There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 1: Hurried Construction of a Secret Area Not on Any Maps
Volume 4: The Newly-Built Ancient Ruins
The underground bar Ama-no-Iwato, located in an alleyway in the Kita-Senju district of Adachi City, had a secret underground room. When a specific wine bottle disguised as part of the interior decor was moved, a lock would disengage and a shelf would slide away. At the bottom of the spiral staircase that would be revealed was a solid steel door outfitted with a voice recognition lock. Only by chanting the correct password would access to the secret underground floor finally be granted.
In short, this was a so-called “secret base.” This was the base of operations of the secret organization that fought against the World Shadows, Amaterasu.
The secret base had a monitor room, storage room, training room, enough supplies to sustain ten people for ten days at a moment’s notice, and so much more. However, all of this had been done without going through the proper application processes with the ward office. As there was no connection to an aboveground window to supply lighting and ventilation, this place was in clear violation of the strict guidelines set out in the Building Standards Act. We did have ventilation ducts, but the bigger problem was that if we properly declared everything as we were supposed to, this secret base would no longer be a “secret” base. In addition, there were a ton of bladed weapons and guns in our storage room that we definitely did not have the license to possess. Although our connections with the police granted us a certain degree of protection, I still found myself worrying about it every once in a while. Even taking all of that into consideration, however, the concept of a secret base located underneath an underground bar was just so attractive to me that I absolutely just had to build it.
Takahashi Shouta-kun, a freshman in a certain private high school, was another person who fully understood the allure of the secret underground base. One might think of him as an ordinary male high schooler with an ordinary name and an ordinary personality, but then one would be wrong. Shouta-kun had his hair dyed bright red (in violation of school regulations), wore t-shirts with bright red patterns underneath his uniform (in violation of school regulations), always had lighters — both the usual kind and the grill kind1 — dangling from his belt (in violation of school regulations), was constantly puffing on lit chocolate cigarettes2 (in violation of school regulations), and believed in the Truth of Fire (not in violation of school regulations). In short, he looked and acted like either a shounen manga protagonist or a delinquent, depending on your point of view. It was almost unbelievable that he had been a run-of-the-mill student up till his second year in middle school. Although his appearance and mannerisms strongly hinted at him being a fire user, his superpower was actually cryokinesis, and he was really good at using it. Well, all humans have their histories.
Well then. It was now wintertime, the time of the year that saw the streets filled with the usual Christmas jingles. Shouta-kun was down in the training room of the secret base together with Ig, working hard on training his abilities. As of late, the focus of his efforts had been towards trying to emit his freezing beam without the support of a PSI drive.
The default range of his superpower was 5 m, but with the boost from a PSI drive, he was capable of compressing his power and shooting it out to a range of up to several hundreds of meters. Ever since the dawn of war, range has always been associated with superiority. Humans had hunted mammoths with throwing spears, and the bow had dominated battlefields over entire millenia. Being able to one-sidedly launch attacks from a safe distance has been, and always will be, the best tactic.
As Shouta-kun converted the training room into an icy hell of -200°C with a heart burning with passion, I kept an eye on him using telekinesis from the counter of Ama-no-Iwato, polishing a wine glass the whole time.
For the past half year, I had been gone from Amaterasu, pretending to have lost a large part of both my power and memories. The setting went that the World Shadows were linked up with me, and so when I was weakened, there were no World Shadows assaulting humans. Now that I was back, however, the World Shadows were also back. The world was once again back under threat.
During the time when the World Shadows were taking a break, the adolescent members of Amaterasu, Shouta-kun and Touka-chan, had been working hard on their studies. Fighting with the World Shadows was a pretty time-consuming affair, sometimes requiring late nights and early mornings. It would be putting the cart before the horse if they were to fail their entrance exams or fail to get recruited because of it. Now that I had returned to Amaterasu, exciting events were going to start up again. In expectation of this, Kaburagi-san had apparently looked after the two’s studies to help them pull ahead so that they could afford the time for these events. When I heard this, I realized once again how I really was no match for her.
And as it turned out, the two students had been working not only on their academic studies, but had also started thinking about their future. Shouta-kun had attended a workplace tour of the thermal power station in Shinagawa3, whereas Touka-chan had gone on a volunteer trip building a large Buddha in Myanmar. Good on her for finding a way to earn merit and learn something at the same time. Back when I was in my first year of high school, I had been a devil-may-care without a single life goal in my mind.
Guess the world really does keep turning even in my absence, I thought with a pang of loneliness. But now that I was back, it was time to kick it back up to spinning speed!
First event, right on the heels of my reinstatement in Amaterasu!
After finishing his training, Shouta-kun came out of the training room while opening and closing his hand, looking deep in thought. At that very moment, I released Ig from my telekinetic hold. The teenager watched as the little monkey scampered through the half-opened door of the storage room.
“Wait a — no, you can’t — don’t go in there!”
Shouta-kun quickly chased the monkey in a fluster. With all of the firearms and weapons and PSI drives stored within, the storage room’s door was usually kept tightly closed. It was a complete mystery whose fault it was, but apparently somebody had forgotten to close up after themselves and Curious George Ig had gotten in. How troubling.
“Ig! Come on out! I’ll give you a chocolate cigarette! Be a good girl!”
While peeking through the various shelves that lined the room, Shouta-kun continued calling out to the common marmoset. Eventually, he found her scrabbling at something underneath one of the corner shelves.
“What are you doing, sheesh. Let it go. Let~it~go!”
Shouta-kun tugged at Ig’s small body, but the monkey was fiercely clinging to one of the legs of the shelf and obstinately refusing to let go. After all, there was a coat of sweet, sweet sap on the leg that had been specially blended to be odorless to humans. Whereas Ig was engrossed with licking the sap, from Shouta-kun’s point of view, it only seemed like the little animal was resisting based on some whimsical fancy.
Right when Shouta-kun’s elbow happened to bump into another shelf, a click rang out and the shelf moved away. Behind the shelf was — gasp — a dimly-lit secret room! This was a secret room inside the secret base underneath a bar, a secret area that wasn’t anywhere on the blueprints! I had worked hard building it five days ago!
As Shouta-kun stared in astonishment, I used telekinesis to gently free Ig from his hands in a way that wouldn’t feel unnatural, after which the little monkey darted inside the secret area in pursuit of an even thicker scent of sap.
“…………… Th-There’s no helping it, right? Ig’s gone inside, and I can’t very well not retrieve her, right?”
While muttering excuses to himself under his breath, Shouta-kun gingerly stepped foot inside the secret area with his face a mixture of excitement and guilt. I mean, of course he would be curious about it. Of course he would go in. I get it, man. When faced with an “Authorized Personnel Only” sign, if the perfect excuse was presented to me, even I would slip inside in a heartbeat. If this was Touka-chan, she would have taken the “correct” approach of first reporting to Kaburagi-san and asking for instructions for whether or not to go in, so using Ig to fan Shouta-kun’s curiosity really was the right call after all.
The dimly-lit room was eerily quiet due to having no air conditioning and being fully soundproofed. There were also shelves in here, just like in the storage room. The ones in here were only sparsely populated, but there was a certain air about everything on display. A rusty pocket watch whose hands were stopped. A large, beautiful plate the color of aquamarine. A chipped urn decorated with peculiar motifs. A big, black pearl resting on top of a crimson cloth. A golden necklace embedded with large jewels of a variety of colors. A rough-hewn wooden flute. A staff entwined with wilted vines. A cat statue made of marble. It was a collection of “things that looks like it has a story” purchased for a total of 700,000 yen.
Of course, there wasn’t actually anything special about any of these items. The mystical aura that seemed to envelop them was merely an effect created by them being hidden away in a secret area and the unnatural quietness of the room.
It was about time, so I put down my wine glass, used telekinesis to wrap up a ball of oxygenated gasoline4, then headed down to the secret area while killing the sound of my footsteps.
By this time, Shouta-kun had completely forgotten about Ig, his eyes having been completely stolen by the fascinating items on display. There was a certain naked short sword decorated with tassels that he seemed particularly taken with. For several minutes, he extended and retrieved his hand, clearly conflicted about whether to pick it up or not.
……up……it up……pick it up……you want to touch it……you know you want to……
When I sent telepathic suggestions to the teenager from my position in the shadows of the doorway, he finally took the handle of the sword. That instant, I threw a protective barrier over every item and every living being inside the room, greatly compressed the oxygenated gasoline that I was holding onto, set it on fire, and released it. In short, I caused a huge explosion. From Shouta-kun’s point of view, it must have looked like the sword had exploded.
A terrible roar went up and a violent gust of wind reduced the shelves in the room to deformed wrecks. Thick, black smoke billowed out the open doorway.
In spite of the suddenness of everything, Shouta-kun’s reaction had been muy perfecto. The Eternal Guard Blizzard (Wall of Absolute Zero) that he had deployed instantaneously would have protected his body just fine even without my barrier. Clearly, he had been very hard at work training his instant cast.
When I thought about it again, I realized that it had already been two years and three months since Shouta-kun awakened to his superpower. Humans would grow automatically just by eating and sleeping, but this was the kind of thing that wouldn’t grow without diligent effort. Seeing the proof of how hard Shouta-kun had been working towards being able to stand on his own made me very happy. To think that that common-looking teenager had now grown up into such a fine man.
Without waiting for the reverberation still ringing in the air to subside, I used telekinesis to clear away all the smoke and revealed myself in the doorway.
“Guess I should have stuck an ‘Authorized Personnel Only’ sign somewhere.”
“Shit. Uh, Master…”
When I spoke up in a solemn voice, Shouta-kun dispelled his defenses and scratched his head awkwardly.
“S-Sorry, Master. I think I bro— I made something explode? I think it exploded. All I did was touch it, I swear. I didn’t do anything else.”
“I-I’ll pay for the damages. Please forgive me.”
“There’s no need.”
“What? ……Wait, what?”
I pointed to the completely unharmed artifacts scattered all over the ground. Shouta-kun’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. After all, it had seemed like an explosion that had utterly destroyed everything. Of course he would be freaked out. The pocket watch might have survived somehow, but the chipped urn looked like it would break just falling to the ground, much less withstand an explosion. In spite of all this, it looked none the worse for wear aside from the soot on its surface.
“Oh, you protected them with telekinesis.”
“…That’s not it. We’ll explain. Come on up.”
Shouta-kun guessing correctly made my heart skip a beat, but I curtly voiced my denial, then turned to head upwards. Of course, I did not forget to use telekinesis to retrieve Ig, who was entirely frozen with surprise. Using the trope of starting an arc with an explosion seemed to have gone well. Kaburagi-san would be back soon, with Touka-chan in tow, to take on the role of providing exposition. The setting was that I had grown a little less tight-lipped compared to the time before I left, but it would be weird for me to suddenly get all talkative. Maintaining character was important.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Sago-san had been traveling around the world as part of his efforts at fighting the World Shadows.”
Meekly sitting across the table from Kaburagi-san — who was wearing a juunihitoe5 today — was the high schooler pair of Touka-chan and Shouta-kun. Clearly not a fan of the slightly burnt smell coming off of Shouta-kun and me, Ig was up in her decorative plant in the corner, rustling about and doing her own thing.
“Part of that journey involved searching for and retrieving Artifacts. And that special area in the back of the storage room is where we are storing them.”
In response to Touka-chan’s mystified look, Kaburagi-san nodded in confirmation.
“That’s right. Baba-san had called Sago-san ‘the world’s oldest esper,’ but that was not quite right. According to history records, espers have actually appeared several times in the past a long, long time ago. There were eras with espers and eras without espers, and nobody seems to know the reason why that is. One thing, however, is certain: everytime the espers show up again, the first one is always a telekinetic. In that meaning, I suppose Sago-san being the oldest isn’t exactly wrong. And as for Artifacts, these are relics that espers from long ago have poured their powers into.”
“Damn, I never knew.”
Damn, I never knew… wait, no, Kaburagi-san just made that up, didn’t she? It sounded so realistic that even I almost believed it. But the word “artifact” really does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? If only these Artifacts actually existed. It’s because they don’t exist that I have to go to the trouble of forging them. Real life is just sad.
“So then, why did something like that explode? Did it contain a fragment of the Truth of Fire or something?”
“The unstable power inside had probably gone out of control. Artifacts are too dangerous to touch carelessly. That’s why we had isolated them in their own room.”
“Dangerous to touch carelessly?”
At the end of Shouta-kun’s doubtful gaze was Ig, who was entertaining herself by furiously tugging at the chain of the rusty pocket watch. What she was doing was clearly way beyond the limits of “careless.”
Monkey! Don’t go overturning our setting right after it got explained!!!
“……Though there are Artifacts which aren’t dangerous. Those whose powers are in a stable state are safe to touch.”
Nice cover up!
“In other words, it’s better to assume that they’re all dangerous, right? Shouta, you never think things through before acting. The fact that the area was hidden means that there’s a reason why it was hidden. Any normal person would know better than to go in. The right thing to do would be to first get proper permi—”
“Ah~ah~ah, I don’t want to hear your lecturing.”
“Alright, then. Avalokita Bodhisattva, who dee—”
“Neither do I want to hear your sutras either. Why do you look so disgruntled? Oh, right, changing the topic, well, maybe I’m not, but in any case, was Master in the middle of retrieving an Artifact from Shichijou-jima when it exploded and obliterated the island? That’s insane. Yeah, I can see why you’d want to isolate something like that.”
Shouta-kun crossed his arms and nodded in comprehension. That’s… not it. But let’s not confirm nor deny it. It’d probably sound even more “insane” if I explain that the explosion had just happened somehow when Oyabun and I punched out with our full strength.
While inwardly cracking a wry smile at the unexpected misunderstanding, Kaburagi-san went on to sum everything up.
“Each Artifact contains a different power, and I’ve been ‘making’ time to study them. Theoretically, there is very likely an Artifact out there that’s capable of completely eliminating the World Shadows. We can’t very well continue fighting against them forever and ever, right? We would eventually need to take some action against the very root of the problem. And Sago-san and I believe that the solution lies with the Artifacts. That’s why he was going around searching for them.”
“Are we too weak to be of help?”
“I know I did just mess up, but the both of us have definitely grown stronger. Sure, there might be danger involved, but this is basically just treasure hunting, right? Let us help out with something like that at least. We already possess enough strength to do that much.”
Shouta-kun followed up Touka-chan’s words with his own reassurance. Kaburagi-san and I exchanged glances and smiled. They sure catch on quick.
“In that case, would you two like to try your hand at the next Artifact retrieval mission?”
“Thank you for the opportunity.”
“We got this.”
Both high schoolers nodded resolutely.
You guys asked for it yourselves!
We’re taking it as your declaration of consent!
Brb while I go build the ancient ruins where the most powerful Artifact ever sleeps!
If you’re enjoying the series, please consider buying Volumes 1 and 2 in Japanese and English to support Kurodome-sensei and me!
All details in the Table of Contents page.
1 These. Apparently they’re called “grill lighters,” courtesy of Khuma. I honestly never knew. Even the Japanese don’t really have a proper name for them, as they are referred to as chakkaman, which is a proprietary eponym like how “velcro” is just velcro and there’s no other name for what it is.
2 Just want to put this here, but cigarettes are bad for your health! Don’t smoke!