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reap the fruits of your labor

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This was one of Reigen’s best ideas yet. Or at least that’s what he tells himself as the door menacingly creaks open into the abandoned warehouse.

He’d heard stories, hushed whispers about the haunted building no one would dare enter. Reigen used to be like them, looking at the building with a mix of fear and reproach as he drove by it in his mom’s car, but now it’s different. To become the greatest psychic of the twenty-first century, you have to have experience, right?

Reigen grips his table salt as he creeps in, tossing the lock he picked to the side. So far, it’s what you’d expect: crates and shelves with cobwebs decorating them. No spirits to be seen. Maybe the rumors were fake? He shoves the salt in his pocket and begins investigating.

He’s in the middle of the building, tracing the dusty shelves with his finger, when he hears something slam. He whips his head to see the door, previously propped open, closed shut. Reigen runs, faster than he’s ever run in his life, to the door. No matter how hard he pulls, it won’t budge.

‘Oh my god. Am I really going to die here? No, I can crawl through the window—'

Reigen’s thoughts are interrupted by a groan in his ear, halfway a whisper and halfway a moan. “I haven’t had fresh meat in so long…”

Reigen’s lucky that he decided to brave this alone, lucky that no one else is here with him because he never would’ve lived down the girlish scream he let out at the noise. Shaking, Reigen slowly turns around to see a slightly humanoid figure glowing green and looking at him with bemusement. “Tell me, foolish human. How would you like to be eaten? Would you like me to drag it out? Slurp your insides nice and slowly?”

That snaps Reigen out of stupor. ‘Okay, alright. Stall for time while you think up a plan.’

“Really? ‘Slurp my insides out?’” Reigen asks. He hopes his incredulous tone hides the way his body shakes. He shoves his hands into his pockets to conceal the trembling and puts on a bored expression. “And how would that work?”

The spirit stops for a moment to think. “Like a Silly Straw. The ones that were on the television. Do you still have them? When I was alive, they were everywhere.”

“Of course we have Silly Straws. My older sister loved them as a kid.” Is going through the window still a viable option? Maybe if Reigen booked it, he might make it. He’s backed up against a corner, both figuratively and literally. A possibility, but not likely. “Now, what were you saying about Silly Straws? How would that work?”

The spirit strokes its chin thoughtfully. “I could poke a hole in you. Right where your ear is. Poke a hole and drink all the blood. It tastes pretty good. Have you tried some before?”

“Can’t say I have,” Reigen says. “Each to their own, I guess. Humans don’t tend to do that.” His hand grasps the table salt still in his pocket. Would it really work...?

“You should try it sometime,” the spirit says. “It’s good to broaden your horizons.”

“I’d love to try that. You’re right, you know. There’s a stigma around blood these days that’s very unfounded. In fact, I think I’ll go try some right now. If you could open the door, please?”

Reigen turns around to begin walking out the [still closed] door when a burst of psychic energy stops him in his tracks. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Okay, he’s got this. A plan begins to formulate in his mind; now the only thing to do is execute it flawlessly. Reigen tuts. “Then I guess I have no other choice.” He turns again, this time with the table salt out and ready, and throws it at the spirit, yelling “Salt Splash!”

It screams. In the moment of confusion, Reigen sprints towards the window, something akin to hope fluttering in his chest for the first time. He’s close, so close—

“That was rude.” In the blink of an eye, the spirit went from yelling in pain to placing its hand on Reigen’s shoulder, tone much more serious than before. “Unfortunately for you, regular table salt doesn’t work on evil spirits. It has to be purified.”

“A-ah,” Reigen squeaks. He inwardly cringes at his delivery. “I see where you’re coming from.” He’s sweating bullets.

BAM.

Reigen’s slammed against the wall, the impact shaking his body to the core. It hurts, his body aches and his head is dizzy and the spirit is looming closer and closer, about to strike, and—

A lot happens all at once. Reigen curls into a defensive position and covers his hands over his face when he hears a fizzing sound and a painful shriek. Wait, what?

Still wary, Reigen puts down his hands to see the spirit gone. In his place, the warehouse door is pushed open, a man panting with his right hand outstretched.

“Y-you shouldn’t come here. You’re lucky I felt the energy and came to save you,” the man says, still panting. Upon closer inspection, he has a bowl cut for some god-awful reason. (Seriously though, who decides to wear a bowl cut in this day and age? For some reason, Reigen finds himself slightly offended.)

There’s a beat of silence between the two as they both size each other up. Reigen stands and starts walking towards him. The energy is strange. It’s not hostile, but the lack of talking makes it feel like a standoff, gun in Reigen’s pocket and ready to draw at any time.

Reigen’s the first to break the silence. “Holy shit!” he cries out. “You’re an esper, aren’t you?”

“Um,” Bowl Cut says, blinking. “Yes?”

“This is perfect! Just what I needed.” Reigen makes a flurry of hand motions, ending with him pointing at Bowl Cut. “I, Reigen Arataka, will allow you to train me!”

“…Train?”

“Yes. I may be an extremely powerful esper, but I am still young. To release my untapped potential, I will be your student.”

“I- “

“First off, what’s your name? If we’re going to be working together, I need to know more about you.”

Bowl Cut shifts his feet and looks down at the ground. “I never agreed to train you though…”

“No matter. This is destiny, fate!” Reigen jabs his finger into Bowl Cut’s chest. Bowl Cut startles and pulls back. He’s short, taller than Reigen but maybe slightly above average height if you squint. “Do you want to defy that?”

“I don’t have time to train you,” Bowl Cut says, trailing off, but he sounds uncertain. Good. Maybe Reigen can wear him down. He seems timid after all.

“Really? What are you doing? If you have work, train me after.”

Something in Bowl Cut’s face shifts. It’s not much, but it’s enough to be noticeable. “No. There was an ‘incident.’” He looks uncomfortable, but Reigen presses on regardless.

“What happened? Did you screw up the paperwork or something? Talk back to your superior?”

Bowl Cut pauses. “It had to do with my psychic powers.”

The words weigh down on both of them, the air thick with tension. Bowl Cut continues with, “That’s why I won’t train you. Psychic powers are dangerous.”

“Well, obviously. Everything’s dangerous if you try hard enough. It’s all about control.”

Bowl Cut blinks again. Can he do anything else? He doesn’t seem stupid perse, but it seems to take him more time to digest things. No worries. Reigen can catch him up. “What do you mean?”

“They’re like knives, right? All you have to do is use them responsibly.”

“I… I never thought about it that way before.”

“That’s what I mean! You don’t consider the possibilities!” Reigen says, waving his hands around wildly. “Think of how psychic powers can help people!”

“Can they really?” Bowl Cut asks, trailing of at the end.

“You helped me, didn’t you? Although I am very powerful, I left my ‘vanquishing-evil-spirits’ salt at home. I would’ve been dead if you hadn’t shown up.” Reigen lets him process the weight of the words and then continues. “Now, what’s your name?”

“My name… You can call me Mob.”

Reigen frowns. “Mob? What kind of name is that?”

“It’s a nickname from grade school.”

‘It’s a pretty stupid nickname,’ Reigen almost blurts out, but he manages to stop himself. If he wants this guy to be his master, he can’t insult him directly to his face. Instead, he nods and says, “Ah. Makes sense. Yes, a nickname from grade school. It’s a very nice name.”

Bowl Cu- no, Mob doesn’t smile, but his mouth turns upwards such a minuscule amount it’s undetectable if you aren’t paying attention. “Thank you.”

The more Reigen thinks about it, the more the name is going to cause issues. “Mm, this brings up some slight problems.” Mob looks baffled. He opens his mouth, presumably to ask why, but Reigen cuts him off before he gets the chance. “While Mob is a fantastic name, truly marvelous, it doesn’t roll off the tongue at all. You’re going to be my master, but this just won’t do. Mob-shishou? Master Mob? It doesn’t fit, not one bit.”

Mob’s quizzical expression deepens. “It doesn’t?”

“Exactly! I’m glad you understand,” Reigen says. “Now, what is the answer to this peculiar predicament?”

Mob bites his lip. “You can, ah, just call me Mob. No honorifics.”

“Incredible! What a wonderful solution. As expected from my brilliant master.” Reigen abruptly bows, which causes Mob to startle. “Thank you for agreeing to teach me, Master! I will be a good student.”

“I did…?”

“Yes, you said so earlier. Remember?”

“If I said so…” Mob says. He sounds unconvinced, but Reigen considers this a win.

“Perfect! Now then, where’s your home base?”

“You mean my house?”

“That’s it, yes. Your house. Is there any extra space?”

“Um, I guess so. I have three rooms, but only use two of them. The other is for storage. Why?”

Another idea is forming, the perfect solution to both of their problems. Mob needs a job, and Reigen needs a master. Reigen grins. “Great. Spirits and Such Consultation Office is officially in business.”