City Series:Volume7 Layer 1
Layer 1: Thoughts
You and I walked back from school together on a major road’s sidewalk as the winter gas lights began to turn on.
“Do you think thoughts are real?”
“If I thought they were…would that thought be real?”
When I answered you, you groaned a little, wrinkled your well-formed brow, and tilted your head.
“Y’know, thoughts can be tricky, so let’s set them aside for now. …Now, memories: those were real at one point.”
“Well, yeah. Memories are when your thoughts get outside. You could call it a real thoughtful ejection.”
“Then where do those memories ‘get out’ from to become memories?”
Hmm. Where do they get out from? Your ears or your butt sound like some unpleasantly realistic options…
But before I could decide, you circled in front of me and asked another question.
“You were thinking about them getting out from some place really dirty, weren’t you?”
“Sorry, I hadn’t gotten that far yet.”
Before I could actually say that, you used your skill as a Tokyo Special Duty Officer to elbow me in the gut. Oww, what the hell do you think you’re doing to the Vice Chancellor’s precious belly? As I grew angry, the gas lights lining the sidewalk starting sending out their night-colored lights.
Our surroundings were illuminated by the winter-exclusive darkness and the smell of winter filled the area.
I rubbed my stomach and looked forward where the North Wind was walking from the other side of the road with his black hair fluttering behind him.
As he passed us, he saw where I was rubbing my stomach and spoke.
“That’s not where.”
Commenting on this stuff is pretty difficult, but try to follow along.
Anyway, all of Layer 1 is what I wrote well before the serialization began. I think it might have been a year before. I wrote fifteen passages and the ones that didn’t fit here were put in other parts of the story. That’s why these ones feel a little different from the rest of the story. The title story was the only one I wrote after we decided to serialize this.
The title story had the Tokyo-ish layout of the gas lights, the North Wind, and the night. At the start, I wanted to make the night and the wind be artificial things. In the illustration’s background, you should be able to see a number of things attached to the gas light.
Record 118: Someday
It was still too early in the morning to be called morning, but the science room (where I was to have my memories erased) was full of life.
“Okay, let’s go. Let’s erase my memories with your machine.”
I stroked the brand new scar on my cheek and ignored the several black shadows moving around me. I was speaking to the Professor whose bespectacled eyes were looking out the large window where the morning sun was rising in the dark night sky.
“I hate to have someone my own age surpassing me. When it comes to bodily modifications, that is.”
I nodded and glanced toward the child-sized black shadows rushing around me.
“Look at them and you’ll die. The odds are 100%.”
The Professor did not even look back as he said that, grabbed one of the shadows behind him, and tossed it to a corner of the science room.
I suddenly realized there was bread in my hand and a glass of mineral water in the Professor’s.
He looked back and took a sip of the cold-looking water.
“I will accept with no doubt whatsoever that there’s something wrong with your head. There always is, after all. And I understand you wish to implant yourself with one of my Science Club’s special Psyche Outer devices because your circumstances require you to erase your memories and emotions.”
“Yeah, I’ve got some dangerous memories and thoughts. …Oh, but can you leave the happily embarrassing sort of perverted memories?”
“I’ll focus on erasing those first. The odds are 90% they’re harmful.”
“…You don’t hold back, do you?”
“Then I should probably go to sleep so I won’t talk anymore. Goodnight… Ahh, I’m so full.”
Don’t react so quickly, you idiot. I ate the bread, punched the Professor with plenty of energy, and then asked a question.
“Is there some kind of problem with implanting the Psyche Outer device?”
“Yes: where to implant it. The human body is pretty tricky. It ain’t easy.”
The Professor tossed aside another of the shadows. The night sky outside switched to morning and the sun rose straight up.
He set the glass down on the table next to him, so I grabbed a shadow behind me and threw it.
Suddenly, the science room filled with water up to ankle height.
“Huh? That was supposed to put away the glass.”
“You fool. This is why we refuse uninvited guests. It’s going to be like this for forty days and forty nights now.”
“Unlike the middle school science room, this place really does like to act all important, doesn’t it?”
“Let’s get back on topic.”
“Now, the reason I started laughing evilly in the middle of the alchemy lesson during Third Period two weeks ago was…”
“That topic’s too far back, idiot. Just go back to the implant location.”
“Oh, right. I’m guessing you don’t want it in your butt, your crotch, or the tip of your nose or finger or whatever, right?”
“Of course not. Besides, I’m not letting my butt or crotch influence my emotions and memories.”
He nodded and tossed aside another black shadow. A refreshing smile immediately came over his face.
“I just thought of a great spot! The odds are 80% you’ll be surprised, so don’t you worry!”
Without bothering to hear him out, I threw all of the shadows within reach to redo that.
While this is supposed to help explain things, I think I’ll try not to give any of the answers directly. I’d like to make an excuse by saying part of Tokyo’s charm is how I decide what I’m doing with it in real-time. Really, I guess you could say I was trying to make something where everyone who read it would have their own unique feelings about it.
I think that might act as a hint if you’re ever a little confused.
The reason the protagonist is having the Professor erase his memories will be provided later. And the black shadows each handle their own form of creation.
Record 119: Someday Surely
Now, it was time to erase my memories.
After all, I just had too much stuff that would be a bad idea to remember. People often say it’s better to remember things, but the mind of a second year in high school was as sensitive as the final hair on a bald old man’s head. Even as a member of the Chancellor’s Officers, killing someone was just too much.
Beyond my closed eyes, I heard the Professor as he got to work.
“Your memories won’t be completely lost. All I can do is seal them. Is that okay?”
“It doesn’t really matter.”
“You just answered, didn’t you? Looks like don’t have enough anesthetic. It’s injection time~”
He stuck me with the needle. …And wasn’t that an awfully leading question?
Well, whatever. …Um, what had I been thinking about?
Had I forgotten? But it had only been a second ago. Wow, did I really have amnesia?
“I’m going to randomly draw out the fragments of the past inside you and then seal them. Your life will be zapped before your eyes. Enjoy that until the surgery is over.”
I could hear someone’s voice. But what were they talking about? I wasn’t sure.
Still, I was worried about you. To you, I was…yeah, I was pretty sure I had destroyed someone important to you recently. I didn’t know what that meant though. Not anymore, anyway.
The next time we met, would you be able to understand me when I didn’t understand myself?
Once, my friend actually had the anesthetic not kick in before surgery. The doctor made a bad pun, so my friend made a tsukkomi. Without another word, the doctor gave him some additional anesthetic.
Record 1: Like Always
It was a chilly morning and the sound of cold water swam through the air. The morning did not even have a scent.
I arrived at the school first thing in the morning with my exam ticket in hand. It was the large high school behind my middle school. I passed through the relatively deserted front gate and walked along the front road that spiraled up to the school. It was a normal school, so walking straight in would likely take me to the office where I could present my exam ticket.
The leaf-color of the roadside trees had been peeled off by the morning frost and the bricks below my feet were dyed brown. A few of the colors were plastered to the bricks. They were childishly plastered on like cheap stickers and they would likely have to use solvent to get them off come spring. …It looked like winter was going to drag on this year.
When I looked up, I saw a white line of frost cut by at a little above eye level as if to block off the road. Needless to say, frost wouldn’t pass through the air for no reason.
The line of frost was supported by a colorless and invisible destiny line extending right to left between communication poles.
It was a pretty low-quality destiny line, so whose was it?
With a sudden shout, some wind passed by me and instantly cut the destiny line overhead.
I saw a girl in a ponytail standing tall below the faint frost about to vanish from the morning air. She had rolled her exam ticket into a tube and held it like a sword. She looked back toward me.
“You there. Please do not tell anyone about this. …Everyone has their issues before an exam.”
“And are you planning to cut through every last one of your issues this morning…?”
I guess you could say this is where the main story begins.
Snow Character shows up right away and you can read the school’s name on the left side of the illustration.
Record 86: Zoning Out Amid the Excitement
It was the second day of the athletics festival and that meant a boy-only swim competition. The large outdoor pool was packed full of boys.
I was using my authority as Vice Chancellor to monitor the scene and the Boss was using his authority as 2nd Special Duty Officer to capture any escapees as we both sat on the poolside. He wore his usual work outfit and gazed at the pool with his pompadour and sunglasses.
“It’s a nice pool, but there’s nothing too exciting here. …Are the girls using the indoor greenhouse pool?”
“Snow Character is guarding the place with her sword, so things might be more brutal there than here.”
“What about Senpai? Is he with the 1st Special Duty Officer?”
“Yeah. She just sinks in the water, so the two of them are folding printouts together in the student living room.”
As soon as I said that, an impressive splash flew erupted upwards with a deafening noise. I used my wonderful fist to punch back the boy who came flying toward me with the splash and then I sighed.
“Looks like the male Heavy Knight diving competition has started.”
A black transport plane passed by in the sky above and an eight meter Heavy Knight jumped down from the back end.
The Heavy Knight made one, two, three, four spins before its waist armor panels detached and it entered a tailspin.
“Oh, the accident makes that one Difficulty C. This one’s gonna be big.”
“Will the pool be okay?”
“It’ll be fine.”
“What about the students?”
A splash rose into the air. The boys at the landing point were blown away like leaves.
“Oh, look at them all flying. Told you it’d be big.”
“Oh, this ain’t good. The idiots that were blasted away are trying to crawl off and escape. I’ll go hit ‘em with my car.”
He was back soon.
“Sigh, running them over wasn’t as exciting as I thought. Wanna play some kinda game?”
“Your games always get way out of hand. I prefer the peace we already have here.”
I looked up into the sky to see another transport plane. This one dropped two Heavy Knights at once.
“Synchronized diving, huh?”
The Heavy Knights in the sky played classical music that was influenced by the Doppler Effect. The song was the ever popular Fourth Movement of Beethoven’s Fifth. The two of them danced and spun around hand-in-hand to match the music.
“And then they collide and enter a tailspin~”
“What’s their score?”
The electronic display on the opposite side of the pool said Normal, Normal, Good, 10, Extra Good, Normal, and High. That averaged out to a 5.
It was a pretty strict judgement. I looked up into the sky again and saw another transport plane flying in.
The blue sky beyond the plane fluttered up a little to reveal its pure blue lining.
“The real autumn sky will be here before long, won’t it?”
Another splash erupted into the sky.
Just like the athletics festival in the Osaka game, the athletics festivals in Tokyo – or rather, in the City World as a whole – seem quite exciting. You need to be eighteen to get a Heavy Knight license.
Now, in the original publication, the Boss spoke in the Kansai dialect, but I changed that to standard Japanese after the serialization began. It felt like an unnatural way to establish his character.
Record 95: Meeting You
It was your birthday, so I decided the two of us could celebrate it together.
School was off thanks to the tests, so I jumped down from my home (the fourth story apartment) and went to your house. I ran west on the road alongside the railroad to reach the pharmacy near the station.
The field next to the railroad had been recolored for winter and someone called out to me as I ran alongside it.
“Hey. You understand, don’t you?”
The voice behind me belonged to a somewhat more mature version of myself.
“Save it until we eventually meet. I don’t want to see myself yet.”
With that response, I tripped the other me without even looking back. I heard a light scream and detected a metallic scent as if something had scraped against steel behind me. I looked back and didn’t see anyone there, so I shrugged.
After running to the pharmacy, I for some reason found a ponytailed girl with a wooden sword standing behind the counter.
It was Snow Character. She was playing with Daitarou, her pet white fox, but she looked annoyed as soon as she saw me.
“You are far too late. …Everyone else is already here.”
“What, was everyone thinking the same thing? Don’t copy me like that. …And what are you doing?”
“I don’t much like hanging out with people, so I’m looking after the pharmacy for her.”
“Then can you give me a drug to make me smarter? Things never seem to work out for me.”
Snow Character held Daitarou in her arms as it begged for food and she gave me a rare smile.
“Sorry. I had the same thought and bought them all up a moment ago.”
A conversation with the other “me”. A few more of them will show up, but I think this kind of existence is something that (both fortunately and unfortunately) everyone has. And no, I’m not talking about multiple personalities.
Record 42: It Begins with Battle
The punches I threw alongside the Tama River almost seemed filled with parental love.
No matter how dimwitted the person, I felt like a punch from the heart could set them straight.
I was surrounded by Kansai students in the setting sun. Relations between the east and west had only just restarted after the Reconciliation Riot a few years before, so what were they thinking picking a fight with Tokyo’s Chancellor’s Officers?
Well, the people who worked on the intelligence front would think about all that difficult stuff. The scene of the fight wasn’t the place to worry about it.
I activated my Mobilized Writing.
If you throw a punch with belief in your heart, all things will receive the blow in accordance with the conservation of energy.
I punched the air. The force of the punch compressed the air and the student in front of me was blown away by the blast of pressure.
In the distance, Senpai was using his sword to fight while protecting you.
Just because he’s the Chancellor, he has no trouble cutting people down with that composed look on his face…
That didn’t sit well with me. Punching them was fine, but cutting them was wrong. I didn’t completely understand, but it really didn’t seem right. If I had to find a reason why…I guess because it looked really painful.
I decided to be a little nice. I could see an embankment and the Tama River behind them.
If I knocked them over there, those dimwitted and pathetic Hanshin fans could cool their heads. It was possible they’d fall right through the river and into Underground Tokyo, but if that happened, it happened. They’d figure something out.
I punched the air again and again. I could feel the blows landing through the compressed air and more and more students flew through the air.
Ahh. This is going well and it feels great to do a good deed…
This time we get to see the protagonist activate his Mobilized Writing for the first time.
Kansai students are picking a fight here, but students are heading out from Kantou too. They’re mostly just testing each other’s strength, so I don’t think they were acting as an organization.
Record 38: At Night
It was the early morning – or rather, night – of the school festival’s first day.
For once I didn’t return to the apartment where I lived alone and instead stayed over in the student dorms where everyone was throwing a party. But everyone was exhausted after preparing for days on end, so by this time, the hallways and dorm rooms were littered with corpses.
I felt something like an outsider as I walked through the hallway where everyone was sleeping on the floor. I wanted to grab a can of coffee from the cafeteria. I descended the dorm’s zigzagging stairs and walked out into the courtyard where a light autumn night breeze blew through.
A large ginkgo tree grew in the center of the courtyard, so it absolutely reeked of ginkgo.
The courtyard was also littered with corpses. A surprising number were sleeping on top of flattened cardboard boxes. I could see a few telescopes, so they had likely camped out hoping to see Kelly’s Comet that was supposed to fly by the year after next.
The wind blew through. It sounded like a whistle and I realized what had been done to the ginkgo tree.
Looking something like supports, several dozen metal pipes circled around, extended from, and wrapped around the tree trunk before finally stabbing into the ground. Numbered panels were attached with wire to the pipes that rose from the bushes surrounding the tree.
“101, 102…is 127 the last one?”
“Oh, you wondered that too?”
I heard your voice. I looked up and saw you holding Daitarou beyond a nearby bush.
“They’re making an organ that amplifies the ley line music passing through the big ginkgo tree. That’s apparently been the main event for the opening ceremony and post-festival dance since forever.”
“That’s an appropriate attraction for a ginkgo tree, since they’re said to be living fossils. But…”
“I know what you’re trying to say. It’s missing the 128th pipe for the highest sound.”
Was everyone too worn out to finish preparing?
If the pipe’s lying around nearby, maybe we should attach it ourselves.
Then I heard a voice in a nearby bush.
“You should leave it alone.”
It was Snow Character. She sat behind the bush while holding the pipe in question like a sword in its scabbard.
“If you two leave and I fall asleep, this will be attached. So hurry up and leave.”
“What do you mean?”
“The past, remnants of memories, and other such things are involved in a festival.”
“And is attaching the final pipe to the ginkgo organ how they start to take part?”
“Based on what I heard from Sensei, they also help any post with insufficient personnel or anyone without a partner at the dance. That way no one will have a bad time during the festival.”
“And you were given the role of passing the pipe to them?”
“Because I remain entirely pure. So you two leave. Then I will fall asleep. That is my role.”
You and I left as we were told and made a few comments about our unsociable friend as we walked to the cafeteria.
On the way, we passed by the past festivals who were entering the courtyard, but I couldn’t see them.
When preparing for the school festival at my alma mater, we once hid until only the guard was left so we could continue preparing, but the atmosphere then was really strange. It felt like there were people in the school even when it was empty.
Record 72: What Can You See?
After making my way down to Underground Tokyo and punching some bad guys, my job was complete.
I left all the cleanup work to you and sipped at a can of coffee all alone on a bench with peeling paint at Underground Tokyo’s Kichioji Station. It was still evening, but Underground Tokyo was already dark.
While lazing around with the bench, the train station TV showed a giant tower in Osaka.
“You don’t have us beat when it comes to height.”
When I looked up into Underground Tokyo’s sky, I could see the bottom of Surface Tokyo’s floor.
That ceiling was about three kilometers up and rivers flowed there.
The ceiling was made up of elevated districts that matched the terrain on the maps. It looked like Underground Tokyo’s map had been plastered there.
The winding ceiling rivers that flowed between the elevated districts were like windows and I could see the sky through them. Unlike here, it was twilight and the sky was bright red. I was jealous.
The red-dyed water of the rivers did not fall.
The power that kept them flowing was stronger than the one that would pull them down.
The clear streams on the ceiling would flow into either Underground or Surface Tokyo Bay.
I lived in Nishitama, so that view of the ceiling felt somewhat uncomfortable. Besides, it was too dark without any light from the sky. But the ceiling’s rivers acted as windows that somewhat relieved that discomfort.
I heard a voice.
I was conceited enough to assume it was calling me. I looked left and right and saw people in student uniforms, people in suits, and one young woman in a miniskirt with oddly alluring legs, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to me. Dammit. Start looking at me, people. I prepared to strip off my clothes to make my presence known, but…
I heard the voice again. I realized where it was coming from as I reached for the buttons on my collar.
It had come from above.
A small boat was floating on the other side of the one of the ceiling rivers. The voice coming from it was…a net? What were they trying to catch? Regardless, they weren’t calling to me. They were trying to catch something.
“They’re catching the twilight.”
You sat next to me and tossed me a drink that was getting a trial run in Underground Tokyo.
“The river has such a quick current that the color of twilight floats, so they catch it before it can sink. That’s the last light of the sun, so it apparently has a fair bit of energy. And I hear it tastes good.”
You mimicked scooping something up in your hand as you explained.
“I see,” I said as I touched your butt and received a backhand blow as thanks. “So that’s why I didn’t see the color of twilight here in Underground Tokyo.”
I opened the drink can and the lights that meant it was night came on within the station.
The lights were the color of twilight.
Anyone who has driven from east to west on Tokyo’s roads probably knows where the idea for Underground Tokyo came from.
When you move east from around Kunitachi, everything suddenly gets a lot lower and there are a lot more places with underground structures.
The trains also get a lot lower around there.
Underground Tokyo is both about falling underground and about looking down and wondering what it would look like to look up from below.
Record 92: But I More or Less Understand
I was really tired on the morning of the school festival’s fifth day. I was glad to see the sun rising in the clear morning sky when I looked out the lobby window. After preparing the night before, we had played some late-night gamble bungee. It had been cloudy then, so it had been a mystery whether or not the sun would actually rise in the morning sky.
I sipped sleepily at my can of coffee as I looked around the large lobby.
The tile-floored lobby was fifteen meters in each direction and it was filled with attractions for the school festival. I occasionally saw some music or video on the way to their attraction. Their melody, light, or tail would be wagging as they crawled along the floor and went outside. They had it tough so early in the morning.
I noticed a metallic sound sitting next to me on the sofa.
It looked up at me greedily, so I smacked its nose, which opened its mouth with a single sound. I poured the rest of my coffee into its mouth. Once it finished drinking, it crawled out while making a high-pitched metallic sound.
I didn’t know which class it belonged to, but it seemed to have a somewhat Western flavor.
Then I heard a loud sound outside.
I looked up to the top of Building 2 and saw the Professor and the science club desperately pulling on a rope dangling from the sky.
But the rope seemed really tough, so a few of the students in lab coats were dangling down from it.
As the rope gradually lowered, the sky turned to night starting from the east. The sun descended as well.
Oh, c’mon. I just drank my morning coffee.
As soon as I left the lobby to get after them, the sky pulled back with a great force.
By the time I nodded to myself, I was sitting cross-legged on Building 2’s roof. Bicycles, trees, cases of beer, small stones, and other objects were scattered around me. The Professor was right in front of me and he pushed up his glasses.
“Yeah, sorry about that. There seem to have been some side effects.”
“You were trying to turn back time because the Science Research Club wasn’t ready yet, weren’t you?”
“That’s because your gamble bungee took up too much time. I’ll pay back the kindness eventually.”
I sighed and looked up at the lab coat students dangling from the sky.
“So why are you reenacting The Spider’s Thread to buy time?”
“An important material fled from us in fear, even though we’re so harmless. We searched and searched but couldn’t find it.”
“…Was it a metallic noise?”
“This sounds promising. Where did you see it? If you don’t spill the beans, something incredible might happen to you.”
“It left the lobby. It wasn’t very sharp, so it might be near Building 3.”
When the Professor heard me, he instructed some nearby lab coat students to head out. Then I spoke to him.
“You should probably prepare some green tea…no, some bonito soba broth or some soy sauce would be better.”
“I gave it coffee.”
“What have you done!? …Hey, add three more people to the rope! We need to pull even harder!”
The atmosphere of the early morning cafeteria or lobby comes from my life at college. There was a tacit understanding you would spend the night when preparing for the school festival, so the mornings tended to be like this.
I was the head of the art club and I often spent the night during that time of year.
Record 99: About You
It was early morning and I faced Senpai on the road alongside the national railroad.
Senpai was dressed the same as always and still had his Chancellor armband on as he nodded.
The sun was out, so his closed eyes made it look somewhat like he was smiling.
“Let us walk a little. I hear it is good for your health.”
“You’re worried about my health?”
“Everyone is worried about you, myself included.”
“Then what about the Boss instead of me? Are you worried about him?”
“He has no connection to the Kansai students and corporations that have been causing trouble lately, but I am worried about how reckless and careless he is. His recklessness and carelessness could lead to me cutting him down.”
“What about Snow Character?”
“She relies on her power too much. Even if she uses paper, sound, celluloid, or the sense of taste, she must find a more pure way to cut people down. I am worried about how inexperienced she is. That inexperience could lead to me cutting her down.”
“What about the Professor?”
“He has a lot of knowledge and he – more than anyone else – has the intelligence to use it. He likely finds himself at odds with those around him a lot. I am worried about how he stands out. If he stands out too much, it could lead to me cutting him down.”
“What about Little Boy?”
“He is too much of a child. I am worried about that youthfulness. That youthfulness could lead to me cutting him down.”
“What about Lady?”
“She is good natured, but she cannot act when the time comes. I am worried about her inability to act. That inability to act could lead to me cutting her down.”
“What about the Colonel?”
“He has a decent understanding of those below him, but he has little understanding of anyone else. I am worried about that lack of understanding. That lack of understanding could lead to me cutting him down.”
“You want to know about her? I do not know. But I do know I do not want to worry about her.”
Senpai said that about you, so I fell silent.
He then said more.
“I am also worried about myself. I am worried I will suck too much blood and cut everyone down.”
I thought I heard a quiet laugh and felt somehow satisfied.
I felt like Senpai must care a lot about you, so I couldn’t say anything more. I bowed and ran off…ran away.
A few handcars passed by on the railroad on their way to Tachikawa for school.
I realized I’d forgotten to ask Senpai why he was worried about me.
Senpai appears. There are a few names of people who haven’t shown up yet, but forgive me because the timeline is all over the place.
- Based on a literal interpretation of the Japanese word for memories.
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