There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 3: Getting Serious with the Ruin Forging
Volume 4: The Newly-Built Ancient Ruins
The history of these ruins dated back to BCE. A group of espers who’d drifted ashore erected a castle and built a thriving nation based on the production of Artifacts. They had also surrounded their territory with a barrier that only allowed espers through, perhaps to keep wild animals out, perhaps because there had been a war between espers and non-espers at the time, or perhaps because of something else entirely. Regardless, there was eventually a great tsunami and the land sank, dragging the entire civilization to the bottom of the ocean together with it.
Some time between 800 AD and 1050 AD, a group of Vikings that had been menacing the shores of the North Sea discovered these sunken ruins. Due to some miracle of nature, the water veins beneath Marineland Island had invaded the underground ruins, connecting them to the primeval forest on the island through a series of limestone caves. The Vikings used and expanded these caves. As the barrier that denied entry to all non-espers was still alive and well, the ancient ruins made for a perfect storage place for treasure. Only the Viking chief and those followers of his who had Awakened their superpowers could enter and leave the ruins freely. Just in case, they also added traps and hidden passages for fear of intrusion by enemies who were themselves also Awakened.
However, these Vikings got caught in a great storm while out on an excursion and died at sea.
In the modern day, Kaburagi-san came upon the legend and found the treasure map and ancient documents left behind by the Vikings. Upon careful analysis, she came to learn of the existence of an Artifact sleeping deep inside these ruins and was therefore now approaching the grand duchess for permission to retrieve it.
Aaaaand that was the setting that we were going with! Only espers could actually enter this place, it was filled with a ton of traps and surprises, and we were talking about an item that could perhaps blow the entire island sky high if it was handled inappropriately. As such, there was no other choice but to call in a professional team of espers to take care of it, right?
However, having Amaterasu simply go in, grab the thing, and walk right out wasn’t going to make for an interesting story. Therefore, I was planning on getting Chris, whose parents were treasure hunters, and Miyama, who loved getting involved with things that seem fun, involved through some random excuse. And now we had a contest!
Chris could read as far back as two months into the past, which meant that she would realize the ruins were fake if she was allowed in immediately after they were finished. Therefore, it was necessary to let the ruins “sleep” for at least two months. We had to back-calculate the days and plan out the construction schedule accordingly.
Chris, Shouta-kun, and Touka-chan were all high-schoolers now. Miyama was a full-grown man who had a pretty good head on his shoulders. If the construction was shoddy and came across as unnatural, someone might notice. Careful designing and high-quality work was called for.
For example, if we were to put in murals to liven the place up, painting the murals in a modern style would be just asking to be exposed. No, we needed to stick to an ancient style, which meant either studying a whole ton or calling in an expert who knew this stuff.
The same could be said of the language that we would be using for inscriptions. The Vikings used “Old Norse,” a language for which there was actually quite a lot of records and references. As such, we could just have Baba speed-learn the language and write up some random passages that I could then carve with telekinesis. However, in doing so, the writing style also needed to be carefully decided. We couldn’t very well have the words written in “Sago Kinemitsu’s handwriting.” That, too, could give the jig away. And since we were talking inscriptions inside an ancient ruin, naturally that meant not just one, but numerous writers, all of them having been carving whatever they wanted. To truly bring out a sense of authenticity, we needed to have the whole spectrum, including good handwriting, bad handwriting, scrawling, poetic script, slangs, and graffiti.
Chances were that these inscriptions weren’t all going to be read, but we were talking Old Norse here, which basically meant Nordic runes. Anyone with at least a moderate case of chuuni would have had plenty of opportunity to see quite a bit of Nordic runes and perhaps might even be able to read bits and pieces of the text. In fact, I myself could also read a bit. Just hearing “Nordic runes found in an ancient ruin dating back to when they were in use” would be enough to send the inner chuuni in me hopping with excitement.
At the other end of the limestone caves that the Vikings had expanded would then be the actual prehistoric ruins. Here we planned on asking Baba to just use the language in her home world to carve up a ton of monoliths with obscure and mysterious passages. Since there was zero chance of these being read, she could have complete freedom to write whatever she wanted. All I wanted was quantity; though admittedly, that requirement wasn’t that easy to meet either.
The walls of the room are entirely covered with fantastical words and murals! The words are undecipherable, but the murals still contain enough hints to detail how to open the sealed door! …was the kind of gimmick that I wanted to pull off. We were going to all the trouble making an ancient ruin anyways, so we might as well go the whole way.
The murals and words alone weren’t the only thing to worry about. There was also degradation from time. If these were truly to be ruins from several centuries to several millennia ago, it would be weird for it to show no signs of wind erosion or water corrosion. Making something look appropriately aged was much harder than making something look completely brand new. This, too, was something that would probably require studying or an expert.
The requirements continued on. There would be water and air inside of the limestone caves, which meant a whole ecosystem with fauna. We would have to plant appropriate things, such as mold, moss, and mushrooms, of which there were almost endless choices for. If we planted something that wouldn’t normally survive inside a limestone cave, it’d just die and wilt. Maybe Chris or Shouta-kun knew some random trivia about mushrooms and got suspicious?
It was also necessary to calculate the stability and ventilation of the cave. Espers were equally susceptible to suffocation like any other human, and a sudden cave-in that caught them off guard could easily kill them in a split second. Oyabun at full strength and I might be able to do something in those situations, but the same couldn’t be said of the members that would be visiting the ruins this time.
Last thing to worry about was how to excavate the bedrock in a way that would seem natural for a limestone cave and how to divert a water vein over while making sure that it wouldn’t flood the whole place. Then we would need to install sufficiently thrilling traps that wouldn’t kill instantly.
There were mountains of things that I needed to think through and consult experts on.
During that time when I was embroiled in the bloody fight between yakuza (though Oyabun’s place wasn’t a yakuza organization), Kaburagi-san had already helped think through the basic parts of the plan. While she was now busy hashing out things regarding the land itself with the Marineland side, I went ahead and started with what I could do first. With telekinesis, I examined the nearest water vein and strength of the bedrock in the area, then started doing some preliminary digging. The detailed decorations could be done afterwards.
Where experts would normally need to use special tools like ultrasound or sonar or something to carefully confirm how the land was holding up and dig slowly bit by bit, I had a much easier time of it, being able to do everything all at once. Though admittedly, that did involve me purchasing a geology textbook and staring at it the entire time I was working. Even though I could tell where the different layers of stone were, I didn’t know what the different colors and different hardnesses meant off the top of my head. Who would have thought that I’d be studying geology at this age?
I generated a telekinetic blade several microns thick and pushed it against the bedrock. The rock coming out was surreptitiously delivered straight to the Mariana Trench (~10,911 m or ~6.78 mi). Obviously, a straight passageway was a big no-no. The limestone caves had to twist and turn with the water vein and bedrock layers, widening up and narrowing down here and there. I also could not forget about adding in the secret passages and hidden areas. In short, I had to make it believable. This process required a lot of concentrating and turned out to be quite taxing.
When I was working, I was sitting on a bed inside one of the rooms of the Kaburagi ducal mansion, my single hand seemingly moving and grabbing empty air as I kept my eyes shut. I looked like a weirdo, but was actually performing large-scale construction, doing the work of several hundred men. It was quite tough, but also kind of fun. After all, it was like I was playing in a gigantic sandbox. Taking something that I’d enjoyed as a child but stopped doing somewhere along the way of growing up and doing it again at the much bigger scale of an adult was, well, a lot of fun.
On the other hand, Kaburagi-san was busy filling Ruu-denka and her retainers’ heads with made-up information. According to this document, it is written that blah blah blah. Don’t you think the shape of the terrain here seems to match the depiction in this epitaph? Oh wow, the similarity here seems too great to be mere coincidence. And so on and so forth. When a lie passes Kaburagi-san’s lips, it becomes the truth.
The ruins could only be entered by espers (I’d use telekinesis to push anyone else out).
There would be dangerous traps (I’d install them).
World Shadows would also show up, drawn by the power of the ruins (I’d make them appear).
Lastly, the rock outcrop famous for being shaped like the hand of a giant at the island’s beachside actually was the hand of a giant! The legends were real! Ruu-denka was super excited to hear this, but, of course it was a lie.
Wait, is it a lie, though? I’ll be using telekinesis to move a giant rock golem, so it’s not like it’s entirely a lie, I suppose. Thanks to the power of telekinesis, I now had the power to convert downright lies to truth.
I went to ask the best technician I knew, Baba, to make the Artifact that we were going to enshrine in the ruins. Unfortunately, she turned me down. She was too busy, it turned out. And to be fair, I did just immediately return to Amaterasu after the 70/30 Incident, leaving her with all the cleaning up. There was the handling of the various obliterated yakuza gangs, negotiations with the police, and a whole ton of cover-up. Although she had the resources of Tsukimori-gumi at her disposal, she still had to be involved with everything, which made for a Demon Lord-level workload.
Although Baba was a super-specced granny, she could not use her magic and had no superpower. The range of things that she could do well was huge, but time was as scarce for her as it was for everyone else. Naturally, she had her limits too. And so if she was already working at that limit, of course she would turn down my “please do this too.” Because then that would be going over her limit.
In exchange, she did give me some advice. She suggested that I use my arm.
I did indeed have in my possession the arm that I’d lost during my fight with Oyabun. I had no intention of sewing it back surgically, but neither did I want to let the fishies eat it.
Considering how esper blood could serve as fuel for PSI drives, Baba theorized that perhaps something could also be done with my flesh or bones. She didn’t know anything more specific, but I could see where she was coming from. In fact, what she was suggesting seemed quite likely. As long as cruel, traitorous reality did not get in the way, perhaps I could actually use my arm to make a real Artifact.
There was no way to tell without actually trying it, and so I used telekinesis to pick it up from the back of the industrial cooling unit back at Ama-no-Iwato and transported it all the way to Marineland so I could experiment on it.
I tried breathing on it. No reaction.
I squeezed blood out of it and tried rubbing that against a stone. No reaction.
I tried planting weeds and seedlings into the flesh. It all just wilted or failed to germinate.
I rapped the bone. No reaction.
I had a non-esper carry the bone. No reaction.
I tried eati— Ok, no, I couldn’t bring myself to commit cannibalism, so I skipped eating the flesh.
I tried dumping a pile of salt1 on the bone. No reaction.
As I was busy trying whatever came to mind, Kaburagi-san dropped by to check in on me and got totally creeped out by what I was doing. Apparently, me cutting up, boiling, searing, and dumping salt on my arm was a “disturbing sight.”
At first, I was like, It’s not like I’m doing it to someone else’s arm, right? It’s my arm, so I can do whatever I want with it, right? But then I stopped to imagine what I would feel if I saw Kaburagi-san cheerfully dissecting her own arm. The reason for doing so and the loftiness of the goal did not matter. It would be frightening, plain and simple.
I realized that I had perhaps gotten a bit too used to blood and gore during my time in the underground world. Until it was pointed out to me, I did not even realize how lunatic the experiments that I was performing were.
Damn, I sure am glad I returned to Amaterasu. If I continued staying in Tsukuyomi, my sense of ethics and way of thinking would have slowly but surely evolved into something far worse. An esper with the power to destroy planets at will going mad is no joking matter.
Having become scared of myself, I ceased my experiments. However, there was something that I had learned during the process.
My bones could be used for enchanting.
If I cast some sort of telekinetic effect on the bone, the effect would continue forever. The size of the bone didn’t matter. It could even be a fragment the size of the tip of a fingernail.
For example, say I cast a barrier with a 1 m radius on the bone. If I then stopped maintaining the barrier, it would still remain in place. Even when I went to grab food, when I slept, or when I pushed really hard in the toilet, the barrier would remain deployed. Only when I direct my attention to the bone to will it away would the barrier finally disappear. If I telekinetically made the bone spin, then it would remain spinning. If I made it float, then it would continue floating.
Any effect that I imbued the bone with would continue forever. If I tried imbuing it with something else, the new effect would overwrite the old effect. Although I only performed a week of experiments, I knew that this phenomenon would last forever because… well, it was Kaburagi-san who told me that. She’d apparently derived that hypothesis based off of her library of chuuni treatises.
For what it was worth, I did ask her to explain it to me once, but I didn’t understand half of what she said. All I understood was that her hypothesis was based on the question of why skeletons in stories could continue moving even without muscles. Even I didn’t understand what it was that I understood.
Of course, many questions remained. Was this a phenomenon producible only with the bones of the progenitor esper — me, as a telekinetic — or could it be done with other espers’ bones too? Did the length of time spent training have any effect on the efficacy of the enchanting? Were there individual differences, like there was with growth rates?
There was much that we had yet to find out, but I decided to stop there for fear of trodding down a route that seemed to end in unsavory human experimentation. If I really wanted to, I could slice my arm up into a thousand pieces, collect the bone fragments, then ask Ig to heal it to create an infinite supply of materials. However, that would be the work not of someone who’s half flipped out but of someone who’s completely lost his mind.
Superpowers were for spicing up a dull adolescence. There was no need for madness in this story.
For the moment, the knowledge that my bones could be used for superpower enchanting was more than enough. The amount of bones that I naturally had inside a single arm was also more than enough.
So, my arm was the perfect material to use as the core of the Artifact. I could embed that in something else, or just leave it exposed for a more eerie and mysterious feel.
Using my bone was apparently barely within the limits of what Kaburagi-san could tolerate. Though she did think it ghastly, she apparently equated it to witches using their own hair for hexes. That sounds just like something she’d say.
The location of the ruins was decided.
The survey of the geological features and terrain was completed.
I had already begun work on the foundation works.
We were going to contact relevant experts.
Kaburagi-san had “discovered” evidence confirming the existence of this site that dated far, far in the past.
The core material for the Artifact had been secured.
The forging of the ancient ruins was going smoothly, but we did not forget about our latest esper companion, either.
Two weeks after Ruu-denka received the transplant, her Seed finally took hold and she Awoke to her power.
Her superpower source had evolved into electroxine, giving her the ability to emit electricity from her hands.
Don’t be disappointed at only being able to generate static electricity; everyone is like that at the start!
It’s okay, you can train it up!
Come now, it’s time for your training arc!
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.