There Was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (srsly?!), So I Made One MYSELF!
Chapter 5: Put-Up Job Matryoshka
Volume 5: † The Double Wings of Shade †
Therefore, Shige-jii’s idea had been accepted the moment he voiced it out loud. The question wasn’t whether we would do it or not, but how we would do it. And that was a tough question.
Back when I was starting my own put-up job — what eventually developed into Amaterasu and the whole fight against the World Shadows — I figured out almost right away that I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. That was why I went looking for an adjutant who would be able to back me up.
This time, it was Shige-jii who was trying to start a put-up job, and he was asking me to back him up because he could tell that he wouldn’t be able to do it by himself.
Now that I was thrust into the position that Kaburagi-san had served in for me, I could tell how tough it was. There were far too many things to think about and prepare. What Shige-jii had suggested was to delude Mikyou-chan into believing that she had a superpower despite not actually having one.
This is much easier said than done. How were we supposed to delude her? The first idea that came to mind was to have her hold a PSI drive while informing her that only espers could use it and then activate it remotely to make it seem like she actually was an esper. Something along the lines of “Only an esper can use this, so it’s impossible for you” → “Wait, it activated?!” → “Amazing! So you are an esper after all!”
However, there were far too many ways for this plan to fall through.
The truth was, anyone could use PSI drives, as long as it was properly loaded with an esper’s blood. Everyone in Tsukuyomi and Amaterasu knew this, as did the researchers in Kaneyama Tech who helped provide maintenance for the PSI drives in Baba’s stead. Every single one of those individuals would have to be in on the plan, just in case Mikyou-chan made contact.
Similarly, because the PSI actually could be used by anyone, the jig would be up the moment it occurred to Mikyou-chan to get a nurse, a doctor, or a member of her family to press the activation button on the device.
It would also seem conflicting how she would not feel the supernatural fatigue so characteristic of the training process — in fact, she would not even need to train at all. In the same way, the fact of her being the only esper who could not use her superpower without the aid of a PSI drive might raise questions. And even if she never saw through the lie, this discrepancy could still make her feel inferior and damage her self-esteem even further.
Aside from the worries about how the lie might be exposed, we would also have to convince her not to “erase humanity” using her power and to not spread this secret around. And of course, it only made sense to make preparations in advance for the off chance that she did actually try to hurt someone or expose us.
In order to make the put-up job a success, we truly had to be ready to handle absolutely anything.
Just thinking about it made me feel faint. How on earth does Kaburagi-san manage it?
And so, because even I couldn’t handle everything by myself, I contacted Kaburagi-san, who was still on vacation in her magic castle. However, her reply was unenthusiastic. The story of Hinokage Mikyou, the sickly little girl, had failed to touch her heartstrings.
Mikyou-chan didn’t have anything that she was really pouring herself into. Sure, she liked espers, but she was more just a fan, and she had joined the bandwagon only after the Hagecha Incident. She wasn’t particularly hardworking, and did not have a deep-seated hunger for magic or superpowers. Kaburagi-san didn’t find her cute either, not with her sickly gaunt look and ever-gloomy expression. She also lost quite a few points in Kaburagi-san’s book for her destructive desires.
Kaburagi-san did not disparage Shige-jii’s idea outright — likely to save me face — but otherwise expressed a lack of desire to be a part of the event this time. Aww, shucks.
And so, because I was turned down by one woman, I had no choice but to turn to another. I wasted no time in setting up a meet-up at a café.
In the short while I hadn’t seen her, Baba had completely adopted the look of those in the underworld. She had sunglasses on, was wearing a leather jacket (despite it being summer) and distressed jeans, sported a tattoo of Tsukuyomi’s lotus-and-moon crest, held a chocolate cigarette in her mouth, and even walked with a bit of swag.
However, she still wore her silver hair in braids and decorated it with a branch from a tree. In the first place, her general appearance was still that of a loli, so everything she did only served to make her look cute, not scary. During our entire time in the café, the other customers kept stealing looks at her and smiling warmly. Ironically, I was the one scaring people for having only one arm, even though my outfit was otherwise entirely normal.
A chuckle inadvertently escaped my lips, earning me a glare over her sunglasses that, again, did not look scary at all. After a brief pause, we both spontaneously burst into laughter, ordered our coffee and mixed juice, then got down to the topic at hand.
Her appearance aside, Baba herself hadn’t changed a lick. Once I explained the entire situation, she was as ready as always with her granny’s bag of wisdom.
First, she told me to decide on a specific time frame.
Unlike the put-up job that we were pulling off, where the enemies were fake but the superpowers really did exist, Shige-jii’s put-up job involved lying about the superpower too. It was simply unreasonable to keep up the pretense forever. Several weeks, or maybe even several months, sure. But several years would be far too long.
Even for what we were doing, we still technically had an end goal: to eradicate the World Shadows from our world.
In the same way, Shige-jii’s put-up job also required a well-defined ending. Otherwise, it would just keep dragging on until it was exposed, and that would just end with everyone being hurt.
As I nodded, marveling at the reasonableness of her advice, Baba looked back at me in exasperation. According to her, “considering the end should be a given when planning a put-up job.” I had nothing to say in return.
Sorry that I’m so bad at planning these things out. No, it’s you and Kaburagi-san who are too good at it! And your acting chops are so much better than mine too.
In between receiving a few more pieces of advice, I also asked how things were on Baba’s side. To my surprise, the clean up after the 7/3 Incident was long over, and Tsukuyomi was busy planning and enjoying events meant for Tsukuyomi members alone! This is my first time hearing about it!
When I complained about being left out, Baba shot back with a “Did you have time to participate?” Once again, I had nothing to say in return.
In the end, we promised to exchange footage of the events on our respective ends. Whoo! I’m already excited!
Right before we parted, Baba confirmed that she intended on staying with Tsukuyomi permanently, as she had really taken a liking to the position of being “the genius mechanic who betrayed the light and joined the dark side.” Does the fact that part of me thinks “what bad taste!” while another part of me goes “I totally get it!” indicate that I’m still afflicted with full-blown chuunibyou?
When I stepped out to pay for the entire tab, I discovered that all the cash had been stolen from my wallet and replaced with an invoice for “consulting fees.” Rather than getting angry about having been the victim of theft, I almost shed a tear at how tight finances always were on Tsukuyomi’s side.
And so, after this and that, the planning for Shige-jii’s put-up job went underway and I ran about making preparations. The old man himself took up his beloved calligraphy brush (worth ¥1,200,000, or US$10,840) to scribble off a manuscript, sending ink flying onto his sheets everywhere, after which I went around securing the cooperation of the relevant parties, be it through persuasion, pleading, or smacking (with bills). At the same time, I asked Kaneyama Tech’s development team to remodel a PSI drive — all of which were normally created to fit high schoolers to adults — to a form that would be more suitable for someone with the size of an elementary school kid.
Ten days later, everything was in order and the stage was set.
First Lead: Hinokage Mikyou, the sickly, nihilistic middle school girl
Second Lead: Amaterasu, the secret organization that opposes the World Shadows
Planning: Hazama Sorashige, the vain elderly gentleman who has spacial powers
Support: Lonalia Linalia Baba-Nyan, the loli grandma who can’t wait for this season’s hero anime to come out on Blu-ray
This show is brought to you by the following sponsors:
Kaneyama Tech, who you can always rely on for all your metal manufacturing needs!
We were finally about to put Shige-jii’s put-up job into motion. As always, I remained in Ama-no-Iwato, polishing a wine glass and performing long-distance support and recording through my telekinesis.
It was a sweltering summer day. It also happened to be the day of Shige-jii’s discharge.
He accepted a celebratory bouquet from the director of Oita General Hospital right in front of the main entrance. Then, in complete disregard for the mood, he turned to head right back inside.
“Did you forget something?”
“No, I’m here to pay your precious daughter a visit. The poor girl, I heard that her father doesn’t visit her more than once a month.”
“Is that so?”
After replying to Shige-jii’s sarcasm in a nonplussed tone, the man left to return to his work. Shige-jii watched his flapping white cloak recede down the corridor with a bitter look.
Mikyou-chan’s family situation was rather bleak… or so it seemed. In reality, her father had gathered every authoritative literature on grass spot disease that he could find and had flipped through their pages so much that they were all terribly worn. Not only that, he spent night after night having video conference calls with specialists that he had reached through his connections. Whenever a new medicine was developed that seemed reasonably capable of alleviating the symptoms of his daughter’s disease, even before it was approved for use in Japan, he would have already bought it, no matter how expensive it cost. As Shige-jii himself had also demonstrated, people just were not what they seemed sometimes.
Regardless of how much effort he poured into her treatment, however, he almost never went to actually visit his daughter, so she merely thought of him as a detached, uncaring father. How heartbreaking.
For the past few days, Mikyou-chan had been in an absolutely foul mood, staying cooped up in her room and doing nothing but fiddling with her smartphone. When Shige-jii suddenly popped back in with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in hand, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. But then the gloom returned to her face almost immediately, accompanied by her usual acrid tone.
“What? You got hit by a truck again?”
“No, no, I’m here to visit you! By proxy. Here you go, it’s from your father. Would you accept these flowers, mademoiselle?”
“That’s the same bouquet dad gifts discharged patients. It’s yours, isn’t it?”
“……Ha ha ha!”
Shige-jii got up from kneeling on one knee and laughed to gloss over the rejection. Seeing how coldly Mikyou-chan was looking at him, the glossing was not working. Not at all.
In the script that Shige-jii had written, this was where Mikyou-chan was supposed to accept the flowers and be touched. Your scenario’s already falling apart, dude.
The old man cleared his throat to reset the atmosphere in the room, then stuck a hand into the bouquet of flowers and retrieved — through his storage powers — a PSI drive shaped like a khakkhara as if he was performing a magic trick.
“And this is my present to you. This is a special khakkhara, all right? Only a chosen few can draw out its powers. I do not know whether you have what it takes to use it, but at least hold onto it as a protective charm. I’m sure it will come in handy someday.”
“That’s the story you’re going with this time? ‘K then.”
Judging by Mikyou-chan’s dismissive attitude, she had long figured out that Shige-jii was a compulsive liar.
However, this was something that we had expected. The old man smiled warmly and repeated himself for emphasis.
“Regardless of whether you believe me or not, just make sure that you always keep this khakkhara on your body at all times, all right? And do not ever lose it somewhere.”
“Will you promise me? To always bring it everywhere?”
Shige-jii’s attempt to look serious and sincere earned him a suspicious look from the girl.
“It’ll become clear some day. Though my hope is that the day won’t ever come… In any case, it wouldn’t cause you any extra trouble if you simply use it in place of your usual walking stick, right? Go on, please accept it.”
“……All right, I guess.”
Mikyou-chan warily accepted the staff as if touching something dirty and leaned it against the edge of her bed. And that’s the last bit of set up in place.
After that, Shige-jii shared the story of how he had once saved the world by using his superpowers to infiltrate a research town with his late wife and stop the spread of a zombie virus. Then he announced that it was time for him to go. As he stood up, the girl looked at him with an anxious expression.
“Will you come again?”
“If fate tells me to.”
“No, I don’t care about all the fate stuff. Will you come again? Will you? When? Tomorrow? The day after?”
“Hmm… expect me a week later. I’m quite busy fighting the World Shadows, unfortunately.”
“If you stand me up, I’ll wipe out all of humanity.”
“Now that’s a scary proposition. I shall keep my promise. Make sure that you don’t forget the promise you made about the khakkhara either.”
Shige-jii waved one last time, then left the room.
As he walked down the corridor, he muttered towards empty air.
“And that’s that. The rest is up to you, Sago-kun.”
No problem, I got you. I’ll take it from here.
Several hours later, in the dead of night on the same day of Shige-jii’s discharge, I used telekinesis to gently shake Mikyou-chan awake.
Just as she turned over and tried to get back to sleep, she heard very faintly the sound of something crawling in the corridor outside her room. It clearly wasn’t human footsteps. What on earth could it be…?
All right, I’m just going to be straight. This was a “fake” World Shadow that I had created using telekinesis to “copy the real World Shadows” and was “manipulating using telekinesis.” When I gave Shouta-kun a demonstration back at Ama-no-Iwato, he had been very impressed with how “realistic” it seemed.
The peculiar sound grew increasingly more audible until Mikyou-chan had no choice but to wake up. She quietly sat up and cocked her ears, looking slightly frightened.
At this moment, the sound, which seemed to have been approaching her door, went quiet all of a sudden. The only thing that Mikyou-chan could hear was the buzz of the fridge in her room.
The sound just now had been far too distinct to have been imagined. Now, what will you do?
We had foreseen three major routes here: first, the Panic Route, where Mikyou-chan boldly goes back to sleep and the fake World Shadow assaults her in her sleep; second, the Horror Route, where she uneasily presses the nurse call button but finds it unresponsive; and third, the Confrontation Route, where she heads out into the corridor to investigate the source of the sound and comes face-to-face with the fake World Shadow. Any other option would require ad libbing on my part, so I earnestly hoped that she would choose something from the above.
“Is someone out there?”
Mikyou-chan whispered barely loud enough for someone at her door to hear her voice, but no answer was forthcoming. After struggling with a mixture of unease and relief for a while, she eventually slipped into her slippers, grabbed the khakkhara, and headed for her door with soft steps.
All right, Confrontation Route it is.
When the girl stepped out from her room, the corridor lights, which were supposed to turn on when sensing motion, remained dark. She ducked back in and out from the doorway of her room a few more times, but the lights still remained off.
This was not a simple malfunction. The World Shadows, uh, emanated some sort of, negative aura (I guess?), that caused electrical interference, or something like that.
Regardless of the details, it was creepy. That was the most important part.
For most people, the hospital during the night was already creepy by default, what with the distinctive smell of disinfectants in the air, the feeling of being isolated from the ordinary, and just being in a space evocative of pain and death. The silence and darkness of night time only served to amplify that even further.
It was a bit different for Mikyou-chan as, after having lived here practically her whole life, the place felt more like home to her. However, although she did not feel the same fear of hospitals that most other people did, hearing an unidentifiable sound in her house in the middle of the night was, in some sense, an even more terrifying experience. It only made sense for her to want to check it out.
The girl peered down the eerie corridor, relying solely on the green emergency exit lights for illumination. It didn’t take long for her to notice the movement at the edge of the passageway. It was too dark to make out its silhouette clearly, but it was obviously not human. It was something with an indeterminate form.
A soft gasp escaped from her mouth.
“Who… are you?”
She clenched the khakkhara tightly and attempted to engage whatever it was in conversation, but got no answer in return.
Her breathing started becoming erratic, and she started shuffling backwards. At that exact moment, the lights of the corridor flickered, then turned on all at once.
The form that was suddenly revealed evoked a shrill scream from the girl.
Pitch black surface with a revulsive shine. The strange core suspended within the half-transparent body. The crawling movement designed to trigger every last drop of aversion within the human mind. Indeed, this was the very embodiment of humanity’s desire for violence, the ancient enemy of the espers — a World Shadow.
A fake one, that was.
Well, the story went that this was a fake one, but I was doing exactly the same thing I did for the “real” ones, so it was equally terrifying.
Which… was obviously entirely overboard for this situation. As a result of me taking things a bit too seriously, Mikyou-chan had wet herself and was shaking so hard it was if she was a robot with a vibrating function.
Shit. Um, I overdid it. But I can’t stop after having come this far. All right, let’s fast forward the rest of the scenario.
The khakkhara that Mikyou-chan was clutching suddenly activated all by itself. It had been loaded with Shouta-kun’s processed blood, so it gushed out a swirling jet of white frost that shot towards the World Shadow (with my telekinetic guidance) and turned it into an ice sculpture. Then the sculpture shattered into countless tiny pieces of ice that scattered over the floor to make it clear that it was dead.
“No way, this, but this…”
Mikyou-chan looked between her khakkhara and the World Shadow, having trouble believing what she just witnessed.
Right then, Shige-jii opened a window — he had been on standby outside the frame and waiting for my signal — and slid into the corridor as if he had been rushing here after having sensed the appearance of the World Shadow.
With his hands enveloped in black mist, Shige-jii exclaimed in surprise while taking in the sight of the defeated World Shadow and Mikyou-chan with the khakkhara in her arms.
“Well, I’ll be. You’ve already Awakened!”
The girl looked at Shige-jii’s face in blank astonishment, noticed the supernatural mist surrounding his hands in even more astonishment, then sank to the ground. The old man offered a hand.
“Can you stand? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“S-Shige-jii, does this mean, am I…”
“Looks like it. Hinokage-kun, you… you are an esper.”
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.