Authors: Kazuma Kamachi
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy
Tokiwadai Middle School.
Not only was it said to be one of the top five elite schools in Academy City, an organization for supernatural ability development that boasted a size one-third of Tokyo’s, it was also a world leader in schools for young ladies. Its entrance requirements were incredibly strict—one anecdote suggested it had flat-out rejected a member of a certain country’s nobility, nearly developing into an international incident.
Its school grounds were shared with four other young ladies’ schools adjacent to it. This was not done out of a lack of available space but rather so they could all contribute to expenditures and also to create a tight security system.
This was the Garden of Learning, a communal zone fifteen times the size of a normal school. But despite being so much larger than other schools, it didn’t seem that big. There were more than a few building extensions made for experimentation and use in specialized curricula. Plus, every piece of equipment for ability development they used was produced within the Garden of Learning—they outsourced absolutely nothing, just to keep their original technology from getting out. There were a lot of manufacturing facilities and stores, too, as a result. All these facilities—from the outside, at least—were unified in their western style. The campus seemed like an entire small town on the Mediterranean had been picked up and planted here.
The Garden of Learning was so distinct inside that even the design of signposts and traffic lights was unlike those outside.
“Roads paved in stone, buildings made of marble…The very height of inefficiency!”
The date was September 14. The afternoon broiled with the lingering summertime heat as in the middle of the schoolyard, a girl with pigtails who looked like a track-and-field athlete in her tank top and shorts spoke to herself as she looked at the school building in the distance. She was Kuroko Shirai, and she sounded worn down by the heat.
The schoolyard was paved in stone, bringing to mind the open space in front of the British Museum. However, if an expert surveyor were to measure its surface, he or she wouldn’t find a single uneven centimeter or the least bit of sloping. It wasn’t mere stone that they’d used, either. The naked eye couldn’t tell the difference, but examination with an electron microscope would reveal that it was a special building material produced in Academy City.
The glittering schoolyard hadn’t even a speck of dirt—not so much a grain of the white powder schools always used for drawing track lines for physical education classes. At the moment, Shirai was in class, currently in the middle of an ability-measuring competition. The lines for
had been drawn using something else. They were made of light. Thousands upon thousands of fibers of light were hung vertically in every nook and cranny of the schoolyard. They emitted light, which gathered together and freely “drew” light rays like some electronic billboard.
Currently, the beams were forming a small ring around Shirai with a giant fan shape extending from it. It looked quite similar to the circle athletes stood in for shot put events, but
fan was far narrower in angle than that.
And lined up next to Shirai, with the exact same shapes, were more girls wearing gym outfits inside those circles. It was set up like a batting cage.
Shirai had the ability to teleport. In simple terms, it allowed her to ignore three-dimensional space and instantly warp anything at hand, including herself, to a distant location. Its only restriction was that the object needed to be in contact with her skin.
The Level of teleportation users depended heavily on three conditions: the size (mass) of the object, the maximum range it could be teleported, and its accuracy. This shot put–like business was a method of measuring that. Unlike normal shot put, however, she would launch hers as far as possible but also drop it at a precise location.
Incidentally, Shirai was the only teleporter at Tokiwadai Middle School. The girls around her were all actually espers with abilities involving throwing weapons.
Shirai could see far off in the distance something falling.
She had just teleported a sandbag weighing 120 kilograms.
A few moments later, the ground by her feet started displaying new characters made of light.
Result: 78m 23cm / 54 cm away from indicated position / Overall evaluation: 5
As she saw those numbers, she sighed, her pigtails swinging left to right. “Jeez, I am in spectacularly terrible condition…I may even forget how to speak Japanese correctly. I’m so bad at warping big, heavy things far away! If we were talking fifty meters or so, I could have landed it within millimeters.”
In the first place, the limit to her warp distance was 81.5 meters, and at most she could warp a 130.7-kilogram object. The warp distance and weight of the object weren’t correlated to her ability—even with a lighter object, she couldn’t send it any farther. On the other hand, the closer she aimed to her distance limit, the less precise she got.
To add to that, her mental state greatly affected her ability values. With this heat, it was only natural she’d have less precision if they told her to go to her limit right away.
But I can’t make excuses like that, or I’ll never be Level Five
, she thought in self-deprecation, breathing a heavy sigh. Suddenly, there was a guffaw from the shot put throwing circle next to her.
“Hee-hee-hee. Oh, Miss Shirai, if you get so obviously happy or sad at some numbers a machine is shooting at you, it only shows your caliber to those around you, yes? If you do not find a firmer basis of judgment within yourself…Pfft!”
Shirai, exasperated, turned to her side.
That hair, so unnecessarily silky and smooth that it looked more unnatural than attractive. That folding fan in her right hand, despite the fact she was wearing the same gym uniform with tank top and shorts as Shirai. That smile she was hiding with the extravagant fan at her lips. The girl was one year older than her (electives had students from every grade), and her name was Mitsuko Konkou.
Konkou was a Level Four aerohand. She specialized in creating points of wind propulsion on objects and firing them like missiles—a crazy rocket girl.
“…You revealed how petty you are when you started laughing uncontrollably at someone who was feeling down,” Shirai responded, turning a cheek in irritation.
“Oh, my. You do say some silly things, Miss Fifty-four Centimeters Off. By the way, Miss Shirai, in my humble opinion, your abilities have been rather dull as of late, haven’t they? And that…Oh, my, are you ignoring me? Miss Shirai, I will send a favorable wind your way, so by all means, take a look, won’t you?”
Konkou flapped her folding fan at Shirai, who looked at it resentfully.
Pleased, Konkou continued, rapidly waving her fan with its sickly sweet fragrance. “Back to what I was saying—the dulling of your abilities is because you are trying to process parts of space you don’t need to, is it not? You should simply tighten your calculations more, yes?”
“…Don’t butt in on my business. Besides, you don’t fundamentally think about eleven dimensions the same way as the first three!”
“No, no, I haven’t butted into your business just yet. You see, I was considering creating a faction soon. I would gladly welcome you into it if you had free time, or even if you would force yourself to clear your schedule. What do you think? Consider it like a study group, won’t you? Perhaps we will gain new perspectives on how we do our mental calculations by learning how other espers control their abilities.”
Shirai sighed and frowned.
A very stiff, formal word—for what was essentially a hangout group.
This, however, was Tokiwadai Middle School. Its mission statement was to raise people who would be useful to the world by the end of their compulsory education. From the moment a student enrolled, she was subject to every kind of research field imaginable. Many of their names would go down in history.
Factions were gatherings of like-minded students who borrowed the school’s facilities and raised money all to immortalize their names in the minds of the entire country…In that way, they were much like clubs. The larger factions could secure connections both personal and financial as well as proprietary knowledge. Most students at the forefront of these groups borrowed from that power to achieve meritorious deeds.
Certain students could do these things alone without needing to join a faction, but from financial and logistical perspectives, it was easier to join a club and use their paperwork to request those things from the school. The more members and achievements a faction had, the more it would ascend within the school—they were no different from normal clubs in that respect.
That was why large factions had significant power both within Tokiwadai Middle School and outside it. Just being part of a large faction was a form of honor, and the renown gained for being the one to create it was nothing to shake a stick at.
And these young ladies had powers easily superior to handguns and pistols and connections to all sorts of different spheres—when they formed their little groups, their factions had a much more direct, clear sort of
Powers, some of which were dangerous even used alone and for one’s personal gain, could be used in concert with others to inflict massive damage to surrounding areas.
Thus, she said this: “It would be easier for you if you gave it up. If you made a faction, it would get destroyed in two seconds.”
“You don’t understand? If you were strong enough to create a dangerous faction, another one would have crushed you already. Obviously this is news to you, so perhaps you should get a grip on how much less powerful you are than them.”
“Th-that is not true!” protested Konkou, indignant, her face turning red. “W-with my own abilities and my Konkou pedigree, I would destroy any faction in a fair fight, no matter how strong it was—” Before she finished, though, her face went white.
A sudden explosive tremor hit them—and not only the school building, or only the gymnasium, or only the schoolyard. Every object on the entire school grounds creaked, squealed, and bounced around.
There was a pool behind the school building, though it wasn’t visible from here because it was on the other side. That’s where the explosion originated.
And despite an entire building standing between them, a thin spray of water hit Konkou’s flushed cheeks, immediately giving her cause to shudder.
had made that blast of pool water fly all the way out here, after all.
“…Wh…What in the world was that?” Konkou, surprised, the droplets of water striking her face, was shivering as though she’d just been licked. Then she put her hand to her cheek, stared up at the sky, then back down to the school building.
“Oh, that’s right. You only transferred in for the second semester, so you don’t know. That was the Tokiwadai Middle School’s ace.”
That made Konkou remember.
There could only be one girl standing there at the pool behind the school building.
A girl who, despite being a ranged attack user like Shirai and Konkou, was an esper so tremendously strong that it put the teachers at Tokiwadai to shame for being unable to measure her enormous destructive power with their usual instruments.
The school had assigned her a curriculum particular to her needs. Even all the water stored in the entire pool wasn’t enough to dull her power—she could destroy the entire school building along with all the measuring equipment. A Level Five, a Superpower, of which only two existed in all of Tokiwadai Middle School.
Mikoto Misaka—the Railgun.
She was beholden to no faction and gave favorable treatment to no one.
The visage of the “older sister” she idolized came to Kuroko Shirai’s mind, but she shook it off, instead asking in an exasperated tone, “Miss Konkou, do you really have the resolve to face such an absurd attack head-on?”
An innocent question. Mitsuko Konkou’s face went blue, unable to respond.
“It may be true that you would have great influence in Tokiwadai Middle School if you created a faction and became its leader. But if you only want to make one so that you can act arrogant and insolent, Big Sister will come right away and put a stop to it.”
Another explosion ripped through the air as if in response.