My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister:Volume9 Chapter 3
I was trying to use my screwdriver a silently as possible when I heard light footsteps climbing the stairs.
“Hwuh? What’re you doing up already, Onii-chan? Mornin’.”
“Are you kidding me?”
It was my Zombie little sister instead of my Vampire older sister and that could only mean one thing.
I groaned, looked out the window, and cursed when I saw the morning sun shining through the gap in the curtain.
I had spent the whole night fighting with the breaker located above the dressing room’s door. I made sure to warn Ayumi who was wearing a baggy T-shirt and reaching for the nearby doorknob while rubbing her eyes.
“The toilet isn’t working.”
“The only way to flush it is to fill a bucket in the bath. …Damn, and it isn’t just our house. There’s a bigger power outage going on.”
“Which is what I told you ages ago,” said Maxwell.
Shut up. I need to find a way to recharge my phone, you know?
Maxwell was actually located in the harbor container yard and the industrial power supply used there was still up since it used a different transformer and power line route than our home line, so I had thought the problem was somewhere in our house, like the meter or the switchboard.
“With the power, water, and gas supply, the wave of infrastructure privatization has taken several different forms. Some of those include mid-level facilities that piggyback off of the general power grid.”
“Talk about inefficient.”
“Using the same line prevents them from taking advantage of the unique traits possible through privatization. If their fees remain the same, they will only gain a slight advantage and they will inevitably lose enough customers to die a slow death. I imagine they will attempt various strange price-cutting measures such as buying up solar power to take advantage of the ecological tax cuts and burning city gas to produce power on site.”
Based on this, the outage would be one of the many branching power lines or transformer substations instead of the major power station.
The general households were all without power, but the factories and water purification plant supported by a separate industrial power supply were still up and running. But some of the newer infrastructure facilities used the household power supply, so those would already be down.
“Dammit, mom. I was wondering what that odd pamphlet from the phone company was about.”
My barefoot little sister in a T-shirt was frozen in front of the door since she was struggling to accept this was really happening, but I had to ignore her.
“Rather than the entire city’s power going out, it is more like 40% of it went out and the rest has grown unstable as it attempts to pick up the slack,” said Maxwell. “That means it is not a complete blackout, so you can rest easy there. The contents of the refrigerator should keep as long as you only open and close the door when absolutely necessary.”
“You expect me to boot up my desktop when the power could go out at any moment? The risk is the same.”
I was pretty sure my stepmom had bought an emergency radio and TV with a hand crank generator attached, but where had those gotten off to?
“If I can’t find them, I could always modify the dynamo for my bike’s headlight. This phone is 5 volts and how many milliamperes?”
“You are wasting your time,” said Maxwell. “You should have just had some hot milk to drink and climbed into bed.”
“Humans aren’t that simple.”
I would have had an easier time getting to sleep if I had just polished off a large cup of instant noodles. It was like there was this huge weight in my gut.
There had just been too many injured people. I felt like I had spent all night switching back and forth between applying pressure to wounds and washing my hands.
Almost everyone gathered in that downtown area had only been zapped, but 20 or 30 of them had hit by the “guillotines” of microplastics hardened on the building walls.
I really didn’t want to think back on what I had seen there.
Those were the people who had been vaguely aware they were being lied to but still used the online rumors as an excuse to go nuts. If that riot hadn’t been stopped, who knows what would’ve happened to the employees at Huge Camera. So could you call this their just deserts? Unfortunately, I couldn’t accept that. Those were the people from my hometown. If you could continue sneering at them after seeing them holding their bloody shoulders or legs and crying like a child, then you were a real piece of work.
In the current situation, there was no guarantee an ambulance would arrive if we called for one.
It had helped that the rioters were bonded together by a misguided sense of victimhood. It probably helped that the trains were stopped because a lot of people there had come by car. All we had been able to do was wash the injured’s wounds, tie the wounds tight with scraps, and shove them into the back of relatively large vans and SUVs. Hopefully they had arrived at the hospital safely…and I could only pray the hospital itself was still functioning.
To be honest, I really didn’t want to go to school after that.
I didn’t have it in me.
“No power, gas, or water. They won’t even be able to bake bread. We also have to do something about the contents of the fridge.”
The only thing that kept me going through my ordinary morning routine was the Class Rep. Checking on social media wasn’t enough. I had to see her for myself to make sure what happened yesterday wasn’t affecting her too much. And I had to help her if she needed anything.
Psychological wounds could stick with you.
I knew that all too well. And she was the one who had saved me back when my parents got divorced. So I couldn’t screw this up if she needed help.
The out-of-season snow had piled up again.
That was the microplastics sent into the air from the cargo ship burning out at sea. When they gathered air like feathers and wool did, they could burn from the slightest ember.
But the home water supply was unstable, so you might not get anything when you turned on the tap. You couldn’t even try to keep yourself safe by periodically spraying water around with the hose.
“Good, the school still has its water,” said the forehead classes Class Rep with a glance toward the schoolyard drinking fountain. She sounded both exhausted and relieved. She must have received the same morning baptism of no drinking water, no shower, and no flushing the toilet.
“The parks and schools are made to function as evacuation shelters in emergencies,” I explained. “So they either have water stored up in a tank, or they’re hooked up to a special water line.”
That was all she said.
I had been worried after yesterday, but she seemed to be doing fairly well. Maybe she had decided she could not wallow in shock when faced with the growing issues of no water and no power. It could be similar to preparing to live on your own immediately after graduation.
A wet mat was sitting out in the entranceway. We wiped our shoes on that to get the microplastics off and then stuck them in our shoe lockers. We would be wearing our slippers inside anyway, but it was still nice to clean them off.
Once in the classroom, Umikaze-san, the girl with her long blonde hair braided together at only a few spots down its length, called out to me.
“Good morning, Amatsu-kun.”
“I hear car batteries are getting stolen left and right out there. And the solar panels out in the fields too.”
I understood why people would want to do that, but where were they planning to set them up? The stolen panels would have to be placed somewhere sunny to be useful, which would also make them really conspicuous.
A bunch of people were gathered in one corner of the classroom. It took me a second to realize it was because the school had power.
Either because it used the industrial power or because it had a generator to function as a shelter.
“Is your phone’s charge okay, Amatsu-kun? All the outlets are full up at the moment, though.”
Someone had apparently brought a long power strip from the A/V room and everyone was using that to charge up their phones and other mobile devices.
“Now that I’m here, I feel utterly exhausted.”
“I know what you mean,” agreed the Class Rep.
Some people might think the presence of power and water would make you feel better, but that wasn’t how it worked.
“Is this the only place left where we can live our normal lives? Take a step outside of here and we can’t even use a microwave and need a water truck to bring us something to drink.”
It may have been similar to spotting the chocolate section at the convenience store while you were on a diet. Or was this like the melancholy at the end of summer break? Convenience and comfort did not always bring peace of mind. If you knew from the beginning it would not last, even a bright and shining jewel would only bring pain.
Were the water trucks even running?
Could we really survive just by staying put at home?
We all sighed while Umikaze Speechia observed us.
“I think the school should be used as a shelter.”
I think it was around 2nd period when I received that message on my phone.
It happened while the math teacher, who could have stayed home but decided to actually do his job, had his back turned to write on the blackboard.
Glancing over at the neighboring seat would have been no different from some moron afraid he was going to get in trouble for eating his lunch early. Even if I did look, I knew I would only find Umikaze-san facing the blackboard and copying the equation down in her notes.
Incidentally, I had looked into her social media connections. I had never transferred schools before and didn’t know how it worked, but it looked like she still had connections with her friends from her previous school. Outside of her real-life friends, she also showed an interest in tennis and hard rock bands.
“I mean, if we head home without any power, gas, or water, we’ll just get depressed right? I don’t know how it works, but the school still has some semblance of civilization intact. I bet everyone here wishes they didn’t have to go home today.”
I couldn’t just stay here with Erika and Ayumi back home, but the biggest draw was the air conditioning. Once you had a taste of that, there was no going back. My phone was honestly enough for TV and internet and I could manage on food with an electric water boiler or microwave even if the cafeteria and school store weren’t functioning.
The running water mattered most of all.
Not only did that give you something to drink and live your normal life, but you might also be able to protect the area around the school from a microplastic snow conflagration if we wet things down in advance. Being able to protect the place you were using for shelter meant a lot.
But on the other hand…
I typed on my phone below the desk so the math teacher wouldn’t notice.
“I don’t know how the system works. Are we really allowed to stay at the school?”
“Don’t people sleep over like normal while preparing for the cultural festival? I’ve never heard of anyone needing to submit some kind of form for approval with that.”
That was true, but still.
I asked Maxwell the same question.
“No. The cultural festival rules are more of a continuing tradition than anything explicitly stated as allowed, so that is a weak argument. Residences and lodging facilities are legally considered separate things, but the former must meet the residence requirements spelled out in the Building Standards Act and the latter must follow the Hotel Business Act or the home sharing rules.”
“You cannot live just anywhere that has a roof. Calling a community center or phone booth your home would be against the rules.”
I copy-pasted that and sent it to the blonde Scylla, but she did seem happy with the answer.
“Isn’t the school a kind of shelter meant to help out in times of need? This is exactly when they should open it up for that.”
“I couldn’t agree more, but once again, I don’t know the rules. You want to open it up, but the students don’t own the school. So who do we go crying to? The principal? The mayor?”
“Sure. The right to use an evacuation shelter belongs to the head of the local government, so you would need the signature of the prefectural governor. But since the current situation has not been designated a disaster, the government office will likely follow the flowchart in their rule book and reject the request.”
“Is there no loophole or anything like that?”
“This microplastic snow would probably be classified as smoke or chemical pollution produced by a naval fire, but ‘would probably’ is not good enough. A country of laws is a system that can only respond to situations within the bounds of what has been described within its laws. Thus, responses based on emotion or ‘common sense’ do not apply. Even if a stretchy-fluffy disaster occurred before your very eyes, the JSDF could not be immediately sent in to assist you. Not unless a stretchy-fluffy disaster has been clearly defined. So you cannot expect much outside assistance until the relevant government offices have analyzed the many documents and filled in any gaps with additional clauses.”
Wow, that was a lot of speech bubbles in a row!
When you knew you weren’t going to like what they said, reading them all was a huge pain.
“So it has to be a part of their flowchart? Isn’t there something in there to account for exceptions?”
“No. Just as you cannot use an evacuation shelter to host a cookout, they may not be used for unapproved purposes. Government offices generally do not allow anything not explicitly mentioned on their list, so a newcomer threat like microplastic snow is unlikely to get a response.”
“There you have it,” I said while forwarding all that to Umikaze-san.
“Who says it has to work like that? It isn’t right for people outside the city to turn down our requests for help when we’re the ones that are in trouble!”
“Umikaze. Umikaze Speechia,” called the teacher. “Can you solve this problem?”
She shrank down in surprise.
That math teacher must have noticed her getting all worked up. It probably didn’t help that being a blonde transfer student made her stand out a lot.
“Sure. That one is a piece of cake. (｀・ω・´)”
I had no choice but to send the Scylla the answer to the problem on the blackboard. If she had her phone confiscated during all this chaos, she might not be able to get it back.
It must have begun as small ripples of conversation occurring below the surface.
It was not until lunchtime that it exploded out onto the surface.
I think it was a mixture of the students being able to interact more openly and frustrations building when people found they could not buy anything at the cafeteria or store.
It was like throwing oil on the fire.
Frustrated voices shouted in anger all over the school.
“What is the Student Council doing!?”
“The teachers are happily eating their lunches in the faculty room while we starve out here.”
“Hey, is this the right format for a petition? This website says it is, but I dunno if I trust it!!”
A lot of people were making a fuss, so I definitely didn’t want to be used as an outlet for their frustrations.
The forehead glasses Class Rep approached me.
“Satori-kun, do you want to head outside?”
I wasn’t dumb enough to ask why. The other students weren’t just hangry. They were even directing their anger toward the teachers who had made their own lunches at home. We didn’t want to end up a target of these people who were left hungry after their lack of foresight led them to assume they could always find bread to buy at the school store no matter the circumstances.
“Umikaze-san was talking about opening the school up as a shelter.”
“But that might not be as much of a paradise as it sounds. Do you want to try sleeping in the same room as other people with this kind of tension hanging in the air? Who knows what they would steal the instant you shut your eyes.”
It might sound like fun if you were with your friends, but we were talking about the entire student body.
We ended up eating our lunches on a stairway landing without incident. Without any power or water at home, the Class Rep ate a sweet bread that looked premade.
She finally spoke up hesitantly.
“Do you think the water trucks are really coming? They’ve even stopped collecting the microplastics that fall on the roads when people clear their roofs.”
“No. It would depend on the demand for water, but if they went around like normal, the trucks would likely be attacked.”
I couldn’t show her Maxwell’s message on my phone.
This was an emergency, so we couldn’t complain if things were less than ideal. On the other hand, if we compromised here, things would only get worse. It was wrong to think of this as a set of scales.
We had to remain calm and stay our normal selves.
And it was important to remember that not everyone would be moving at the same pace as you. Some people might hit their limit before we did and start behaving oddly. As you could see with the craziness people got up to at coming-of-age ceremonies, if people thought they had an excuse, they would readily do things they never would normally. Even though there was no guarantee you could get away with those things just because it was a coming-of-age ceremony. Schools were a collection of a lot of people, so it wouldn’t hurt to be on our guard.
“This is a school, right?”
“Because it feels more like a powder keg to me. Not that I’ve ever actually seen a real one.”
After a conversation like that, I guess can’t exactly say it happened “suddenly”.
In the middle of our first afternoon class, static exploded from the classroom speaker and everyone grimaced.
“What is it now?”
Our English teacher looked more displeased than anyone at having her pronunciation demonstration interrupted. She lifted her slender chin to view the source of the noise.
Everyone waited for more instead of assuming it was a malfunction because we could hear a rustling of clothing coming from the speaker.
Someone had done this on purpose and they had some reason for doing it.
I typed on my phone below my desk.
“There is no sign of anyone operating the broadcast equipment over the internet. The odds are extremely high that someone switched it on from the broadcast room.”
Did that mean it was starting?
Finally, a quiet, trembling boy’s voice spoke with the volume (accidentally?) cranked way too far up.
“I-I am Yama- no, um, I am Student Council Treasurer Yamagaki! Good day to you all!!”
I plugged my ears at the volume instead of anything he was saying.
His halting way of speaking showed just how nervous he was.
“I think…this is wrong! The school is a…is supposed to be a shelter!! So how is it not being used during…during this emergency!? Isn’t this when it’s…it’s supposed to be used? I, um, think we should do it. Um!”
He was cut off by a metallic sound like a crack of lightning. The door must have been flung open. A voice I assumed belonged to a male teacher shouted in anger and I could hear a scuffle.
But the boy did not stop.
He was probably being pinned down, but he still got out what he wanted to say.
“Let’s decide for ourselves! This is our school, so it should be our choice!! We can vote…and decide whether or not to use the school as a shelt- agh!?”
The broadcast ended with such violence I could only assume the cable had been pulled instead of the switch flipped.
No one said anything for a while.
Silence fell over us all.
The only sound I heard was my phone vibrating in my hand below the desk.
“Much of how this happened remains unknown and I doubt he was the one to make that choice. This feels like the work of a class’s popular students wanting to get their opinion out there but having no real authority to do so.”
“That isn’t what matters. This means it’s started, Maxwell!”
Umikaze Speechia-san was within reach at the next desk over and I couldn’t leave the Class Rep who was a bit further away. But I couldn’t carry more than two people.
“I-I wonder what that was about.” The English teacher smiled and tried to smooth things over with obvious tension in her voice. “You can’t do whatever you want just because it’s an emergency, everyone. In America, they break down doors or walls with an axe if people are trapped inside a building during an emergency, but they actually have places constructed with cheaper and flimsier materials to allow for that. What you’re allowed to do during an emergency is decided ahead of time. Really, this is the problem with you Japanese people who just assume emergencies aren’t going to happen. Now, let’s get back to the lesson.”
Even after that, the silence continued.
The English teacher’s words vanished, like they were being swallowed up by a dark cave.
Everyone was staring at her.
And anger was slowly but surely filling the air.
This was the first afternoon class.
Things had changed during lunch. In a few hours, school would be let out and every last student would be forced out of the school. They would be shoved out into the microplastic-filled city where they had no access to power or water. That realization was creeping up on everyone. It was just like how the first day of Golden Week or summer break felt very different from the last day.
It was hard to believe 30 or 40 people were crammed into that space.
The teacher spoke up a little more forcefully than necessary, perhaps because she felt intimidated and perhaps because she did not want the children to notice that.
“Back to the lesson! Open your textbooks. Read the next line when I call on you!!”
But it was no use.
It didn’t matter if she was right or not. Damn that broadcast. Mentioning a vote when the majority were so upset was a really dangerous thing to do!!
The boy being cut off in a struggle with a teacher had only made it worse. That made it feel like we were being oppressed. I couldn’t even remember the nervous boy’s name, but he had done a brilliant job of making himself a martyr!
My phone vibrated, but this was not from Maxwell.
“Yeah, but she actually got to eat lunch. Unlike the rest of us.”
“The teachers all have cars. That means they have air conditioning and a battery for electricity.”
“How long do we have to sit here listening to her? Are we supposed to form a nice polite line while we starve to death?”
The messages were coming fast.
The auto-scrolling couldn’t keep up.
And the class’s frustrations hidden on social media soon showed themselves in the real world too.
It was like a cigarette butt had been tossed onto some dry grass. A wall of fire formed after a short delay.
“Shut the hell up.”
I couldn’t remember which sport he played, but it started with a large athletic boy.
“We don’t have crap. We didn’t eat any lunch. Or breakfast for that matter! And there’s nothing waiting at home for dinner either! What gives you the right to look down on us with your skin and hair all pristine!?”
His food issues weren’t any of the teacher’s concern and she hadn’t caused the microplastic snow, but logic no longer mattered here.
“Calm down. Please calm down.”
“You can only stay calm cause you’ve had food today!” cut in another student.
The meaning of majority rule was changing.
A reversal was underway.
The English teacher must have thought she could maintain control if she dealt with this one angry student, but her shoulders jumped now that the situation had grown beyond that.
As long as you could face an abnormal situation with your own rules, your might feel angry and afraid, but you wouldn’t panic. If you still had some sense left, then nothing was more frightening than finding the majority was against you.
I doubted the Class Rep or Umikaze-san had been caught up in this, but the situation was tense enough to deter either of them from trying to stop it.
“I’ve done nothing wrong. And if you’re not gonna help us, why should I listen to your stupid class?”
“She’s just making fun of us.”
“I’m worried! I can’t relax, so how am I supposed to focus on school!? Huh!? Well!? You got any advice there!?”
I heard a loud boom and crash from the ceiling. Had someone lifted their desk overhead and slammed it against the floor?
That meant it wasn’t just our class.
The entire school had gone crazy.
The English teacher looked close to tears, so my voice must have sounded like a ray of hope to her. She saw me as one of the few remaining sensible people. She thought I was on her side. But I had to disappoint her. I could only carry the Class Rep and Umikaze-san since she was so close by.
So the most help I could give was a single shouted word.
What did I do?
Just as everyone’s eyes gathered on me, I grabbed the hand of the blonde girl sitting next to me. And I squeezed tight.
It was all or nothing now.
Nowhere was safe anymore. I had to watch my position to make sure I wasn’t swallowed up. I ran toward my familiar childhood friend and tackled her without slowing down.
Because that was the shortest route out of the class.
The glass shattered and the three of us were flung out into the empty air. This was the third floor. That would have been dangerous with asphalt below, but I never would have pulled a stunt like this without having Maxwell simulate it first.
There was a flower bed below.
Plus, the area near the building’s walls was piled high with the microplastic snow after it was shoveled from the roof or cleared from the road. It was piled over a meter high, creating a mat thicker than the one used for the high jump.
“S-Satori-kun. I get what you were doing, but a little warning would have been nice!”
“I hate to interrupt when your heart is pounding and your voice cracking, but if I’d had time for a warning, I’d have had time to come up with a better plan!”
I heard a shattering sound overhead and ducked down on reflex. Clear shards rained down unnervingly close by.
Umikaze-san had looked over absentmindedly and her eyes bugged out when she realized what it was.
“And I doubt that’s the last of it. Throwing a desk is enough to break a window, so we need to get away from the walls!! Hurry!!”
I was pretty worried about Itou-san, even if she was an Archenemy and could take on the traits of different plants and animals with her witch’s potions. I sent her a message on my phone to see how she was doing, but I couldn’t think of anything I could actually do for her at the moment. It mattered a lot that she was in a different year from us.
I looked back at the school building and it looked like a deadly labyrinth to me.
I heard yelling and sounds of destruction. Someone must have pulled the fire alarm because it was ringing loud. The ordinary school routine was nowhere to be found. …The school had entirely fallen apart.
“What…do we do now?” worriedly asked the Class Rep while crouched down and holding onto my blazer.
Since she wanted options, she must not have been thinking about returning to the classroom. That was a relief.
It was honestly a good question.
The school wasn’t going to be holding any classes anymore and it wasn’t even a safe place to be. It had power and water, but I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to go to sleep in there now. …To be honest, there was no advantage to staying. Our best bet was probably to sneak over to the shoe lockers, retrieve our shoes, and leave.
“That is quite a commotion.”
Umikaze-san frowned when we actually snuck over toward the entrance. She probably was trying to be stealthy, but her blonde hair was really conspicuous when viewed from behind.
But what were they doing to cause all that noise? It couldn’t just be the windows or sliding doors. It was so loud it made me wonder if they were destroying the reinforced concrete walls.
A male teacher ran outside while letting out some pathetic screams. He was pulling along…oh, that English teacher. I was glad to see she was safe, but it made me wonder if those two were an item.
They weren’t being pursued by anyone and we already had our hands full, so we hid behind the shoe lockers until they were gone.
Umikaze-san the Scylla had promoted the school as a shelter early on, but I doubt she had expected it to become so post-apocalyptic. She looked somewhat pale.
“Ignoring this might be bad,” I said.
“Because it could start a fire like before? Satori-kun, you can’t chase after every little thing yourself.”
“Not that. This could be even worse than last night.”
I leaned out from behind the shoe lockers and looked down the hallway.
I didn’t want to find trouble, but…dammit.
“Class Rep, Umikaze-san. You two head off the school grounds.”
“Wait, you aren’t coming with us, Amatsu-kun?”
I shook my head.
The Class Rep gave me a worried look, but I couldn’t back down on this.
This was a problem that would 100% come back to bite us if I didn’t deal with it now.
“Hey, Class Rep. If they do turn the school into a shelter, who do you think would be in charge?”
“It won’t be the adult teachers. And I doubt it would be the Student Council since they work with the teachers so much. There would be a backlash from the rest of the students if those honor students tried to take charge.”
“But wasn’t that initial broadcast by, um, someone from the Student Council? What was his name again?”
Umikaze-san shook her pseudo-braid and tilted her head in thought. I knew the feeling. I couldn’t remember the boy’s name either even though he had actually pulled the trigger on all this.
“If that was a decision made by the Student Council as a whole, the President would have made the announcement. I’m betting that was a rebellion.”
“But did he really grab that mic of his own free will? I can’t say for sure since I’ve never actually met him, but he sounded like as much of an indoorsy type as me. I doubt he wanted to gather attention like that.”
“Then whose idea was it?”
“Someone who wanted to get their opinion out there but lacked the authority to do so. Someone who decided to use the Student Council name.”
That meant it wasn’t one of the adult teachers. They had been in a position to force their thoughts onto us students.
Another student had grabbed that mic with a smirk and forced that job onto a shy and inconspicuous Student Council member. And it may have been more than one person who convinced their sacrificial lamb to climb on up there.
“You can almost picture the kind of shallow but popular kids who would do something like that, right? The ones who would end up making the decisions almost by default once the students are in charge.”
“That doesn’t make me want to stay at the school, but why is it dangerous?”
The Class Rep sounded like she wanted to just let them have at it if they wanted.
“Keep in mind, Class Rep, that food doesn’t just appear out of thin air at a shelter.”
This would be an unofficial shelter run by kids. We couldn’t just let them have their way. What if their selfish rules ended up spreading beyond the school?
“The idiots hoping to use their popularity to establish a reign of terror will start by turning food into a currency. But it’s not like they can start tilling fields. They’ll almost certainly attack nearby homes and convenience stores as a group. They’ll say they have to if they want to survive and they’ll sidestep any personal guilt by calling it majority rule. People get scary once they start talking like that. The unruly crowds in Tokyo on Halloween will be nothing compared to this.”
Once they started forming factions and a power balance set in, it was all over. Without the police to intervene, a group of several hundred was no laughing matter.
A great predator would be born in this city.
If more and more people began to enjoy that state of lawlessness, Kukyou City really was done for.
And if food replaced money, it was possible those leaders would demand a “tax” from whatever you found for yourself.
“I have my home to think about. Erika and Ayumi live there too, so do you think I want to allow a new era where people feel free to break down the door or windows to take whatever they want? And they might be interested in more than just food.”
They wanted to stand up to the microplastic snow. They wanted to work toward a solution. That alone was fine, but you couldn’t add a primitive form of political power and military might into the mix. After a disaster, it was apparently not unheard of for visiting volunteers to transform into tyrants. When you had a clear line established between the helpers and the helped and you belonged to the former group, it could convince you that you were something special.
“I need to tear apart this school,” I said.
This wasn’t about good or evil. If anything, it was the logic of a villain. But I had something to protect. I couldn’t sit idly by while this malice grew and grew and threatened to sweep across the residential area where my sisters lived.
Call me a filthy person if you want, but if there was a decent chance of my family coming to harm, I was willing to crush other people’s hope.
“Even if they think they’re fighting back against the snow, I can’t let someone toy with hundreds of people by getting them all worked up over this. I won’t let them become a predator. I need to break this up.”
“But…” Umikaze-san the Scylla looked alternately between me and further into the school building. “Does that have anything to do with the school at this point? I mean, wouldn’t something similar happen if a bunch of people gathered at a city park with modified motorcycles?”
“Maybe so, but if those popular kids thought they could take control that way, would they have bothered getting the help of an ‘outsider’ from the Student Council? For that matter, would they have even come to school when the transportation is down and they have to walk the whole way?”
When you got down to it, whoever had pushed that shy Student Council member to start this wasn’t fully committed to being a villain. They didn’t want to follow the rules, but they wanted to rules to protect them. They didn’t want to be just another member of their class, but they didn’t want to go as far as starting a biker gang or whatever. That meant it could be worse, but it also introduced a unique risk. When people got themselves worked up like that, you couldn’t expect them to apply the brakes themselves.
“A small group can’t cause too much trouble. Their frustrations will remain no more than that. We can’t give them the weapon of numbers. It’s a lot like how you don’t want to go back to your normal routine after staying home sick and having your every need catered to. Once you get a taste of that life, you don’t want to stop if you don’t have to.”
I could only make predictions.
It was messed up to take water and power from everyone based only on negative suspicions made before any real damage had been done.
But don’t forget.
This wasn’t a spontaneous accident. Someone had pushed the Student Council member to make that announcement. Even if the majority only wanted help, that could be twisted if someone was maliciously guiding their actions.
So we weren’t waiting for harm to be done.
It had already begun.
If we were too late to respond, a horrific predator would be born in this city. No one would be able to stop the overgrown malice wreaking havoc on our home.
You had to stop the snowball before it got rolling. You couldn’t wait until it had grown dangerously large.
“You two head outside. The other students might not stay in the school once they get worked up. You need to get out of here while you can. Run as far away as possible!”
With that said, I made my way into the school building alone.
Once in the hallway…let’s just say it wasn’t great. People had been throwing a lot of desks and chairs. Windows were broken all over and the microplastic snow crunched underneath my feet. I understood being upset, but the school wasn’t going to function as a shelter if they kept this up. They might as well sleep outside, so they might end up damaging their lungs.
The ones making the most noise were probably the ones who had been relying on the cafeteria or school store. They were starving. But it wasn’t like rioting was going to fill the shelves with food.
“Do you have a plan for stopping the rioting? Taking on the entire school alone seems like a bad idea to me.”
I knew that.
I had to continue going to school here after this was over, so I wanted to avoid isolating myself by making an enemy of the entire student body.
So I had to choose my target more carefully.
“That guy, um, I really wish I could remember his name. The Student Council Treasurer…what was his name?”
“Sure. He said his name was Yamagaki. His given name is unknown. Searching the school’s local server. Since he is the Student Council Treasurer, he is almost certainly Yamagaki Oikaze of Class 2-1.”
“Way to go, Maxwell. I must have done a good job building you if you can remember someone like that.”
“You are being too cruel here, user.”
“Anyway, let’s find that sad sack and have a chat. A chat about who exactly pushed him to make that ridiculous announcement.”
“And once you identify the person or persons behind it?”
“I teach those wannabe kings a lesson. Before they can become a great predator. I’ll show everyone how pathetic they really are so everyone knows no good will come from following them. Maxwell, you said I’m alone, right? Well, so are they. For now anyway.”
I climbed to the third floor in order to reach the broadcast room. Everyone had boiled over not long after the broadcast ended, so he couldn’t have gone too far.
I like to think I showed a lot of courage in not letting out a frightened cry just then.
Someone had grabbed at my clothes from behind.
“Class Rep? And Umikaze-san too?”
“Don’t bother asking why,” said Umikaze-san. “My house isn’t far from the school, so it’ll be overwhelmed first if things blow up here.”
“Satori-kun, what are you going to do now?”
I held a hand to my forehead on the stairs while using my other hand to point toward the hallway.
The broadcast room was there, but also…
“Where do they keep the shelter equipment!?”
“Where’s the food!?”
“You started this, so start acting like a leader!!”
A deluge of angry voices reached us like the crowd shouting at a soccer match. A few dozen people were gathered in a corner of the hallway, blocking our view of the broadcast room door.
Was I afraid of the large group?
Was I disturbed by their twisted pursuit of justice?
Needless to say, they were surrounding that Student Council member named…um, what was it again? I needed to talk with him, but I couldn’t get past that thick crowd of people who were acting a lot more hostile than people crowding a store during a good sale. They looked about ready to throw the Student Council Treasurer out the hallway window.
I gave the other two some blunt advice.
“It’s not too late. You should really leave the school before getting caught up in this.”
“And what will you do, Satori-kun?”
“Not even going to listen to my advice, huh? …If I can’t solve this peacefully, I’ll have to do it violently. I’ll knock all those people out of the way and run off with the Student Council moron.”
“B-but there’s so many people. Even the star of a kung fu movie would have difficulty there.”
I of course had no intention of rushing in with fists clenched. Angry rioters were still human, so they could use their heads. Some of them were probably starting to use utility knives and fire extinguishers as weapons by now.
Not much would be as meaningless as being accidentally killed by someone who wasn’t thinking straight.
So I wanted a projectile that could take out the entire group at once without approaching them.
“Where are you going to find that?”
“Oh? You can find the perfect tool just about anywhere, Class Rep. It has a long history of use in riot suppression, so you see riot police using it a lot.”
“You even used it just yesterday.”
The primary flaw was the impossibility of doing it surreptitiously. Like I said, I still had to go to school here after this was over. I didn’t want to make an enemy of the entire school, so I needed to cover my face before doing this.
“Class Rep, you always carry panty hose with you even though you don’t normally wear them, right? In case the air conditioning is on too high.”
“Wh-what kind of conversation was that?” asked Umikaze-san. “You childhood friends scare me.”
Before long, I had a (new) pair of borrowed panty hose over my head. I made sure to aim my phone’s camera at my face to confirm I got a facial recognition error before moving on to the next step.
What was that?
What else could it be?
I grabbed the hose from the fire hydrant on the wall and began spraying pressurized water.
The white torrent erupted out like a beam cannon and swept aside the outer layer of students before they knew what was happening.
“Who the hell is that!?”
“I can’t breathe…or see! Gwahh!!”
The long, straight hallway had been packed full, so they had no way of avoiding the stream. Once the outer layer of boys and girls collapsed to the floor, the inner layer lost their human barrier and were hit as well.
It didn’t matter if they had utility knives or fire extinguishers.
The water pressure was enough to shoot down a rock if they threw it at me.
And they couldn’t run away with such a large crowd packed in there.
I saw someone cowering down beyond them. The hostile group collapsing from an unknown attack must have looked like the only opportunity he was going to get because he scrambled to his feet and tried to make a run for it.
But I sprayed a powerful blast of water into his back. He doubled over and flew farther than I had expected.
Not that it mattered.
Still dragging the heavy firehose with me and making sure no one on the floor grabbed at my ankles, I approached the shy boy flapping his mouth wordlessly on the floor.
I of course stuck the metal nozzle right in front of his face.
“Wha- buh- what?”
“Tell me what I want to know. And don’t try to lie to me.”
“Who even are you!? A Student Council member is not going to do what some guy wearing panty hose over his head says!”
“Really? Let’s see if you can say that again after drinking…oh, let’s say 10 liters of water.”
“Then again, your teeth might come out before it all gets in your stomach. And to be clear, I’m not bluffing. Honestly, I kind of want to do it regardless. And I’m sure you know why that is. How are we supposed to use the school as a shelter on our own? You destroyed our school life based on some dumb idea that won’t even work. And since you were dumb enough to think that might work, I’ll be very clear: a lot of people are not happy with you. A lot more than you think.”
As it turns out, 10 liters all at once would have ruptured his abs or diaphragm, so I stopped at 2 liters. Thanks for the advice, Maxwell. This was the same as a large bottle of mineral water, so he could handle it.
“Awegh, blegh…hill me…just kill me.”
“I want names.”
“Do you need another liter of convincing? I just hope I can control it that well. Sorry if your front teeth come out and are washed down your throat.”
“I’ll halk! I’ll talk!!”
Maybe he deserved some praise for briefly trying to hold his tongue out of concern for his friends. Hopefully those friends felt the same way about him, but it certainly didn’t seem like it.
“Nabetsukami Kyouji, Sakanakawa Teppei, Okiai Yuuko, Tougemichi Kyusu, a-and Jinno Serina.”
“Wait! It’s drue, it’s true!!”
I had already decided to act skeptical no matter what he said. I was an amateur and couldn’t say anything for sure, but at least he didn’t give me an ugly smile and take back what he said.
I figured he was worth trusting a little bit.
I tossed aside the firehose.
“You’re free to go, but I wouldn’t recommend staying at the school.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do!”
Defiance the instant I let go of the hose, huh?
Fortunately, I had considered this.
“I recorded you squealing just now, so go crying to them asking for help and I’ll send them that data. Then they’ll gang up on you first.”
“So get the hell out of here, squealer. Go!”
I clapped my hands together to motivate him and he ran down the stairs with amusing speed. He just about tripped and fell.
“A digital recording will not function as evidence,” said Maxwell. “Especially when the confession was obtained through duress.”
“That was just a threat. I only needed to scare his guilty conscience.”
I pulled the (new) pair of panty hose from my head and used a hand to fix my mussed-up hair. The Class Rep and Umikaze-san hesitantly poked their heads around the corner.
“That guy didn’t just get away, did he?” asked Umikaze-san. “You released him cause you have an answer, right?”
“Searching the school’s local server and social media accounts. Nabetsukami, Sakanakawa, Okiai, Tougemichi, and Jinno are indeed students at the school. However…”
“What? Just get to the point. Do you like baiting me into hitting the ‘read more’ button that badly?”
“Those five appear to have a point in common. And that point would lead to trouble if it got out.”
Maxwell displayed the information across a few different speech bubbles.
“They are all registered as Archenemies.”
“Nabetsukami Kyouji is a Spriggan and Sakanakawa Teppei is an Ogre. City records confirm this.”
That was bad news.
I glanced over at Umikaze-san.
She was a Scylla.
“Hold on. But my plan was to threaten to reveal their names, personal information, and what they’d done if they didn’t break up their little game here.”
“That would be a bad idea,” said Maxwell. “If it gets out that the five who brought so much chaos to the school were all Archenemies, the human majority would direct their anger in a different direction. Entirely innocent Archenemies like Miss Itou Helen could easily become a target of that hate.”
Archenemies were a minority.
Was that why those five had wanted to take control? So they wouldn’t become targets?
But this meant dealing with those 5 would not end the rioting that had begun with turning the school into an unofficial shelter. Human relationships were tricky. This was going to make dealing with the disaster much more difficult. This could even create a rift between the humans and Archenemies leading to a cold war between them. There were harmless Archenemies like Itou-san and I couldn’t let them be dragged into this mess.
I couldn’t let the school transform into a witch hunt that marched the streets searching for victims.
What could I do?
What could I do to end this?
“Well, we definitely can’t ignore this. We can’t let Nabetsukami, Sakanakawa, and the other three build their kingdom.”
“Sure. But you must think up an actual way of stopping them.”
That did not leave much that I could actually do.
I wasn’t the type to stand out at school. I couldn’t get up in front of the student body and give a speech and I couldn’t become a social media star. I would have a hard time cooling everyone’s heads with mere words.
“Even if we do stop those five, we need something else to stop the rioting.”
“We have to get the students to give up and leave the school without relying on some cheap conspiracy. Otherwise, they’ll either starve or damage their lungs.”
There was only one answer.
It would have to do a lot of work here.
It was valuable and I didn’t want to waste it, but this was necessary to save everyone here. And the system was designed to save people anyway.
“Class Rep, Umikaze-san.”
“Um, w-what is it now? You look like you’re up to something again, Satori-kun.”
“Leave him be. When a boy gets some dumb idea, he won’t listen to reason, so you might as well just let him go through with it.”
I wasn’t too fond of what those two were saying, but I was trying to take this possible shelter from everyone, so I couldn’t exactly call myself a hero.
I told them what they had to do.
“Get to the entranceway immediately.”
“And then what?”
“Grab an umbrella for yourself. This won’t be fun for you otherwise.”
“What? As a weapon???”
They tilted their heads, but I didn’t answer. Everyone’s anger was focused on the teachers for now and I doubted those two would get caught in any trouble unless they tried to protect the teachers.
But it was still a possibility, so I had to change things.
That just left my part of the plan.
“Maxwell, search the school network for usable vulnerabilities.”
“Sure. The school intranet appears to use industrial model Winners machines for increased compatibility.”
“In other words, it’s a treasure trove of vulnerabilities.”
“The more users, the more people who search out vulnerabilities to take advantage of, so the fault does not lie with Winners itself. Regardless, the host server used to manage network data traffic does not have SP2295811 applied, so it is vulnerable to wn022-91 attacks.”
“Wasn’t that on this month’s update list? It should have gotten that automatically.”
“No. While it was an important update, it seems they manually opted out of this month’s update due to a new bug causing issues with certain wireless keyboards and headphones.”
“Wasn’t that bug fake news started by a phony engineering blog?”
“An excellent example of how cyber attacks involve more than just malicious code distributed over the internet. Anything from the BD-aqua.C line will run on the system.”
“Including the emergency system?”
“Sure. I can access everything from the copiers to the central server and even the personal laptops some of the faculty have brought from home. It is fortunate that Laplace was removed from the school.”
That conversation had used up about 3 minutes. The girls would have managed to borrow someone’s umbrellas at the entranceway by now, so I didn’t have to worry about them getting all wet and see-through in front of someone other than me.
“Okay, Maxwell, create a backdoor and activate every sprinkler in the school. Soak the entire place.”
It was like pouring rain.
Screams echoed from every classroom and hallway. It sounded like they were still panicking and had not reached the level of anger yet.
That said, my goal was not to have them all take a cold shower.
I crouched low and reached for the floor while getting soaked myself.
“Good, it’s mixing with the microplastics.”
“Removing them by wiping things down with a cloth would be difficult,” said Maxwell. “Even if the sprinklers are stopped now, it would take two or three days before a livable environment was restored here.”
The students wanted to stay at the school because they thought it was an easy way of staying safe. If it was a mess and required hard work to clean up, it lost that charm.
However, I did not assume this had solved everything.
I had sent the Class Rep and Umikaze-san away because I was headed into danger myself.
“Maxwell, let’s change location. You can find those 5’s appearance based on their names, right?”
“The school is built for privacy, so the only cameras are around the external fence and on the faculty entrance’s intercom.”
“Then use their phones.”
“I cannot infiltrate just anything.”
“Even when they’re almost certainly piggybacking off of the school’s wireless routers? Maxwell, you just said the school system uses vulnerable Winners machines, so their phone security doesn’t matter. Attack the school and figure out where their phones are connecting from.”
While a mountain region might be covered by a single giant antenna tower, cities used a patchwork network of small devices, meaning you could track people this way. Even with GPS turned off in your settings, people could still work out just how long you spent holed up in the bathroom stall.
“All 5 are connected to access point 2F-w-new-mobile. That is on the west side of the new building’s 2nd floor, so in the area of the A/V room.”
That formulaic name made me want to cry. Was the password still the factory default too?
“This only locates their phone signals,” warned Maxwell. “They might not be there themselves.”
“If they were smart enough to set up such a ‘clever’ trap, they wouldn’t let their phones auto-connect to public networks in the first place. That’s just dangerous.”
It was not uncommon to run across antlions that disguised themselves as harmless-looking access points and stole all your personal data, or beehives that sent anyone nearby a virus while disguising it as a system update alert. I wished people knew better than to let their phone connect to the closest network automatically while they walked around town. It was like walking from one end of a minefield to another and trying to cover as much ground as you could. Needless to say, it was too late once you actually stepped on one.
“But the A/V room, huh?”
“You are not planning on taking all five of them on yourself, are you?”
“For a simulator, you really don’t think things through, do you? They’re all Archenemies, so I couldn’t even beat them one on one.”
If I got in a sibling fight with dumb Ayumi, she would overpower me no matter how right I was, so my life as a big brother had quickly taught me to abandon any dreams of being a macho man. There was an insurmountable wall between humans and Archenemies, so it didn’t matter how hard you worked or how strong your willpower was.
Archenemies didn’t fear humans because of our strength or bite
“Nabetsukami, Sakanakawa, Okiai, Tougemichi, and Jinno. The first two are a Spriggan and an Ogre, but what about the rest?”
“They are a Dryad, a Werecat, and a Sea Bishop.”
So none of them were electrical.
My footsteps sounded odd as the rubber soles of my shoes scraped against the wet floor. I walked down the hallway until the A/V room’s door came into view.
The people in there had forced that plain Treasurer to make the provocative broadcast that sent the students out of control. The teachers had been driven off the school grounds and an unofficial shelter run by us kids was a disaster waiting to happen. If they left the school with handmade weapons in order to “acquire food” or whatever else, they could spread the harm to the part of town where my sisters lived.
I had to end this before that happened.
And I couldn’t create a meaningless conflict between humans and Archenemies either.
So I had to do it in one fell swoop.
“Use whatever nonstandard methods you can to affect the power current and knock them all out. The A/V room must be full of TVs and audio equipment and the floor will be soaked with water just like out here.”
Even out in the hall, the violent bursting sound slammed into my eardrums.
“Can I touch the door?”
“Sure. That is not a problem.”
I didn’t need to force myself to make a brave entrance or anything like that.
I reached for the A/V room’s door, and…
“Whoa! What was that weird noise!? Oh, god! Are you all right!?”
I shouted in feigned surprise and rushed in.
The room stank of burned plastic and it was filled with business desks not seen in an ordinary classroom, but some of them were knocked out of place, presumably when the five inside there had collapsed.
I lifted them up and turned them over when necessary to keep them from drowning in the puddles on the floor.
“There’s only three of them here. The others must have left. Dammit.”
“Take photos of the ones there,” said Maxwell. “I will determine who is missing.”
That took less than a minute.
“Okiai the Dryad and Jinno the Sea Bishop are missing. Watch your surroundings.”
Was this a joke?
I was supposed to deal with this using plain old physical strength!?
“Maxwell, zap ‘em again.”
With another loud zap, that boy (I didn’t know which one he was) passed out again and I tied their hands behind their backs with power cables. That didn’t end it, though. I had to deal with the two who had run off. They would try to get the rest of the students on their side either online or in real life, so I wanted to settle this before that could happen.
“I want to know more about the two who escaped, Maxwell. You said they were a Dryad and a Sea Bishop, right? Those sound like pretty minor Archenemies, but what can they do?”
“They are Okiai Yuuko and Jinno Serina. I am searching for their phone signals using the school’s wireless routers.”
Just the two girls in the group escaped? I started to wonder if girls more resistant to electric shocks than boys, but then Maxwell provided the answer.
“A Dryad is a nymph that lives inside an oak tree, so they are a type of spirit spoken of in Greek mythology. They managed the trees and forests in which they lived, so they are known for attacking and cursing lumberjacks. The most well-known is a hunger curse that causes you to cut your own body apart to eat it until you die.”
“I want to hear everything. What about the other one?”
“Sure. A Sea Bishop is a rarer Archenemy mentioned in a Swiss animal encyclopedia. They look like a cross between a human and a fish, but they do not have a fish tail for a lower body like a Mermaid and they are not an obvious monster like a Fishman. They are literally a bishop of the sea and how they attack is unknown.”
“That’s all? I thought I said I wanted to hear everything!”
Also, I had learned not to refer to Archenemies as monsters in front of my sisters. That was considered discriminatory language.
“The fact remains that there are no reports of them harming anyone. Much like the Tsuchinoko and Jinmenken, the only stories are about sightings. The only other thing worth mentioning is that Sea Bishops are thought to be in the upper class of the marine world.”
“Like my Vampire sister?”
“In a way. If we assume the entire ocean has a hierarchical society like seen in the story of Ryugu-jo, then the title of bishop would make them a mid-level religious leader. In Medieval European terms, that places them just below the king, so similar to the nobility. They might be an Archenemy that convinces others do the work and recruits soldiers instead of fighting themselves.”
That was bad news.
Talking about the king of the sea reminded me of that giant shark who belonged to the Seven Deadly Sins. You know, Archenemy Leviathan. He had definitely had a unique community built up with the Remoras and Sirens obeying him.
If a Sea Bishop was a manager of some sort, they sounded like a pretty high level one.
Ocean monsters came in two general categories. There were the Remoras and Leviathan who attacked ships with their great strength or size and there were the Mermaids and Sirens who used their song or beauty to lure people into the sea.
It was hard to say with so little information on Sea Bishops, but they sounded like the latter type. That meant I had to watch out for brainwashing or other psychological attacks. It could come as a song like with Mermaids, but it wouldn’t necessarily use sound.
“I guess they at least don’t seem to infect others like Zombies and Vampires. What about the Dryad on that front?”
“Very little risk. They can only reproduce by dropping seeds to grow more trees or by having a child with a human, neither of which is relevant unless this becomes a decades-long battle.”
I needed to come up with a theory about how they survived the electric attack. The Sea Bishop probably did something with water to avoid it. Had she also protected the Dryad because it was easy to manipulate a plant Archenemy using water? Was she meant as a pawn to keep in reserve?
The human body was 60-70% water, so at least she hadn’t gone ahead and manipulated me like that. Of course, if Jinno Serina the Sea Bishop could control people that easily, she probably wouldn’t have been skulking behind the scenes like this. She could have controlled the school as a queen instead of joining with those other four and involving a Student Council member.
For now, I couldn’t see any way the Dryad would be controlling the Sea Bishop. Unless it was something crazy like the Dryad’s plant body sucking up all the water creating the Sea Bishop’s ocean home.
But Archenemies often did crazy things, so I couldn’t let my guard down.
On the other hand…
“They immediately ran away.”
“Sure. It was a wise decision.”
“Was it really? I could zap them remotely, but I still had to actually go there to make sure they had all been taken out. What if Okiai or Jinno had pretended to be out? They’re Archenemies, so they could have taken off my head with a surprise attack.”
Also, Dryads were all about counterattacks since they would hit you with a formless curse if you harmed one of their trees. No species was better suited for playing dead.
“They would have had no way of knowing if it was an attack or an accident, if it was the work of a human or an Archenemy, and if it was the work of an individual or a group. It seems reasonable enough to run away and try to get your bearings. And since they were up to no good, mightn’t they have been feeling more nervous than normal?”
“Then they could have at least left a camera-equipped ‘present’ behind like a phone or security buzzer. Isn’t that what a nervous or scared person would do? Running away without learning anything new takes them right back to square one. They’ll just be hit by another surprise attack. That wouldn’t make them any less nervous.”
Okiai Yuuko the Dryad and Jinno Serina the Sea Bishop.
They had felt threatened enough to run away while leaving their friends collapsed in that room. Something had motivated them to run away right that instant without even considering any tricks or traps.
What would an immortal fear anyway?
“From the look of things, Jinno Serina the Sea Bishop is probably in control.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Maxwell.
“She avoided the electricity. Probably using the water in some way.”
Could she use some kind of water magic just like some occult bishop?
If so, activating the sprinklers should have worked to her advantage. A space filled with water should have been like a giant pair of jaws for her, so she should have been able to play dead and wait for her chance to strike. But instead, she had fled. That meant the A/V room was not a perfect environment for her even though she could presumably manipulate water to some extent.
“Sea Bishop, not Water Bishop. But she has probably successfully taken control of the Dryad who lives in an oak tree grown from rainwater.”
Was that not true after all?
Something felt wrong here. I needed to toss out my assumptions. This might be more complicated than I thought.
I needed to keep every possibility on the table.
For example, what if the special Archenemy was the Dryad instead of the Sea Bishop? She was supposed to be a spirit within an oak tree, but there were a lot of different oaks.
“Maxwell, run a search.”
It would be best to know the exact species of tree. And that information might not be accurate. After all, Dryads were talked about in the age of Greek mythology millennia ago. Just like oxygen was named for a supposed role in making acids it never actually had and the red king crab was misclassified before it was discovered to be a relative of the hermit crabs.
“Oaks are acorn-producing trees in the Fagaceae family,” said Maxwell. “There are many different types, including some that are common in Japan, such as the white oak and the ubame oak.”
“Next, can you narrow that down some?”
If the Sea Bishop was controlling the Dryad’s body or cells using her water control, was there any way a human like me could take advantage of that?
If so, an opportunity presented itself.
I checked the search results on my phone.
“I think I see now how the Sea Bishop and Dryad are linked and why they escaped.”
Once I had a goal in mind, I could designate a destination in this dizzyingly-large open world game we call life.
I had Maxwell tracking Okiai Yuuko and Jinno Serina’s phones using the school’s wireless routers.
Then it was like connecting the dots of a constellation. I just had to walk down the hallway to the correct location.
The school was made to contain hundreds, but finding those two was not difficult at all.
For one, it was unlikely the Dryad and Sea Bishop had left the school grounds. If their tough Archenemy bodies could handle the microplastic snow without issue, they wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble getting a Student Council member to make an announcement that lit a fire among the students.
I brushed up my damp bangs as I stepped out of the A/V room and walked down the hallway.
My destination was in sight.
“Maxwell, secure an attack method using the school intranet. One that doesn’t use water this time.”
“I will search, but there is only so much a purely cyber approach can accomplish.”
“I know that.”
The entire building seemed soaked with water. A lot of the boys and girls I passed by were unsure what to do about the disastrous state of their classroom floor. I felt bad, but I hadn’t had a choice. If they had opened an unofficial shelter with no outside support, the lack of food would only have led to a riot fueled by frustration and group psychology.
A lovely voice called out to me amid the tense atmosphere. I looked over to see my underclassman Itou Helen poking her wet head out of a classroom with a towel over it.
“What are you doing? Um, it doesn’t look like you’re joining the rioting.”
“I’ll explain everything. By the way, Itou-san, do you approve of the idea of us kids taking over the school as a shelter without any adult support?”
“You’re joking, right? We would just be holing up in the school and establishing our own selfish rules instead of going home, right? And with the cafeteria and school store out of food, what would we even eat tomorrow?”
“Exactly right. I’m glad to see we can still be friends.”
Since she could cook for herself, I had assumed she wouldn’t be one of the morons who truly believed food would be coming if they waited long enough, but it was still a relief to have confirmation.
She also seemed relieved. She may have left the classroom to get away from those who were thoughtlessly advocating the shelter plan.
It could be easy to overlook since it helped me, but something about this wasn’t right.
Itou-san looked like the harmless and nervous type, but she did not seem bothered by the fact that it was technically class time. She normally wouldn’t have stepped out into the hallway just because she saw someone she knew. …I wasn’t one to talk, but everyone really was being gradually affected by what was going on. It had nothing to do with how sensible you were or weren’t. Maybe it was like the “average” line everyone used as a measuring stick was moving.
Also, Itou-san’s wet clothes were somewhat see-through and clinging to her skin, but I decided it was best not to mention that.
The short-haired blonde underclassman shook her head like a wet puppy as I explained.
“So you’re saying this isn’t a natural explosion of frustrations and someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes?”
“Yes, it’s a Dryad named Okiai Yuuko and a Sea Bishop named Jinno Serina. That they’re both Archenemies makes this trickier.”
“Do you see how delicate a situation this is now? If this spreads, it could pit the humans against the Archenemies, so I want to end it in secret.”
She looked worried, but it meant a lot to have an Archenemy like her on my side. That alone meant it was no longer purely human vs. Archenemy. Once it was good Archenemy vs. bad Archenemy, we had more freedom to act.
“Their phones have switched to using access point 1F-e-new-mobile,” said Maxwell. “Okiai and Jinno are probably both in the home ec room on the east side of the new building’s 1st floor.”
“Yeah, that’s a good spot for them. Until panicked and hungry students try to get at the bags of sugar and flour, anyway.”
“Um, why there?” asked Itou-san. “Do they want the knives and meat tenderizers as weapons???”
“There’s a better weapon there that doubles as a lifeline for them. Anyway, Maxwell, have you found a way to attack?”
“Sure. That room’s equipment meets smart house standards, so I can control any of it. Shall I open up the gas?”
“No, you shall not. Everything outside the building is covered in the air-filled microplastics, so I want to avoid any fires.”
“Then I shall access the induction cooker. Activating it without a pot on top will send out powerful microwaves. The miniscule vibrations may affect Jinno’s control of water. Much like a microwave oven.”
I couldn’t rely entirely on Itou-san just because she was an Archenemy. She was my cute underclassman, so I couldn’t let her get hurt.
The home ec room was right there.
It had two entrances, but I was near the front one.
“(Maxwell and I will make a mess of things inside first, so you wait for my signal, Itou-san.)”
My short underclassman did not respond. She seemed curious about something else. She was silently looking up at the ceiling instead of the sliding door to the home ec room.
“Senpai,” she said as a warning.
I looked up too, just in time for some large mass to crash through the ceiling and pour down on us.
The ceiling in this case was not a thick layer of reinforced concrete. It looked like there was a space for power cables and sprinkler pipes above a single thin board. And we were right next to the home ec room where people would be cooking. It probably had a special duct for smoke in addition to the standard windows and ventilation system.
I didn’t have time to check and see what this was. My vision faded as my entire body felt an impact like someone had hit me in the head with a concrete block. Strength left my arms and legs and I collapsed onto the wet floor.
These were Archenemies, so I could only blame my own lack of imagination for assuming they would walk on the floor and open the door like a human.
What about Itou-san?
Was she okay!?
“Who are you?”
I heard an unfamiliar girl’s voice from unexpectedly close by.
I felt someone grab the side of my head and shove it into the wet floor. It hurt and I couldn’t breathe! I was seriously afraid my skull was warping like a plastic bucket experiencing too much force!
“I thought something was amiss. I sensed a stalker creeping up on us. So are you the jinx that plagues us? Can we get back on track if we get rid of you???”
Damn that poet. Can’t she be more straightforward!? I knew these were supposed to be the popular kids, but someone like this would not have a fun year at the center of the class. It would take a lot of effort for them to simply stay on the rails they had set up.
And was she what had broken through the ceiling to fall on us? Damn, I couldn’t turn my head and she was too close to get a good look. I could only tell it was a girl in a uniform.
But she was naïve if she thought holding my head down was good enough. I could still strike back. She should have smashed my phone instead of worrying about a skinny guy like me.
Modern electronics didn’t even need you to operate them manually.
I only had to shout with my head still pinned down.
“Maxwell! Use one of your attack methods to blast her off of me!!”
“Sure. Then I shall borrow one of the bug zappers.”
You normally wouldn’t find one of those in a classroom or school hallway, but I guess the room for cooking classes would gather bugs.
With the unique bursting sound of electricity, orange sparks erupted into the hallway from the outside window.
That was probably worse than a handheld firework.
The girl screamed when the sparks showered down on her. She apparently couldn’t be poetic about that. And while it looked like a lot, it would only provide a bit of heat without doing any real damage. The sparks from an electronic device were not necessarily going to shock you.
The mounted position worked when you could push your weight down on someone from above, so in the instant she lost her balance in shock, I shook her from below to throw her off of me. Then I rolled the other way to grab my phone from the floor.
“(Got any other weapons?)”
“Only detonating this phone itself.”
This was not good.
I grabbed a fire extinguisher fallen nearby and threw it, but then I heard an odd sound. Something flew past me from right to left and then the thick fire extinguisher split apart in midair.
I got up and moved back while narrowing my eyes to view past the powder.
Who was it?
What was it?
Hearing wet footsteps, I gulped from tension and kept waiting…but hold on.
If this person was wild enough to break through the ceiling for a surprise attack, would they really walk straight through a curtain of powder? I would be hidden from her as well, meaning she would have to figure out what to do, but would she really just stop thinking altogether and charge straight in?
The wind blew in through the broken window along with some “snow”.
That created some gaps in the fire extinguisher powder and I could tell there had been no footsteps. Something like cables (tree roots? plant vines?) were dangling down from the ceiling and had bundled together while shaking up and down enough to make a bit of splashing in the puddles.
Then where was the girl herself!?
My only option was to collapse backwards with all my might.
The thin ceiling panel broke through again and rubble poured down like a waterfall on the spot I had just vacated. And wait, did this mean all those building materials and the fluorescent light had fallen on top of me during the earlier attack? With someone’s body weight added in!? A human could have their head split open by a single potted plant, so it was a miracle that first attack hadn’t killed me.
I somehow managed to avoid a clean hit.
I stood up while finally getting a good look at my enemy.
She was a girl with short black hair. She had a gloomy look in her eyes. Our school’s blue blazer uniform was wet and clinging to her impressive bodylines, but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed. She had what looked like reindeer antlers on the sides of her head. They were actually sharp tree branches and she also had less noticeable ones on her arms, legs, hips, and elsewhere.
She may have been able to grow leaves as well as branches because I heard a papery rustling sound when she simply tilted her head.
Her feet were not touching the floor.
She almost looked like a marionette because the roots coming from the collar, back, and skirt of her uniform continued on up into the broken ceiling, leaving her dangling down like she was making a poor attempt at a breaststroke pose.
“The Dryad…Okiai Yuuko!?”
“And whooo are you?”
I heard the roots strain and then the short-haired girl pulled back up into the ceiling in the blink of an eye. It was like watching a fish yanked up by a hook. She was an immortal, so I couldn’t just grab at her to stop her. I didn’t have much information on her as an individual, but if she had gorilla-level strength or could squeeze tighter than an anaconda, making contact with her would be a bad idea.
I shouted up at the ceiling.
“That Student Council guy, whatever his name was, has already given in. You can’t take over the school in the name of making it a shelter now!”
There was no response.
Apparently, she wasn’t going to take the bait that easily. She was still in control of the situation.
The meaning of up and down had entirely changed.
The ceiling now looked like a dangerous river where a large croc awaited its prey. I had gotten away unharmed before by scaring her with the exploding bug zapper, but that wouldn’t work forever. She would get used to it. I had to assume I was done for the next time she grabbed me.
“Maxwell, she’s using the smoke exhaust vent for the home ec room, right? Is there anywhere I can do to escape that?”
“No. She would have no trouble breaking out of the stainless steel duct with that strength, so you should assume she has access to the entire space above the ceiling panels.”
That’s what I was afraid of.
I also couldn’t abandon Itou-san who I had lost track of thanks to the rubble and the fire extinguisher powder. Plus, I had business at the home ec room. If I didn’t collect what I needed, Okiai and Jinno might recover after needing to abandon their friends in the A/V room.
I had to do something about that “shark-infested” ceiling.
I had to drag her from that silent space, so I had to think. What did I need to pull that off?
“The ceiling is a mess because of the Dryad’s actions.”
“Sure. I doubt anything up there is restricting her movements.”
Not my point.
A Dryad was an oak tree spirit from Greek mythology, but she wasn’t a perfect and unshakable being. If she was, her group wouldn’t have had to take the school from the adults to remake it into their castle. She must have had her reasons for going along with that nonsense.
The answer was obvious.
What had they wanted to evacuate from?”
“Maxwell, find the emergency switch for the smoke exhaust.”
“The microplastic snow! Suck that into the device and it’ll be hell up there. The Dryad won’t be able to stay up there forev-”
I trailed off and further tension filled the atmosphere.
I was hit by a great pressure that felt like having a fist-sized rock shoved into my mouth.
No, that wasn’t it.
Someone had tackled me head on while I was looking up at the ceiling!?
My feet left the floor.
This was bad because I didn’t know how to fall properly!!
I managed to hold my hands behind my head to protect it, but my back still slammed into the floor hard. It knocked the breath out of me and my vision really did flash in and out.
This wasn’t the previous Dryad, Okiai Yuuko.
It was another girl.
So was this Jinno Serina, the Sea Bishop!?
I heard a dull straining sound, but not from the girl climbing on top of me. It was coming from my own body as she crushed it below her!?
“Gwebh!! M-Maxwell, are you sure this is a Sea Bishop!? Something isn’t – gah! – something isn’t right!!”
I couldn’t escape!?
She was a girl of average height, so as indoorsy as I was, I was still bigger than her. Yet I couldn’t break free. And this didn’t feel like she had taken judo and knew how to apply her weight. It was a simple matter of her being heavy! It was like being crushed below a fallen tree!!
Was I mistaken the whole time? Come to think of it, the girl who crashed down through the ceiling never introduced herself. She had been dangling down from what looked like tree roots, but…
“Was she Jinno the Sea Bishop!?”
“Oh, you did your homework.”
I had assumed the water user was controlling the plant.
But was it actually the other way around?
“But I won’t let you interfere. Serina-chan and I are surviving this together!!”
Jinno also couldn’t use her power without a certain amount of water around, so had Jinno needed Okiai as a lifeline since the plant girl could store plenty of water within herself!?
Why had they fled to the home ec room? The school was already flooded by the sprinklers, yet they had left the convenient A/V room and abandoned their other friends to come here.
“You’re a Dryad, an oak tree spirit.”
“So what if I am?”
“It seemed odd to me you would get along so well with a Sea Bishop. Fresh water and sea water are just too different. But you’re an ubame oak, aren’t you? Those are planted on the coast to keep the sand in place, so you prefer some salt to pure fresh water.”
The Sea Bishop must have run away because she was not used to fresh water and the ubame oak Dryad had run away for the same reason. So what had they come to the home ec room for?
They had wanted salt.
“Maxwell, activate the closest fire hydrant pump. Ramp up the pressure with the valve closed if you have to – just blow through it!!”
Water erupted from a nearby wall with the force of a white explosion.
It hit Okiai Yuuko who screamed and rolled off of me before writhing on the hallway floor.
Ubame oaks could grow strong even in the salty ocean, but this one must have adapted so well she could not accept normal fresh water anymore.
Contact with all that fresh water at once seemed to have done a real number on her.
Okiai Yuuko the Dryad could not get up and her arms and legs simply trembled.
They had used the Student Council as a shield.
They had attacked the adult teachers.
They had spread chaos throughout the school.
They had done it all to take control of this school. But I felt like I had just seen what lay at the root of it all.
For these two, it had all been about surviving with their best friend.
“Maxwell, that’s enough.”
Just as I said that…
I heard something hard shattering overhead.
I only managed to collapse backwards in time because of the previous surprise attacks.
All the building materials and the girl herself came crashing down like a waterfall.
She stepped on Okiai Yuuko the Dryad who was convulsing in the wet hallway.
“This isn’t over yet.”
“What are you doing!?”
She was stepping on the other girl.
Even though she had to have as much a weakness for fresh water as the Dryad!?
She had previously dangled down from what looked like tree roots.
The Dryad had definitely been in control.
I realized I hadn’t actually seen what the Sea Bishop’s power was.
The other girl spoke from beneath her foot.
“I will survive this, no matter what it takes! This isn’t anywhere near enough. The Student Council didn’t work, the other Archenemies didn’t work, so who will work for me next!? Who will shield me now!?”
Archenemy Sea Bishop.
She seemed poetic too, so maybe that was why she and Okiai had gotten along so well. The way she spoke made it hard to tell what she really meant. Was she simply selfish, or did she have some more twisted sort of nature?
“No. Growing emotional will not increase your physical specs. I do not recommend attacking an Archenemy head on.”
“I wasn’t suggesting that. If you aren’t going to help, then don’t bother saying anything.”
Jinno’s eyes moved.
But not toward me.
Was she looking at my phone?
“Can you use…that to save me?”
I heard a deep boom.
Sea Bishops were not as famous as Vampires or Zombies, but they were still immortals. I would be blown away in a head-on collision.
So I moved to the side.
I rolled hard enough to crash through the home ec room’s door.
Jinno Serina followed me. She ran parallel to me, maintaining the exact same distance. And what did that mean? I heard a loud impact as she broke through the classroom wall as easily as someone running through a paper sliding door or screen.
It wasn’t as thick as an outside wall, but a wall was still a wall.
She really was an Archenemy. That impact must have had as much force as a car accident!
I had of course gone in there because the many counters had a lot of possible weapons on them, but I was quickly reassessing that decision. Based on what had just happened, she could probably crush a stainless steel sink easier than I could an aluminum can, so was I really brave enough to grab a knife!?
“Give me a protective shield. A rosy life is so close I can almost taste it. I long for an indestructible foundation on which to stand! I yearn for a support that brings stability and thus happiness!!”
Had someone who insisted on talking in such a pretentiously poetic way really been the center of her class? Her classmates couldn’t have liked having to decode everything she said!
She took a sharp turn to charge back at me, so I finally grabbed a weapon. Instead of a knife, I went for a juicer shaped like a giant mug.
Even I knew I should have gone for a real weapon instead.
I raised it over my head and slammed the bottom down against her head, but she shrugged it off.
A dull impact hit the center of my gut.
She tackled me!?
I flew straight over the teacher’s desk with a sink installed and my back slammed into the blackboard on the wall. It seriously felt like I was pinned to the wall for a full second.
Then, just like a basketball falling into the hoop, I dropped straight down to the floor. I tried to get up, by my limbs were trembling and refused to obey me. It scared me how my body no longer felt like my own.
This wasn’t even about being able to transform into a bat or lure people in with a song.
The basic difference in physical strength between human and Archenemy was too great.
I heard wet footsteps. Instead of ordinary slippered feet, this was the unique sound made when there was a liquid between the rubber sole and the floor.
Was she circling around the teacher’s desk?
Or was she climbing over it?
Damn, that sink was blocking my view!
“The planning phase was the most fun. I enjoyed talking with them most then.”
I decided to act on the worst-case scenario.
My arms and legs wouldn’t move, so I gathered strength in my hips and twisted them to roll to the side.
I heard a loud boom.
Jinno Serina tackled right through the stainless steel counter and crashed into the blackboard, halfway embedding herself inside it!?
“But I wonder.”
Nothing had changed.
Her tone of voice and expression were the same. Did she think nothing of the fact that she would have killed me had I not dodged that!?
“What would it have changed if we had succeeded? It’s all like a poison pumped into our minds. We were all living in a waking dream. Still, it was all so much fun while we were planning out how to create our own little country.”
I could hear the sound of gas leaking out, but the Sea Bishop looked entirely unfazed as she calmly extracted herself from the wall. Even after an impact like that, the blackboard didn’t break. Well, I guess they generally have a metal plate behind them since magnets stick to them. Why was my mind even focused on something so unnecessary?
I was afraid to face what did matter.
Even though I had to focus if I wanted to survive!!
“Are you saying you regret what you did. Little late now, though.”
“We did go through a lot of boring work.”
A white powder spilled from the storage space below the destroyed counter and into the water on the floor. I couldn’t tell if it was salt or sugar. But unlike the Dryad, she could move around just fine after being exposed to the water. She must have already gotten the salt she needed.
“But I’ll do it. Boring though it may be, I can’t bear to let go what I already have in my grasp. The fruits of our labors have piled high. Yes, it was all so boring. It is sure to bind us and rob us of all freedom in the end.”
Was she still intent on being the school’s ruler? Even though she could have avoided any further conflict by grabbing a bag of salt and making a run for it?
I couldn’t let this become the center of a panic.
The riot could spread beyond the school and the idea of a child-run shelter was flawed from the beginning. If the “organized rioters” began to attack the convenience stores and homes around town, Kukyou City would become much more dangerous. Dyadic group experiments had psychologically proven that groups had a harder time showing restraint than individuals. If I let that invasion begin, it could bring harm to Ayumi, Erika, the Class Rep, or Itou-san.
I wasn’t going to let that happen.
“You are a force of evil. Everyone here wants to use the school as a shelter, so you are a force of evil for ruining that plan. If we announce your name to the school, we can all enjoy the fun of a public execution together.”
“The police are not coming. We are the law now and you will be the first to prove it. You will make a fine example, so we must present you as a force of evil. If we all fill in the hole together, then we can all trust in the new laws together. Being buried alive is a scary thing, after all.”
I wasn’t talking about that.
And I felt like she got sidetracked partway through there.
It was dangerous to turn the school into a chaotic fortress. An unofficial shelter with no one to manage it was a bad idea, so the students had to be released before they developed into a mob of rioters. But that didn’t mean I was going to deprive them of a shelter.
Did you forget?
This was a city of disaster prevention research thanks to the abnormally high number of disasters it experienced, and that had led the Bright Cross to set up base below it.
I had eradicated that organization, but they had not been able to remove all trace of their presence.
“Maxwell, access the door to the underground shelter and unlock it!”
I still had this option.
Even if those tunnels had originally been used to abduct Archenemies from their homes.
“The windows are broken, the floors are soaked, and the microplastic snow is getting in, so do you really think the school building is going to be more popular than the legit shelter that covers every last part of the city?”
“Your special privilege ends here. They aren’t all going to rush to the school for shelter. With a better option available, no one’s going to stay here!!”
This was actually fairly meaningless.
There were only tunnels down there and no stores of water or food. And while it was clean now, the snow would get in after the door was opened and closed enough times.
No matter how worked up people were, they would remain quiet while moving from one place to another. That blank period would give them time to cool down. They would realize the conditions were the same at school and in the underground shelter. They would realize a place to stay without any actual supplies was not enough to save them. Then they would realize that the best option was to head back home.
“I don’t care what happens as long as I can prevent them from rioting. I don’t have anything against the students.”
This was not a fundamental solution.
We did need food and water to stay alive.
But the microplastic snow was not permanent. It was caused by the cargo ship fire out at sea. This would end once that died down and the people outside the city had to have some kind of plan to help us.
They would know we were in trouble.
The current situation was a lot like being trapped in an elevator.
The correct answer there was to stay put until the professional rescuers could arrive. If you gave into the pressure of being stuck inside without any food and you took some desperate action, you would only be putting yourself at greater risk.
Jinno Serina tilted her head.
And she spoke in a flat voice.
“I said I can’t bear to let go.”
“You did. So how about you force all the students to stay here? How about you lock them up? But do that and you’re the one they’ll see as a ‘force of evil’.”
That’s always how it was with good and evil.
There were no absolute standards to measure them.
If you gave the majority a new goal to focus on, they would change their view completely. But I did know you couldn’t call yourself righteous if you were intentionally trying to manipulate such things.
“I will close the door. Once that shelter is locked tight, I can redo it all.”
“That won’t work.”
“Hand me that key. Your smartphone!!”
“You can steal my phone, but Maxwell won’t obey your instructions!”
I could hear her muscles straining from here.
Was she really going to smash me to pieces like I had been hit by a truck? Was she not even considering how that would look once the “snow” was gone and the city was open again!?
She was preparing to tackle me.
Damn, and my arms and legs still refused to move.
I didn’t even think I could roll out of the way this time!!
My breath caught and a shockwave shattered all the windows in the room.
Jinno Serina’s tackle had not caused this.
She held her face.
She fell to the floor and rolled around.
She curled up like a shrimp and thrashed her limbs around like a pinwheel firework not quite going off right.
Was that a gas explosion?
It was true a gas line had apparently broken when she crashed through the teacher’s counter, but I doubted this would have happened at the perfect time by pure coincidence.
Someone was slowly approaching while leaning against the room’s entrance which no longer had its sliding door.
It was the person who had vanished after the initial surprise attack.
“Are you okay, Senpai?”
She looked like she had just swung something with her now-empty hand. Or had she thrown something? The blackboard was part metal. And some metals would produce sparks…
Small Itou Helen grabbed my hand and lent me her shoulder to help me up from the floor. My uniform was a mess of water and small pieces of wreckage, but she did not seem to mind.
What was I supposed to do now?
Could I simply thank her? I may have made a mistake setting this up. If I had done things better, she wouldn’t have had to resort to violence.
She must have noticed me glance over at Jinno Serina who was still writhing on the floor because that underclassman smiled in a self-deprecating way.
“That isn’t enough to kill her. I know because she’s an Archenemy like me.”
She spoke about it so dryly, maybe because they were fellow Archenemies.
Anyway, had this prevented the school from transforming into a mob of rioters? The students who went to the underground shelter would walk around to every nook and cranny and find only despair, but it would give them time to calm down.
The school and the underground tunnels were no different.
Without any supplies, a big space did not help all that much.
And without the extra trouble these places brought, it would be more comfortable at home.
“What a waste of everyone’s time.”
It wasn’t like I would be rewarded for solving this. I had only wasted water and food and I still didn’t know what had caused the microplastic fire.
Not to mention that I had destroyed another part of my usual routine.
The students had accepted things and calmed down, but would the teachers return after being attacked like that? Would we have classes tomorrow?
For now, I could see no good reason to stay at school.
There was no point in figuring out which period it was. Once I saw the students calm down and leave, I would head home too.
That was when I heard shouting voices in the distance.
It reminded me of a cheering crowd at a stadium.
But what was this? It wasn’t coming from the direction of the opened underground shelter.
In a reversal of a moment before, I felt Itou-san tremble while lending me her shoulder. For her, cheering crowds may have been an unpleasant reminder of her time at the Colosseum.
“Maxwell, can you access the security cameras? That cheering seems to be coming from outside the building. You might be able to see something with the front gate or parking lot cam-”
That speech bubble was not a good sign.
And there was more.
“I have been warning you of this from the beginning. The microplastic ‘snow’ is very likely an intentional attack. And Umikaze Speechia the Scylla has made some unnatural statements and actions.”
“What? Why bring up those things now?”
“My recommended course of action is to leave through the passageway leading to the gym and climb over the fence. That is the best way to escape while reducing your risk.”
I didn’t get it.
Maxwell apparently wasn’t willing to display the security camera footage on my phone. Maybe that was to not worry me unnecessarily, but I couldn’t calm down until I’d seen it for myself.
Itou-san and I exchanged a glance and then slowly went to view the source of the cheering. We didn’t do anything special. We only approached a broken window and looked out to the snowy schoolyard.
We were met by an explosion of sound.
A large crowd was gathered there.
“It was him!! It was Student Council Treasurer Yamagaki here who got us all riled up with that announcement!”
“What are you, stupid? Did you really think you could control the whole damn school yourself!?”
“Get him. We’ve got plenty of ‘snow’, so bury him alive! Kill the bastard!!”
The crazed shouting reverberated directly on my skin more than in my ears.
I let that slowpoke go, but he managed to screw it up and get himself caught!?
“Wh-what does this mean, Senpai? Aren’t those people on the ground there the ones who tried to take over the school? Is someone else out there instigating violence?”
The students were angry.
Someone had tried to control them and it had all started with that schoolwide announcement. And everyone was easily fooled, but they also got mad when they realized they had been fooled.
“This is the true face of ‘justice’. You apply the title to whatever is most convenient for you at any given moment. These aren’t religious leaders or monks, so you can’t expect them to stay consistent until the day they die.”
“They’ve found a new target.”
This was what happened once you lost the majority’s support.
There were no adult teachers or police here. Could I just let this happen because he had brought it upon himself? It had been necessary, but I was the one who had brought the students back to their senses by opening up the underground shelter.
I heard rushed footsteps from the ceiling. Then I heard struggling and a scream.
Something was beginning.
Something unknown and unstoppable.
“Found one. I found another one in here!”
That sudden shout made me jump.
But the large boys who entered the trashed home ec room were not interested in Itou-san or me.
They were focused on Jinno Serina the Sea Bishop.
And the groans I heard out in the hallway were from Okiai Yuuko the Dryad whose arms were being twisted behind her back.
It wasn’t just the Treasurer. Had the group collapsed in the A/V room been captured too?
All I had done was open the shelter.
The plain Treasurer made sense since he had named himself during that announcement, but how had they identified the others so easily? Those five had never revealed their identities.
“Wait, it can’t be.”
I couldn’t afford to gather attention right now.
Defying these boys would get me killed.
I knew that, but I still forced out a scratchy voice.
“What…what are you planning to do to them?”
“You’ve seen the mess they made. And it looks like they made you suffer more than most.”
I was answered by an athletic-looking boy who stood a head taller than me.
He was not burning with rage.
Nor was he grinning with twisted enjoyment.
This was justice.
It was separate from any of those emotions, which allowed him to speak from a phony place of courage.
I had seen justice in many forms already: the Bright Cross, the Colosseum, and Absolute Noah.
But I felt like a robber wearing stockings over his head would have looked more human than this boy.
He grabbed a stainless steel kitchen knife from among the wreckage of the counter. The tension immediately skyrocketed. But he grabbed it by the blade and held the grip out toward me.
“You can do the honors.”
“We can’t let this kind of violence go unpunished. You should know that better than anyone given how battered you are. So you do it. Execute her by your own hand to bring peace back to our school.”
[Crawler Search] Vigilante Justice [The Words You Need!]
Vigilante justice refers to violence committed by an unauthorized individual or group when the existing legal system is no longer functioning and those involved believe punishment is necessary. For example, it could refer to additional punishments applied when the legal punishments are deemed too lenient to preserve order within a group washed up on a desert island.
You can imagine how people would be unable to go to the police or courts during infighting within a criminal organization or trouble over failure to pay out at an illegal gambling venue. In those situations, vigilante justice is used to establish punishments based on unique rules.
However, vigilante justice is not the correct term when the majority wields violence against a minority or individual in excess of what is necessary to preserve order, in order to extract money from them, or simply because they do not like someone. Most people will immediately think of lynch mobs as an example, but if you and your pals surrounded a would-be robber or rapist and beat them while they were powerless to fight back, that too would fail to qualify as vigilante justice.
Any violence meant to reinforce the benevolent rules is generally thought of as vigilante justice, but you must not forget that it is a criminal act to harm others because you decide your choices supersede the usual laws.
If you force everyone to obey a rule saying anyone who attacks someone weaker than them is to be summarily executed or if you go along with such rules when forced upon you and you dirty your hands to maintain order within that closed environment, the people who arrive from outside will not forgive you for what you have done. Even at the scene of a disaster or military conflict, the police will later use forensic science to track you down as the criminal and a judge will find you guilty in accordance with the usual laws.
Terms like “legitimate self-defense” and “the plank of Carneades” have become commonly known largely due to their use in entertainment, but you should assume such things almost never apply in an actual court of law.
It does not matter if the normal laws feel hopelessly idealistic in an extreme environment and it does not matter if you have a baby at home. Those exceptions are rules you have invented for yourself and have no basis on the actual laws written down in our legal system.
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