Chapter 1: Princess of the Bladed City
“Damn it!! How’d it come to this…!”
The boy looked up to see that the sky had suddenly turned quite ugly. He was with two others, and around them stood over fifty grotesque creatures. The creatures were massive; they must have been almost three meters tall. Their arms were big as well, but in contrast, their legs and waists were thin and scrawny. Their skin had some sort of metallic-reddish color, clearly made of some unknown substance, and their heads looked like they had been drawn on by abstract artists experimenting with new designs.
Shape-wise they weren’t too different from humans, but their deformed body shapes and peculiar figures certainly made them look more like cartoon characters. They were weird… weird enough that it only took one glance to know that they did not come from this planet.
These things were unknown entities that had suddenly appeared around twenty-nine years ago. They were, of course, the <Unknowns>, the ones that caused the very first calamity in this world.
“What the hell! Who the hell led us here? Look at this shit!”
“Shut up! You came here to rack up points in the first place, didn’t you?”
“Stop, you guys!” screamed a girl as she tried to calm the boys. “This isn’t the time to be arguing!”
The boys gritted their teeth and turned their attention back to the <Unknowns>. The hatred in their eyes may have been intense, but naturally, the <Unknowns> did not back down. Instead, they gave off a screeching sound from somewhere in their bodies and slowly closed crept forward bit by bit. That jarring screech was said to be their battle cry, a cry they did when they all received an order. In this case, perhaps they had just decided on how to kill the students. Hearing the screech, the boys couldn’t control their trembling, so they just gripped their weapons even tighter.
Originally, this situation should have never occurred in the first place. They were students that lived in Kanagawa, the only city that defended the coast. However, they were not acting on orders from the higher-ups, but rather, they were acting alone.
Speaking of which, it wasn’t like they were looking for a fight to the death in the first place. They certainly weren’t looking to fight the main armies of the <Unknowns> that came out of the gate in Tokyo Bay. Instead, they were trying to pick off some stragglers around the coast for some easy points to raise their school ranks.
Today’s little hunt should have already been over. They only spotted out five ogre class <Unknowns> at first, which they would have taken down relatively easily since they themselves had ten people in their unit. However, before they noticed it, seven of their ten members had been captured, and they were suddenly surrounded by ten times the <Unknowns> they initially saw. They weren’t completely sure, but they had probably walked straight into a trap.
The <Unknowns> continued to advance as they screeched even more. It was almost as if they were laughing at the remaining three students.
Waving his weapon around, one of the boys screamed out, “Don’t fuck with me you damn monsters!” His weapon was pretty much a mace— it had a long handle with a piece of metal on the end.
He focused his mind on the back of his neck. Once he did, power seemed to flow throughout his entire body, and once again he took another look at the <Unknowns> creeping before him. He then kicked the ground and sprung towards them, brandishing his mace out in front. Light soon emitted from the tip of the mace as he thrusted it into the shoulder of an <Unknown>, who seemed to scream out in pain.
“How’s that, you— ” his voice trailed off. From both sides, more <Unknowns> were closing in on him fast.
“Watch out!” the girl shouted out, pushing the boy away from the <Unknowns>. The <Unknowns> released some sort of thick substance from their hands that wrapped around her entire body. For a while she could struggle a bit in it, but soon she was completely unable to move, almost like she had been trapped in a cocoon.
“This fuck…” The boy stood up and raised his weapon once again. But, the <Unknowns> used that same thick substance on the handle of his mace and pulled it away from his hands, leaving him speechless and weaponless. Looking at his inevitable death, he did nothing more but tremble and fall to his knees.
It was at that moment, however, that everything changed. A flash of light suddenly appeared in front of him, and in just a split second, one of the <Unknowns> near him was split cleanly into two pieces.
No, on second look, it wasn’t just one. The entire fifty <Unknowns> that had surrounded them were all cut into two. Every single one of them was killed in an instant, and before the boy could even blink, a mountain of their corpses had piled up before him.
He could do nothing else but stare in amazement.
Near the coast, on a watchtower far away from the battlefield, Akira Shinomiya confirmed all the kill counts. He took the specialized katana he was holding and flipped it over. In a moment, his image was reflected onto the blade.
Apart from the time he spent in the cold sleep, he was about seventeen years old. However, to many, he did look a bit older, maybe because he looked and felt somewhat dangerous. His glaring, sharp eyes went accompanied by his tight lips, but they were both covered by his relatively ungroomed front bangs. Honestly though, his look was reminiscent to a demon or something peeking out from behind some trees in the forest. If his bangs were trees, that is.
“Well done, Shino.”
Shino’s ears perked up a bit upon hearing that all too familiar voice. He took a look and noticed a single girl, Hotaru, standing behind him. She had hair that went up to her shoulders and a nice, friendly looking face. She too was probably observing the battle from a distance, since she was holding a pair of binoculars.
“How was that, teacher? How’d that feel?” jokingly asked Hotaru.
Shino slightly exhaled and sheathed his sword. “Just the same as always,” he said with a dry, but powerful voice.
“Wow, that’s so cool! Someday I want to be in that position~”
Shino didn’t respond.
“Don’t make that scary face,” continued Hotaru, shrugging. “It’s a compliment, you know?”
He knew. It wasn’t like he meant to make a scary face, so he tried to loosen his face a bit with his hand and started to walk out.
“Ah, you’re heading home already?”
“My work here is done. There’s no more need for me to be here. Also— ” his voice was cut off by Hotaru nodding and going, “Ah, I see.”
“By the way, Kanaya called,” said Hotaru. “We gotta head back. Perhaps more missions?”
“Probably,” said Shino as he looked out to the left. The tower they were on was built for the sole purpose of observing the <Unknowns>, especially those that came out of the gate. From where they were at, they were able to see almost everything around them.
Even though they could see everything, the view was certainly not pretty. The area around them was disastrous, since it only consisted of the wreckage and ruins caused by the <Unknowns>. There were also a few large buildings and railroad cars scattered around the area, but they definitely were not well maintained. The roads that ran across the area were not much better. They were fixed just enough to travel on, though no one really used them for the most part. The whole area was so bad that even if it were the set of an apocalyptic movie, the director would say that it looked too rough.
“There’s been barely any progress on the restoration…” said Shino, saying the first thing that came to mind as he looked around the area.
“It has been twenty-one years since the end of the war,” said Hotaru worryingly. “That’s a long time, but…”
“There’s not much we can do, though. We lack manpower, and even if we do our best to restore everything, the <Unknowns> will still come again.”
Hotaru sighed. “Hey… do you think Japan really won?”
Shino didn’t respond. Twenty-one years ago, every nation, including Japan, suffered heavy losses at the hands of the <Unknowns>. According to what they’ve been told, it took humanity eight years to drive off them off and secure their victory. That’s why all the non-combatants, like Shino back during that time, were awakened from their cold sleeps.
However, humans were unable to communicate with the <Unknowns>, much less make a peace treaty with them.
In a normal war between humans, no matter how grim it got, there always lied some compromise that could be agreed upon between the countries. The leaders may say that a war must be fought for the greater good, but in reality, most of them were in it for the money they could make.
On the other hand, <Unknowns> were certainly not like that. Even though humans had fought them face to face on the battlefield, they could not understand a thing about them. That’s why the humans just arbitrarily declared that the war was over based on the fact that the <Unknowns> weren’t attacking as much as they were in the beginning.
In other words, the word “victory” was nothing but a farce. Humans were only “victors” in the sense that they hadn’t been obliterated by the <Unknowns> yet.
Shino understood this quite well. Japan alone had over 32 million casualties, almost a quarter of their entire population. How was that a victory? The remaining survivors probably just called it a “victory” to put themselves at ease, even though it was very much an empty word.
“… They decided that we won,” said Shino sternly. “Twenty-nine years ago, as foolish as the world may have been, people began to drive off the <Unknowns>. They succeeded, so right now we’re just taking care of the remaining ones that hadn’t been killed off yet. So…”
“I see, yeah, definitely…” nodded Hotaru.
Hotaru Rindou was a clever girl. She was clever enough to have her own opinions on the matter, but she didn’t voice any of it. Perhaps she knew that there would be no point in discussing the topic any more.
So, without saying another word, the two descended down the tower.
It took the train about forty minutes to get back to the South Kanto Administration Bureau. As the name suggested, a temporary government was set up there to assume direct control over the South Kanto area. Its sole purpose was to manage Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba so that they could defend the area from the gate in Tokyo Bay where most of the <Unknowns> had been appearing.
“… You guys are finally back,” said Kanaya as Shino and Hotaru entered the room. He was a big guy, about fifty years old, and had on a pair of glasses. His face and body was scarred like no other, so much in fact that the scars alone could probably tell quite a few epics of battle. However, despite his rough appearances, he seemed quite intelligent, both through his behavior and his actions.
His full name was Hisahide Kanaya. Twenty-nine years ago, he took up arms and fought as the war was just beginning. He was the head of the 4th Materials Management Division, in charge of both Shino and Hotaru. That being said, their division really didn’t do stuff within their own bureau or even other departments. Their main goal was to assist the students of the city, whether it be helping them solve issues or even just maintaining public order. They dealt a lot with the public, and as such, they didn’t really work behind-the-scenes. That’s why they weren’t called anything special— they didn’t want to stand out too much or seem too imposing on the students.
“Yeah,” replied Hotaru.
Shino spoke as well. “What’s the matter, boss?”
Kanaya nodded. “Take a look at this,” he said, taking out a single photo and placing it on the desk.
Shino grabbed the photo and said, “Let me see.” It was a picture of a sweet and innocent looking little girl. With having very pale hair and a slim neck, she seemed to be suffering from some sort of long-term illness. Despite looking so feeble like that, she wasn’t wearing any sort of hospital gown in the picture. No, in it she had on a pure white uniform with bright golden buttons sewed onto it. There was no doubt that her uniform belonged to the coastal defense city of Kanagawa.
“This girl is…” Shino raised his brow. To him, the girl looked quite familiar.
“You guys should recognize her name, at least,” interrupted Kanaya. “She’s Maihime Tenkawa, Kanagawa’s number one.”
“I knew it,” nodded Shino.
The number of adults was kept at a minimum inside each of the defense cities. Of course, each city had its adult teachers, but that was about it. Over ninety percent of the city population was under eighteen years old. Even the political structure of the city was left to the students, and that girl stood at the top of that structure. She was the number one in her city.
“Hotaru? Something wrong?” said Shino abruptly as he glanced at Hotaru who was just standing beside him.
For some reason, Hotaru froze up after seeing the photograph. She didn’t even say a word for a while.
“… Huh? What?” she finally said.
“That’s my line, you know… You okay?”
Hotaru nodded. “Y-Yeah. I’m fine.”
Shino got quiet. There was something clearly up with Hotaru, and Shino was definitely curious about it, but it didn’t seem like she wanted to talk about it. So, he turned his attention back to Kanaya.
“So what about this Maihime Tenkawa?” he continued, despite having a good idea of the situation after thinking about it for a bit. He thought that perhaps she had been abusing her powers as the city head by doing some shady stuff. After all, this sort of thing wasn’t rare when dealing with student governed governments, especially in these types of cities. Sometimes people would inflate their egos so much that they would begin to do all sorts of things without a check for their powers. One of this division’s main duties was also investigating students in high-ranking governmental positions.
Cases like these usually revolved around people embezzling government funds, illegally selling military weaponry, or overusing their power in some way. In the past, there was a famous case of people creating underground gambling pits that were also used as a place to deal drugs.
From the picture alone, the girl didn’t seem like someone too shady, but obviously, looks didn’t determine everything. The previous war resulted in a government that gave complete, uncontested power to the strongest people. It’s entirely possible that she could have been corrupted by this power. To be fair though, Shino didn’t recall her doing anything bad at all recently that warranted his attention. As long as she didn’t do anything outrageous, a stern warning should suffice for now.
“First Ranked Akira Shinomiya and Second Ranked Hotaru Rindou, I order you both to…” Kanaya paused. “Kill Maihime Tenkawa, the head of Kanagawa.”
Shino was shocked— he clearly did not expect this order. “Huh…” he muttered with his face looking more and more confused. Next to him, Hotaru nervously gulped.
“Kill? Like kill as in assassinate?” asked Shino.
“Exactly. We will have you kill her in any way, shape or form,” said Kanaya as his eyebrows twitched. His expression stayed cold, however. “Of course, just make sure that her death can’t be traced back to us and we’re good.”
Shino held his hand out hesitantly. “Wait, wait. Why?” he said, glaring at Kanaya. Shino was not the type of person to go against his orders, but as expected the circumstances were different this time around.
They were much different. The work they did covered a wide range of things and was certainly not pretty with all things considered. Despite that, everything they did was for the sake of the people, especially the boys and girls fighting on the front lines. But, this… this was an assassination. Even worse, it’s an assassination of the city’s top ranking student. Clearly, even from a defense standpoint, there would be dire consequences for doing such a thing, and it surely didn’t take a genius to know that. Kanaya definitely had to be aware of the consequences of the order.
And that’s why Shino was so suspicious. Even with all that, Kanaya still handed down the order to kill the number one protector of that city.
Kanaya simply shook his head. With a quiet, but heavy voice, he said, “Sorry, but these are special and classified orders from above. You guys don’t have the authority to know why.”
Kanaya was an adult veteran. He was different in that he didn’t possess a <World>. If he had tried to fight anyone who did have a <World>, there was no doubt that he’d lose in a second. Shino knew this, but still objected in a way that didn’t flaunt his power.
“Is it your job to question me?” snapped Kanaya.
Shino sighed softly and turned silent. He straightened up his stance and saluted. “Akira Shinomiya, first rank, I shall carry out the order.”
Kanaya was right… Shino’s job was just to stay loyal and follow orders. After all, that order was probably the result of countless discussions by the higher ups. There was no room for opinions, and certainly no room for objections. Underlings that went against their orders would only result in the downfall of the organization.
“Ah… I as well,” said Hotaru as she too saluted.
Kanaya did a big nod. “Alright. You two will transfer to Kanagawa Academy and stay undercover as students. Your transfer paperwork has already been falsified and taken care of. All that’s left is your briefings. Well then, good luck.”
Shino and Hotaru both saluted one more time and promptly left the office.