There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 1: Find That SSSSSSSSSSSSSR Esper!
Volume 5: † The Double Wings of Shade †
One major reason for this state of affairs was the quality of travel between the magic castle and Tokyo.
In order to keep the load on her body at a minimum, I had to keep the speed under Mach 5, which meant that a one-way trip took slightly under 2 hours. In addition, the commute had to happen during the nighttime in order to avoid notice. If it had been merely a few minutes’ walk away, Kaburagi-san surely wouldn’t have gotten so consumed.
The limitations of traveling methods and availability of space was fast proving to be a bottleneck for the continuation of our activities as a secret organization.
Most of the time when World Shadows appeared, Touka-chan and Shouta-kun would run over on foot. They would take the bike if their bike was nearby and they also had taken the taxi before, but even so, it took time to arrive on-scene. And we certainly did not need the attention garnered by the two of them running full-speed in the middle of the city.
Furthermore, the battle suit stood out very much. Therefore, the teenagers had taken to heading over and fighting without getting changed, skipping the “put the suit on” part entirely. After all, if they wasted time switching out their wardrobe, the World Shadow might get away or assault innocent people. Both of them were now so used to fighting that they were confident they could win the fights against trash mobs without taking a single hit. And sure enough, neither of them had touched their battle suits even once after getting back from Marineland.
Speaking of the Marineland event, the plane trip had been a bother, too. Technically, this could be considered part and parcel of the fun of taking trips, but there was no getting around the fact that it was a drain on time, and long hauls were undeniably tiring. This made it difficult to go to faraway places outside of the long spring, summer, and winter vacations. Something like, say, a quick casual event in America over the weekend was entirely out of the question.
Then there was availability of space, which was even more of a problem then traveling.
The fact that there were espers fighting against monsters called World Shadows in quiet and deserted places had actually spread quite far within the occult world and was evoking much interest. It was now “the latest thing” to keep an eye on underground sewer tunnels, abandoned factories, and buildings scheduled for demolition through installing security cameras and in-person stakeouts.
Things would have remained manageable if it had been only amateurs doing this, but of course the intelligence agencies also caught wind. Surveillance on all the nooks and crannies of the suburbs was growing tighter by the day, and it was getting increasingly difficult to secure locations for the World Shadow fights.
What’s more, if I used telekinesis to forcibly disable the surveillance, the people who set it up would immediately dogpile the place because of the disabling of their surveillance. At the rate we were burning through the list of places I had in mind, we wouldn’t last a year. This was an issue that I could not resolve with telekinesis alone.
As a solution to all these problems, I decided to recruit a new esper — one who was capable of using a power related to space.
This time, we weren’t finding someone based on their personality and then granting them a superpower; instead, we were going to find someone who possessed the affinity for a space-related superpower and compel them to join us. We were prioritizing the superpower over the personality.
Bottom line requirement being that the person was fine with being involved with a secret organization and could keep secrets, of course.
If we had a space-related esper on our side, we could travel great distances in the blink of an eye, get changed into our extradimensionally-stored battle suits in an instant, and set up isolated spaces1 to fight World Shadows in. The ideas were endless.
In fact, it was weirder how we didn’t have any of those things up to now.
I consulted Kaburagi-san about this, and she replied “I’ll leave it to you” from her perch up in the skies, so I was going to have to do this myself.
To be clear, the only way to identify someone’s superpower affinity was to actually implant a telekimuscle fragment — which can only be obtained by me tearing a piece off my telekimuscle and suffering through the absolutely excruciating pain — to their mind and telekinetically confirm the fragment’s new texture once it had mutated.
Every part of the process required the usage of telekinesis, so there wasn’t anything that Kaburagi-san could have helped with. Neither could Baba, who was still undercover in Tsukuyomi.
Regardless of species, 90% of all transplants end up mutating into a superpower related to natural phenomenon. That meant powers for controlling fire, ice, water, lightning, wind, light, sound, and so on.
The remaining 10% would be the “Others,” which includes healing, stopping time, self-strengthening, going invisible, and so forth. My mission now was to find a specific subset within this already very limited percentage.
During my previous experiments, I had found one person who had developed a space-related power. However, he was a criminal locked up in prison with a 150-year-sentence, so recruiting him was naturally out of the question.
It wasn’t as if members of Amaterasu needed to be absolute saints, and I did not mind a minor criminal record. Someone who committed a crime that got him a 150-year-sentence was another matter altogether.
As the whole premise behind Amaterasu was to add adolescent drama and excitement to the lives of teenagers, I started going through all the students between first year in middle school to second year in high school within the Tokyo area.
That meant roughly 230,000 middle schoolers and 210,000 high schoolers. The reason why there were so many high schoolers was because many of them commuted from nearby prefectures.
Cumulatively, that was 440,000 individuals. If it took me one minute to perform a transplant on each of them, that would be 440,000 minutes, or 305 days if I kept at it without rest. I couldn’t realistically test them all out, and even if I did, there would be news reports about high schoolers experiencing mysterious pain (caused by the tearing off of their transplanted superpower sources) en masse.
Therefore, I decided to go with just one person in each class. This wouldn’t be enough to generate rumor and, with a target pool of only around 10,000, I could stick to an 8-hour work day and be done in 3 weeks. That said, I would be stopping as soon as I found someone with a space-related power, so it might not even take the full 3 weeks.
Or so I’d thought until the end of the 3 weeks. After checking out a total of 10,129 students, not a single one of them had ended up with a space-related power.
There were even 23 healers and 7 with time-related powers, but no space-related powers. Zilch. Nada. Clearly, space-related powers were a lot rarer than I’d thought. My gamer brain couldn’t help equating this to rolling gacha and continuously failing to get a character I wanted. It was quite depressing, really.
Time and space was intricately linked, and so one of the time-related powers could possibly develop alternative uses related to space. However, Kaburagi-san — as the foremost expert on time-related powers — could not do things like create isolated spaces and warp gates. That was why I was focused solely on finding an actual user of a space-related superpower.
I then spent 3 more weeks going through another 10,129 students, but once again, no luck. I started doubting myself. Do space-related espers really exist? I didn’t imagine it, did I?!
To reassure myself, I re-transplanted a telekimuscle fragment onto the criminal in America from before. Sure enough, the fragment mutated into a space-related power, which proved that space-related espers did exist. It’s just that they were ridiculously hard to come by.
I slogged through 8 hours each day — 9 hours including the extra time I spent noting down the names of the students and their details. Despite continuing this for six full weeks without resting even on the weekends, I received no results. I had started this around mid-May, and June seemed about nearly over already.
All the students at Ashi High, the school where Shouta-kun attended, had already long changed into their summer uniforms, and people had started turning on the air conditioner on the hotter days. While listening to Shouta-kun and Touka-chan chatting about their mid-term tests or swimsuits for swimming class or whatever over superpower-chilled barley tea in Ama-no-Iwato, I could not help but feel left behind by the passage of time.
I had absolutely nothing to show for my six weeks of effort. It was so painful practically going back to square one again and again without making any tangible progress.
During the first 2 weeks, I had been really excited.
During the next 2 weeks, I felt ready to give up.
The next 2 weeks after that, my heart was an empty void.
And now, I was running on stubbornness.
After working on it for so long, I was now determined to see it through no matter what.
Then I came to the realization that if the user could travel anywhere instantly with their power, there was no need to restrict myself to students living within Tokyo.
So I expanded the range of my search to all of Japan. Put together, the entire country had a total of 3,250,000 students in middle school alone. Taking one from each class would still give me roughly 100,000 candidates!
The idea felt like a breakthrough — I was sure that I was now guaranteed to find a space-related user if I went through with it. That was, until I got through about a thousand students, at which point an incident occurred that nearly blew up into a catastrophe.
One third-year middle schooler, during the incubation period of his transplant process, got transferred to a school in Indonesia, then ran away from his new home and fell off the grid.
To leave him be would be to allow an esper of unknown power and unconfirmed personality — he could be a cruel and twisted asshole for all I knew! — to run free in the world.
I ended up reaching out to Baba and having her dispatch Chris on a manhunt. Thanks to her superpower, Chris did successfully find the kid, enabling me to retrieve his superpower source. That seriously gave me a scare.
After that incident, I switched to focusing on ease of tracking. I returned the scope of my search to Tokyo and started testing by apartment building.
I transplanted every single resident of the entire apartment regardless of age or gender, then did a headcount late every night to ensure that no one had gone missing. This proved far easier than tracking down hundreds of students scattered all over the city.
When it came time to move on from an apartment, I arranged for one of those super loud election trucks2 to raise a ruckus in front of the building. That way, the residents could attribute their pain to the noise when I ripped the superpower source from all of them.
Because I had now thrown age out of the window in my considerations, the whole “adolescent” thing had also gone out with it. There was a possibility for the eventual esper with a space-related power to be a middle-aged man tired of life, but at this point, I no longer cared.
Worst case, I was ready to force whoever it was into a legal contract, keep them interested with wads of cash, and have them work for us using their power as a side job. I sure hoped it wouldn’t come to something so miserable, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.
See, if I insisted on it being students and the process ended up taking two or three years, Shouta-kun and Touka-chan would have already graduated. Time, especially for those in their youth, was extremely limited. I could not afford for this to drag on much longer.
A large apartment building in Tokyo housed over a thousand households with more than two thousand total inhabitants. Please let me find one before I go through every apartment in Tokyo.
When I had gone through four whole apartment buildings, had tested over 30,000 candidates in total, and was starting to look so dead that even Kuma-san told me, “Sago, you look dead.”
One a certain day in July.
I found an esper with a space-related superpower.
His name was Hazama Sorashige.3
He was 75 years old.
This age was a number that had left adolescence far behind in the annals of history, but I was completely drained of all willpower to continue the search any longer.
I was tired.
I was exhausted.
I was sick of tearing off fragments of my telekimuscle and sticking them on people and monitoring them.
The moment I touched his superpower source and realized that it was space-related, all the tension drained out of my shoulders and I just thought, “Okay, he’ll do.”
And so I made up my mind.
I would brook no argument.
Amaterasu’s latest member would be!
A grandpa with a SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSR space-related superpower!!!
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.
2 In Japan, one way for politicians to promote themselves is by sending trucks mounted with loudspeakers all around the place, shouting their name and “vote for me!” and “thank you!” at sometimes rather quite ungodly hours.
3 Hazama (狭間) means “interval, threshold, interstice,” sora (空) means “emptiness, vacuum,” and the kanji for shige (重) means “heavy.”