Author's Notes: This story idea was inspired by a challenge from 'nfsu-09.'
"There something wrong Takami?" Minaka asked as he sipped his morning coffee. She'd just received a phone call that had obviously soured her mood.
"That was my son Minato," she said. "He just failed the entrance exam for Tokyo University. Now he'll have to waste an entire year to get ready to take it a second time."
"Didn't he take any of the other exams?" Minaka asked curiously. He knew Minato was biologically his, but the one and only thing that had ever really mattered to him was his ambition to change the world with his sekirei. Even his love for Takami was a reflection of his one real passion.
"No, we were all sure he would pass so we didn't bother with any backups." She shook her head wearily. "He's actually brilliant; he was top of his class. I honestly don't know why he failed to make it in."
Talking about Minato Minaka felt his interest rising a bit. A frustrated genius? He could relate. "Does he plan to apply to other schools next year?"
Takami shook her head. "No, he wants to stay in Tokyo and go for Tokyo U. again."
"And what do you think?"
"I'll help him I suppose, but really it seems like such a waste. He has so much potential; I just don't understand how this could have happened."
Minaka slowly smiled. "Maybe fate has a different plan for him."
Takami looked at him suspiciously. "You know I don't like it when you start talking about fate and gods and all that nonsense. Minato has nothing to do with any of this. He has a nice normal life and that's how I mean for it to stay."
"What's so wonderful about an ordinary life?" Minaka asked. "Why not give the boy a chance to do something extraordinary?"
"No," she said in a flat dead voice. "I don't want him involved in any of this. I know you, I have no idea what it is you're scheming but I can tell you're scheming something. Whatever it is just forget it." She walked out of his office. "You haven't been involved in his life up until now, keep it that way!"
Seeing her walk away angry only made his smile get wider. He loved Takami; he really did, but not as much as he loved to play with fate.
Minato was lying on his bed in the motel he was staying at. His mom had called him back and informed him she would give him an allowance and allow him to remain here to go to cram school. The allowance wasn't exactly generous but it would be enough as long as he didn't try to live beyond his means. Tomorrow he would have to start looking for a cheap place he could stay and a cram school he could enroll in to start preparing to retake the test in a year.
What happened? He wondered. Why did I panic like that? He had taken plenty of tests in High School and never had a problem. But the college entrance exam had been different. Looking back on it there hadn't been anything he hadn't studied for, nothing he shouldn't have been able to answer. But as he'd started to take it the thought had occurred to him that his entire future depended on this one test. If he got into Japan's top university he was more or less guaranteed to have a successful life. He would graduate, get a top job, begin a successful career, find a proper wife, have a family, and probably become an important executive with a company.
But only if he passed. He suddenly found himself questioning everything he was writing and double checking answers he knew were right. He was consumed with self doubt and panic. By the time the exam was over his answer sheet was a mess of corrections and erasure marks. Some questions had been answered three or four times. He had dealt with pressure before but out of nowhere it had just become too much for him.
What if it happens again? He thought. What if he spent a year trying to get ready only to fail again? Then what would his life be like? Should he just give up on Tokyo University and aim for a lower level school? How would that affect his life? Would it be worse? All through High School things had always been clear cut, he'd always known what path to follow. Now he was lost.
He was surprised when the phone rang. Not his cell phone but the antique land line that was hooked up by the hotel door. Sliding off his bed he answered it.
"Is this Sahashi Minato?" A cultured voice on the other end replied.
"Yes, who is this?" Minato asked curiously. He had thought it was the hotel front desk but was now sure it wasn't. The person on the line seemed far to refined to be working at a low end hotel.
"Minato-san, my name is Ichinome Natsuo. I am a recruiter for M.B.I. and I am calling to see if you might be interested in a special position we believe you would be perfect for."
"M.B.I.?" He had of course heard of it, who hadn't? It was one of the world's largest and most well respected multinational corporations. At the moment they were making headlines with their newest medicines as well as their efforts to buy up the capitol. "I'm sorry but you must be mistaken, I'm not even in college yet, there's no way your company would be interested in me."
"Oh I am not mistaken Minato-san," the voice replied. "Sahashi Minato, age 19, recent graduate of Kiabi High School with a perfect 4.0 average and ranked 34th nationally among High School seniors. Mother Sahashi Takami, father is unknown, family also includes a grandmother and younger sister. You recently failed the Tokyo University entrance exam and because you did not take any other entrance exams do not qualify to enter into college at this time."
Minato didn't realize he was gaping and stunned until her heard the man speak up again after a drawn out pause.
"Minato-san? Are you still there Minato-san?"
"Ye... yes I'm here, how did you now all that?"
"It's all part of the public record Minato-san, it wasn't hard to find. Are you convinced now that you are the one we want?"
"Well… yes and no. It's obvious that you're talking to the right person. But I can't see why you would be interested in someone who couldn't even pass the college entrance exam he took."
The voice laughed softly. "Minato-san, there is much more to life than passing test. Tens of thousands of students passed their entrance tests this year. So what? We believe you are uniquely qualified for a position we have. If you accept your starting salary will be 100 million yen per year, that will not include bonuses and stock options. Are you interested?"
"You had me up until then," he said with disappointment. "My mother warned me there were scary people in the capitol and not to trust them. You're some sort of con artist aren't you? Trying to trick me with some ridiculous story about getting a job with a great company for such ridiculous money. There's no way it could be real."
"I assure you that it is Minato-san."
"I'm hanging up now."
"Would you be able to get to M.B.I. Tower tomorrow?" The man asked quickly before he could be cut off. "Would you believe me if the reception desk sent you up to my office on the eightieth floor?"
Minato hesitated. "I might," he said cautiously.
"Then please come by anytime tomorrow and simply give your name to reception. I assure Minato-san that the offer is real and that if you come we will not waste your time."
At the end of the call Minato was telling himself it was a huge waste of time. High School graduates didn't get hired for jobs that paid like that. It had to be a scam of some sort. But no matter how obvious it was that it would be a waste of time he was much too intrigued not to go there.
He felt horribly underdressed. He hadn't bought a suit just to take the entrance exam. He was dressed in a button down shirt and slacks and surrounded by men in designer suits and women in the latest office fashion. He stuck out like the country hick that he was. It was very much like being a goldfish surrounded by sharks.
Looking around at the expensive furnishings and the state of the art computers he had to admit that if this was a con it was a damn convincing one. He had been directed up to an office on the eightieth floor and invited to sit in the reception area. Someone had promptly offered him coffee or tea and the secretary was eying him with great interest.
After only a few minutes she invited him to go inside.
When he entered he was very surprised to find what looked like an apartment rather than an office. There was a sofa, chairs, a large screen plasma tv, and even a game system.
There were also three women sitting by a small end table. They all looked up at him as he entered. One had pink hair and was dressed in a black kimono with a sleeve missing. One had a mess of wild unkempt hair and bandages wrapped around her chest and arms. The last silver hair in a long pony tails and was dressed in a black out fit with a long grey coat resting on her shoulders. She was the one who got his attention. She was looking at him with an odd grin and slowly sharpening a katana with a sharpening stone.
Wisk, wisk, wisk she played the stone over the blade while her eyes were on him.
Something about her made him want to turn right around and leave.
All three women were eying whim without comment, as though measuring him and trying to determine what he might be worth.
"Minato-san! So glad you could come!"
Minato turned to see a dapper looking blond haired man in a dark suit extend his hand.
"I'm pleased to meet you Natsuo-san," Minato replied and shook his hand weakly. "I hope you'll forgive me for saying that this is a very strange job interview."
Natsuo nodded. "I can understand how you may feel that way. Actually, the job is yours if you want it. I have the contract right here and we are ready to hire you."
"Just like that?" Minato said disbelieving. There were almost too many red flags for him to count. "I'm sorry, but you haven't even told me what this job involves or what makes me qualified."
"The job is to baby sit the three of us and to try and not get in our way." The pink haired girl suddenly spoke up.
The one with the bandages looked over at her. "Why do we need a baby sitter?" She sounded oddly serious and the pink haired girl scowled at her.
The girl with the sword ignored both of them and continued to sharpen her blade.
Natsuo turned to the pink haired one and smiled. "Bentisubasa, please, we've been over this."
"I don't want him for an ashikabi! Why can't we have you?" She demanded.
"What difference does it make?" The bandage girl asked.
Wisk, wisk, wisk the girl with the sword continued to grin at him.
"Minaka wants him to be your ashikabi, and that's that," Natsuo said simply.
"Excuse me but what's going on here?" Minato asked more confused than ever. "What's an ashikabi and who is Minaka?"
"An ashikabi is what you're here to be," Bentisubasa told him resentfully. "And Minaka is the center of the universe, or so he thinks."
The bandage girl laughed.
"I think I'll be going now," Minato said and turned to leave.
"Stay," a woman's voice said sharply.
Minato stopped in his tracks while the others in the room looked at the woman as she stood up and slipped her sword into its sheath. Still grinning at him she began to walk over to where he was standing.
"You're scared of me aren't you?"
He gulped and answered. "Yes."
"That shows you have a well honed survival instinct," the sword woman said as she stood right in front of him. Her grey eyes were staring right into his brown ones while she kept that same maddening grin in place. "What's your name?"
"Minato, Sahashi Minato," he answered.
"Sahashi? But that's…" Bentisubasa began only to be silenced by a motion of the sword woman's hand.
"My name is Karasuba," she said pleasantly. "Tell me, do you believe in fate?"
"Uh, no, not really," he said. "I believe that we each have to take responsibility for the decisions we make."
"Is that a fact?" She sounded amused. "Then how would you like it if I gave you the chance to make your own destiny?"
He looked into her cold grey eyes and could feel the hypnotic power of her stare. "What do you mean?"
She casually grabbed one of the buttons from his dress shirt and yanked it off. She displayed it for a moment before bring it and both hands behind her back. She then brought out both hands in fists. "I'll give you the chance to make your own destiny. Pick the hand with the button and you get the 'job' of being our ashikabi, and I'll even promise to listen to you once in awhile. Pick the other hand and I separate your head from your body."
"Karasuba you can't! He's…" Natsuo cut off with just a look from her.
"Or, if you want you can walk out that door and just leave," she told him. "You can run away."
He looked into her eyes and steadied himself. "A man never runs away."
"Is that so?"
Minato nodded. "I don't understand what's going on here. Why would you kill someone you've just met?"
"It's a test, pure and simple," she replied. "You're a worthless human being and nothing could ever change that. But if you're going to me my ashikabi that will make you at least a tiny bit important to me. I won't have a coward serving as my ashikabi. So prove yourself to me, show me you have guts."
All at once he was reminded of sitting down to take the entrance exam again. Though the situation seemed ridiculous he couldn't help but really believe her when she said she would kill him if he picked wrong. For the second time his entire future rested on a 'test' and picking the right solution. His whole life would change forever or end right now based on his decision. Because there was no chance he was going to run.
"I really don't understand what's going on here, but I choose this one."
He lightly tapped her right hand.
Still grinning she slowly opened it to reveal a single black button.
Karasuba laughed. "Well you're still worthless… but at least you have guts."
In the next second he felt her roughly grab the back of his head and ram his face down to hers. His eyes widened as he felt her mouth on his and her tongue wiggling around inside. As soon as she let go of him he was even more startled to see wings of light appear around her.
Laughing at his confusion she spoke. "Let's watch the world burn together, now and forever."
He had no idea at all just how much his life had just changed.