With ten minutes before class started, Mitsuo and I made our way back to class. The corridors were still fairly busy with small groups loitering around before the bell rang, savouring the last minutes of freedom. But when we reached our class, there was a larger-than-normal group gathered outside and an unnatural stillness made my eyes narrow. I could hear a few voices rising over the din, loud with an aggressive undertone that just blared trouble. And if that wasn’t enough, the Inugami head hovered over the crowd like a red flag. Mitsuo and I exchanged a look and went over there, pushing our way through the crowd.
“Are they bullying the new guy?” Mitsuo tried to peer over some shoulders.
“Looks like it.” Standing on tiptoe, I could see three guys, big with mean faces that looked vaguely familiar. “Who are they?”
Mitsuo hopped on his feet, catching glimpses. “Our year, class C. Ohtori, and I’m guessing the other two would be Yokoyama and Horie. We’ve only been in the same school with them for three years.” He rolled his eyes at my look of confusion.
“What’s your point?”
They were big and their fists could probably break some bones, specifically, the thin, brittle bones of the new guy who looked like he’d never seen milk in his life. This would normally be the kind of scene where witnesses affected to see nothing, more eager to save their own skin than being a hero. But – this was Shinogan. We didn’t operate by the same rules. For one thing, you did not pick on a class A student without expecting to have some sort of damage done to yourself. Physicality meant nothing. We were hardcore, serious practitioners with more power than we knew what to do with. And a lot of us heard voices in our heads.
There was some looming, shouting and threats. They even tried the grab-shirt-and-shake move. Far as I could tell, Wu didn’t so much as twitch. It was like watching a bad movie. I expected one of them to either pull down his pants or bring out a butterfly knife.
Eventually, things became heated. Wu’s silence was deemed as condescension, tipping the balance into violence. Ohtori raised a fist and suddenly, the atmosphere around them grew heavy.
Inugami – which had been comparatively tame up until now – suddenly turned feral. The swirl of power was suffocating. Mitsuo squeaked and backed up a bit. I squinted against the wave of heat that felt like it could lick my eyebrows off. The dog’s head seemed to expand, filling the entire corridor and it’s mouth opened. A low, guttural growl slipped out and I could almost hear everyone’s hair stand on end as our nerves went into overdrive, sensing a true predator in the vicinity. All we needed was the Jaws theme and maybe a human femur sticking out that mouth. The three bullies froze, obviously having realised – too late – that they were in way over their heads. Wu aimed those blank eyes at them, said something I couldn’t make out, and they turned tail and ran.
Just like that, it was over.
By the time the bell rang, Wu was in his seat staring out the window, Inugami back to its regular size, and docile. No one mentioned the incident.