The London air was crisp and clean in the year 2433. In previous centuries it had been known as a highly polluted city, one of the worst in all of the Central World. But that became history when green quotas were implemented to all new builds and the replacements of old structures. Every building now emitted no pollution or waste. The city was a self-sustaining one and it made for an amazing place to be.
A local walked about the elevated streets on the way to a university lecture. These streets were specifically designed for walkers and cyclists. Men and women zoomed past him on their floating bikes while he walked along green grass. The grass was real but planted on a conveyer belt of sorts that made it so walkers could enjoy trekking on green grass but arrive at their destination in a timely manner. Cars and buses were limited to the wide streets below and not allowed access to the green streets that stretched from rooftop to rooftop all over the city.
That English man referred to himself as Bessai. But in the grand classroom he stepped into, he was called Professor. He was a tall and skinny fellow in his thirties with short black hair and dark brown skin. He wore a fitted suit and circular glasses which he admired from century-old trends. Professor Bessai walked into his classroom and was greeted by thirteen students, there in person, and hundreds more joining in via holographic projection.
He then went on to teach language history. Everyone in the United World spoke the same language and thus very few knew the original language of the country they lived in. Bessai’s love and knowledge for these old languages, like English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Swahili, made him wish to begin teaching others about the many languages that came before them and things they can learn from the journey of language over the previous centuries and millennia.
His lecture ended with holograms shutting off and students leaving. One woman stayed in her seat, however. She was of oriental descent and medium height with long black hair tied back into a neat bun. She wore a purple blouse that flowed to her knees and tan leggings.
“Well done, Professor,” she said in the near-extinct Japanese language.
“Thank you,” he replied while bowing.
The woman stood and made her way to the front of the now-empty classroom and shook the Professor’s hand.
“I am Katayoko, daughter of Aku Guo Kan.”
“Mr. Guo Kan? It is a pleasure to meet you, Katayoko. Your father is indeed a greatly revered man.”
“Indeed. Bessai,” she began as she walked toward a bookcase to the right, “have you ever considered travelling for your work?”
“I have thought of it, but there is little need as my students from all over the world can holocaust into my lessons.”
“Yes, but I mean…” she paused. “Have you ever considered travelling through time?”
Her bold question shocked Bessai. “Are you serious? I would have to answer no! We are still trying to master teleportation and relativists have deemed time travel impossible. It’s simply a trend of 21st-century television shows and novels.”
“Well,” she said as she turned and smiled, “I represent an organization of historians who have found a way to travel in time. And your name is on our list of those we wish to recruit. In fact, everyone else is on board.” She approached him and revealed her wrist, gesturing for him to place his next to hers. “Here is my information. If you want to have a once in a lifetime experience that very few will ever have, call me before noon tomorrow.”
Bessai placed his exposed wrist next to hers and the computer chips inside each of their wrists exchanged their contact information. “Goodbye, for now, Professor. I hope to hear from you.” She walked away and was almost out the door.
“Yes,” Bessai called after her. “Yes, of course. If this is real: I’ve got to see it.”
“A man with a quick mind. Good. No need to pack; all will be provided. Our plane leaves in an hour.”
“I thought you said I had until noon tomorrow?” Bessai retorted.
Katayoko turned back and smiled again. “I lied,” she said in a perky tone. She marched out of the classroom and down the hall.
Bessai turned on the small screen that projected from his earpiece in front of his right eye. He saw that in the information Katayoko gave him was a one-way plane ticket to Tokyo, Japan. One of the last independently governed countries in the world.
Bessai had told the president of his university about his opportunity to travel to Japan. He had explained that he would be able to study the people’s history and language as he was instructed not to inform anyone of the true nature of his journey. Bessai had never ventured into an independent country so he explained it would help him understand their mindsets, as to why they had not adopted the global language, and help him teach his students about language differences in the current day. Bessai was not truthful in these facts but he mentioned he would be able to keep up with class schedules by holo-casting his lessons. Thus, the president agreed to his leave of absence.
Bessai then rushed away with Katayoko in her hovermobile, which was the latest model and the two of them went to the airport. Their tickets were express: a mode of travel that allowed someone to be in any place in the unified world within one hour. As the Eastern World’s coastal district, formerly known as China and many other countries, was next to Japan; that was their destination. Bessai admitted to Katayoko that he had never actually flown express before as the tickets were similar in price to a vehicle.
She sat down in a seat next to him on the tiny aircraft.
“Have you even ventured outside of the kingdom district?” she asked with a bit of a laugh. The kingdom district in the central world made up most of the former countries that surrounded what was called: the United Kingdom, which was abolished two centuries prior.
“Actually, I’ve never even left England,” he replied.
“It’s not called that still, is it?”
“No,” he chuckled. “It’s not, but I still like to call it that. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to the history of lands and their people. You see,” he turned in his seat, “language really is a reflection of where the people of a nation are at economically, technologically and spiritually.”
“I’ll be honest, Bessai,” Katayoko began as she leaned back in her seat, “I’ve read that paper of yours.” She turned and looked at him grinning deviously.
“Oh?” He leaned forward and put his hand on his chin and adjusted his glasses with the other. “You think I’m just some prepared book, don’t you? Like I’ll only say what’s been said?”
“I think you’re brilliant! I also think you’re naive.” She looked at him almost sternly.
“Naive?” Bessai felt the tension increase as the conversation’s humour left and a seeming hostility came about. “Regarding what, exactly?”
“What can you really know about a culture or a people without being one of them?”
“Well—” Bessai began but Katayoko interrupted him.
“I’ll tell you: only what they allow.”
“Right,” Bessai began as he smiled; he felt this argument was an easy win, “and I know almost every culture and their former languages because they’ve allowed me to through—”
“Global unity…” Katayoko sighed. “I’m sorry, Bessai, I just don’t agree with it. And I don’t think you know as much as you think. That’s all.” She stood and went to talk to the pilot, but before she left she turned and said, “at least you’re handsome.” She said this in Japanese as she smiled and tilted her head quickly, almost mockingly.
Bessai leaned back and watched the complicated woman walk to the front of the plane. He laughed and shook his head.
“What a woman,” he whispered in the old language, French.
The hour passed slowly. Bessai tried to fill it with conversations with Katayoko about her proposed time travel, the organization she worked for, her favourite food, and anything really. Katayoko just has one-word answers, all in Japanese, and kept a cool glance ahead.
Finally, they arrived. They exited the aircraft and boarded another, private aircraft which would take them to Japan. Bessai wasn’t held up by security for one scan of Katayoko’s wrist opened every gate they came across. The private, Japanese ran, aircraft could transport a dozen or so people standing. Bessai and Katayoko gripped a bar that ran through the centre of the cabin as they took off. It wasn’t nearly as smooth as the previous craft was. Bessai almost fell over from not being used to the acceleration. Bessai could see out the window and saw an odd barrier-like field on the horizon. It looked like small jolts of electricity ran up from the blue sea and toward the blue sky. And behind the electric wall was a murky, greyness. They passed through the electric field and the air was truly grey with a dense fog.
They soon landed and Katayoko turned to him and placed what looked like a black piece of tape over the ridge of his nose. “Don’t breathe through your mouth,” she said in warning. The door opened and Bessai felt he was hit by a cloud of humidity. The air was thick and grey. He and Katayoko were on a runway but beyond the tarmac was a thick wall of reflective buildings nearly as tall as he could see. They were not square buildings but triangular and completely identical to each other. The side of each building spiralled as it ascended, offering it maximum structural strength. It truly was an incredible site to Bessai.
He inhaled a short breath cautiously. He had heard of the technology on his nose but had never needed to use it. The regulations for buildings and emissions inside the United World made for the air quality to be pristine. The nose piece was a filtration device that sent electronic waves down his nostrils that eradicated toxic particles and only allowed oxygen to get into his lungs. It was then that Bessai assumed the electric field they passed through was a filtration barrier. He marvelled at the thought that the entire United World might be surrounded by it.
Katayoko quickly led him to a black hovermobile nearby. The pair got in and were greeted by a man in a black, silky tunic. He sat on a bench seat across from theirs. He was bald and wrinkled. He bowed and spoke in Japanese to them. Bessai admired how pure sounding his voice was. He could tell this man knew no other language.
“Well done, Katayoko-chan,” he said. He turned to Bessai and smiled.
“Hello, I am Professor Bessai.” Bessai introduced himself in Japanese and stretched his hand out to shake the other man’s. The man simply put his two hands together and bowed.
“I am, Aku.”
“Aku-sama, it is an honour.” Bessai retracted his hand and bowed.
Katayoko leaned over and whispered, in the global language, to Bessai, “You don’t have to speak Japanese. He has a translator.”
Bessai turned his head as well and whispered, “I’m hungry.”
Katayoko laughed loudly before composing herself and looking out the window.
Humour, Bessai thought. Dumb humour is what she likes. Definitely not my intellect. That either means she’s simple or way, way smarter than I am.
Aku sat staring blankly at Bessai.
“As one of the investors in this project, I wished to meet our last recruit in person,” Aku began in the global language. “Has Katayoko told you anything about this project?”
“Very little,” Bessai replied.
Only a second went by before the translator in Aku’s ear finished. “Good,” he replied.
Bessai turned and looked at Katayoko, confused. She smiled and looked back out the window.
Only minutes later, they arrived at their destination, although Bessai didn’t know where that was.
He was a man of no family. Unmarried, no children, no siblings, deceased father, and his mother never spoke to him. Or at least he never spoke to her. Either way, there was no one for him to contact in his slight moment of anxiety. He was usually in the know when it came to conversations and scenarios. Now, it was he who knew nothing. And that which he did know, the goal to time travel, he couldn’t even imagine how it could be. So either way, he was ignorant and he didn’t like it. But it intrigued him to carry on with charisma.
Their vehicle parked inside a building and the doors were opened for them. Aku stepped out onto a platform that was floating, yet didn’t even hum. It silently whisked him forward, followed by three men clad in flowing, silky garments. It was only then that Bessai realized how old he must be.
Katayoko stepped out and walked straight, expecting Bessai to follow closely. And he did.
They exited the garage; it was more like a hanger for an elaborate array of hovermobiles. The hanger had been metallic and black, but the foyer they entered was gorgeous and fashioned like ancient temples in Japan Bessai had only read about.
“Wow,” he said in English.
“Wow?” Katayoko stopped and hung near the baffled man.
“Yeah it’s like ‘wa o sugoi’, but in English.”
Katayoko briefly admired the fact that Bessai had just used three languages in one sentence without thinking twice. She looked at the blue suit he wore and the floral, collarless shirt that was underneath. She looked at his jawline and cheekbones and her chest fluttered for a moment.
“Where are we?” he asked, taking note of her stare.
“Home. For me, at least. Orientation is tomorrow morning so you’ll have to spend the night here.” She turned and marched toward a closed door. “Come, Professor. I’ll take you to the kitchen.”
“Brilliant,” he said in English again.
He approached the door and Katayoko opened it for him. The two stepped inside a very small room encased with sheet metal that was ribbed and almost seemed to be padded. Once the door closed, it was dark for a brief moment before a blue light turned on overhead, yet still, the room was dark. Bessai thought Katayoko’s silky black hair looked quite nice in the blue hue.
A blue projection of Japanese symbols appeared in front of them. It was an interactive holographic screen. Katayoko reached forward and pressed her finger against one of the symbols. The room went black again and then a blue swirl of light encompassed then in a quick flash.
The door opened again and they were in a completely different room.
“Teleportation,” Katayoko replied to the question Bessai barely knew how to ask.
“You can’t. We can.” She marched forward with a proud strut and led the baffled Bessai down a hall which led to a grand kitchen. It was incredibly tranquil, exemplifying fully an ancient Japanese culture. Even the cupboards were unlike anything Bessai had seen in his time.
He felt he needed to say something to rescue him from his stupor; brought on from feeling primitive and advanced all at once. “So what shall we eat? Raw fish?”
Katayoko glanced him almost seeming offended. Her dark eyes rolled back to a small refrigeration unit built into the wall. “We don’t have fish anymore. At least, we can’t. Our waters do not support life and because we’re independent… your government chooses to deny us trading rights. They blackmail us by not allowing us fresh ingredients, all in an attempt to coax us into joining.”
“I see… they never do share what our relations are like with independent countries. I guess there’s a purpose to that.” Bessai tried to pretend to not be on the opposing side. “What will it be, then?”
“Here.” Katayoko slid a small green cube on the counter toward him. “That will do it,” she said sharply as she leaned against the counter and crossed her arms.
“Do it?” Bessai chuckled as he popped the little cube into his mouth. It dissolved almost instantly and was more bitter than he could have thought possible. He coughed and wheezed as he placed both hands on the stone counter. “Water?” he gasped.
Katayoko let out a loud laugh at Bessai’s misfortune. “Here,” she said as he handed him a cup of yellow liquid. She had poured it from a kettle that sat on a black element that served as a stove. The cup was small, clay, and handleless. Bessai gulped back the liquid, caring not for how hot it was.
“What was that?” he asked as he cleared his throat.
“All you need. One a day, all you need.” She walked passed him and patted his shoulder. She couldn’t help but allow her hand to linger as her fingers ran across his blue jacket. She sighed and walked back toward the chamber they had travelled in. “Come, Professor,” she called after him, “it is best to exercise after consuming your meal.”
They entered the small chamber and repeated the procedure: the doors closed, followed by a brief moment of blackness, Katayoko touched the holographic screen, the blue light encompassed them, and the doors opened again. And again, they were in a different part of the building.
“Do we travel all over Japan this way?”
“No, it only works in one building. We’ve theorized if we could connect two buildings, like electricity, we could teleport back and forth. But there aren’t two buildings in the country that would want such a breach of security.”
“Do you not all get along?” Bessai said jokingly as they stepped out into a small room that was planked with red flooring. He noticed that each of the three rooms he had now been in prior to and after entering the transport closet had been the same size and each had a hall to a larger room; the hanger at first and then the kitchen.
“No, Bessai. We don’t. Welcome to my quarters, by the way.” She turned the corner and was out of sight for a moment. Bessai figured they were travelling in between floors, which was impressive based on how tall the building was; assuming they were in a building like the ones he had first seen. He quickly ran foreword to round the corner, the red planks creaking with each step. To his surprise, the room he entered was wide open with very little furniture. In one corner, Katayoko stood next to a bed dressed with red pillows and a smoke patterned blanket. There were a few round seats with no backs plopped in another corner. The rest of the room’s fixings were a variety of different exercise equipment. One of them, however, caught Bessai’s attention immediately. It was a straw mat rolled out covering a square of about twelve feet on each side. And against the wall adjacent to the mat was an incredible array of swords. In the Wnited World, no one had weapons except the legal authorities. Thus, Bessai had never seen a weapon, much less a sword, in person. It was also then that he realized on all three floors he had now been, there were no windows. The walls were all opaque and covered by art. Undoubtedly due to the unattractive view of other buildings and fog available.
Katayoko took off her shoes, let her hair down, only to tie it back again in a ponytail and walked back to where Bessai stood.
“Well?” she asked as she stretched out her arms.
“It’s a lot of space and certainly not what I expected,” he replied.
“I’m very fortunate to not have been confined to a two hundred and fifty square foot apparent like yourself, Professor. And what did you expect?”
Bessai laughed. “I don’t know.” He scratched the back of his head. “May I see your sword collection?”
“That’s why I brought you up here.” Katayoko walked toward the wall with Bessai next to her. She stopped and looked at his shoes. “Please,” she said.
Bessai knelt and untied his shoes and left them near the entrance of the room. They reached the straw mat and Katayoko took two wooden swords off of the wall.
“Here,” she said as she tossed one of them to Bessai. He reached out his hand but wasn’t able to get a firm grip on the object. The sword bounced off the ground and landed at his feet.
Katayoko snorted shortly, trying to hold back a laugh.
“And if I asked you to tell me the name of the only German-speaking man in the Central World, would you know?” Bessai retorted as he bent over and picked up the wooden sword.
“Callaghan Hans,” Katayoko replied as she stepped onto the mat and twirled her sword in her left hand.
“How could you know that?” Bessai crossed his brow thoroughly disappointed but his heart did race at hearing her say the name.
“You’re not as smart as you think you are, remember?” She stepped toward Bessai and slowly swung her sword at him to give him enough time to block, which he did in a haphazard motion.
“Hey,” he said as he swung at her, “at least I’m handsome.”
Katayoko swiped away his sword with ease and fiercely so that his toppled out of his hand. She then firmly placed the tip of her sword against his chest while she blushed from his remark.
“Hold the sword tightly. It is a part of you; do not allow it to leave your grasp.” She stepped sideways and placed her toes underneath the wooden blade. With one graceful motion, she sent the sword up into the air and caught it. She stepped toward Bessai and handed him the training weapon.
“Hold it like this,” she put her blade in between her arm and side while placed his hands on the handle. “Tight and firm. Eventually, you will be able to hold it loosely in order to bring it to a block or a strike quickly; yet for now, you shall only practice blocking my strikes.”
“Are you my sansei now?” Bessai asked, another attempt at humour.
“You could only wish for that. Hold!” she shouted as she raised her sword in the air and held it horizontally. Bessai did the same.
Katayoko then swung down and struck his blade with hers. The sound echoed through the room. Bessai was unable to absorb the blow with his blade and thus the tip of Katayoko’s weapon struck his chin.
“Ah!” he yelled as he dropped his sword. Katayoko quickly approached him and held his chin.
“No blood, it will only bruise. My apologies. But remember: tight and firm. Let your arms bend so they can absorb the strike and not break from it.”
“You just hit my face,” Bessai exclaimed.
Katayoko laughed. “Yes and I’m sorry. Perhaps we’ll continue this another time. She picked up his sword and went to put them up on the wall.
“You could only wish for that,” Bessai said in a teasing tone.
Katayoko spun around with her mouth open as she gasped verbally. She squinted at him and then turned on her heel, her hair flipping through the air as she did.
“Alright, Professor. I’ll show you your room. We can call it a day.”
“Not likely,” he said. “You must have a library of sorts. I came here to learn, remember?”
“I suppose that would be alright, considering you didn’t learn how to block a sword.” The two of them walked side by side toward the small room with the teleportation chamber.
“How do you know who about Hans? I’m a professor of language and I’ve never even met him!”
Katayoko stepped into the closet with Bessai next to her. “I’ll choose to ignore that question.” She tapped another symbol and the two transported again. She exited the chamber and stepped out into another small room which led to a beautiful, wide-open room filled with pedestals and displays of some of the most ancient-looking things Bessai had seen. One stand had a tattered old scroll, in a glass case, still bearing its original seal. One display was that of a full samurai outfit; Bessai recognized this from a few textbooks that were centuries old. And precariously, there was a glass case with two small platforms that each held one end of a curved, sheathed, sword. The sheath had Japanese symbols on it and also a few symbols that Bessai couldn’t recognize: which weighed a lot to him as he was well versed in many, many languages and pictographic texts. Bessai pushed his glasses closer to his face and leaned over, studying the sword. Amazingly, it was in perfect condition as if it had been kept in that case ever since it’s wielder passed.
“Who did this belong to?” Bessai turned at looked at Katayoko, who was smiling at him already from his curiosity.
She turned and nodded her head, gesturing for him to follow. Bessai could not help but feel his heart thump with curiosity.
Katayoko led him to a wall that had a glass cabinet stretching twenty feet in both directions. And in that cabinet, there were shelving which displayed, carefully, one by one, comic books. These comic books were at least a few hundred years old because by the year 2047, close to nothing was printed on paper in many countries. And when the world united, creating the one government for the United World of over one hundred countries, paper printing was completely abolished.
Having this information running through Bessai’s head made him marvel at the collection of comics before him. Oddly, they were all written in the Chinese language, Mandarin.
“Namonaki Senshi, or Mukashi no Hiro,” Katayoko said. “The Hero of Old. Also referred to as the Nameless Warrior”
Bessai searched his brain relentlessly but he recalled nothing of this character. He could only translate the names from the Japanese words into the global language. “What is this fable?”
“It is not just a fable,” she began in reply, “it is history.” She gestured to everything in the room. “This all belonged to him and his followers.”
Bessai’s heart thumped even more. “Are you serious?”
“Indeed. It is a rare tale, of which very few know.” She stopped and stared at the glass before her.
Bessai looked at her reflection in the glass and then at her. “I’m listening,” he said.
“I’ve never even read these, Professor. You will remain of the many who do not know the tale.” She walked away.
Bessai quickly tried to read the titles of the comics and see if he could get the name of the author.
“Come, Professor,” Katayoko’s smooth voice called to him. “Time for bed. Orientation is tomorrow.”