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ToKyotchi Chapter 36

The Message

Nikki could only stare at the whiteboard, her mind whirling with a million questions that she couldn’t answer. She didn’t know where to begin.

She could also vaguely hear Professor Avis’ lecture on Status Effects, but her mind was elsewhere. Or rather, she couldn’t stop herself from glancing around the room every few seconds, counting the empty chairs that had once been filled. On the first day of classes, there were twenty-two students total in Professor Avis’ class.

There were only twelve now including her.

She quickly shook her head, trying to clear her mind without drawing Avis’ attention. A few days ago, as far as most people knew, only Fran was missing. To their knowledge, all the other students had safely gotten away during Yokan’s attack.

That all changed this morning when a voice called out to her in her sleep.

“There is an impersonator at Legaros Academy pretending to be a dead student. I have taken fifteen of your classmates, and I will continue to take more away until the impersonator reveals himself.”

Nikki remembered her eyes snapping open as she pulled the covers up to her chest. She sat completely still, frantically scanning the room for any sign of an intruder, before realizing there was no one there.

At first, she’d thought it was just a dream or hallucination until Bella and Kim knocked on her door, asking if she’d heard the voice too. Bella looked as though she desperately wanted to ask Nikki something more but was too afraid, while Kim remained silent.

The three of them then set off to class together, something they hadn’t done at all since they arrived at the academy.

On their way to Legaros Tower, the mood on the maglev cab was somber and quiet, everyone’s eyes glued to the passing landscape as if hoping all would be well. Still, it didn’t take long for the cab to fill up with whispers about the ominous message.

“Wait, you had the same dream too?”

“Yes, it wasn’t just one or two people who went missing.”

“Impersonating a dead student? Why would someone do that? That’s sick!”

“And what about the guy who attacked us? Did they ever find him?”

“No, all the faculty and staff are being tight-lipped. I can’t believe they want us to think this place is still safe!”

“Well?” she heard Professor Avis ask, snapping her out of her trance and back into the present. “Any thoughts from anyone, or will you all simply spend the entire period staring off into space?”

Nikki bit her lip as she attempted to refocus on the lecture, but it was no use. With all that had happened just an hour ago, she couldn’t concentrate.

Professor Avis closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose before letting out a heavy sigh. “I know about the message you all received this morning. I know how hard this must be for you. But trust me when I say that, despite all the fear and worry, we will get through this.”

Luckily, it wasn’t much longer until the bell sounded, and Professor Avis all but shooed them out of the classroom. As she was gathering her belongings, Nikki glanced back at Chetachi and Tyson. Chetachi wore a serious expression and seemed lost in thought, while Tyson looked exhausted. She wondered if he’d been getting enough rest.

“Nikki, you got a moment?”

Nikki jolted and turned to see Lorenzo standing before her, his expression stern. Though she understood his Mark thanks to Chetachi and understood it changed his personality at times, it still surprised her.

“I…yes,” Nikki replied hesitantly.

Lorenzo gestured for her to follow him into the hallway as the other students departed. Once they were far enough away from Avis’ classroom, they waited for their classmates to clear out. As Chetachi and Tyson strolled out into the hallway, they stopped for a moment, both of them wearing nearly identical expressions of confusion and worry as they watched Nikki and Lorenzo.

Nikki forced herself to smile reassuringly, but they didn’t look convinced. In fact, Tyson looked as if he was about to charge at Lorenzo but was pulled away by Chetachi. Nikki wanted to call out to them and explain, but Lorenzo quickly shook his head before they disappeared around the corner.

Once everything was clear, Lorenzo sighed and put his hands in his pocket, slouching in a way that was a huge departure from his other personality. “We need to talk.”

“Okay,” Nikki barely managed to get out. “What about?”

“You heard the message, right?”

“Yes, I heard it,” Nikki replied, her voice a little shaky. “Do you know who it was?”

Lorenzo shook his head in response. “I don’t have any idea. I’m more concerned about who the imposter could be.”

Nikki felt a chill run down her spine. Was this why he pulled her to the side? Were people already suspecting Chetachi?

“I don’t have any idea,” she replied softly, not wanting to jump to conclusions.

Lorenzo sighed and rubbed his forehead. “It’s fine, but listen; I haven’t told anyone else this, but I found something out the other night. The faculty knew all along that several students went missing the other day, but they’re covering it up. They think the attack was an attempt on the headmaster’s life.”

Nikki’s eyes widened in disbelief. “What? That’s insane!”

Lorenzo shushed her, glancing around the hallway. “I heard it for myself. They don’t know who that person was who attacked us, but I think he’s the one who sent the message this morning. He’s obviously a Mental type.”

Nikki felt a wave of fear wash over her. “Do you think he’ll come after the six of us again? We were the ones who tried to fight him off.”

Lorenzo shrugged. “I can’t say. I don’t know any more about him than they do.”

Nikki felt her heart race in her chest as she tried to process what Lorenzo was telling her. What did Yokan really want? At first, she thought he only wanted Chetachi to make it to the Marbot Research Facility. That’s what he’d said when he first appeared in his dreams. Yet, now, it seemed like he wanted something entirely different, something a lot more twisted.

Of course, it was also possible that someone like Yokan didn’t have a plan at all and was just completely insane. Nikki stared at Lorenzo, conflicted about what to say next. She knew who Yokan was, but if she told Lorenzo too much it could give Chetachi away as the imposter.

“You know you can tell me anything,” Lorenzo reached over and delicately placed his hands on Nikki’s shoulders, his tone softening. “I’m here to help.”

Nikki nodded, heat rising to her cheeks. She’d never been this close to him before, though she couldn’t deny that it felt nice. He smelled like aloe and something else, something she couldn’t quite place.

“Thanks,” she murmured, her voice barely a whisper as she looked away for a moment before meeting Lorenzo’s gaze once more. “I don’t think there’s anything else we can do right now. You saw how strong that guy was the other day. None of us would stand a chance against him.”

Lorenzo sighed as he freed Nikki from his embrace, running his hand through his hair. “You’re right. At our current levels, he outclasses us completely, even if we outnumber him.”

“I just wonder…” Nikki’s brow furrowed as she continued to process the information Lorenzo had provided. “How did you find all this out? Who told you?”

Lorenzo shook his head. “I can’t tell you that. I’m sorry.”

Nikki barely stopped herself from shouting at him. What was the point of him telling her she could trust him when he wouldn’t do the same? Was he just trying to get information out of her? Was him getting so close to her just now a way for him to lower her defenses?

“What do you mean you can’t tell me?” she persisted. “Then why tell me all this in the first place? What am I supposed to do about it?”

Lorenzo’s expression became grave. “I’m telling you this because you need to be wary of Rowan. I know you two are close, but there’s something off about him.”

Nikki opened her mouth to respond, wanting to explain why she trusted Rowan more than anyone else at the academy, before realizing that Lorenzo was already walking away, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

She didn’t know what to make of anything anymore. A few days ago, her biggest concern was getting stronger. Now, there was the possibility that one of the few people she could trust was a danger to her.

She remembered the time they first faced Yokan after battling Reagan and Vista. Chetachi had told her to start calling him Rowan immediately after. Yokan had provided him with Rowan’s student ID, while Nikki had given him Rowan’s schedule and itinerary. She thought Chetachi would figure out who Rowan was once he found Yokan at the Marbot Research Facility.

Now, she was certain Rowan was dead.

When she first met him, Chetachi claimed he was from another world and was brought here by Yokan. Even though she was skeptical, Nikki knew he seemed to genuinely not have any other memories of how he arrived at Rose Coliseum. Even as the days went by, Chetachi seemed to behave as if this was all a dream that he would wake up from soon.

She didn’t think someone like that was dangerous, yet she couldn’t shake that disturbing feeling she got every time she entered Professor Avis’ classroom. She knew it was her Clairvoyance Mark, but as always she couldn’t figure out what it was trying to tell her.

She reflected on the warning she’d just received from Lorenzo. Why did he think Chetachi was dangerous? From what she could tell, Chetachi hadn’t done anything wrong besides being confused and a little weird at times. That didn’t mean he was a criminal or someone suspicious. He had helped her fight off Reagan and Vista, after all.

Nikki sighed. Even if Chetachi wasn’t from another world, why would he be going through all this trouble to deceive everyone? What could possibly be at Legaros Academy that he wanted so badly?

She recalled her conversation with Kim and Bella the other day when Bella had embarrassed herself in choir class. Chetachi could have gloated, but he encouraged her instead. He even managed to talk Kim out of annihilating him in Sparring class.

They’d both said he reminded them of Professor Eminal. Eminal knew how to break their defenses and charm them with his words, but was he really the same as Chetachi?

The memory flashed in her mind again, of the day she failed to get the others to escape and how Professor Eminal appeared from behind the guard and made him vanish. The guard had simply been an illusion, and as she reflected on that moment her skin prickled all over as the realization came over her.

What if Chetachi and Yokan were both test subjects like she and the others were? What if the real reason Chetachi thought he was from another world was because someone had done something to his memories?

It would explain so much about Chetachi’s strange behavior. Someone could have implanted fake memories into his mind, someone who was a powerful Mental type who could create illusions that even someone like Nikki couldn’t see through.

That person could easily manipulate Chetachi without him ever knowing what was going on. Yes, it all sounded very familiar to Nikki now.

There was no doubt in her mind about it. Professor Eminal was alive, and he was somewhere on campus.