There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 9: Light☆Power
Volume 4: The Newly-Built Ancient Ruins
“I read BG a little bit when I shook hands with her. Apparently, there’s someone like a superior above the two of them. Seems like they are here on that person’s orders.”
“Yeah? What kinda person is that superior?”
“No idea. I only get a fuzzy image when I read living beings. Oh, and for some reason, she recites sutras a lot.”
“Maybe she grew up in a temple.”
After their triumph over Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi continued into the caves, chatting lightheartedly along the way. However, they had yet to be introduced to the World Shadows, and there was a perfect spot to do it coming up. Under Kaburagi-san’s instructions, we decided to make the assault at the suspension bridge located roughly three quarters of the way into the cave part of the ruins.
When talking about exploring ruins, you can’t not mention suspension bridges.
This place that the two secret organizations were exploring was a system of caves created by the flow of an underground water vein. The current had, after a long, long time (half a year), eroded the rock and formed a ravine.
This gaping chasm stretched several dozen meters across, practically bisecting the entire cave system. The bridge that spanned the expanse was composed of rope railings and wooden boards as footholds and looked extremely old and worn out. One wrong step and straight into the rapids below. Splash.
Hearts a-thumping when passing over the dangerous, creaky bridge. Dramatic scene of two souls growing closer from the suspension bridge effect. Fun to be had all around, as we had also prepared developments for anyone who actually fell into the water.
It had been quite the undertaking reproducing a bridge that was deteriorated to the perfect point where it looked like it would break but wouldn’t actually break and yet could easily be intentionally broken. The one currently hanging over the ravine was Ver. 3.
Tsukuyomi stopped for a moment before the bridge. After presumably reading the future and confirming that it could indeed withstand their combined weight, they then began crossing it.
“Hey, hey, hey!”
“Stop th—, stupid, you, stupid, I’m gonna fall, imgonnafall, imgonnaf— STOP THAT!”
Chris suddenly started shaking the bridge teasingly, prompting Miyama to scream out loud, desperately clinging to the railing. Ok yeah, that’s scary. Even though he probably knows Chris is reading the future to make sure that she’s doing it in a way that he wouldn’t fall, I’m sure it’s still frightening.
“It’s fine, it’s totally fine. See, I can even handstand walk it! This bridge is a lot sturdier than it looks.”
“That’s not the issue here! Neither Oyabun nor Yaku is here, all right?! There’s no way to get back up after falling! Just go already! Or else I’m gonna poke you in the behind with my traffic cone.”
“What’re you chickening out f— Wait.”
Chris, who had been actually crossing the bridge while doing a handstand, stopped abruptly. Several seconds later, a skeleton seemed to float into view at the far end. It was wearing rags and on its waist was an extremely tattered gunbelt and a rusty scimitar.
“Wow, it’s a skeleton.”
“Another esper? One who controls dead spirits this time?”
Damn, they look so unimpressed. I guess that’s what getting used to living in a world of darkness and blood does to someone. Couldn’t you have given me something like a “Kyah!” or an “Eeek, it’s a moving corpse!”? Never mind. They’re going to be screaming plenty when I actually attack them anyways.
Chris got back onto her feet, as could be expected, and drew her snapped kodachi. I patiently waited for her to adopt her battle-ready stance before making the skeleton step onto the bridge. It proceeded forward with staggering steps, hands held out in front as if it was holding some form of ball. Soon enough, a black orb began forming between its hands. At the same time, the wind picked up, the bridge started shaking, and Chris and Miyama felt a slowly growing force sucking them towards the skeleton.
Muahaha, that’s right! This skeleton is a gravikinetic, and the black orb is a gravity orb or something! Aren’t superpowers incredible?!
“That does not look friendly. Defeat it, quickly.”
“I’m trying! I’m trying, but… this guy recovers no matter what I do!”
“What do you mean?”
“I cut him and smash his bones, but a black sludge just keeps oozing out! Hold on a — Turn back! Turn back! This guy is actually really bad news!”
As the orb grew larger in size, the gravitational pull it exerted grew in proportion. After failing to figure out a way to beat the skeleton in her future predictions, Chris turned to retrace her steps, kicking Miyama’s ass to make him hurry too.
Miyama made sure to shout out a warning first before unleashing his sound attack. Naturally, it was entirely ineffective. All it managed to do was make the skin of the World Shadow that possessed this particular skeleton ripple a bit.
Thing was, Tsukuyomi had terrible compatibility with the variant of World Shadows that occupied these ruins.
Unlike the normal ones, these had no stone core. Instead, the very bones that they possessed served as their cores. Unless the bones were completely pulverized, thoroughly charred by flames, or completely frozen over, these Shadows would simply regenerate. Sound was not in the list of their weakness, and half-assed physical damage would leave no lasting effect.
If Chris and Miyama were to defeat one, they would probably have to so something like drag it into a hole in the ground and keep stomping it to smithereens until it finally stops regenerating or dislodge shaky stalactites hanging from the ceiling to crush it. This Tsukuyomi pair was used to first confirming the success of a battle strategy before enacting it, but because such measures required more than nine seconds to set up, they were left at a bit of a loss.
Whereas Tsukuyomi had the advantage in exploration thanks to Chris’s readings, Amaterasu had the advantage in fighting the mobs that roamed the place. That was how we had balanced the difficulty level between the two sides.
It wasn’t as if this skeleton was absolutely unbeatable, but Chris had apparently given up the idea of facing it head-on as soon as she realized she couldn’t find a way to do so within the 9-second simulation window. She kicked Miyama’s ass again and again until they got back to solid ground, then severed the ropes of the bridge with her kodachi. Slash, slash.
“All right! Now we’re… you’ve got to be kidding me, right?!”
The two had a second to heave a sigh of relief. But then the skeleton that had fallen into the ravine together with the bridge got pulled back up by the pitch-black ball of gravity hovering in mid-air.
Fuhahahaha! C’mon, a quick hi-bye would be boring, right? You have to properly defeat it!
The gravity ball was still growing larger and larger, drawing in loose gravel and stones from within the cave. The Tsukuyomi members fled back the way they had come in great alarm. When Miyama shot a quick look behind him, he saw the skeleton hot on their heels, emanating the aura of a gravity-controlling last boss.
“Shitshitshitshit! That thing’s no joke; what even is it?!”
“Damn, it looks scary af! We’d die if it catches up to us, right?! Miyama would scream like a pig while being eaten, right?!”
“D-D-D-D-Don’t scare me like that!”
The rough terrain of the caves seemed to pose no problem for Chris, who was quick on her feet. The fatty, however, could not seem to up his pace any further. The skeleton was gradually closing the distance to the two of them moment by moment.
“Hurry up, Miyama! Hurry! It’s catching up to us!”
“I can’t go any faster oink!”
“If you can joke then it means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough, you fatso!”
Chris slowed down a little to match Miyama’s pace and started dragging him along by hand. Even so, the skeleton continued staying on their tail. The two of them single-mindedly dashed back the way that they had come.
◇ ◇ ◇
At the same time, Amaterasu was slowly chasing after Tsukuyomi with heavy steps. Both of them showed no signs of waking up — Chris clearly did a really good job knocking them out — no matter how long I waited, so I finally used telekinesis to poke Ig awake from her little nap inside Touka-chan’s backpack so that she could heal the two. After that, Touka-chan burned their ropes and they resumed their exploration.
Ig seemed to really dislike the chilly air of the caves, promptly returning to her pocket right after doing her job. She really was like a recovery potion.
“If only Touka didn’t get taken out by that first attack, amiright? They even went to the trouble of tying us up and everything.”
Shouta-kun was dropping spiteful remarks while fiddling around with World Slayer. Touka-chan, who had reverted to being torch-bearer and was walking in front, shrunk into herself a little.
“And if only our trump card didn’t get used up three seconds in, amiright?”
“…… It wasn’t three seconds.”
“If it wasn’t three seconds, then what was it, huh? You telling me this thing will recharge itself?”
Touka-chan apologized meekly, tears almost in her eyes. Shouta-kun clicked his tongue in response.
“You think a simple ‘sorry’ is gonna cut it? What’re you gonna do if that ridiculous pair walks out with the Artifact? We’re on a mission issued by the Queen of Marineland right now, if you’ve forgotten.”
“…… I’m sorry.”
Things had been like this for quite a while. The atmosphere was pricklier than a hedgehog. It was crazy uncomfortable.
“Hold on, Kaburagi-san. Let’s leave them be for a while longer.”
Unable to bear it anymore, Kaburagi-san had lifted a hand to restore comms to talk to them, but I stopped her. It was still too early to intervene.
“Shouta-kun’s words are going too far.”
“I agree, but we shouldn’t be overprotective either. This is something that Touka-chan and Shouta-kun should resolve between themselves.”
Kaburagi-san reluctantly lowered her hand back down.
Truth of the matter was, Touka-chan was indeed doing her job properly. As the one in the front, aside from holding the flashlight, she was also checking out the traps and dealing with enemies that showed up. Having learned that there was no point to closing in on the mutant World Shadows, she promptly incinerated the two that they encountered on their way. She was definitely pulling her weight.
Everyone makes mistakes, and Touka-chan just happened to make a bit more of them today. If you keep nagging someone about their mistakes, they aren’t going to let you forget it when it’s your turn in the hot seat, Shouta-kun.
I personally thought that Touka-chan should say something back, but she had completely closed up due to the intropunitive part of her personality. She was dwelling too much on her own faults and shortcomings and was letting Shouta-kun’s comments really get to her.
Clutching a book of sutras that she had retrieved from her backpack, Touka-chan continued plodding forwards with listless steps. She probably really wanted to calm herself down by taking some time to read or copy a few sutras, but it was all too obvious that Shouta-kun would not agree to the break. With Tsukuyomi having gotten the jump on them, every single second counted.
It hurt me to keep watching. I, too, desperately wanted to intervene. I very much wanted to tell Shouta-kun, “Do you have to be such an ass about it, you bastard?!” I also very much wanted to tell Touka-chan, “You don’t have to feel so down about it!”
But I knew I shouldn’t. It wouldn’t help them in any way.
I recalled an episode from my middle school. I was in art class, and Nakamura, in the seat next to mine, threw a bunch of paint on my artwork and completely ruined it. Naturally, I got pissed. The dude was like, “C’mon, man, it was just a prank, don’t take it personally.” I totally flipped my shit and punched him, which then led to a full-on fight.
The worst part, however, was how it ended. The art teacher said, “You shouldn’t have hit him either, Sago-kun. Both of you were partly at fault, so both of you need to apologize to each other” and forced us to do just that. I absolutely did not think myself in the wrong, but because the teacher wasn’t going to let us go home until we apologized, I pretended to be sorry and just went through the motions. Nakamura also apologized, but it was blatantly clear that he didn’t feel apologetic either. The only person who had gained anything was the teacher who had earned the laurel of “successfully making students who were fighting make up.”
This was just how reality worked. Very few teachers actually understood how their students felt, and someone in power forcibly making two people apologize to each other didn’t necessarily equate to helping them restore their relationship.
Say Kaburagi-san and I interfered now and made Shouta-kun and Touka-chan make up.
I can say with confidence: They would definitely have nursed a grudge against each other.
Intervention from the two of us, as the adults, would have been no different from what my teacher did. Even if these two verbally said sorry, and even if they logically understood the reason for doing so, discontentment with the other would still remain in their hearts. In the long-term scheme of things, this could drive a wedge in the relationship between Shouta-kun and Touka-chan.
The two of them were already high school students. They weren’t quite adults yet, but neither were they children incapable of doing anything without proper supervision. If they did not learn how to resolve problems and quarrels on their own, they would grow into terrible adults.
This was a problem that did not involve their actual physical safety. It could lead to a mental wound, but would hardly be something beyond healing. As such, there was no need for Kaburagi-san and I to intervene. We had to believe in the two of them and simply watch over them, doing nothing.
Shouta-kun seemed to be quite frustrated at how badly the exploration was going. He continued venting his anger on Touka-chan, but because she couldn’t talk back at all, the two of them eventually just fell silent.
A while later, Shouta-kun started to get restless staring at Touka-chan’s despondent back.
Upon noticing it, a small smile came over Kaburagi-san’s face. I also nodded deeply.
I get it. I totally get what you’re feeling, Shouta-kun. You realized that you had gone too far with your words, but it’s hard to apologize after dunking on her so much, right?
We men have this stupid pride that really gets in the way sometimes. Especially in front of a girl we want to impress, we want to keep up the image of being strong and in the right. We don’t want to admit to being wrong about something. But if we don’t apologize, the guilt would eat at us. And being stuck in the middle between the two really does suck, doesn’t it?
Ahhh! Such adolescence!!
“From the looks of things, it’s going to take him a while more to apologize. Sago-san, please seal passage C-6 and open C-7 and D-1. Let’s have Tsukuyomi continue running about for a while longer.”
I caused a small earthquake that triggered several small-scale cave-ins. The two Tsukuyomi members went pale in the face at seeing their way get blocked right before their eyes, but then quickly noticed the newly-opened path and darted inside. They were now on a detour that was going to take them a while longer to meet back with Amaterasu. Run, fatty. And lose some weight.
Normally, cave-ins at such a timely moment might raise suspicions, but both Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi had caused their own earthquakes at this point, so neither seemed to pay it any undue attention. Phew.
With this, we had evaded the common trope used in manga and movies to drag the plot on by having a third party show up before two characters could resolve an issue and having said issue blow up into something bigger down the line.
Go on, Shouta-kun. We’ve got you the time you need. You only need to say one word. You’ve got to say it. Say “sorry.”
Say it! Just say it already! Even if it feels embarrassing now, you’ll feel so much better once you say it! C’mon, man! You can do it!
“Ah, no, that’s not what I…”
Poor Touka-chan, she’s like a broken recording now. But is Shouta-kun really going to…?!
“I, uh… said too much. I was in the wrong too. You are doing your job properly.”
Shouta-kun was looking away and scratching his head uncomfortably, but he had definitely said what he needed to say.
Kaburagi-san and I high-fived, our eyes still glued to the screen.
Admitting one’s own mistakes is a difficult thing to do, even for adults. It’s even harder if we’d just been going on at length about how correct we are. You did good, Shouta-kun! Well said!
“…… I’m the one who messed up, though. I can’t forgive myself.”
“Tsk, so annoying. What are you, a perfectionist? All right, then I forgive you for my part, and I also forgive you the same amount that you can’t forgive yourself for. That should square the books, right?”
“Square the b-…”
Touka-chan looked over with a look of confusement tinged with a drop of amusement. At the very least, a little bit of cheer seemed to have creeped into her voice.
“You should just keep smiling else it’d be a waste of your cute face ugh don’t make me say it out loud!”
“My cu-… th-that’s not… no, that’s not what I should be saying. Shouta, thank you.”
Touka-chan stopped for a moment and turned around partially to deliver her line, fidgeting bashfully. Her cuteness was practically a weapon at this point. Omigod what is this what even is this you both are such good kids this is so bittersweet UGH!
And right at that moment!
Tsukuyomi noisily made their appearance, with the running fatty practically just being kicked like a ball, half-dead and his eyes almost rolled back into his head!
“Ahh! Hi, we’re back! But run! Hurry! There’s something totally crazy following us! You’ll die if it gets to you!”
“Whoa?! Seriously, what’s with you guys?! Something craz— Oh, you meant a Shadow?”
“Not a problem, leave it to us.”
The skeleton that had plunged Tsukuyomi into a great panic did not faze Amaterasu at all. On the contrary, the sight of an enemy that they were so used to fighting served to help them regain their usual calm instead.
Touka-chan stepped forward just as Miyama and Chris passed by her. Shouta-kun deployed an Eternal Force Blizzard that sealed the cave, isolating Touka-chan with the skeleton.
After being left alone together, Touka-chan immediately rushed forward, giving herself into the draw of the gravity ball instead of resisting it. She leaped high up into the air and generated six fists of incandescent Ashura Fire, smoothly slamming them into the skeleton one by one in quick succession.
The consecutive attacks of scorchingly heat reduced the skeleton to mere cinders almost instantaneously. After landing, Touka-chan immediately whirled back around to confirm that it wasn’t getting back up before lowering her guard.
Instant KO! I don’t think it took any longer than five seconds. She’s so powerful. What’s more, she has incredible control! So she’s already mastered her flames to such a high degree. She looked super cool.
Only after making sure that the heatwaves that could burn Tsukuyomi’s lungs had fully subsided did Shouta-kun then dispel the wall of ice.
Chris’s jaw was on the floor from seeing Amaterasu’s summary execution of this great and terrible enemy that she herself stood no chance against. Miyama was just lying on the ground, desperately gasping for air. He was so out of it that the BGM had even stopped.
“You guys are freaking strong! Hold on, were you going easy on us just now?!”
“Pretty much, yeah. Now it’s your turn to be tied up. Well, in your case, turned into popsicles.”
Shouta-kun turned around threateningly, cold air roiling around both of his hands. Chris threw up both hands in surrender, backing up slowly.
“No, no, no, hold on, hold! Hear me out!”
“What, you think I’m an idiot? You’re just going to make up some bullshit to pull a fast one on us again, aren’t you?”
“I’m really sorry about what I did! Uh, um…”
With Miyama out of commission and thus her unlimited future-reading license revoked, Chris was looking extremely flustered, with her eyes shifting all over the place.
“That’s, uh… Right! Actually, I, uh, can read the future! It’d come in super handy for exploring this place! So I’ll read the future, and you guys can take care of the skeletons! We’ll cooperate! War is bad! Peace is good!”
Shouta-kun actually stopped upon hearing Chris’s shout.
Wait, are you guys serious? If you cooperate, then it wouldn’t be a race anymore. Oh my god, can you not?
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.