There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 7: Dangerous, Dangerous Ancient Ruins!
Volume 4: The Newly-Built Ancient Ruins
The Amaterasu battle suits were tailor-made premium items that, after several rounds of upgrades, were now priced at about ¥2,000,000 per suit. That was how high in performance they were.
Despite being only 2.6 mm thick, they were composed of seven layers of light and extremely tough carbon nanotube sheets — the same kind used by the American army — that guaranteed protection against both handguns and knives. They were even resistant to temperatures ranging from -15°C to 400°C.
The base color was black, and a top-tier designer had been employed to ensure the best balance between exposure and function. The female version made the wearer look absolutely stunning and the male version made the wearer look extremely valiant.
As part of the same design, there were also numerous optional add-ons, including belt pouches, fixtures for PSI drives, hoods, and masks that would cover the user’s face from the nose upwards, that could be picked up as needed. The wide applicability of Shouta-kun and Touka-chan’s superpowers were also taken into consideration with the main focus being on making these outfits appropriate for any imaginable environment or battlefield.
On the other hand, Tsukuyomi’s outfits were normal clothes bought from a thrift shop sale that cost less than ¥10,000 per person. Being poor sucked.
After receiving the royal command from Ruu-denka, Shouta-kun and Touka-chan changed into their battle suits, covered their faces, then threw everything they needed into a backpack before proceeding towards Marineland Ruins.
The primeval forest where the entrance laid hidden was filled with densely packed broadleaf trees that were covered with lichens and ivy. Sunlight shining through the canopy illuminated the green undergrowth, among which Marineland bluebells, a species endemic to this island, bloomed here and there. All citizens of Marineland recognized the sweet, gentle fragrance of these small, bell-shaped flowers as a herald of summer.
This was a natural place of healing where the symphony of birds warbling and the rustling of leaves played softly overhead and the temperature seemed to be the perfect balance between the heat of early summer and the coolness of the forest itself. Taking an afternoon nap while resting one’s head on soft moss in lieu of a pillow must indeed feel heavenly. Unsurprisingly, there were forest bathing1 tours aimed at tourists that would be arranged around this time every year. At the moment, however, these were on pause because of the upcoming ancient ruins event.
The two teenagers frequently checked their copy of the map that Kaburagi-san had found in the ancient texts while proceeding forward, eventually finding the entrance hidden in the shadow of a large boulder. Previously, this entrance had been blocked by the boulder and other fallen trees, but I had cleared everything away with telekinesis. The gentle slope that led down into the cave was dark, and a lukewarm smell of mold hung in the air.
The wind blowing through the cave sounded like the howling of a monster, causing Touka-chan to flinch a little in unease. Thanks for reacting to it. I’m glad to see that the five days I spent adjusting that sound have not been for nothing.
I had to make holes for the wind to blow through, right? I had to create a disparity in air pressure so as to induce natural air flow, right? Furthermore, in order to get that scary sound, I had to chip away at the rock and, when I accidentally chipped away too much, pack the holes back up, right? By the end of the process, I had listened to the sound of wind so much that I thought I was going to go crazy.
After exchanging a look with each other and nodding, Touka-chan enveloped herself in flames à la human torch and stepped into the ruins. The event had officially begun.
Inside one of the rooms of the Kaburagi residence, Kaburagi-san and I sat before a monitor that was showing the live feed from the small cameras that the two teenagers were wearing.
“You two, be careful, the barrier is just right up ahead. Any problems so far?”
“Nah, all’s good. More like, we have this, don’t we? We’ll manage.”
Shouta-kun confidently tapped his shoulder with the flat of World Slayer’s blade. This was the most powerful PSI drive ever made, a sword loaded with a tiny drop of my blood — properly refined then diluted — that could destroy “absolutely any obstacle.” However, it was a single use item, which gave it the status of a trump card that had to be carefully used at the right place and time. Although I had adjusted the output to where it couldn’t completely bring the cave down, it was hard to speak for smaller cave-ins, which could be quite dangerous as well.
“I’m fine too.”
“You sure ‘bout that? Isn’t your backpack kinda big? You’ve stuffed it with unnecessary stuff, I bet.”
Without so much as a by-your-leave, Shouta-kun jabbed his hand into Touka-chan’s backpack and started poking around inside.
“I haven’t! Oh, Ig-chan is sleeping in the side pocket, so don’t wake her up.”
“The healing potion is supposed to come with us, so she’s fine. But what’re these?”
“What do you mean by ‘what’? It’s exactly as it looks. That’s a Buddha statue, that’s a wooden fish2, those are sutras —”
“You don’t need any of these! Leave them behind!”
“I need them. If I don’t bring them, what am I supposed to when I suddenly feel like chanting sutras?”
You two sure look like you’re having fun. This ain’t no field trip, all right?
……Never mind, scratch that. I suppose this is a field trip. This whole week is pretty much just one big field trip. Go on and enjoy yourselves to the fullest. We’ll be helping you record everything in top resolution too.
“Hold on, did you guys just pass something?”
The two were so occupied with their bickering that they almost passed by one of our setups, so Kaburagi-san spoke up to direct their attention that way. They stopped, backed up several steps, then peered into the shadows. My, oh, my, that’s a bleached skeleton wearing tattered rags (ceramic model created under the supervision of medical and archaeological experts, unit price: ¥200,000)!
“Oh, hey, bones. Gimme a sec. Hold this for me.”
In contrast to Touka-chan and her cute little scream, Shouta-kun seemed entirely unfazed. He passed World Slayer over for her to hold, then started rummaging through the skeleton.
Wow, absolute lack of hesitation. Just, wow. I bet this is probably because he’s still affected by the zombie survival game that he was playing on the plane. This skeleton doesn’t have any loot on it, all right? Just whatever are we to do about this kid who’s so easily influenced by the games and manga he consumes? In any case, here you go, surprise attack.
The skeleton that was being patted all over suddenly leaped up. A black sludge started oozing out from its eye sockets, mouth, and ribs as it grabbed Shouta-kun back, moaning with the voice of the dead!
The person who screamed was not the one actually being assaulted. Instead, it was Touka-chan, who was standing in the back with World Slayer in her arms. Shouta-kun’s remarkable battle sense kicked into gear as he kicked the skeleton away before it managed to bite his neck.
“G-Go back to hell!”
“What the f-…”
Shouta-kun, who was just about to unleash a torrent of cold air at the skeleton, noticed Touka-chan swinging World Slayer behind him and immediately cancelled his attack. Without missing a beat, he leaped to the side and dropped to the ground.
And just in time too, as World Slayer was brought down in accompaniment to some impressive high-speed sutra chanting. Although it had been loaded with fuel processed from my blood, it had been diluted by a ton so as to suppress the weapon’s destructive power. The skeleton was reduced to atoms as, with a great roar, several dozen meters of the cave itself also got utterly destroyed. Thankfully, the attack had been unleashed in the direction of the entrance, so the path into the ruins was still intact.
Shouta-kun hoisted Touka-chan — who was still in a state of panic — onto his shoulder and ran deeper inside to escape the small rock avalanche that was sealing up the entrance.
Kaburagi-san was looking at the monitors in amazed disbelief. Seriously, guys? Three minutes in, and you’ve already wasted your trump card?! I felt as if I had shot a rubber band at someone as a joke but then got a missile in my face in return. The original plan was that we would activate a gimmick that would seal up the entrance until the Artifact was retrieved; now, though, the cave-in had already done that in a natural way. Touka-chan was normally rather sensible, but every once in a while she would make a super flashy showing, and this was one of those times.
Then again, she was the kind of girl who, even before she got her powers, tried to take out the very first World Shadow she encountered with a “Sutra punch.” Perhaps it was in her nature to start off throwing an all-out attack whenever she found herself under assault by an unfamiliar opponent.
As I was occupied with analyzing Touka-chan’s personality, Kaburagi-san muted the mic and shot me instructions while amending the event management schedule on the computer.
“Usage of World Slayer has been confirmed. Sago-san, turn off the trap that requires it.”
“Okay… done. Off.”
“Shouta-kun’s running quite fast. Let’s have β-2, the skeleton positioned 40 meters ahead, assault them one more time. As for the power…wind would be good. I’ll explain things after the battle is over.”
“Unmuting… now. Shouta-kun! Another enemy up front, incoming!”
“What?! Goddammit. Touka, you calmed down yet? Can you stand?”
“U-Um, yeah. Sorry.”
After practically thrusting Touka-chan away, Shouta-kun shot an Eternal Force Blizzard at the skeleton floating in mid-air — black sludge and all — that was shooting sand and small pebbles at them. Oh, right, Shouta-kun is also the kind who likes using a sure-kill attack right off the bat. I don’t dislike that “Hi there, die now!” style of his at all.
Immediately after sealing the skeleton’s movement, Shouta-kun got in a powerful roundhouse kick that sent the skeleton smashing into the far wall with its spine shattering into many pieces. However, that was not the end of it. The black sludge squirmed furiously in a blatant attempt at restoring the bones.
“What the hell is this?! A cousin of the World Shadows?!”
“I’ll take care of it!”
Shouta-kun backed off as Touka-chan stepped up to take his place and unleashed a cascade of red-hot flames. The skeleton struggled a bit, but quickly succumbed and collapsed as a charred heap.
“Did… we get it?”
Shouta-kun poked at the still steaming remnants with his toe while raising a flag. But don’t worry, it’s not like we would position an enemy who’s that tough this early in the event. This skeleton has been defeated.
“What was with this guy? And he’s just like the previous one; are they World Shadows?”
“I’ve fought the kind that looks humanoid before, but it’s my first time seeing moving skeletons.”
“Same here. Kaburagi-san?”
“Hmm… there are several things I want to check. Can you show me a close-up of the surface of the skull?”
“It’s, like, super charred, though.”
In the feed that we were watching, the skull was shown close up. Then Kaburagi-san also asked them to do a few more things like measuring the length of the femur and confirming the shape of the hip bone.
Eventually, after doing a ton of things that seemed very meaningful but actually had no meaning whatsoever, Kaburagi-san announced her conclusion.
“This must be the corpse of an esper. You remember how it made rocks float up? Back when he was alive, this person was likely an aerogenetic. Judging by the state of the bones, I’m guessing that he lived sometime between 500 to 1,000 years ago.”
“Why has a dead person returned to the realm of the living?”
Touka-chan’s tone was filled with blatant revulsion, in response to which Kaburagi-san spouted a whole bag of lies like a smooth-talking con-man.
“‘Returned’ is perhaps not the most correct word here. These ruins are protected by a barrier that only allows espers to enter, which very likely means that there are many such corpses laid to sleep here. It wouldn’t be strange for this place to have been a feeding ground for World Shadows since long ago. I suspect that’s what the black sludge was.”
“Ahh, I think I kinda get it. So then the World Shadows possess these skeletons and suck up their power or manipulate them or something to attack with superpowers?”
“That’s what I think too, Shouta-kun.”
Yep, that was the setting that we were going with. These were a mutated kind of World Shadows that used the bones of espers as a medium to access a weaker version of superpowers. While exploring these ruins, aside from looking out for traps and solving puzzles, there would also be these Mutated World Shadows to be on guard against.
“You heard her, right, Touka? Gimme back the sword, freaking wasted it. What’d you mean by ‘kyah!’, you scaredy cat.”
“I, I wasn’t scared, all right? I just got a bit heated seeing a dead soul who was still unnaturally clinging onto this world!”
“Reeeally? I can’t tell if you’re just putting up a front or if you actually mean it.”
The two of them resumed their lively conversation as they struck off once again, but this time taking a slower pace and being more vigilant of their surroundings.
◇ ◇ ◇
At the same time, Tsukuyomi had only just entered the caves and had yet to progress beyond the first fork in the road five meters in. This was a different entrance to the one used by Amaterasu that had not been on any of Kaburagi-san’s reference materials.
As they were technically on a secret mission — what with having entered the country with fake passports and all — Chris was hiding her face with a black ninja-like mask and Miyama was wearing a traffic cone that he had filched from a construction site they passed on their way here. The only things they had on hand were Chris’s kodachi, Miyama’s guitar, a plastic bag of lunch boxes bought from a convenience store, two flashlights, and nothing else. Judging by their happy-go-lucky loadout, these two were completely underestimating ruin exploration.
While managing the Amaterasu side, I had been keeping an eye on them using clairvoyance. From what I could tell, their strategy was to have Chris bathe in the air and read it in order to find the shortest route to the Artifact. As such, Chris was just standing still and Miyama was just endlessly playing his guitar.
The first half of the ruins were caves dug out by Vikings and the second half were structures constructed by an advanced civilization that existed before AD. Both had proper air ventilation so that the participants of this event wouldn’t suffocate. Therefore, it was indeed possible to figure out the shortest route by reading the air.
It was possible, but not easy to pull off. After all, I’d taken precautions.
The ancient ruins were, after the passage of time, filled with tons of tiny holes and cracks that lead to very complicated air flow. Furthermore, there were also an innumerable number of places too narrow for humans to fit through. Even though she could read where the air had been, she couldn’t be air herself. She therefore had to sort through the complicated mix of air flows, analyze what she was seeing, and work out a path that humans could go through. Naturally, this needed quite some time to achieve.
As expected, she soon got impatient and gave up.
“NIIIIIII! Screw this! It’s so annoying!”
“Come on, don’t give up. We don’t have a map nor do we have a guide. Your reading is our only way of finding the Artifact.”
“No, seriously, this is freaking impossible. The flow of air is, like, crazy complicated. Even if I could read it all, my brain can’t process everything. What is this even? Why’s it so complicated? Is it on purpose? Is this harassment?”
Oh, hey, that’s perceptive of you. That’s exactly right, it is on purpose. Otherwise, you guys would have far too much of an upper hand in this race.
“Wanna just try a direction and simply turn back if it turns out to be a dead end? Or we can do the ‘turn right at all corners’ thing. There’s no telling when there might be another earthquake, so we should probably get this done and over with asap, but… Did you at least figure out which general direction we should be heading towards?”
“Roughly… that direction.”
Chris pointed in a certain direction underneath the sea. Wow, you’re actually kinda close. I suppose the problem now is how you’ll get there, huh.
If they would only proceed forward a little bit more, they would encounter a Mutated World Shadow based off of an esper intruder from 50 years ago that, after being defeated, would drop a journal that includes a map of the first part of these ruins. The way how Amaterasu was just forging on ahead and ignoring our setups was a problem (mainly in how it made me sad), but the way how Tsukuyomi wasn’t making any progress whatsoever was a problem too.
The two argued back and forth quite a bit until Chris heaved a huge sigh.
“You know what, I give up.”
“I’m done. Let’s just go straight.”
Miyama took out a metallic case from his chest pocket. He opened it and took out a syringe which he then promptly jammed into his chubby hairy arm.
Wait, is he doping himself up with Oyabun’s self-strengthening blood? “Go straight”? Are they thinking of dashing through the place at top speed?
Miyama injected the contents of the syringe, chucked it away, then rolled his shoulders. With bloodshot eyes, he let out a yell.
“FOOOOOOO! This sure hits the spot! Chris, where should I start?”
“Here, this direction. Go nuts.”
Miyama punched the spot indicated by Chris, causing a huge crater in the ground. He then chucked away a huge piece of rock that had gotten loose and was in his way, then threw another punch. The crater was gouged even deeper. Only a few more punches and he would already break through to the first floor. Singing cheerfully at the top of his lungs in a voice that was surprisingly pleasant, this bald fatty continued dig-punching his way down.
Hold on, hold on, hold on, so that’s what you guys meant by “going straight”?!
Stop that, you idiots! No taking the musclehead shortcut method! No cheating by making your own route, you assholes!
Hurriedly, I used telekinesis to reinforce the bedrock, causing Miyama’s punch to bounce off. He let out a shriek and fell onto his butt, clutching his fist.
“DAMN that hurt! What was that? Uh… did I imagine it? Take th—OUCH! What’s this? It’s strangely tough.”
“Chris, come read this part. It’s weird.”
Chris placed a hand on the shored up bedrock. I really didn’t want to do it, as she could tell that the rock had been suddenly hardened by a mysterious force. However, if I didn’t do it, this pair would have gotten way too much of a head start with their so-called “shortest route.” Please, please, please let them just drop it.
After reading the rock for a moment, Chris tilted her head in puzzlement.
“It’s like…how do I describe it? A weird power suddenly, uh, strengthened? reinforced? the rock.”
“What do you mean by ‘weird power’?”
“No idea. I can read something but not know what it is, all right?”
Miyama tried throwing another punch, but the reinforcement was still in effect. His fist was repelled back and the ground remained impervious to further damage. Seriously, please give up and go through the ruins like you’re actually supposed to.
“OWWWW! Yeah okay, this isn’t working.”
“Aww, that sucks. But I mean, these ruins were created by espers or something, right? Maybe the place has its own will and protected itself?”
“Ahh, that just might be it. Though I guess we have no way of knowing for sure. Dammit, I was on such a high too.”
Miyama gave it one last punch that got repelled before finally giving up.
Soon after that, the two of them started walking into the cave the proper way, looking slightly miffed. I heaved a sigh of relief.
It wasn’t even thirty minutes since the start of the event and so much had already happened. You all are going to make me really work for this event, huh?
After I sighed one more time, those of us on the organizer side shifted into coordinating the next step of the event: the encounter between Tsukuyomi and Amaterasu.
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.