Starting November 13th, we, the 27 companies of the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians, will be holding a tournament called "Natural Selector" in Eastern Europe’s Baggage City.
The rules are as follows.
A victor will be determined in a 1-on-1 tournament style.
The stage shall be a circle with a diameter of 30 meters. When the match begins, all entrances will be sealed. As such, escape is impossible. Destroying the walls with an attack shall not be penalized, but leaving through such a hole will lead to disqualification.
An immediate loss will be determined either by completely losing one’s consciousness or giving a sign of surrender. If the opponent is killed in the process of knocking them unconscious, the victor will not be penalized.
The time for each match will be 15 minutes. Once that limit has been reached, a tournament doctor will determine the victor by measuring the physical damage to each contestant.
Contestants may bring in equipment including clothes so long as it does not exceed 80 kilograms. However, the contestant must be able to wear or hold the equipment in both hands at the time the match begins. No platform or tripod may be used to hold the equipment in place.
No gunpowder, explosives, poisons, bacteria, radioactive materials, etc. as established by the Second Frankfurt War Treaty may be used. Any materials not covered by the treaty are not restricted.
Anyone who does not meet the above requirements will not be allowed to participate. Also, if non-compliance is discovered partway through, the participant’s progress will be revoked and the participant will be made to leave.
If a non-compliant participant refuses to follow our orders to leave, they will be forcibly removed by our unmanned weapons.
This tournament, named after the process of natural selection, has only one prize. The victor will verify a global standard for the replacement of Academy City’s espers.
With things such as UFOs and OOPArts, many people have faced bitter experiences because people assume anything not from Academy City is not scientific and must be fake. We plan to show just how unreasonable that treatment is.
We urge you to use this chance to prove that it is real.
“This is just a collection of horrible monsters,” spat out Shar Berylan.
He was a large white man in his mid-twenties. However, he was not actually a participant in Natural Selector. He would hate to be mistaken for one. He was a security guard sent to Baggage City by the 27 cooperative institutions that had broken away from Academy City and were now known as the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians.
For this part-time job, he wore a bulletproof jacket and was armed with a carbine and grenades.
“Did you hear? There’s some UFO nut, some deep sea idiot who’s in love with Atlantis, and some loner who claims to talk with a mass of bacteria collected from Mars. Why are they trying to get advice from people that trample other’s fields and shout up in to the night sky? It wouldn’t surprise me if these people ended up committing mass suicide.”
Other security guards like him had been gathered there. He was in an indoor space at gate 17 on the outside of the dome-shaped tournament facility. The guards were supposed to remain outside the dome, but it was a white hell at -20 degrees out there. With all the unmanned weapons deployed, no flesh-and-blood human would want to be out there. Shar assumed the higher ups who had given the order had warmed their heads too much with the heaters and forgotten that human bodily fluids froze at 0 degrees.
One of his fellow guards looked around hesitantly as he too neglected to perform his patrolling duties.
“Academy City espers are freaks, too. It’s just a choice between the freaks you know and the freaks you don’t.”
“They’re all a bunch of damn skunks. I don’t want to fight with them or even have anything to do with them. I don’t want to be their enemy or their ally. If you poke at them the wrong way, they’ll spray that stink all over you. Even if you win, you aren’t gonna be happy in the end.”
He then heard the sound of something rolling. It was coming from the small wheels of a suitcase. A girl with an excellent body approached in the passageway that was dim due to having too few fluorescent lights for its size.
“Which way to the waiting room?”
“Keep following this passageway, and you should find another guard, Miss Opendays.”
“Understood. I will ask him.”
Just as the girl passed him, she muttered in his ear.
“In this tunnel-like passageway, your voice carries a good ways. Be careful.”
Shar Berylan felt sweat appear on his back.
He timidly turned around just in time to see the girl called Opendays disappearing down the dim passageway.
“She probably heard that too. Also, I’m surprised you learned the names of the contestants.”
“She’s one of more normal ones,” spat out Shar. “C’mon, let’s go elsewhere. All the freaks are gonna pass through here. At this rate, we’re gonna have to deal with someone wearing only pajamas and obsessed with oneiromancy or someone wearing tons of bandages and obsessed with blood type fortune telling.”
“Let’s try to find a coffee vending machine. And is the heater even working here?”
Just as they started moving, they heard a slight squishing noise come from the dim passageway.
Only after the noise continued at an irregular pace, did they realize the noise was a footstep. It had simply not seemed like a noise a fellow human being could make.
But something else was strange.
While the noise itself continued repeatedly, it did not come from just one place. It had originally sounded as if it had come from down the passageway, but it could be heard coming from the walls, the ceiling, and finally even right next to their ears and pressing up against their backs. Shar turned around again and again, but he could see no one there.
Finally, a figure appeared down the passageway.
He could not tell if the figure was male or female. The figure was completely covered in worn-out cloth to the top of his or her head, so not even the shape of the face or the overall silhouette could be seen. Shar was not even sure if the figure had two eyes and a mouth.
A strange noise came from where one would assume a face would be.
Shar could tell it was something like a voice, but he could not tell what was being said. As the figure’s footsteps resounded from the walls and roof, it slowly passed by Shar.
Shar was quite proud of himself for not immediately holding up his carbine.
Finally, the figure disappeared down the other side of the passageway. He disappeared in the same direction the girl called Opendays had gone. He(?) was one of the participants in the Natural Selector tournament. He was one of the freaks gathered to oppose Academy City.
His fellow guard started breathing heavily as if he had suddenly remembered he had to breathe and asked Shar a question with his eyes open wide.
“…What the hell was that?”
“One of the favorites for victory,” spat out Shar in response. “Goes by the name Grecky Reletsman and supposedly uses magic. So what, is this person going to pull a dove out of a silk hat?”
The Natural Selector tournament began without delay.
Many types of “freaks” were gathered.
It was possible something not even Academy City could control was mixed in among them.
Saflee Opendays was one of the participants in the Natural Selector tournament. She was around 20 years old, and her shoulder-length blonde hair and white skin were her defining physical characteristic. Her body was not bad to look at either. She looked good enough to get a job as a magazine model, but she personally preferred the world of fist fighting.
In the locker-filled participant waiting room, Saflee checked over her outfit. Belying her expectations when she had heard of the dome-shaped tournament facility, the waiting room was rather simple. The snowy Eastern European weather did not help, and the supposedly heated waiting room left a chill spreading into her feet. Was the entire facility the same?
However, her outfit was also part of the problem.
What she wore resembled a deep blue party dress, but the material it was made of and the strength of their seams had greatly been altered. Above the dress, leather belts were wrapped around mostly her upper body.
Those belts were not strategically placed to give her some kind of advantage.
First, a tournament was a type of show business, so she wanted to stand out in some way.
Second, she wanted to give any enemy that specialized in throws an obvious target to grab for.
Natural Selector allowed equipment up to a total weight of 80 kilograms, but the only equipment other than her clothes Saflee had weighed a mere 500 grams.
She also wore fingerless gloves with urethane inside in order to reduce the stress to her fists.
“…Now then. I’m done changing,” she muttered.
Speaking to oneself was a stereotypical way of mental changes appearing externally, but it could also be used as a simple means of autosuggestion. Needless to say, regulating one’s mental state was immensely useful in sports and combat.
“You, spiky-haired Asian boy. Could you explain to me why you charged in here while I was in the middle of changing?”
This time, she was not going through a solo process of intentionally regulating her mental state. She actually had someone to speak to.
The spiky-haired boy was not in some cute situation where his cheek had a bit of crimson in it from an open-handed slap. Instead, he had been skillfully pummeled by elbows and knees that had been intended to be used in the actual tournament. The boy was limply lying on a bench and his face was horribly swollen as if he had stuck his face into a giant bee hive.
“…I’m Kamijou Thouma. Nithe to meeth you.”
"I am Saflee Opendays. My hobby is all kinds of physical fighting. If I broke any of your teeth, I apologize. I cannot do anything beyond apologizing though.”
“I theem to be fine.”
“You seem to be trying to play this off as nothing, but I’m actually quite worried. You seemed to be fairly fit, but you’re an amateur, aren’t you? Do I need to call a doctor?”
“Can we just continue our conversation?”
“I heard what you said while I was changing.” Saflee leaned up against the locker and sighed with her arms folded. “You said someone intentionally had Natural Selector – or rather, the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians sponsoring it – created. And you want to destroy this person’s aspirations and bring the Academy City cooperative institutions back to their original position.”
“It was Leivinia Birdway,” replied Kamijou Touma while mumbling a bit. “She used the incident in Hawaii to give the cooperative institutions a sense of danger leading to their splitting off and becoming an independent group. How this is related to the magic cabal called Gremlin—think of them as something like a terrorist group—is still unknown, but Gremlin has to be planning to do something related to the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians.”
“And this has all shown itself in the form of Natural Selector?”
“Exactly.” Kamijou sighed. “I have no idea what they’re after, but Natural Selector has to have a purpose beyond the official one. And I doubt that reason will be a good thing for the participants like you.”
“So they’re going to throw us into giant refrigerators as specimens for some kind of human experiment?”
“…I suppose it’s possible.”
Saflee was at a loss for words when the boy seriously responded to her joke.
Kamijou Touma continued in a low voice.
“I don’t know what Gremlin is after either, but given Radiosonde Castle and the invasion of Hawaii, their objective is sure to make a lot of people suffer when it comes to the surface. Knowing that, I cannot overlook this. It’s also partly my fault that things have gotten so serious.”
He did not speak in some overly grand way as if in an attempt to convince her. This actually made his words seem oddly real.
However, she had her own reason to participate in the tournament.
“Why did you contact me?”
“No reason. To be honest, I got lost and came in here by accident. I don’t know the layout of Baggage City. I would appreciate it if you would help me, but I think that would be very dangerous, so I don’t recommend it.”
“So I can’t participate in the tournament or take any action to destroy it? What do you want me to do then?”
“If possible I want you to escape as soon as you can.”
“That I most certainly cannot do.”
“I’ll think about it if you defeat me in a quick three minute match.”
Having previously had his face pummeled by her “Kyaahh! Pervert!!” reaction, Kamijou quickly raised his hands above his head.
Saflee gave a small smile.
“I am neither for nor against your plan. As long as I can achieve my objective, I do not care. Once I do so, Natural Selector can be cancelled and the Anti-Academy City Science Guardians can be demolished for all I care.”