When I woke up, I was in some factory-ish place.
I could only describe it as ambiguously as factory-ish; that place had no roof, and here and there, the walls had been destroyed. Around the area, dusty machinery and mechanisms were disorderly stationed.
Finding myself lying down on a cardboard box, I slowly raised my torso. The back of my head stung. When I tried touching it, there was a small bump.
It did hurt a bit, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t endure.
A voice flowed in from the side. When I turned, I found Kirako-san. She sat on a rusted pipe chair, gazing over me. Her clothes were the suit she wore as a costume for the movie.
“K-Kirako-san!? W-why is Kirako-san here!?”
“… Ah, I see. So I’m still Kirako in your thick head.”
For some reason, Kirako-san spat out the sort of breath as if she was worn out from the depths of her heart.
I took another look around. As I did that, I immediately understood where this was.
This was the factory in the mountains Orino-san’s movie club had once used for filming.
It was used for an explosion scene, an abandoned car factory.
A few months ago, when I was searching for Orino-san to return the card she dropped, I ran right into Orino-san and Kirako-san filming a movie scene here.
“… That’s right! Where are the others!? What happened with the truck!?”
Bit by bit, the memories from right before I was knocked out recovered.
“Your friends were all unhurt, last I saw them.”
I pat my chest in relief. That’s good. Everyone’s alright.
“B-but why am I here with you then…?”
“I don’t mind answering that question… but first, you speak on as far as you understand the circumstances. After hearing that, I’ll use it as a criterion to decide the information I should tell you.”
With her sharp eyes glaring at me, she one-sidedly barked an order.
“You say circumstances but… I don’t have any idea what’s going on.”
“I know. Even so, tell me whatever you can about what you experienced today in detail. We’re in the same boat, not knowing what the hell’s going on. I want as much information as possible.”
I tried processing the information again. But no matter how I tried processing it, I couldn’t find any consistency, so I had no choice but to say exactly what I had experienced.
Like Jean Pierre Polnareff, I would say it just as it was.
“I… I shall say it just as it is—”
A vein stood up on Kirako’s forehead.
… It seemed it wasn’t the right air to mess around, so I decided to speak normally.
“Umm… today morning, an Orino-san lookalike called Yomiga-san came to my house, for some reason pretending to be Orino-san. I immediately noticed, but she obstinately refused to accept it… when I thought she’d finally given in, next she made a call to someone—as I recall… some person called Utsurohara, and then a truck suddenly crashed in.”
That’s where my memories ended. I get the feeling I thought, everyone’s in danger, and moved all of a sudden, but I don’t remember anything beyond that.
After listening to what I had to say, Kirako-san folded her arms, closed her eyes, and submerged herself in thought. I did want to assist her to the best of my abilities, so I decided to unveil my deductions as well.
“My conjecture is that Yomiga-san and Orino-san were actually close friends. The two of them were presumably working together to pull a fast one on us. That plan failed when I ended up noticing. I’m sure that’s what got Yomiga-san’s mood down in the dumps.”
“The truck crashing in… I presume it was a phenomenon caused by a tornado. No doubt about it. There was a tornado report on the news not too long ago. I might not look it, but I do keep up to date with the news you know. They’re terrifying when you actually see them up close and personal, those tornados. They don’t call them dust devils for nothing, those things are the devil’s work.”
“… Dude, just shut up.”
Hearing a voice irritated to the very limit, I hurriedly held my tongue.
It did seem my deductions were nothing but a hindrance to Kirako-san.
How unfortunate, how embarrassing.
After a while of silent thought,
“… Good grief. No particularly beneficial information.”
“Wasn’t expecting much from you to start with, so not that I mind.”
“Then Kirako-san. Please answer my questions too. Why are you here?”
And I added on another.
Before I lost consciousness, it was the greatest thing plaguing my mind.
Kirako-san furrowed her brow, making an uncomfortable expression. After staying her words awhile, eventually, she slowly leaked her words.
“Today morning, maybe yesterday night… whatever, let’s say early dawn, we received an attack. The Facility’s Japan Branch’s pretty much been annihilated.”
“Organization, facility… attack? Eh? Was there a burglar or something?”
“Burglar? Haha, You can’t imagine how much more peachy that would be.”
She said in an especially cheery voice.
“The researchers and the ability holders… the few hundred people of the facility, within the span of a few hours were eliminated by just two people. There were loads of battle type espers like me around, but we never stood a chance…”
One of those two was Utsurohara Gouichirou.
Standing at the summit of the sole three Rank Ses.
A psychokinetic special. The strongest psychokinesist.
If in pure combat ability, no one could even trail behind him.
“… Always knew he was strong, never thought he was this strong. A majority of the annihilation was done by that man. That f*cker… looks like up to this very moment, he never even used the t of his true strength. The remaining two Rank Ses went at him together, but they were done in like scrap paper. I did think he was a crazy bastard, but I never imagined he’d betray us so thoroughly.”
And the other—she said, was a girl identical to Orino-san.
“Presumably that Yomiga you mentioned.”
I wouldn’t doubt it.
For a girl identical to Orino-san, there was only Yomiga-san.
“That one—didn’t do anything. She appeared with Utsurohara, and after watching the annihilation a while, she disappeared somewhere. Don’t know her goal, but it looks like she went prancing to your house pretending to be Orino.”
“I don’t know where Orino is. She didn’t get back yesterday.”
Unable to bear it anymore, I went and said it.
“Are you talking about a movie?”
After staring fixatedly at me, hah, Kirako-san breathed a deep sigh.
“Yeah, whatever, let’s go with that.”
She stood from her pipe chair, and cricked her neck left and right.
“I’m gonna get going. You stay here.”
“Eh? Going? Where to? Rather, if I stay here…”
“Just do it. Don’t go home. Over there—”
She said, pointing out a machine in the back of the abandoned factory.
“—if you turn the meter with the black needle three times, a door to an underground room will open. Masaki was using it a while back. I hear there’s canned food and drinkable water, just live there for the time being. Don’t go out for at least a week.”
I hurriedly protested such an unfair order.
“Please wait, why do I…”
“Did you get that?”
With her sharp eyes gleaning, I was forced into silence. She glared at me with such scary eyes, yet her expression was hopelessly serious. Such sincerity before me, I could only nod a stiff nod.
“Good. If some miracle happens and everything ends before you know it, I might be here to get you tomorrow.”
She left me behind and walked off.
Along the way, “Ah, that’s right,” she turned, perhaps remembering something.
“This is as good a chance as any, let me tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“My name isn’t some lame-ass joke like Hoshizora Kirako.”
I tilted my head.
Huh? I mean, that’s what Orino-san said it was.
“Listen here. I’ll only say it once, so you’d better get it in your ear.”
She smiled a bitter smile, and introduced herself to me for the first time.
“The name’s Ku—”
At the same time came a large sound to my flank. The sound of something colliding.
When I reflexively turned, I saw Kirako-san pinned on the concrete wall. Her back must have crashed in at a fearsome rate, as large cracks were spreading across the surface.
The real shocker was that her body was floating. No matter how I waited, she wouldn’t fall to the ground. It was like some invisible power was grinding against her to keep her suppressed.
Her form made me imagine Christ condemned to the cross.
Pressed around three meters above the ground, her mouth leaked a voice of anguish. I could hear the creaking sound of grating concrete. The stronger that sound became, the greater her expression warped.
“Kirako-san! Are you alright!?”
“… Dumbass. I told you, I ain’t… Kirako.”
After a barely-audible mutter, her gaze shifted from me just a little to the side.
“… Utsurohara Gouichirou.”
I naturally followed her eye line.
There, in the pipe chair Kirako had been sitting in before, before I knew it, a single young boy was seated.
I was so surprised I fell onto my bottom.
Startled as I was, I took another look at the boy.
Utsurohara Gouichirou, Kirako-san had called him. Meaning the one Yomiga-san was talking over the phone with was this man.
His age was a little over mine. Perhaps I was better off calling him a man than a boy. A flimsy slim build, he folded his legs as he sat on the rusted pipes. While he seemed to be taller than me, he looked to be far lighter.
His was a slender build completely unbefitting a name like Gouichirou.
A light shirt and ripped jeans. A paisley-print bandanna was wrapped a round around his head. As a whole, he sported a rough, casual fashion.
Utsurohara-san turned his neck in my direction. His eerie reptile-like eyes gazed over me. He opened his mouth wide.
“Ahahahah hahahah ha ha ha hahahah ha hahah hah hahahah.”
“Ahahah. Ahh, now ain’t that strange. Kirako, he says, bloody Kirako. Ahahah. I like you, you’ve got a good sense. It’s been a whole day since someone got me laughing like this. Thanks for entertaining me.”
His long and slender build swaying, he laughed a terribly merry laugh. And once more, he turned towards Kirako-san, speaking in a tone belittling her from the depths of his heart.
“You’ve got my pity, Kugaya. The hell’d you do to earn that lame-ass name?”
“… Utsurohara, bastard… what happened to Masaki…?”
“Masaki? Ahh, no clue. Probably dead, I’d say. I can’t really be bothered to check that sorta thing. More importantly, how ‘bout you tell me that lame name’s origin?”
“Huh? Ignoring me? You’re ruining my mood here.”
A power sprung into his reptilian eyes. Right after, the concrete Kirako-san was pinned to began creaking harder all at once.
“Ahahahahah! Cut me some slack, dude! You’re really hitting my funny bone with that Kirako.”
Kirako-san raised a bitter cry, I was losing my mind, Utsurohara laughed.
I couldn’t swallow down this situation.
Still, intuitively, I could tell the one tormenting Kirako-san was this Utsurohara-san.
I could instinctually tell this man wasn’t sane.
“Ahahah! Ahh, You’re killing me man, I almost cancelled out my power there. So I know I’ve got to focus but… It’s still hilarious. Ahahah!”
Utsurohara-san guffawed aloud as he gazed at Kirako-san writhing in pain.
I was growing excessively irritated at him.
While I do think I boast a relatively peaceful nature, this time was one I couldn’t forgive.
That’s why I closed in on him.
“… Don’t make fun of someone’s name!”
Utsurohara’s smile vanished as he stared blankly at me.
But my anger was far from quelling!
“What’s so bad about Kirako? It’s a great name! A splendid, wonderful name! Yeah, it’s got so much hope put into it, it actually starts sounding desperate But that doesn’t mean it’s something to laugh at!”
“A name, see, it’s something the parent puts their all into thinking up for their child’s sake. I’ll admit there have been a lot of strange names lately. Perhaps there are more parents who go off on a whim without thinking of their child’s feelings. But that doesn’t mean it’s alright to laugh at them! No matter the name, that’s a name a parent put all their love and thought into for the sake of their child!”
“So apologize to Kirako-san! Apologize for laughing at Kirako-san’s name!”
From beginning to end, Utsurohara-san stared blanking, but I said what I had to, so my anger died down considerably. I turned to the concrete wall and soothed her in a gentle voice.
“It’s alright, Kirako-san. Nothing to worry about. I really like the name Hoshizora Kirako.”
In regards to my follow-up with a refreshing smile, Kirako-san was moved to tears—or not, she glared at me with a fearsome angry look.
It was an expression as if her mental stress had outdone her physical agony.
H-huh? Isn’t she kinda angry?
What’s more, not at Utsurohara-san but at me?
“… You’re the one who’d better get apologizing….”
It looks like my encouragement was off the mark. It was rare for me to speak so heatedly, so I felt a little embarrassed. Looking to be at her wit’s end, Kirako-san breathed a deep breath.
“… God dammit. Each and every one of you—”
“—Pissing me off.”
From partway, I heard them from a completely different direction.
When she was supposed to be crucified to the factory wall, Kirako-san suddenly vanished. Only the human-shaped impression remained on the concrete.
The direction of her voice—I turned to the side and saw her standing right behind Utsurohara-san sitting in the chair. Her pose had her fist held at the ready.
It was almost as if she had moved through teleportation.
Without the slightest hesitation, Kirako-san lowered her fist with all her body weight behind it.
Utsurohara-san somersaulted forward to evade the attack as the pipe chair he was sitting in bent out of shape from the blow.
“Not good, not good, I blanked out so hard I weakened the power.”
After dodging the attack with nimble movements, he stood and faced Kirako-san.
“Come to think of it, you were a general, were you? I let my guard down there.”
“Keep it down to the grave, idiot.”
Kirako-san held up her right hand. And there, a giant orb of fire manifested.
The power of spontaneous combustion.
I recalled the scene of the film’s shooting I had seen once before.
That scene I found it hard to believe came from a movie.
A psychic battle between Masaki-san and Orino-san.
To throw that ball of flames, Kirako-san wound up her arm.
Utsurohara-san gave an amused smile as he snapped his finger.
That instant—the flames turned to smoke and disappeared.
It literally lifted like the mist.
Kirako-san’s expression was slathered over in shock. Utsorohara-san laughed aloud.
“Bastard… what did you…”
“Ahahah! It’s simple. It’s time for a fun science lesson. Did you know? A fire can’t burn without oxygen you know? Even if it’s a flame produced through pyrokinesis.”
“Don’t tell me…”
In regards to Utsurohara-san, whose triumphant tone made clear he was completely making light of her, Kirako-san’s expression gradually turned pale.
“You know my power, don’t you? That’s right, it’s psychokinesis. The ability to manipulate matter without physical contact.”
That’s why, Utsurohara-san carried on proudly.
“I—Moved only the oxygen around your right hand a bit.”
Oxygen’s a splendid form of matter, right? He added on the words.
Kirako-san’s eyes opened wide.
“… Psychokinesis on the molecular level? You’ve got to be kidding me… At that output, you can control it that minutely…?”
“Yep. Amazing, ain’t it?”
“You… just how far have you been holding back up to yesterday…”
“Hey, shit happens. That was the order, see. To summarize, the result of my holding back to the very limit put me at the summit of Rank S. Meaning the title of the Facility’s strongest. Ahahah. Incompetence sure is a sin—”
I’d heard it from Orino-san before.
By the movie’s setting, Kirako-san was supposedly a Rank A.
A general type just like Kirako-san, and whose abilities’ outputs were overwhelmingly higher than hers’, Masaki-san was also a Rank A, or so she said.
The difference between Ranks B and A weren’t that large.
But—Rank S was another world.
Apparently, there was an absolute difference between Rank A and S.
The Rank S Psychics boasting combat capabilities so high they had to be a joke.
But forget that. To the man standing at the summit, even the summit was the result of holding back.
“That’s why, this time around, it was a huge refresher when I finally got to use my full power. I’m soaring on cloud nine right now. So I can’t help but want to test out all sorts of things—”
“—Just like this.”
From partway, I heard them coming from a completely different direction.
As Kirako-san had done one, two minutes before, Utsurohara-san had gotten around to Kirako-san’s back before I knew what was going on. As if he had teleported, he had moved behind her in an instant.
I felt a sense of déjà vu.
How many times are you going to get their back, in my heart, I gave a retort I’d only ever seen in battle manga. Gazing at the battle manga-esque scene unraveling before my eyes.
“Yes, too bad for you.”
Without the time to turn, Kirako-san’s neck was grasped in an eagle grip and she was slammed on the ground. Of the two of them, no matter how I looked at it, Kirako-san looked stronger, yet unable to crush off the hand pinning her down, she was affixed to the ground.
“… Why can a special like you teleport?”
“Ahahah. That right there wasn’t teleportation. But if it looked that way, I succeeded.”
Looking down on Kirako-san, with the tone of a child bragging about their toy, Utsurohara-san carried on.
“That was movement through psychokinesis. Even a Rank B can do it, all you do is work your powers on your own body and move it. All I did was do that at an amazing level.”
An amazing level.
While Utsurohara-san expressed it so shoddily, just how fearsome of a level would that have to be? I could understand if my eyes couldn’t follow it, but even Kirako-san’s couldn’t.
“If the initial velocity’s the speed of sound then a human eye can’t follow it, for starters. Just as it sounds, I just moved faster than the eye. Simple, ain’t it?”
“… You monster.”
Kirako-san grit her teeth. In embarrassment and irritation, fear and despair. Various negative emotions oozed out from her body.
“Nooow then. I’m getting tired of dealing with you, so it’s about time I returned to my job.”
As he said that, Utsurohara-san turned towards me. With his reptilian eyes glaring, my heart felt a fear as if he had grasped that in an eagle hold as well.
Scary, scary, scary.
Because I had witnessed his monstrous combat abilities, my heart was buried up in fear. I couldn’t believe myself giving this monster a sermon a few moments ago.
“Get rid of Kagoshima Akira, was it? Why do I gots to get rid of this brat? Well, I don’t really mind either way, ‘s long as I have my fun… hah!”
After mumbling to himself, Utsurohara-san lowered a fist into Kirako-san’s abdomen.
It was like he just touched his hand to it.
Clearly, his stance wasn’t one that could get in any power, on top of that, he didn’t give any particular windup. I couldn’t even call it a one-inch punch.
And yet—the destructive power of that fist wasn’t normal.
Receiving a direct impact from that fist, Kirako-san’s body bent into a V as the ground was faintly caved in with her at the center. From her mouth, a voice that couldn’t amount to a scream, and bright red blood leaked out.
His fist of psychokinesis had trampled her down far too violently.
“Good night, sweet Kirako, was it? Ahahahahah.”
Shaking in laughter as he swung his fist, Utsurohara-san stood. Stepping over Kirako-san with a long stride, he took a step towards me.
“And you’re next. Hey, how do you want to be killed?”
I ended up falling on my bottom on the spot.
So scared, so scared, I might burst into tears.
I didn’t understand the first thing about my predicament.
Why was someone after me of all people? In the first place, what was that battle manga-like development that just unfolded? I wanted to believe it was a movie, but there was no way I could wrap my mind around the notion.
The reality before my eyes overwhelmed me.
When it was a situation so disconnected from reality, it wouldn’t permit any mental escapism.
My ‘imagination’ wouldn’t permit the violence called Utsurohara Gouichirou. The unwavering sense of existence he emitted forced me to imagine the reality of his death
Walking carefree, Utsurohara-san said “Boo!” with a light raise of a hand. With that alone, I ended up curling up my body and closing my eyes.
“Ahahah! You’re way too skittish. How lame.”
He held his stomach and laughed as he approached me. My legs had given out. Even if he sneered like that, no shame could take sprout. My heart was filled with fear, with no space for any other emotion.
Utsurohara-san approached step by step.
Each step he took, I felt my lifespan shortening a year.
My life’s fuse burning second by second.
And it was there.
Utsurohara-san jerked to a stop.
“… Wait you. You’re… not done with me yet…”
It was Kirako-san. Dragging along her wound-ridden body, she grasped one of Utsurohara-san’s legs to stop him in his tracks.
A blatantly irritated voice.
The smile vanished from the incarnation of violence.
Lifting up one leg, he lowered it.
Kirako-san’s outstretched arm was forcefully stomped.
The force of psychokinesis—crushed it.
The grating sound of crushed bones made it all the way to me.
“Don’t go coming back on your own. Eyesore.”
Krk, krk, he ground at the trampled leg. Kirako’s arm bent in an impossible direction, but even so, he didn’t hesitate. As if to scrupulously squash a cockroach, he continued to stamp.
“Ahh, now I irritated. I’m not going to let you die easily. Until you beg me, ‘please kill me’ I’m going to torment you through and through.”
His terrifyingly level voice reverberated. After he was done stepping on the arm, this time he stepped on her head. The stomping movement wasn’t as violent this time. Like tightening it in a vice, he slowly, slowly put in power.
This was no longer a match or challenge.
A one-sided massacre by the strong.
The more the pressure on her head increased, the more pitiful voices leaked from Kirako’s mouth.
They were screams that made me want to cover my ears—it was a scene that made me want to cover my eyes.
Wait a second.
Wait a second there.
That’s wrong, isn’t it?
I shouldn’t be covering my ears.
I shouldn’t be covering my eyes.
What the hell are you thinking, Kagoshima Akira?
Kirako-san tried to protect me, didn’t she?
Such a kind girl was is about to be killed by some incomprehensible guy, isn’t she?
Of all things, her head’s about to be crushed, isn’t it?
There’s no way I could overlook such a situation.
If I let my legs give out and cower—I’d never be able to look those girls in the eye.
Those girls who lived so noble like allies of justice out to save the world, we’d never again be able to laugh together.
Don’t’ close your ears, focus them.
Don’t cover your eyes, open them.
Open, my mouth.
Move, my body.
My voice shook so much even I found it laughable, the volume was considerably low. Even so, it seemed it reached Utsurohara’s ears, as his movements stopped all at once.
“Aah? You say something?”
Turning his neck, he spoke terribly dimly. With eyes looking at a fly that had interrupted him mid-meal, he glared at me.
I put a hand to my aching, quivering legs and stood.
Sucking in a large breath, I confronted him head-on.
“I told you to stop!”
It was completely different from his prior amused laughter.
When his mouth warped so grandly, his eyes weren’t laughing in the slightest.
“… Don’t think you’re hot stuff… when you’re just barely alive at my whim, don’t be giving me orders.”
His voice didn’t attempt to veil his malice, I felt I might reflexively take a step back.
But I didn’t retreat.
“Move your leg! Get your foot off of Kirako-san’s head this instant!”
“Hmph. Don’t want to.”
He lowered his leg again.
Kirako-san had already lost consciousness, she didn’t even twitch.
Perhaps she’s— she’s dea—
I instinctively leapt out.
And at that moment, I collapsed, some unseen power pushing me down. By that mysterious force, I was slammed down; I could no longer move a single finger.
“… Gi, guh, aaaaH.”
“Just crawl and watch, as this woman’s head is split like a watermelon!”
Ahah, he laughed.
Utsurohara Gouichirou lowered his foot top to bottom.
All I could do was watch it happen.
My anger at my powerlessness was driving me insane. For the first time in my life, I prayed from the depths of my heart for a miracle.
I— cried out in a trance.
No, rather than moved, it would be more accurate to say he flew.
Alongside my shout, Utsurohara-san humped to the side. His slender body did a dailspin, as like a calling airplane, he collided with the concrete wall. Oddly, it was the same spot Kirako-san had been pinned a moment before.
Falling to the ground, he raised a groan. Blood dripped from his head, wetting half of his face.
“… Urgh, ah, b-brat… the hell did you, do…?”
His blood-soaked visage flared at me. Twenty percent anger, eighty percent shock, I’d say. He looked to be surprised at his own predicament.
And it went without saying I was far more surprised than him.
What just happened?
“Shithead… no wonder I was ordered to get rid of you. Thought you were just a brat, but I see you were hiding some sort of power…”
Ignoring my hesitation, Utsurohara-san spoke.
The sensation of some unseeable force suppressing me had already disappeared, so I stood.
I looked down over my own hands.
Strongly—I clenched a fist.
A smile naturally leaked.
I was so happy I didn’t know what to do with myself.
In a life-or-death situation, does that mean my sleeping power had awakened?
It was a hot, blazing development, yet quite a self-serving convenient development at that.
Well, I couldn’t care less about the rationality.
The only definite thing was that these hands contained the power to blow that irritating bastard away. Readying my fists, I spoke out with fortitude.
“It’s on, Utsurohara Gouichirou! I’m never going to forgive you!”
And like that, my awakening had been set in motion.