When he opened his eyes, Kamijou Touma had trouble deciding whether he had actually woken up or if he was still asleep.
This was not because his mind was hazy. He actually felt sharply focused.
It was because he was surrounded by darkness in all directions.
(What…huh…? Wh-where am I?)
Kamijou felt around with his hands in the pitch black darkness. The area was small. Incredibly small. Before he extended his arms even halfway, he reached a hard wall and his legs could extend no further than half-bent. His movement was blocked by a smooth plastic feeling.
Due to certain circumstances, he had grown used to sleeping in the bathtub of his dorm room’s bathroom, but even he felt this space was cramped.
Various possibilities began racing through his mind. Had he been stuffed into a refrigerator? Had he been buried alive?
What sounded like the amplified sound of an insect flying reverberated throughout the small space. At the same moment, a light came on in the darkness. This was not a powerful light that filled the space evenly like a fluorescent light. It was a single point of light in the darkness as if from a firefly or a sparkler. Although this light was brighter than those examples.
But even that small light blinded him at first.
Finally, Kamijou noticed the light was contained within a rectangle about the size of a business card. He then realized what it was.
It was a fairly outdated model of cell phone that had been beaten up due to Kamijou’s dirty lifestyle. It was supposed to fold in two, but it was lying open on the floor(?).
It seemed someone was calling him.
However, Kamijou was focused less on the phone and more on the cramped space that was now dimly lit. Unlike in the pitch black darkness from before, he could vaguely see the outlines of the area. Normally, he would have been relieved to gain more information, but this was no normal situation. The area was small. It was much, much smaller than he had imagined. It may have been about the size of a washing machine. It was more a box than a room. Now that he could see the ceiling(?) right in front of his nose, he almost felt he was having trouble breathing.
Kamijou finally grabbed the phone.
He recognized the name displayed on the screen.
“We have no time to spare, so I’ll keep this short, Kami-yan.”
Tsuchimikado Motoharu was his neighbor in the dorms and a classmate at his high school.
But he was also a spy for multiple groups who gathered information from both the science side and the magic side. His voice here was low, smooth, and heavy. That was the voice he used when speaking as that spy.
“A new magician has made their way into Academy City. If they aren’t stopped, the city will be greatly damaged.”
“A magician?” Kamijou frowned. “You mean another Gremlin member has entered the city?”
They had caused a lot of trouble just the other day.
The Norse-centric magic cabal named Gremlin and Ollerus’s group had confronted each other over a woman named Fräulein Kreutune. Their conflict had ended up in the middle of Academy City of all places.
If Kamijou and the others had not manipulated events from behind the scenes, they would have caused chaotic battles throughout the city and most of those battles would have turned the large parts of the city into rubble.
Was that happening again?
That thought sent a chill down Kamijou’s spine, but…
“No,” readily denied Tsuchimikado. “This time it’s a Vajrayana-style magician. I doubt they are related to Gremlin.”
“Why someone else?”
“There is more to the magic side than Gremlin. Some magicians that have nothing to do with their actions might see a way to take advantage of the commotion they caused.”
That was very bad.
Kamijou tried to hold his head in his hand, but his elbow struck the wall of the cramped space.
“The enemy’s name is Umezaki Yuuga. As I said, this is a Vajrayana-style magician…but they are not all that powerful. In fact, they’re quite weak. You should be more than enough to handle them, Kami-yan.”
“But isn’t this an emergency?”
“Thanks to a certain spiritual item,” said Tsuchimikado as if spitting out something bitter. “The Altar of the Wisdom King. It’s a special Homa altar this magician uses. …Would you like an explanation on what a Homa altar is?”
“It’s a tool Vajrayanans use for mental training. They burn special wood and let the flames and smoke cleanse them of all worldly thoughts. They come in different sizes. The smaller ones are like a candle you can hold between your fingers and the larger ones are more like a camp fire. There’s also the Inner Homa where you picture the Homa altar in your head.”
Kamijou tried to tilt his head in confusion, but felt an odd pain in his back. He had no idea how long he had been trapped like this, but the unnatural pose was causing his joints to scream in protest.
“How big is this one?” he asked.
“It’s made to be mobile. It folds up like an outdoor table. When folded up, it’s no bigger than a duralumin case.”
Kamijou tried to twist his body around in the small space and an unpleasant cracking noise came from his back.
“Normally, a Homa altar is used to alter the user’s mind. The altar cleanses worldly thoughts to increase one’s focus, so they are not all that dangerous. However, the Altar of the Wisdom King takes advantage of that ability.”
“In other words, it acts outwardly rather than inwardly. It is a special altar created to alter the minds of others. Once it is used, it will suck out all of the knowledge and skills of everyone within five kilometers. …Now what if that was done in an important area of Academy City?”
“They would steal all the information on esper powers…”
“Not only that, but the Altar of the Wisdom King forcibly rips out that knowledge and skill. Scientifically speaking, you could say it destroys the synapses and autonomic nerves. Not only will those people be unable to walk, they won’t even be able to breathe or keep their heart beating.”
Not a single aspect of this was amusing.
Any area in Academy City was densely populated. If that spiritual item was activated and exterminated everyone within five kilometers, just how many people would die?
“What’s the time limit?”
“Two hours at the worst. But even being generous, no more than three hours.”
Two hours. 120 minutes.
That was too little time. Even in a walled off city, Kamijou doubted he would coincidentally run into this magician just by searching around at random.
“So this…um, Vajrayana person…”
“Do you know where they are trying to set up the Altar of the Wisdom King?”
“Yes, but the circumstances make it hard to get in. I don’t know if this Umezaki is after the knowledge or simply trying to kill, but they are attacking an important area. Someone with no official position will be forced to enter illegally even in order to save the day.”
“And you’re saying doing that will be hard?”
“Especially for you or me. Honestly, sexual discrimination is just wrong.”
“What?” said Kamijou in confusion.
Tsuchimikado then revealed the problem they faced.
“It’s the School Garden. That garden of maidens that is jointly controlled by five prestigious girls’ schools including Tokiwadai Middle.”
Kamijou let out a groan.
That was indeed a treasure trove of important information related to psychic powers development, but it was about the worst possible place for boys like Kamijou or Tsuchimikado.
“…What are we supposed to do?”
“We won’t have a problem if Umezaki Yuuga is caught by the security of those girls’ schools, but somehow I doubt that will happen. We have to do this knowing how unreasonable it is. We have to sneak in after this magician.”
“But this is the School Garden, right!? Tokiwadai alone is a monstrous school supported by the #3 and #5. They’re full of cutting edge technology that isn’t allowed outside the schools and they have the facilities and budget needed to protect it all. How are we supposed to sneak in there!?”
In all seriousness, Kamijou would not be surprised if the situation progressed similarly to a child being chased by an attack dog after crossing a fence to retrieve a ball. He might even be opposed with firearms. And on top of that, magic was not officially recognized by Academy City, so no one would believe him if he explained the situation after being caught. He was certain he would end up labeled a giant pervert on the headlines of the net news.
“The situation may be serious, but it isn’t as bad as sneaking into a government leader’s house,” said Tsuchimikado.
“I was imagining this being more like sneaking into a fenced-off military base.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve already taken care of it, nyahh!!”
After that shout, Tsuchimikado hung up.
Kamijou did not even have time to frown.
All of a sudden, orange sparks flew through the air with an odd bursting noise. It was like watching a fuse burn on fast forward. It seemed the box had been dismantled with gunpowder because it split part to the left and right as if Kamijou Touma was being born from a peach. He finally got a peek at the outside world.
He saw a space lined with tall, narrow lockers.
He saw a space filled with backless benches.
He saw a space that was filled with a somehow sweet aroma.
He saw a space where girls in their underwear were chatting as if their state of undress was normal.
He saw a space where high class ringlet curl girls in their underwear were using their giant hair irons that were the size of wooden swords to have mock swordfights.
To sum it up, he saw a girls’ locker room in some school.
Kamijou was at a loss for words as a total of approximately twenty gazes turned in his direction.
Everyone remained silent.
After a few seconds had passed, Kamijou finally realized he had been stuffed inside a box on top of a pushcart. The situation was straight out of a hidden camera show for performers known for their reactions, but there was no camera.
Who had done this?
That was obvious. It had obviously been that rotten, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, sunglasses-wearing, nyah nyah onmyouji!
But Kamijou did not have time to explain.
The situation was made all the worse by the cell phone in his hand.
The small digital camera lens on the device would invite even more misunderstanding.
And then a loud voice erupted.
However, it was not a cute “Kyaaah!”
“Death to the street performing voyeur! Kill hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!”
“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Why do I have to fall prey to the world’s lamest false accusatioooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnn!?”
He rolled out of the way of a strange mountain of flames and pillar of ice before fleeing outside through a stainless steel door. He seemed to be in a building meant for school sports clubs, but he had no idea exactly where he was.
As he scrambled away from that locker room, a female student he came across screamed. As he ran from her, another girl screamed and then another. At this point Kamijou finally noticed something odd.
Why had he been running into nothing but girls?
“It can’t be…”
All of a sudden, Kamijou found himself running out of a school entrance with a bronze sign saying “Private Shidarezakura Academy”. As he fled into the European-style street, he found nothing but girls, girls, girls everywhere he looked. Kamijou Touma—or rather, the presence of a boy—caused looks of fear and screams from everyone on the street.
At this point, even Kamijou could guess what had happened.
“That sunglasses-wearing nyah nyah bastard. Did he pack me in a box and ship me to the School Garden!?”
He did not have time to explain the situation.
Even now, Umezaki Yuuga was preparing the Altar of the Wisdom King.
If it was activated, the lives of everyone within five kilometers would be lost and information on Academy City’s cutting edge technology and psychic powers development would be stolen.
To keep that from happening…
To save the lives of every single person in the School Garden…
Kamijou Touma had to accept the label of pervert and capture the magician who was running rampant in this garden of maidens!