie underneath.

A certain kind of excitement sparked within Thompson’s eyes, causing a shiver to run down her spine.

“I’m willing to consider it,” he said, “if you add a few bonuses to the deal.”

“…Bonuses?”

“A freebie, if you will. Off the record, of course.” He slithered across the couch, inching towards Mashiro. His arm reached around her back and loomed over her bronze shoulder.

Before he could graze her skin, Mashiro interrupted. “I’m a little dense when it comes to these things, so do you mind if I clarify what the ask is?” She resisted the urge to scuttle away upon feeling his balmy breath on her neck.

“How coy. I like that. You wore that outfit with this in mind, right?” He licked her with his eyes, from her shapely breasts to her glossy legs. “The support you’re requesting is a bit steep, but this body just might be worth it.”

“Just to be clear,” she said in a business-like tone, “you want me to service you sexually in exchange for your support in the water supply project, is that correct?”

“Yes, yes.” Thompson wet his lips, as if preparing for a meal. “I like that cold tone too. Kinda mechanical, but what can I say? I’m a man of many tastes.” He dug his fingers into her shoulder, trembling slightly as he savored her flesh.

“Um, you’re touching me.”

“Huh? Well of course I am. I can’t get enough of this tan. Tanning salons have come a long way.” Thompson’s lips approached her neck as his left hand crawled towards her thigh.

But his advance ended there.

Mashiro dangled a small round device the size of a penny in front of his face. “Know what this is?”

“Eh?” Thompson squinted to get a better look. His face flashed surprise and then anger.

He swung his hand to grab it, but Mashiro nimbly avoided his attempt and stood from the sofa. Losing balance from missing his target, Thompson tumbled to the floor. He scrambled to his feet as fast as he could, only to see Mashiro staring at him with a disgusted frown.

“I’m sure you already get it, but everything you just said is recorded in here.” Mashiro waved the small receiver to and fro.

Her terminal would have done the job, but a specialized recording device had much better range and clarity. It was a must for situations like this.

Thompson panted, his face a mess of furious folds. “…What do you want, Oogi?”

“What I said from the beginning. Your support.”

“And this is how you plan to get it? Blackmail? I’ll have you know this is illegal. You can’t force me to do anything.”

Mashiro shook her head. “I don’t do that sort of thing. This recording doesn’t have anything to do with the pipeline project. I’m just going to hand it over to the proper authorities, oh, and maybe your wife. I’m sure they can confirm its authenticity easily enough.”

“Wait! I get it, I get it! I’ll give you the money and workers for the project!”

“Screw that. I can’t trust someone like you.”

“I said wait, okay!? I can’t have that kind of thing going around! My family can’t find out! My daughter will never meet me again! I beg you!” He fell to his knees, tears in his eyes.

Mashiro stared at him in silence before heaving an enormous sigh. “Okay. I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll give you this recording if you make a gesture to show you won’t do something like this again.” She handed him a slip of paper. “You can make a generous gift for the amount we discussed to this NPO donation account. It’s a public organization account, so trying to back out on this transfer will make noise, a lot of noise, get it? It’d better for us both if we don’t contact each other from now on, so I’ll decline your offer for workers. You don’t deserve the popularity in the unlikely case my advertising idea does work. The money is enough.” Mashiro closed her eyes for a moment. “On second thought, add twenty percent more to the total. Better filtering facilities couldn’t hurt.”

“That wasn’t the deal!”

Without a word, Mashiro headed for the door.

“Okay! Okay!!! I’ll do it! I promise!”

“Here you go.” She tossed the listening device to Thompson. “I cut the recording right after you touched me.”

Thompson frantically caught the device, sweat dripping down his face. “Eh, you’re just giving it to me..?”

“Why not? Just don’t forget to do as you promised. And the extra twenty percent.”

Mashiro opened the penthouse door. Outside was Makoto along with two of Thompson’s personal escorts.

Laughter spilled out of the corners of Thompson’s mouth. “You dumb little bitch. Now that I have this, I can just get rid of you! You seriously think I’ll just let you walk out of here?” Thompson thrust his finger out. “Seize them!”

Thompson’s escorts bore down on them from both sides.

“Your turn,” said Mashiro.

Makoto cracked his neck with a tilt. “I was getting tired of waiting.”

Before the guard on the right could reach him, Makoto threw his right hand out, fingers open. His middle finger slid upwards the man’s forehead, guiding his index and ring fingers directly into the man’s eyes. Without looking, Makoto thrust his left elbow backward, hitting the other guard about to grab him from behind. His elbow sank into the guard’s solar plexus, causing the enemy to double over.

Ignoring the guard kneeling behind him, Makoto focused on the one in front. He launched two strikes, each targeting a pressure point in the enemy’s neck, incapacitating him. Makoto briskly turned around and delivered a vertical karate chop to the other guard’s nape, smashing his face to the carpet.

“Hey, is he gonna be okay?” asked Mashiro, genuinely worried.

“It’s just a love tap. He’ll be fine.” Makoto continued in a whisper. “…After a few weeks in the hospital.”

“I heard that.”

He clicked his tongue.

Mashiro was very familiar with Makoto’s skills. She had watched him practice his Ryukyu kenpo since their early childhood. Two unarmed guards were no threat to him.

At the sight of his subordinates’ prompt defeat, Thompson scrambled back to his desk to call for backup.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Mashiro held up her mobile and played a recording.

Familiar voices, albeit slightly tinny, flowed out of the device’s speakers.

[“Just to be clear, you want me to service you sexually in exchange for your support in the water supply project, is that correct?”

“Yes, yes. I like that cold tone too. Kinda mechanical, but what can I say? I’m a man of many tastes.”

“Uhm, you’re touching me.”

“Huh? Well of course I am. I can’t get enough of this tan. Tanning salons have come a long way.”]

Mashiro pressed the pause button. His jaw hanging loosely, Thompson looked back and forth between the tiny receiver in his hand and Mashiro’s mobile.

A mobile terminal could indeed do the job of a receiver. Thus, it was the perfect backup.

She theatrically pointed at her mobile screen with her other hand. “With one press, I can spread this all over the internet and also inform the proper authorities. What’s your favorite social media site?”

Thompson finally understood what was happening and slumped into his office chair.

“I decided to trust you earlier, but you betrayed me. If you don’t want me to press this button, transfer the agreed amount, right here, right now.”

With both Mashiro and Makoto on watch, Thompson begrudgingly accessed his personal savings using his desk terminal and transferred the funds.

Mashiro had a hard time understanding people who were so attached to money. Based on his account details, he could easily afford the donation. If only he had done so from the beginning, things would not have taken such an annoying turn.

“Thank you for supporting this project.” Mashiro shook Thompson’s hand, which hung limply from his shoulder. “I’m sure your money will save many lives.” She grabbed her jacket from the rack and put it on. “Please don’t try to stop us on our way out. I can easily send out our little conversation anytime. Don’t worry. I’ll delete it after we get out.”

“…How can I trust you?”

“I’m one of the good guys. At least I try to be.” Mashiro walked out of the room, Makoto whistling beside her. “And for your information, my tan is completely natural.” She shut the door with a thud.

As requested, no one spared them a look as they left the building. They boarded the backseat of a black SUV. The vehicle promptly drove off and exited the basement parking area. Mashiro leaned on Makoto’s shoulder with a sigh.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Just a little tired. I hate this kind of thing. Onsite work was more enjoyable, even with the insects and diarrhea.”

“Then you should’ve stuck with that. Most rich kids do that kinda thing, right? Instead of sending money, they help people with their own hands.”

“That’s just their ego. I can’t really blame them though. I was also like that just a few years ago. I loved the feeling of being needed. The smiles of the children when you hand them toys, the tears of the parents when you deliver crates of food… It’s all addicting.” As if shaking away those images, Mashiro rubbed her head on Makoto’s arm. “But you can’t change anything that way. Change happens from the top, not the bottom.”

“Then stick to what you decided. It’s too early to start complaining.”

“I know that. But I could really do without the attempted sexual assault. It’s getting old.”

“Ever consider your getup?”

Mashiro looked down at her clothes. Her shoulders were now hidden by her dark gray jacket, but her tight skirt still crept well above the usual point for office attire.

“Hey, you’re not suggesting I’m using myself as bait-”

“You’re not?”

“No!” Mashiro smacked his shoulder. “I’m just proud of my skin color. What’s wrong with that?”

“Hey, I’m proud to be Ryukyuan too, but I don’t go around town in a tank top and boxers. Think of the weather.”

The rare trees on the sidewalk had lost most of their leaves. Mid fall was quite cold in Chicago, but Mashiro kept wearing skirts and shorts.

“It’s not just that. You know I used to hate it right? This color… Father praised it when he took me in. He told me to hold my head high, to be proud of it.”

“I know, I was there. And I’m sure he meant your identity, not your color.”

“Even I know that. But you know, it’s who I am. It’s the symbol of how I escaped from being that powerless girl. Can you blame me for wanting to show it off a little?”

“Yes. I’m the one stuck swatting away the flies.”

“I got us out of that one just fine, didn’t I?”

“You’re lucky that recording trick from your favorite cop dramas even works. Why are all these rich people such idiots?”

“They’re not idiots. Just arrogant. I better be careful not to follow in their footsteps. That reminds me.” Mashiro pulled out her mobile and pressed on it a few times.

“What are you doing?”

“Just sending my conversation with Mr. Thompson to Mrs. Thompson using an anonymous account.”

“…Didn’t you promise to delete that?”

“I will. Right after this. I never said exactly when, right?”

“How ruthless.” Makoto faked a shiver.

“Oh shut it.”

“You’re not sending it to the cops?”

“No point. I’m not pressing sexual assault charges for a shoulder grab. I just think his family deserves to know what kind of man he is.”

“As straightlaced as ever.”

Mashiro moaned with dissatisfaction. “Just give me today’s schedule, okay?”

“We still have a meeting with two NPOs about relief supplies for the Philippine civil war. After that is your big speech.”

“Ah! I completely forgot about that.”

“Stop joking around and focus. You worked hard to get this audience.”

We worked hard, Makoto.” Mashiro left her entire weight to him. “Thank you.”

Her father’s influence had also greatly contributed to her successes, but she was not dense enough to mention that right now.

“Y-Y-You’re welcome..!” This time, it was not a fake shiver.

Mashiro giggled and closed her eyes for a nap.

 

***

 

She was an angel.

Makoto looked at the stage where his childhood friend, employer, and unrequited love all wrapped up into one beautiful package stood under the spotlight. She was dazzling.

“As a species, humanity has managed to escape from many of our natural enemies,” said Mashiro. “In the beginning of human history, we fled from predators until we banded together, forming a society to escape such fear. We escaped from poverty using numerous technological advances that have given us indefinitely sustainable resources. We escaped from war after realizing its folly in this affluent new world. We, as a race, have succeeded.”

The audience, comprised of ambassadors, politicians, NPO representatives, stirred. There was no media coverage, a condition Mashiro had agreed to in order to set up the event. The stipulation was understandable because the invited audience had no control over what Mashiro would say once onstage. She could completely deviate from her subject matter after getting on camera. But most importantly, a good number of the audience wished to avoid unwanted attention.

Mashiro slowly closed her eyes and wore a grim expression. “But all that running has made us numb to its consequences. Today, the majority of the earth’s population enjoys a relatively good standard of living. People have adequate food, shelter, education, and even recreation. That is one of our greatest achievements, but it has also become our greatest weak point. For centuries, humans have moved according to the will of the majority. And that was sound. It’s only natural to take action for the benefit of the many. However, that mindset has allowed a terminal indifference to infect us.” While closing her fist, Mashiro shut her eyes, as if squeezing out her next word. “Apathy. That is the most dangerous enemy in the world right now. Not bloodshed, not famine, not typhoons, tornadoes, or tsunamis. We’ve gotten so comfortable on our thrones of comfort that we’ve forgotten there are still people outside the castle gates. But no, we haven’t forgotten. How could we? If we looked, we could easily see them from our high towers. We just don’t care. And why should we? They aren’t the majority. We are. We make the rules. As a species, we ran too fast, leaving these stragglers, the minority, to fend for themselves. Tell me, proud leaders of our new utopia. How do you feel about that?”

Contrary to the reaction earlier, everyone fell silent. Makoto could understand why. Even he was guilty of looking only at what was in front of him. That was true even now. If he could protect Mashiro, he did not give a damn what happened to the world, much less a bunch of strangers in some far off land. But that was because he was a side character. He had neither the power nor the desire to change the world, unlike the girl, no, the woman before him.

She was his hero.

Mashiro did not defend only the poor. She defended the weak, the victimized, the voiceless. Since childhood, she wanted to protect everything within her reach. When that was no longer enough, she worked her heart out to extend that distance.

In the next segment of her presentation, clips of videos and slideshows Mashiro had prepared were projected. Some of the photographs she had taken herself were included. The shots were masterfully taken, capturing the emotions of both subject and photographer. Mashiro had always loved taking pictures since they were kids. Even without professional training, the experience had clearly paid off.

Makoto remembered some of the kids in the video. He had provided food for many of them and even played with some of them. He remembered the looks on several of their faces as they struggled to live on their deathbeds, the result of illness, triggering landmines, or getting hit by grenade fragments.

Mashiro continued her speech by displaying various statistics, showing how many people were marginalized all over the world and how little was done for them. It was not enough to move the hearts of the men watching her. She had to show them hard facts, some of which she herself gathered in her days in the field. Even with that, nothing was guaranteed. That was how thick the rust coating the world had gotten.

“I could end this speech with some inspiring line about how we should never abandon one of ours. That might reach some. But we live in a world where few care about such sentimentality. That’s how terrifying apathy is. It’s an amalgam of human greed and sloth, two of our most prominent and intrinsic faults. There’s no easy fix. Waiting for some  ‘idealistic’ change is no different from abandoning the slow runners to the wolves.”

The spotlight on her changed hue from white to a soft red, as if matching the mood of her speech.

“But don’t forget. The moment the stragglers fall, a new batch of stragglers will take their place. There will always be someone behind the pack. You of all people know that humans are not created equal. The question becomes, how far behind are you? When will it be your turn? I don’t think anyone here ever wants to know the answer to that.”

That was supposed to be the end of her practiced speech, but Mashiro kept staring at the printed copy of her speech on the podium while biting her bottom lip. Murmurs buzzed from the audience during her pause.

“…I refuse to end it like this.” Mashiro’s quivering voice rumbled across the hall. “I worked long and hard to get this far, and wasting it on this self-preservation drivel would be worse than stupid. I’d be a coward.” She grabbed the stack of paper in front of her and tore it in half, scattering the scraps on the stage. After taking a deep breath and exhaling everything in her lungs, she put on a fierce expression. “Call me young and naive, but I don’t think people are this spineless! ‘Who falls next?’ That’s a dumb question that shouldn’t even be on the table! Donations or policies are great and all, but what we need is a fundamental change in worldview, a reevaluation of what humanity has amounted to! Humans have come a long way, continuously running at a breakneck pace. Isn’t it about time we pause and make sure we didn’t leave anything valuable behind? We, as a race, have succeeded. And everyone deserves the prize for that, not just the people in this room The problem is real. Everyone knows that. The only thing left is what we should do about it.” Mashiro made a cocky smile, challenging the leaders in front of her. “So I ask you, representatives of humanity, is the present all you’re capable of? Is this the legacy you want to leave your descendants? Are you so weak that your hands can only grasp what’s in front of you? I refuse to believe that!” Mashiro slammed her fist on the podium. “And all of you should damn well refuse to accept it too. The change I’m proposing is no small feat. It will change history and be remembered for generations to come. And it’s only possible with the cooperation of everyone in this auditorium. So please, join me in destroying indifference. Start by tossing aside your own. Let’s make a real difference, an unprecedented one, a permanent one. Let’s prove to history that humanity has indeed emerged victorious. Let’s prove to the future that we are worthy of being honored.” She bowed Japanese-style, her fringe brushing the mic.

Silence enveloped the hall. Mashiro had predicted such a cold reception and told Makoto to expect it. Unlike the rest of the silent VIP crowd, Makoto only got a spot in the front row because Mashiro pulled some strings. He was a nobody, but what did that matter? He stood up and applauded with all his might.

Explosive applause hit him from behind.

Makoto reflexively turned his head and saw a standing ovation. Although some of the audience had unenthusiastic faces, only clapping because of the bandwagon effect, others had tears in their eyes.

Mashiro gingerly raised her head with a slightly confused look. Then she cried. Her heartfelt smile made all the fierceness shown earlier seem like a dream.

You reached them, Mashiro.

You really are amazing.

At that moment, Makoto realized he was wrong about Mashiro all along.

She was not an angel that needed protection.

Neither was she his hero.

She was a hero. A real one.

 

***

 

“Good evening, Senator.” Despite her fatigue from a long day, Kaika constructed the most refreshing smile she could.

Contrary to what one might think, smiling took practice. A single misplaced wrinkle or excessive show of teeth could turn a sincere smile into a sardonic one. Most people could fake a smile or two, but that level of acting would not work against the person currently on her study display. For better or worse, Kaika had been trained since early childhood to manipulate her facial muscles more finely than her nimble fingers.

“Good evening. And please, call me Rachel. We’re going to be family soon enough.” Garvey returned Kaika’s smile with one just as pleasant.

“What can I do for you?”

“…Did I disturb you? It is a bit late. I can call back tomorrow.”

Yes, I was just about to get some shuteye.

Sleeping was not as much of a challenge for Kaika anymore, but failing to take advantage of a bout of fatigue usually meant staying up a few more hours. Faced with the annoyingly fat face of the senator, she was filled with the urge to cut the call and dive under the covers. None of that showed in her appearance or actions.

“No, not at all. I was just finishing up some paperwork. You called at a perfect time for a short breather.”

“That’s good. I wanted to thank you for your violin performance at the pre-engagement party. I had to leave early that night and could not congratulate you in person. Sorry about that.”

“No worries. It was my pleasure.”

“Oh and about the engagement.” Garvey’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “Have you finalized your plans?”

She was the one who planned out the engagement’s schedule of events.

She isn’t talking about me and Max.

“I believe you already know about it.”

“All I know is that you already have plans. As to what the specifics are, I can only guess. I’m fine with leaving that much up to you. I just wanted to tell you how happy I am that Max found someone he cares deeply about.”

A warning.

“I care about him just as much, if not more. Rest assured, I always have his best interests at heart while planning the incoming events.”

Any social interaction was like a formal dance. Someone had to lead, and both parties did their best to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. But unlike everyday exchanges, this one had a ballroom as narrow as a tightrope strung a mile high. A misstep meant death, but neither could look down, wary of losing track of their partner’s eyes.

“That’s great. I look forward to welcoming you into the family, Kaika.”

Kaika’s ears ached. She really hated that name. “I can’t wait.”

“Good night then. See you soon.”

“Good night.” Kaika cut the call and sank into her chair.

Two knocks came from the study door. “Ojousama, I have come to give you my report on Mashiro Oogi.”

Might as well get this out of the way.

“Come in.”

Saya approached Kaika’s desk and stood at attention. “I have sent the comprehensive report and relevant documents to you.”

Kaika pulled up the files on her display. “The summary.”

Saya nodded and proceeded to give her report on Mashiro Oogi, adopted daughter of US Secretary of Defense Curtis Butler.

“Her parents are alive..?” mumbled Kaika.

“And well. It is no secret. Mashiro openly visits them in Okinawa a few times a year.”

“Then why was she adopted?”

Saya was about to open her lips, but Kaika beat her to it.

“That was rhetorical. If you knew, you’d have already included it here.”

Kaika continued scanning the written report while listening to Mashiro’s youth and academic background. While the written document contained the complete information, Saya’s verbal report included her own impressions and insights, both valuable to Kaika.

“She is a Cinderella, a very intelligent one.” Saya paused, as if waiting for Kaika to comment.

“What an oxymoronic girl.”

“Some call her a genius.”

I’m a genius. She’s just lucky.”

“They say luck is part of one’s skills.”

“Unfortunately, I agree.”

Kaika unconsciously frowned during Saya’s narration of Mashiro’s work history and humanitarian activities. After Saya covered Mashiro’s recent speech, Kaika could no longer keep silent.

“A messiah complex?” Kaika tapped a finger on the table. “Who does this girl think she is?”

Blessed with influence, money, intelligence, and charisma, Mashiro unreservedly used them all to change the world for the better. Despite that, she did not dirty her hands. Her records were squeaky clean. That much was fine. Kaika did not hate idealists. What irked the little devil was that Mashiro was succeeding.

Ideals did not move the world. They could serve as a trigger, but only brutal realism could change anything. At least, that was what history proved and Kaika believed. Did Mashiro possess enough luck to overcome that? Was she the chosen one? No, that was absurd.

Heroes were destined to burn at the epilogue of their dreams.

Deciding Mashiro deserved no further attention, Kaika closed the files along with her eyelids. She rubbed her temples with her right hand for a few seconds and then smiled at her butler.

“Good work. You can go.”

With a quick bow, Saya walked to the exit and twisted the doorknob.

“I love you, Saya.”

Saya hit her forehead on the open door. “Kyu~” She turned to her mistress, red-faced to the point of sizzling. “W-W-What are you saying all of a sudden, Ojousama!”

“I said I love you.”

“Don’t repeat it!!!” Saya covered her face with a forearm and ran out of the room.

That went better than expected.

Kaika had her hands full dealing with Garvey and Walker. Worrying about her bond with Saya took up much needed brain power. She had decided to test the butler’s affection for her to put her fears to rest, and the results spoke for themselves.
At least close the door…

Sleepiness attacked her once again. With a relatively peaceful mind, Kaika waddled her way to her bedroom, wormed her way under the covers, and got some well-deserved rest.

 

Next Chapter

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11 thoughts on “Chapter Two: Hero and Villain

  1. Gima

    uehehehehe…….finally there’s an update :3

    I see you make another good job right here!

    thanks for the chapter man! 😀

    PS : Btw…..will you continue the Ensis core series?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Kanda Hikaru Post author

      Thanks for reading!

      Yes, I intend to continue Ensis Core, but I may not give it much attention until I finish TDS, which ends at volume 7. Maybe I’ll release a chapter or so every now and then.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Gima

        oh sure!…….so this novel is ending with 7 volume huh……

        so far I really enjoyed this novel that I thought ‘why wouldn’t someone from ‘those’ company take this light novel and publish it?’

        I sure as hell want to have some book like this on my bookshelf……well the first until third volume illustration was kinda disappointing though.

        but it’s get better from the fourth and the next after….

        keep up the good job man 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Kanda Hikaru Post author

          Thanks for the support!

          I’m planning to end this at volume 7 because I don’t want it to fall into the endless boring loop most LNs degrade into. Neither do I want to keep introducing tons of new characters just to keep it fresh (ala Narita) because that’d make it a different story.

          However, I’m also considering making a continuation or a same universe story with a new set of characters. I think the current cast has been explored from top to bottom already, definitely much more than your average LN.

          A dream of mine is to actually write for a visual novel, a proper one with good art, music, and direction. My web novels are stepping stones for that goal. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t give my everything to them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever taken anything more seriously in my life.

          I’m actually planning to make physical copies of this story just for fun after all 7 volumes. No promises, but maybe I can send a batch to a few loyal readers.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
        1. Kanda Hikaru Post author

          Just enabled deeper nested comments so I could reply to you.

          I can’t give the books away for free for financial reasons, but I definitely won’t charge anyone a ridiculous price for them. I won’t earn anything (maybe even lose a few bucks), but if you’re still interested after the story ends and I do go through with the printing plan, just shoot me a message. I’ll release a post about it if and when it does happen.

          My editor will definitely get a set for free, if he wants it, and so will my beta-readers. They’ve contributed an incredible amount to this project, so it’s nowhere close to what they deserve, but that’s all I can provide. Maybe I can raffle a few batches away later in hopes that freebies will increase readership. Yes, I’m a bit desperate when it comes to gathering readers.

          Unfortunately, this story is nowhere near as popular as most web novels out there. I’d really appreciate it if you, or anyone else for that matter, could spread the word.

          Like

          Reply
  2. Gingerbread_man

    thanks for the chapter! this feels lick I’m watching the dark knight all over again, will batman kill the joker? Will Mashiro end up sharing Kaika’s world-view?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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