There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 4: The Other Wing
Volume 5: † The Double Wings of Shade †
When I dropped by Ota General Hospital with Touka-chan in tow and Ig in my pocket, I found Shige-jii lying in bed with his foot suspended in a traction. He was enunciating properly and wide awake, generally looking much better than I had expected.
This was an individual room within a special wing of the hospital, equipped with a big bed with clean sheets and a big TV. There was even an antique record player on a small table in the corner that was softly playing classical music.
According to normal procedures, Shige-jii would have been accepted into the normal ward after being carried in from the streets. As soon as I got the call, however, I immediately arranged for him to be transferred here so that he could have a better stay with more attentive nursing and a quieter environment.
The cost for the hospitalization was coming out of the Secret Organization Activity Fund financed by Ruu-denka. Let no one say that Amaterasu doesn’t have good employee welfare!
“How’re you feeling?”
“A full recovery is going to take six months, with me having to stay hospitalized for the first two. Believe me, I would have dodged the truck easily if I had been thirty years younger. Dear me, growing old really does take its toll.”
As I watched him chuckling pretentiously, I thought to myself, Looks like being run over hasn’t changed him whatsoever. What a spirited grandpa he is.
Right after I passed him the newspapers he’d asked for — New York Times and Wall Street Journal (even though I don’t think he knows how to read English) — and the book he wanted to pass time with, Touka-chan emerged from my back with a pale face.
“U-Um, I’m so sorry! It was my fault for saying all those mean things, right? I’m sorry. I was being thoughtless.”
Touka-chan bowed deeply in apology, but Shige-jii looked mystified.
“What mean things?”
“I said that you’re all talk and… Worst case, you could have d-died from the crash!”
“Ohh, that’s what you’re talking about.”
In contrast to Touka-chan, who seemed extremely flustered, Shige-jii looked as cool as a cucumber. By all appearances, he really did not seem to mind what had happened.
“Don’t worry about it. You see, we elderly care more about how to die well rather than how to live well. This might be hard to understand for a youngster to understand, but that’s just how it is. I’ve lived long enough. Being able to exchange the limited number of years I have remaining to save a life that has many more years to come would be nothing more than an honor.”
Shige-jii placed his wrinkled hand on Touka-chan’s head and rubbed it gently while surreptitiously shoving the book I had passed him — titled “How to Live Long and Greet Your Hundredth Birthday: Revised Edition” — under his butt.
Hah, “lived long enough.” Don’t push yourself too hard, old man. And I was the one who bought that book for you. It’s too late to hide it.
In order to help Shige-jii prolong his “limited number of years” at least long enough to greet his hundredth birthday, I cajoled Ig into casting a little bit of healing on him. It would raise a lot of alarms if a patient with a serious bone fracture was to be completely healed right after a few visitors dropped by, so we had to heal him in increments. Even so, Shige-jii would be displaying a near miraculous rate of recovery — probably five or six times that of a normal person. However, such cases did exist out there, rare though they be, so it could still be glossed over.
After that, Touka-chan diligently visited Shige-jii every day. Part of it was because she had the time to, it being the summer break, but most of what motivated her seemed to be guilt.
As an expression of her heartfelt sincerity, Touka-chan brought in things like little handmade prayer beads and Buddha statues every time. Due to this, the hospital room was gradually starting to look like a funeral parlor. Although it was slightly inappropriate to do so, I couldn’t help but snicker a little.
In spite of their terrible first encounter, the relationship between the two seemed to have settled down somewhat.
As before, Touka-chan still hated Shige-jii’s propensity for lying from the very bottom of her heart. However, she had expressed those thoughts once, and it had driven him to risk his life. The guilt she felt from that, as well as the fear of the same thing happening again, spurred her to hide her aversion as best she could.
Shige-jii, for his part, picked up on these complicated feelings and did his best to refrain from lying as much as possible while she was present.
Even so, he still could not help peacocking around in ways that did not constitute lying, going on at length about his expensive watch, order-made suit, and whatnot. In other words, nothing had actually changed about him at heart.
A week after Shige-jii was hospitalized, a very tanned Shouta-kun returned from summer camp, so I brought him to visit our newest member: the old man who was displaying incredible restorative powers that it left his doctors shaking their heads in disbelief as they moved up his projected discharge date again and again.
Seeing how Touka-chan wasn’t in the room but a brand-new handmade censer was, we had likely just missed her. There was a faint scent of incense in the air. She really does mean well, right?
Instead of Touka-chan, there was an unfamiliar sickly-looking little girl sitting at the edge of Shige-jii’s bed, her legs dangling lazily.
“Why, hello there. Thank you for coming to visit. This young man that I’m seeing for the first time must be Takahashi Shouta-kun, I take it?”
“Whoa. I am, but how’d you know?”
“I’m actually rather proud of my eye for people.”
Shige-jii smiled mysteriously, earning him a look of slight respect from Shouta-kun. Dude, I told him your name and general description, so of course he’d know it’s you. Like hell there’s another high school boy with red hair walking around with lighters dangling at his waist.
After the exchange, the little girl also greeted us in a wary tone, exchanging looks between me and the delinquent next to me several times.
Judging from her height and build, she was likely in the higher years of elementary school. She had semi-long black hair held back with a clip, pale skin, and a rather shapely face, clouded with gloominess though it was. She would probably be really cute if she smiled. When Shouta-kun noticed the action figure of Burning Girl in her battle suit poking out from a pocket on her pink hospital gown, his eye twitched a little. It seemed safe to assume that she really liked espers. Just be glad she isn’t a Freezing Knight fan, Shouta-kun.
“Allow me to introduce her. This young lady here is Hinokage-kun. She’s a long-term resident who occupies the room next to mine. Go on.”
“……I’m Hinokage Mikyou. I’m a middle school first year.”
Upon being prompted by the “gentle grandpa” figure, Mikyou-chan introduced herself, squirming a little. Ah, so she’s already in middle school. My bad.
As we couldn’t actually broach the topic of superpowers with an outside present, I kind of wished that she’d step out of the room. However, she showed no intention of doing so. Rather, she was the one who broached the topic of superpowers.
“Going back to what I was saying earlier. I still think that it’s their bloodline. The espers must all share some common ancestry, and they’re hiding it. I’m thinking they are probably all descendents from an onmyouji1. Did you know that long ago, there was a Bureau of Onmyou in Japan? That Bureau protected the rest of the country from youkai2, um, sort of like today’s Ministry of Defence —”
After greeting us, Mikyou-chan turned towards Shige-jii and suddenly turned extremely talkative. The old man simply listened smilingly, as if he was a grandpa entertaining his granddaughter. Shouta-kun was having trouble holding in his laughter from how off Mikyou-chan’s guesses were. I was… well, there might have been a slight smile on my face.
So middle schoolers are able to talk about such things openly now, huh. And to think that doing so would have been considered cringy merely a few years ago. The line between fiction and reality seems to have been blurred quite a bit. What a good age it’s become — no, what a good age I’ve brought about.
“—And I’m pretty sure of this, but the race of esper humans are eventually going to wipe out the race of non-esper humans.”
“After all, being able to use superpowers is obviously superior to not being able to use superpowers. Pretty obvious, right? It’s called natural selection. The way this world works is that the strong prosper and the weak are weeded out. And that’s how it should be. BG, FK, TL, and IT saved Tokyo twice. Hundreds of people would have died in the Hanegecha Incident if they hadn’t arrived in time. The police are so incompetent that you can’t rely on them for anything. And not only Tokyo; the espers saved Marineland too. The fact that they still have to sneak around and hide their identities despite having done so much for people is a sign of what’s wrong with the times. They ought to be honored, thanked, and lauded more. But instead, you have foreign operatives and so-called scientists and whatnot going around smearing their name and slandering them. Old humanity is seriously just so useless and weak. Their jealousy is so repulsive it makes me want to puke. They should just die out already, honestly.”
After having said her piece, Mikyou-chan finally stopped talking.
I waited for a “Just kidding,” but nope, she was done.
She had meant every word she said.
Shiiiit. This girl is waaaay off her rocker. She’s a serious advocate for world destruction. Her love for espers has been warped into something crazy.
“According to that logic, you should die too, though.”
The retort that came out of Shouta-kun’s mouth as he handed Shige-jii the box of Super Water Sphere manjuu that we’d brought as a get-well gift seemed to surprise even himself a little. Ah, I thought that too.
Mikyou-chan nodded darkly.
“I’m fine with that. If living means being locked up in a hospital every waking day, I’d prefer being erased by BG or FK.”
“I… don’t think FK would wish for something like that.”
“What do you know about FK? Look at you, with your hair all dyed and stuff. Do you think it makes you look cool? Gross.”
The reply from Mikyou-chan was caustic, to put it mildly.
What a weird situation this is. The very person you just insulted is FK himself.
Shige-jii raised a hand to stop Shouta-kun — who was about to flare up and start an argument for real with a middle school first year — and opened the box of treats before holding it out to Mikyou-chan.
“Now, now, have one and calm down a little. Ladies first, right? Go on and take the biggest one, Hinokage-kun.”
“They’re all the same size. You wrong in the head, Shige-jii?”
“What are you saying? I have an IQ of 180, you know.”
The little girl continued going on for a while longer, but still took a manjuu. When a nurse popped in to grab her for an examination, she followed her out obediently. Not without provoking Shouta-kun one last time, of course, by sticking her tongue and making a face at an angle where the nurse wouldn’t see. Judging by how Shouta-kun’s face flushed up, it was effective.
After the footsteps receded out of earshot, Shouta-kun grabbed two manjuu and threw them into his mouth at once in a huff.
“What was with that shitty brat? Are her parents properly showing her Fire?”
“‘Fire’? Well, I’m not so sure about that, but please cut her some slack. You see, that child…”
With that preface, Shige-jii proceeded to share with us what he had heard about Mikyou-chan’s history.
The girl Hinokage Mikyou was actually the daughter of the director of this hospital and had been living here ever since she could remember. She suffered from a genetic disorder known as “grass spot disease.”3 If nothing was done, she would develop grass-like growths all over her body, turning into a vegetable in the literal sense. She was taking medication to suppress the symptoms, but side effects of the treatment included loss of muscle strength and diminished stamina. As a result, it was difficult for her to even attend school.
Consequently, her upbringing involved having only books, the TV, and the internet as friends, and the large majority of her conversational partners were nurses and doctors. This inevitably caused her to develop a precocious persona— no, a pretentious personality as a result of her trying to be mature. Oh, and pessimistic too.
“Would it be possible to help her using Ig-kun’s power?”
“I’m afraid congenital ailments are beyond her abilities.”
I had no choice but to shake my head in response to Shige-jii’s suggestion.
There was still a lot that I wasn’t sure about in regards to Ig’s healing power, but generally speaking, it “reverted targets to their original state.” As such, it was ineffective against conditions that someone was born with. Reviving the dead and healing congenital ailments were among the very short list of things beyond Ig’s power, which could otherwise heal even cancer.
“Even so, she’s… she’s too young to be so pessimistic about life. The way she views the world just might change if she only got well and made some friends.”
“Why’re you so hung up on that brat anyways, Shige-jii? According to your story, it’s not like she’ll die even if left alone, right? Don’t bother.”
“It’s not that easy, Takahashi-kun. Hinokage-kun reminds me of myself when I was young. I can’t just abandon her.”
Leaving aside whether Shige-jii really had a similar phase in his youth, I guess I do sort of recognize Mikyou-chan’s gloominess and pessimism — she bears strong resemblance to how Touka-chan was before she joined Amaterasu. She had no one to save her from all the bullying she was suffering, and her character also ended up warping in a completely bizarre direction. She’s gotten a lot more cheerful after joining us, but boy was she in a bad shape at the time. She had such a gloomy aura that it seemed she was about to disappear at any time.
As memories of Touka-chan’s past self rose in my mind, Shige-jii clapped his hands together once.
“I got it. How about inviting Hinokage-kun to Amaterasu, then? Seeing how much she loves superpowers, I’m sure it’d make her extremely happy. My eyes see quite the untapped potential within her.”
“No, there isn’t.”
I did not hesitate at all.
Although I sympathized with Mikyou-chan’s past, handing a superpower to someone with her view of the world was far too dangerous. She just might take it upon herself to wipe humanity out.
“No, no, it might be quite hard to see, but I —”
“No, you don’t.”
“Even if she doesn’t have it now, she could acq—”
“No, she can’t.”
“I… I see…”
Shige-jii’s shoulders slumped in disappointment.
Mikyou-chan had the worst adolescence out of all the kids I had encountered so far, and I naturally wanted to do something for her too. However, her ideology was just too dangerous.
Depending on what superpower she Awakened and how far she could develop it, the human race could actually come under threat. I wanted no part of a depressing development like having to finish off a former member of a secret organization who had “fallen to the dark side.”
Seeing how Shige-jii had withdrawn into his thoughts, Shouta-kun and I put our gifts down and left the room.
The next day, Shige-jii called me in. After calling Shouta-kun to cancel the trip to the community pool that we had planned, I made my way over to Ota General Hospital again.
The moment I walked into his room, Shige-jii told me to make sure that the door was locked, then stretched out a hand and closed the window behind him.
“I’ve given much thought to Hinokage-kun’s situation.”
“I’m thinking that what she needs is to know about more of the different facets of life, be that interacting with more people from other walks of life, seeing the intricacies of how society runs, et cetera. Being locked up within the hospital limits the kind of people she comes into contact with and limits her opportunities to encounter challenges and successes. Little wonder her personality’s turned out the way it has.”
For once, Shige-jii was making perfectly good sense.
I had been bracing myself against him saying something completely far out, so I now corrected myself to listen properly.
“The conclusion I arrived at is that she needs fulfilling experiences of success. She ought to experience for herself that reality is not only doom and gloom. Life might be tough, but she can’t give in. As long as she hangs in there, she’s bound to encounter something good. She needs to look towards the future and not the past. These are all lessons that she needs to learn.”
“Still with you.”
“I’m glad you agree. So I thought about what to do for her specifically. Hinokage-kun does have a rather prominent drive towards death and destruction, but deep in her heart, there exists an extremely powerful yearning for superpowers. Otherwise, she wouldn’t praise espers to the skies so much.”
“However, Hinokage-kun herself has no potential as an esper. She doesn’t have the talent for a superpower. I wish to do something about this fact. I’ve thought up a great plan to do so. Would you be onboard?”
Oho, don’t think you can trick me into promising to help you before you actually tell me what it is that you plan on doing. If it’s something stupid again, I will just shoot it down.
I decided to answer cautiously.
“Depends on the plan.”
Shige-jii nodded, then proceeded to explain while looking like he’s presenting a genius idea.
“Fair enough. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too difficult. See, I considered introducing her to Takahashi-kun and Hasumi-kun as their esper personas, but then came up with something better. Hinokage-kun’s world would change drastically from the confidence boost of gaining a superpower. Now, although she cannot do so, we do possess superpowers. With all the variety there is within the organization, nothing would be impossible for us. You mentioned PSI drives and Artifacts, did you not? We can use everything at our disposal to make Hinokage-kun think she’s Awakened to a superpower! Even if she doesn’t actually have one, as long as she thinks she does, the effect on her would be the same. Then we can set things up for her to defeat an enemy using that pretend superpower of hers to grant her an experience of success. In other words, let’s arrange for a put-up job.”
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.