There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 3: First Half of the Wings of Shade
Volume 5: † The Double Wings of Shade †
On the surface level, the purpose of the letter was to inform him of things I missed telling him during my visit, such as Ama-no-Iwato’s address, my contact details, how to use the dog tag to inform the rest of us in emergencies, and the fact that we had already put in the order for his battle suit and that it would be delivered at a later date.
The real point of the letter, however, were the clues that I sprinkled inside the text in sentences like “I’m sorry to trouble you when you are so busy doing reps everyday…”; “We do not mind you using your spacial power as long as you do not get spotted…”; “Once you’ve gotten far enough with your fundamental training and want to move onto adaptability training, please feel free to use the training room beneath Ama-no-Iwato.”; and so on and so forth.
Hazama-san responded with, “Details acknowledged. Feel free to casually call me Shige-jii.” You’re being overfamiliar, Shige-jii.1
Because Shige-jii kept detailed records regarding his training and observations on the back of a magazine ad, I could keep up with his hypotheses, methods, and progress without having to telekinetically stalk him 24/7.
Just as it had been with everyone else, Shige-jii’s universarcomere started out laughably weak. However, its stamina was quite remarkable. Pushing his output higher would burden the muscle, but just like my telekimuscle and Shouta-kun’s iceteroid, there was no limit to how long he could keep it activated at its lowest output. He could train once every two days, and his growth rate was 1.7 times.
When Shige-jii activated his spacial power, a unique hyperspace would become generated inside his own body.
At the start, all he could tell was that there was something that was happening within his body whenever he used his power.
Next, as he continued activating and deactivating his power repeatedly, he noticed that when he stopped using it, he would burp up air from his stomach.
After that, he tried different things, such as cancelling his power while holding his breath, activating his power while dunking his head underwater while in the bath, and breathing in normal air and incense in turn. At the end of all his experiments, he reached the conclusion that “When I use my universarcomere, a hyperspace pocket is created inside my body that stores whatever enters my body. When I stop using my power, the space is dismantled and everything that had been inside gets ejected.”
That was why he burped whenever he stopped using his power; the air that he inhaled while using it actually was being stored inside the hyperspace pocket and was being ejected out afterwards.
Likely due to his working experience doing research for a seed company, Shige-jii went about his experiments in a very scientific manner, conducting control experiments and graphing average values and whatnot.
He also made sure to confirm the exact details regarding the expulsion of whatever it was that he had introduced into the hyperspace pocket. If he drank water, he would end up spitting it back out like a water pistol. If he ate meat, he threw the meat back up as-is. If he sucked in incense, he would release a very nice-smelling burp. Whatever he put inside the pocket had no bearing on actual real-world space-time, and his own weight remained unchanged no matter how much he put inside.
The growth rate of 1.7 was in relation to the capacity of the hyperspace pocket he generated. Shige-jii was measuring it by sucking in as much water as he could and then marking down the volume of what he spat back out. According to his notes, the numbers were going up as so:
31 ml (Day 1) → 53 ml (Day 2) → 89 ml (Day 4) → 152 ml (Day 6)
Even on the sixth day, storing a single onigiri was the most he could do. I was keeping my fingers crossed that his growth would continue and that he would find a lot of adaptable uses.
One Ruu-denka is more than enough! Please don’t let him end up as nothing more than a funny old man with a funny trick! I really don’t want to relive the hellish experience of looking for another esper with a spacial power!!!
One week after my initial contact with him, I paid Shige-jii a visit under the pretext of delivering his newly finished battle suit. However, he told me that “It’s currently too dangerous to let visitors into my apartment as the space inside has been distorted as a side-effect of my power” and immediately turned me away at the downstairs entrance.
After that, he grew extremely panicked and further threw himself into his training, even going so far as to skip his weekly go parlor2 session. He apparently thought I had dropped by to pester him into producing results faster.
I had no such intentions, of course. However, to someone with a guilty conscience, every little thing could feel convicting and accusatorial. That was just how it was.
On Day 12, once he managed to store enough water to fill a 500 ml plastic bottle, Shige-jii immediately tried his hand at adaptability training.
According to the math, it would take him a month to become capable of storing the mass of an average adult human body. However, it was problematic that he could only store things through his mouth.
Being able to access his hyperspace pocket only by swallowing things and spitting them back out was undesirable, to put it mildly. At the very least, if I were him, I would be too embarrassed to use this power in front of anyone else. It would look like a mere gag or parlor trick.
Therefore, it made sense that the first adaptability training Shige-jii challenged was for a way to store things through other parts of his body. He started off sucking in air through his nose; this succeeded with no problem. The nose and the mouth were both connected through the throat in the first place, so it’d be weird if it didn’t work.
But then he hit a wall. He tried storing the eye drops that he applied to his eyes. He tried storing his bathwater directly through his skin by submerging himself in the tub for three hours on end and doing handstands in the shower. He stuck a suppository up his butt. He even pressed katsuobushi3 shavings between his nails. He literally tried everything he could think so.
Every last attempt ended in failure. Honestly, I sympathized with him. It was hard to tell whether this outcome was because Shige-jii needed to bolster his fundamentals more or if it was because he was doing it wrong. His training methods had ended up being pretty similar to the ones that I had thought up myself, so there wasn’t really anything that I could contribute.
Shige-jii grew increasingly panicked after the two week mark, with the promise to have results after a month’s time weighing heavily on his mind. As his final recourse, he turned to injection. This was a man who was even more afraid of needles than of grabbing a cockroach with his bare hands, but that was simply how cornered he felt.
When he pushed a syringe of saline solution into himself, his eyes were bloodshot, he was almost hyperventilating, and he was covered in a cold sweat from head to toe. Apprehensively, he weighed himself… and confirmed that his weight had remained unchanged! In other words, the saline solution had indeed become stored inside the hyperspace pocket. Shige-jii was so relieved that he almost pissed his pants.
Just that one experience proved enough for Shige-jii to grasp how it felt activating his superpower through somewhere other than his mouth. Soon enough, he learned how to store things by touching them. Apparently, that first time was key.
And it wasn’t only his hands that had to do the touching. He could store things also from anywhere between his fingers to his shoulder joint and from his toes to his thighs. It’s just that it was easiest to use his hands.
He did try doing so also from his back, his ears, and his neck, but it didn’t work. However, he indicated in his notes that the sensation was there, so I suspected that it was only a matter of needing to raise his fundamental output further.
When he tried storing something into the hyperspace pocket using his hands, a thin black mist would appear and envelop the target. Everything that came into contact with this mist was sucked inside without exception, as he had not yet figured out how to selectively apply his power. Consequently, when he enveloped his entire hand with this black mist, he ended up storing all the air around his hands and maxing out his capacity in the blink of an eye.
Proper application of his superpower was still a ways off. This was something that all espers went through at the start.
Now, although not being able to turn the ability on and off at will was indeed a defect, the fact that anything that came into contact with the black mist would be stored contained undeniable combat potential. If Shige-jii got close enough to touch an opponent with his power, the part of the opponent’s body that he was touching would get effectively gouged out as it was sent to his hyperspace pocket.
It didn’t matter if what he was touching was steel, titanium alloy, or even human. Because it was space itself that was being scraped away, this move was capable of penetrating any and all defense.
As a test, I pressed my telekinetic barrier against Shige-jii’s black mist. To my alarm, even my barrier — which was powerful enough to withstand even an explosion of the Sun — gave way easily before this power that manipulated space itself.
That said, I did feel my barrier actually getting torn apart, which meant that I could cultivate the sensation of how to resist that feeling and, in doing so, learn how to protect myself from Shige-jii’s powers too. I myself still had plenty of room for development.
During the entire month, Shige-jii went through countless experiments and training methods so harsh and demanding that even I couldn’t help but worry. In order to make his claim of re-sharpening his abilities within a month seem real, this old man had pushed himself so much that he was all tattered and exhausted. Take it easy, you old geezer.
His habit of lying so easily was definitely not something to be praised, but the way he would do his best to realize the lies he told on impulse definitely deserved credit and commendation.
Even when his superpower source was spent from use, Shige-jii still continued pushing it to its actual limit, effectively increasing his growth rate by a little more.
I had experienced this once too after my battle with Oyabun. All espers had a certain threshold of fatigue they would feel that their superpower source was too tired to continue; if they still continued to push past that point, it was actually possible to eke out just a little bit more growth in exchange for even more intense growth pain than usual.
When weighed against the incredible agony, this tiny extra bit really did not feel worth it, and so nobody I knew actually went that far. Shige-jii, however, discovered this law by himself and did it. He did it pretty much every single time.
He really is a really amazing person. I guess even so-called “hopeless” people can have pretty impressive facets to their character too.
That said, he wouldn’t have had to push himself so hard if he’d been honest enough to just ask, “Teach me how to train my power! And give me more time!”
Should I consider this an example of someone causing themself unnecessary hardship or an example of someone who’s thoroughly mastered the Way of the Show-Off? I can’t really decide.
A full month after I solicited Shige-jii, he finally showed up at Ama-no-Iwato. As had been promised, he had indeed cultivated his power to a useful level, having expanded its capacity to fit an entire adult human and having figured out how to selectively store only what he wanted.
His timing was not the best, however, as Shouta-kun was out with his family on a summer camping trip, Kaburagi-san was still cooped up in her magic castle, and it wasn’t time for Kuma-san’s shift.
The only people present were Touka-chan, who was busy copying sutras in Sanskrit by hand; Ig, who was pulling stir sticks onto the bar counter and playing with them; and me, who was polishing a wine glass.
“Why, hello there. This is a pretty nice establishment.”
The bell on the door rang and in stepped the spitting image of the perfect elderly gentleman, complete with a beige suit, hair slicked back with wax, and walking stick. There wasn’t even a hint of the dunce who had forgotten his suit at the dry cleaner’s and rushed to pick it up just this morning.
Touka-chan looked at him with slight suspicion, then turned to me. I nodded briefly to indicate that he was indeed the spacial user who we had been expecting.
The teenage girl tilted her head in puzzlement. She didn’t get it. Looks like Kaburagi-san’s the only one that I can really communicate with by heart. What a pity.
“It’s my pleasure making your acquaintance, Igbadi Sognah Muguu-kun. I am Hazama Sorashige. Feel free to casually call me Shige-jii.”
“Chi chi chi chi chi chi chi chi chi!”
Shige-jii bent down to match Ig’s eye level and offered his hand as a friendly gesture, but she made intimidating noises that sounded like a bird’s chirp before throwing stir sticks at him in quick succession. He, in turn, enveloped his hand in a black mist and sucked them all into his storage before putting them back onto the table. Ig started when she saw his characteristic smirk and scampered away. Aw, she hates you now.
Ig hated things with a strong smell. In my letter to Shige-jii, I had introduced her as a common marmoset with a soothing aura, but had forgotten to warn him about her aversion towards cosmetics and perfumes.
After exchanging brief greetings with me, Shige-jii walked over to Touka-chan, who had put down her brush upon figuring out that he was our latest member through watching his interaction with me and Ig.
“Hello there, Hasumi Touka-kun. I am Hazama Sorashige. Feel free to casually call me Shige-jii.”
“Hi. Nice to meet you, uh… Hazama-san.”
“That will do. Nice to meet you too.”
Shige-jii sat down in the seat across from Touka-chan’s, smiling warmly like a grandpa looking at his granddaughter.
“So, what are you doing right now, Hasumi-kun?”
“Oh? High schoolers are getting rather interesting homework nowadays.”
“No, this is my hobby.”
“I see, your hobby… Your hobby?”
He looks so confused!
The old man sent me a troubled look, so I nodded briefly. Don’t worry, your character is in no way less distinctive than hers!
However, he just tilted his head in even further bewilderment. He didn’t get it. Then again, I guess we aren’t close enough to read each other’s hearts. Yep, I knew that.
He sighed. “I still remember when I was inspired by Master Sanzou4 to seek the Way of the Buddha all those years ago in my own youth.”
“Did you really?! What sect are you? What’s your sect?”
As expected, Shige-jii decided to put up a front for no reason whatsoever to bluff his way through the awkward atmosphere. Touka-chan’s eyes lit up immediately as she thought she finally had a kindred soul within Amaterasu.
Kaburagi-san, Kuma-san, and I would listen whenever she wanted to talk about Buddhism, but we weren’t particularly interested. Ig was, well, a monkey. Shouta-kun outright hated hearing her bring it up.
However, the conversation started falling flat almost right away. Every time Touka-chan brought up a new Buddhist topic to talk about, Shige-jii would only shift and prevaricate.
It was only natural, as his knowledge about Buddhism was only as much as the next person’s. In contrast, although she liked to cherry-pick her doctrines, Touka-chan was a hard adherent. There was no way that the old man could keep up. Very soon, the sparkle in Touka-chan’s eyes had become replaced with a sharp glint.
This girl was very sensitive to lying. And she had caught on to the fact that Shige-jii was a walking bag of lies.
“……How do you normally accumulate merit, Hazama-san?”
“Eh? Merit? Um, well, you know… by saving children about to get run over by a truck… I help those around me like a dousojin5…”
“That’s a lie. Dousojin have nothing to do with Buddhism. They’re merely folk beliefs. At best, they’re part of Shintoism.”
“Y-Yeah, that interpretation does seem to be growing in popularity these days.”
By this point, Touka-chan’s voice had grown ice-cold, her eyes were filled with scorn, and she even clicked her tongue. Damn, that’s scary.
“It’s because there are people like you that the world is… You’re just all talk and no action. People like you are called ‘toxic elderly.’6 Please repent.”
“No, no, what are you saying? I do not lie. I have indeed dedicated much of my personal assets and put myself in harm’s way to save so many people before.”
Shige-jii desperately tried to vindicate himself, but Touka-chan was not even listening to him anymore. She had determined it a waste of time even talking to him. Aw, she hates you now.
After only succeeding in getting himself hated by the two girls in company, Shige-jii eventually headed home, dejected. He claimed that he had yet to recover even 1% of his strength from his heyday and needed to get in more training.
On his way out, I informed him that we would be needing help with concealment, back-up support, and transportation through his power going forward. He went, “That’s all you need?” like a big shot and walked out. He did then clutch his head and fully regret it in the taxi on his way home, but I now had enough faith in him to know that he would find a way to make things work if I left him to it. But seriously, man, do you really have to back yourself into a corner every single time?
As it turned out, Shige-jii had a bountiful imagination and a talent for coming up with methods to train superpowers that was on par with my own. All I did was give him a few hints at the start. He was the one who then came up with the fundamental and adaptability training for his own power and stuck to them diligently. Makes things easy for me.
There was no sign whatsoever of him having any intentions of misusing his power either. On his way back from Ama-no-Iwato, he met up with a friend and thinly hinted that he had joined a secret organization, but was not taken seriously at all in light of his usual conduct. He’s a real-life boy — no, a real-life old man who cried wolf.
In any case, I could just leave him to his own devices with peace of mind and just focus on planning out the next event as he continued training and developing his superpower.
……Or so I thought until three days later when he saved a kitten about to get hit by a truck and got hospitalized.
Are you freaking kidding me, Shige-jii?!
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 “Jii” means “grandfather / grandpa”. If you were to address a random old man, you’d call him “Jii-san.” Just like “-chan”, “-kun”, and the rest, “-jii” is an honorific suffix.
6 Rougai: The kanji are 老 (old) and 害 (harmful). It’s used to refer to old people who are actively harming society. This is a pretty in-depth and interesting exploration of the term and the phenomenon.