Chapter 2: The Prospective Party
“Something wasn’t quite right.” Masaru thought as he began to wake up and the pain of his torn chest came rushing back. It had returned memories when it hit him and made him cringe; the cold of the snow only barely being warmed by his blood, and Hashiba behind him on the crushed white, moving closer with blades of blood to take his life, and it made him realized that something was off. He was dry for one, to the point of needing something to moisturize his dark skin, and he was alive for two, even though only one other person than Hashiba knew where he was. Another sensation of the peculiar hit him as he touched his chest and felt nothing but a thin layer keep his hands off the wound. His body for one was warm, and under that thin layer that open eyes confirmed to be gauze, he could feel something wire like protruding from his skin. He could also feel the softness of a familiar couch, sat beside a glass coffee table that stood on black legs. The white couch and the familiar table came together in a painted harmony, with the white carpet they stood on, and the twenty-inch television placed on a stand with its back to the black paneled walls. With an unmoving ceiling fan that hung over head casting down a ray that brought both good lighting and shading completing the pating, Masaru was fully reminded of a welcoming place as he realized he was in his room.
It was one of about thirty or so rooms in the only apartment building one could find in west Asabi, a one-bedroom apartment that he had worked several years to get. With the winter nights bringing constant battle with the delinquents of the town, it felt like it had been years since he last spent a night in it, and longer than that since he fell asleep on the couch, watching television. The TV was off however so he couldn’t account all the pain to a dream, and the moving of dishes in the kitchen behind didn’t make him want to. What it did make him was alert, as he sprung up from where he lied and caught a minor glance of long brown hair, as fatigue pulled his body to the floor. He tried to push himself up, assured that the person in the kitchen had seen him, but an unseen weight held him down, and seemed to place its hand on his head the more he struggled. As petite-socked feet came into his line of sight and he heard the jingling of silverware overhead, Masaru struggled more and more under fatigue's weight. He struggled more and more, but couldn’t push aside the mass of exhaustion and pain.
“Calm down, you’ll reopen your wounds.” The weight breathed words into his ear, as he felt it shift and could almost see white hair. He submitted to the truth of the matter and finally stopped struggling, giving whatever sat upon him, reason to rise up.
As it did, he rose up too, and held his wounded chest as the pain of his struggle came back with a vengeance. For a moment, it left him there holding his chest, ignoring the young woman who stood in front of him and whatever stood behind him, till the thing behind took his shoulder of guided him back to the couch. A tray of tea came down onto the coffee table as the young woman took a seat beside him, and finally Masaru learned what stood behind him, as a white haired youth turned his head his way. A ray of light shined down into his left eye and made Masaru push the boy away, where he shoved a small flashlight into a silver jacket and took a cup of tea in hand. After a sip, brown eyes came back toward Masaru where they rested for a minute as the youth took another sip, and turned away when the cup came back onto the table.
“Do you know where you are?” The white haired teen said as he looked back toward Masaru again and made Masaru glower.
“Of course I know where I am, it’s my house.” He barked and the boy nodded then looked past him, at the brown haired girl who had been staring at Masaru as well.
As if she had turned his head toward him, Masaru’s gaze swerved to meet hers and found brown eyes staring back, going deep into his soul. It took her a moment, but she smiled and brushed her hair behind her head, then made a silver skirt flutter as she rose and took a bow.
“I’m sorry, we should introduce ourselves.” She rose and the boy behind Masaru stood. “I am Asano Harisugawa.” She named herself, and Masaru’s gaze turned toward the boy.
“I am Ushio Mibu.” He said and even provided identification so that there was no doubt.
Masaru took the card and examined it, flipping it over and even picking at its sides to see if it was false, then turned it back and stared at the information. Ushio Mibu was there as plain as day, and even his age, sixteen like Masaru, and the natural color of his hair and eyes. It seemed authentic but possessed something that pulled his attention away from the information. A silver circle with a P stylized to resemble a blade in its center, sitting at the top left corner of the ID. It made Masaru stare for a moment, before flipping it to face Ushio, where he tapped the insignia.
“Prospect.” The white haired boy answered the unasked question and Masaru flicked his ID back to him.
“What is Prospect, and for that matter, why are people from it in my room?” He asked as he looked over his shoulder to Asano, standing there in silver clothes, clothes much like the ones Ushio wore.
The two Prospect agents traded a look and then sat back down on the couch as they began to consider what to say. Twisted with perplexity their faces remained, as they both had a conversation with their self, trying to work out the details of the answer, without making it overly convoluted. As he stood there, almost as if forced to by his creeping suspicion, he wondered how long he’d stand there and wait for whatever they had to say, and as the ticking kitchen clock reached his ears through the room's silence, he wondered if what they had to say would be worth all the time he'd have to wait. The ticks remained innumerable as he waited for them to say something, and felt sudden spikes of eagerness each time they separated themselves from their silence, and traded looks with the others. By the time their contemplation had ended, his suspicion had allowed him to lean against the wall, and their suddenly standing had made it flare back up.
“I’ll start first.” Asano said. “And Ushio will try to follow. Masaru-san, what do you remember from your fight with Hashiba?” She asked and Masaru crossed his arms.
“You mean other than him cutting himself up, and going all blood swords on me? Absolutely nothing.” He answered and Asano shook her head.
“Then we’re halfway there. The reason Hashiba was able to make his blood like swords is because he’s what you call a negative. Well I suppose you wouldn’t call him that, the public doesn’t really know much about them, and that’s thanks to Prospect's work.” Asano explained and Masaru listened but didn’t quite grasp everything he heard.
“I’m going to need more than that. What exactly is a negative?” He asked and Ushio sighed to signify his cue.
“Thirty years ago a rumor popped up about people getting folded into boxes, not like a contortionist getting into a chest, but people actually getting folded up as if they were paper. Because it was so outrageous, no one believed it, and it being in the middle of 2013, any pictures that popped up were immediately accused of being photo-shopped, but despite what the public believed, they did happen, and they were the first accounts of a negative.” He began and stopped as Masaru raised his hands.
“2013, as in the year that artifact ship emerged off the coast of Angola?” The teen spoke and Ushio nodded.
“You’re surprisingly astute.”
“Not really, I learned about it in school a few days ago.” Masaru swatted the compliment away.
“Well yes, it was the year the artifact ship emerged from the sea and drifted toward the coast of Angola. The ship was strange, possessing technology that was far more advance than what we have thirty years to that day, yet housing stuff that was common place in the eleventh century. It attracted researcher from all over the world and naturally gained a place in the history books, it is also believed to be where everything first started. One of the researchers was a man from Washington who found his way into the deepest interior of the ship, where he cut himself on a damaged frame. It had done something to make his veins visible but after medical check-up, he turned out all right but decided to head back to Washington after that. It took a couple of months, but the man suddenly disappeared, right as rumors about the boxer turned up.”
“So the man was the boxer?”
“Yes, whatever happened to his veins somehow had an effect on his mind and led to him going on that crime spree. When the police had finally manage to catch up to him they found their guns and other weapons useless, and for a while it was believed that he would carry on.”
“Until?” Masaru questioned the abrupt halt.
“Until the first Positive appeared.” Asano took over. “She was a young student from France going to California to study abroad. One night after a late stay at her school’s library while she was walking home, she was attacked by a man and chased off of campus. After getting too hurt to run away she managed to shoot the boxer and do what no gun had done before.”
“But I thought guns didn’t work.”
“Normal guns didn’t but hers wasn’t normal. When the police came to pick her up she told them what had happened. The man had her cornered in an area she didn’t know and she had already gotten hurt. When she was sure he would take her life, she held out her hand and he was suddenly pushed back by a strike of lightning. The next thing she knew there was a gun in her hand, and she did the only thing she could.” Asano explained.
“The end?” Masaru asked and the agents shook their head.
“We don’t know why and Prospect doesn’t either, but over the course of the passing decades more and more negatives appeared. On the plus side they weren’t all bad, and if they were, there was always a positive to combat them thanks to Prospect's emergence.” Ushio said.
“But on the minus side, the good could become bad, and Prospect wasn’t the only group that emerged from this; which brings us to why we’re here.” Asano said and traded one last look with Ushio.
“To put it simply Masaru Taka-san, we are here to protect you.” The white haired boy said, and almost as if on cue a knock at the door prevented silence from falling onto the room…