“Ughhhh….” In Kanagawa’s city office, Tenkawa Maihime groaned, having just finished her training and academics. Usually around this time late in the afternoon she would be enjoying a cake at some coffee shop, but occasionally she had to stay late and finish up some work. Today she had to stamp through mountains of paperwork. These were documents written by her subordinates, so all she really had to do was stamp the documents she approved. But still, there were just so many of them… Stuff like budget, early graduation, and business requests were waiting to be stamped.
The work was so braindead that anyone would have fallen asleep doing it for long periods of time. Maihime was only halfway through the stack before she zoned out and just relied on her muscle memory to keep stamping. After what seemed like an eternity, she suddenly heard a knock at the door.
“Yeah….?” she said with a big yawn.
A familiar voice answered back. “It’s Yaegaki.”
“Oh, come on in.”
“Okay,” said Yaegaki, opening the door. She was a student in Kanagawa, just like Maihime, though she wore her uniform a bit more conservatively. She did seem like a shy girl with her glasses and her neatly trimmed hair that went up to her shoulders.
“What’s the matter, Aoi?” she paused. “Oh…”
The moment she looked up and saw Aoi Yaegaki, her face darkened. Aoi was holding more stacks of papers that needed to be approved. Maihime wasn’t even done with the stack on her desk…
“Wow… Even more?”
Aoi glanced downwards, depressed. “I’m sorry… but these things can’t progress without your approval,” she said apologetically.
“Oh…” Maihime felt bad hearing her apologize. She felt like she did something bad, so she just stretched out her arms and sighed. “Okay, got it. Just put it over there.”
“Sure thing,” nodded Aoi. “Actually, you know what, why don’t you take a break? I got something good for you here…”
Maihime relaxed her body a bit and looked back up at Aoi, who brought out a white paper box. It wasn’t just any box, though… this box was from Maihime’s favorite coffee shop! She had ordered something to go.
“Wow! Are you serious?? Why?” she said as her eyes opened. She leaned forward onto the desk, and Aoi just stood there giggling.
“I heard you were looking forward to this, haha… This was something you wanted, right?”
Maihime nodded enthusiastically. “Of course it is! I love you so much, Aoi~”
Aoi’s face turned red as she smiled embarrassingly. “I’ll prepare some tea, too. Just wait there for a bit, okay?”
“Okay!” nodded Maihime. She sat up straight and blushed a little.
Aoi took one look at Maihime and smiled again before walking over to the shelf where the pot and cups were placed. Maihime continued to be in high spirits as she sat, almost like a dog who was told to stay. But, after a while, she suddenly stood up. She walked to another table in the room and started clearing some space on it. The table was technically supposed to be used for reception purposes, but most of the time it was used for tea parties.
“Ah! Sorry about that, Tenkawa.”
Maihime shook her head and said, “It’s all good!”
“Nice,” said Aoi. “You want a lot of milk in yours, right?”
“Wow, how’d you know?” said Maihime lightheartedly as she used a cloth to wipe the table. It was late in the day, but at least she could have her tea time today. “It’s melon cake! So pretty…”
Maihime took a closer look at the cake as she sat down on the sofa in front of the table— it was a shortcake with actual thin melon slices on top. Without hesitation, she took out a fork and pulled out a big piece of cake and popped it into her mouth. Instantly she not only tasted the sweetness of the cake, but also the slight acidity of the fruit. She couldn’t help but do a big grin as she squealed in delight.
Looking at her from the other side of the table, Aoi couldn’t help but grin as well.
“It’s delicious!” nodded Maihime. “Actually, more than that! It’s as good as the ones we had when we were little… I think.”
Well, it wasn’t like they could remember the taste that well, but there was no doubt that this cake would satisfy even the pickiest of eaters who lived before the war.
There really weren’t a lot of sweet treats in the years before Maihime entered the academy. As time went on, however, candies, cream, and other sweets started to be produced and sold. This, along with the introduction of some other luxury items, showed that the city was in fact on the path to becoming what it once was.
“It’s because the Chiba manufacturing plants have begun to introduce more and more fruits for us…” explained Aoi. “I heard from this month onwards they’re getting some new seeds from inland so they could start making some luxury fruits.”
“Wow… I can’t wait for that,” said Maihime as she took a big gulp of tea.
There were three cities by the coast that served as bases to protect the inland, and they each had their own roles to fulfill. Chiba handled all the food supply, Tokyo housed the central government, and Kanagawa manufactured most of the <World> materializing weapons. In Kanagawa’s case, the weapons that were difficult to manufacture were imported from inland. On the other hand, Chiba for the most part did not rely on them at all. In fact, in recent years, it’s been said that Chiba had been sending their extra food supply inland.
“Even so…” Maihime glanced at her desk. “Why’s there so much more papers coming in recently? I feel it increases every year…”
“Well, that just shows how much the city is growing, right? There’s been more and more shops popping up, and plus, there’s new transfer students coming in, too.”
Maihime’s eyes widened. “Really? Transfer students?”
After the <Unknown’s> main invasion, Maihime and most the other children were awakened from the cold sleep. Not all the children were awakened, though. The war left Japan in a barely habitable state, so there wasn’t enough food and housing to accommodate everyone if they all woke up.
Generally, if cities needed more people for whatever reason, the children would be awoken one facility at a time and be assigned to the different cities. Because of that, in the beginning, most children were the same age, but as time went on, their ages started to vary bit by bit.
“Yes… Wasn’t it written on one of the documents I had you check yesterday?” said Aoi.
Maihime had a blank look on her face. “Huh? Umm… Yeah, it was written on there… I-I think…”
The room suddenly turned awkwardly silent as they both stopped talking. Maihime was even holding her breath— the silence was uncomfortable enough to make her sweat. Finally, she breathed out and looked down a bit.
“… I’m so sorry, I lied… I didn’t see it,” she said.
“I-It’s okay! You don’t have to apologize…” said Aoi, smiling bitterly. “It’d be great if you could look over each one, but I know there’re just so much of them. How about for now I’ll take a look at them, and just send you the ones that have some issues. I’ll also send you the important ones too, of course, and put those on top of the stack, okay?”
Maihime bowed her head even lower and said, “… Thanks, thanks so much!”
“D-Don’t worry about it!” said a flustered Aoi.
“But still, it’s rare to see people getting awoken around this time…”
“I know, but it happens,” said Aoi. “Sometimes the equipment can get a little wonky too, and people get awakened prematurely.
“I see…” nodded Maihime. She paused. “Transfer students, huh?” she said as she took another bite of cake.
“I’m Akira Shinomiya.” He bowed.
“… And I’m Hotaru Rindou. Please to meet you all.” She bowed as well.
The students started to clap. They were in a classroom, and the atmosphere seemed quite friendly and welcoming. It had been three days since they were given the order to assassinate Maihime, and within those three days they were able to successfully transfer to her class in Kanagawa.
Speaking of which, Kanagawa no longer referred to the Japanese prefecture Kanagawa. It was the year 2049, so Kanagawa was now a city rather than a prefecture, and it pretty much consisted of fortresses built in the old Yokohama city. Starting with the academy as its center, the city slowly expanded until it became what it was now— a “fortress” of over 10,000 people. The manufacturing facilities were built in the west, and those ran nonstop producing essential weapons for the cities. These facilities were known to be South Kanto’s weapon warehouses that stored all their firepower. Occasionally, they would get their supplies from Tokyo or Chiba by the trains that ran through the city.
Shino and Hotaru were assigned to the 2nd year, D class. In general, students in these cities weren’t separately randomly into classes. They were instead divided by their battle platoon. By doing so, students would not only be classmates in the classroom, but also fellow fighters in the field of battle.
All the students were in their teens, presumably because they were awakened around the same time. However, both Shino and Hotaru were clearly not in the same circumstances, so the class was undoubtedly interested in them. It wasn’t even the afternoon yet as Hotaru was swarmed by her new classmates.
“Wow, a transfer student….”
“Hey, hey… Do you have a boyfriend?”
The chatter went on endlessly.
Hotaru could barely respond; she only managed to mutter a few words. Like Shino, she was thoroughly briefed on her fake history, and she did study it, but she was so overwhelmed by the flurry of questions that she couldn’t quite remember it clearly.
Shino, on the other hand, stayed unusually silent. There were plenty of students that were curious about him as well, but Shino unwillingly made himself quite unapproachable. He would return every glance his way with a look of his own, and that somehow made all the students not want to come near him.
“Yo, transfer,” said a random boy. “Don’t give that look… No one’s gonna come your way, see?”
Shino stayed quiet. He wasn’t really trying to stare anybody down, but maybe it just seemed that way to the others. “I’ll try not to do that,” he finally said after a pause.
The boy continued. “Hah. Well, you’ll get it eventually… I’m Sugiishi, by the way, welcome to Kanagawa. Let’s fight together under Hime-sama, okay?”
“Hime-sama?” said Shino with a blank look.
“Huh? Ah, sorry, she’s our top fighter and representative, Maihime Tenkawa. Hime-sama’s somewhat of a nickname, I guess.”
“… I see.”
“As the head she’s the face of our city, right?” Sugiishi continued. “You know, for me, I’m so, so glad I got assigned to Kanagawa. I can’t imagine what it’d be like if I got placed with those cocky asses in Tokyo or those hillbillies in Chiba. So don’t you dare lose to those people, okay?”
“Oh, so it’s a competition, huh?”
From an outsider’s perspective, Tokyo and Chiba should share the same will of protecting the country. On second thought, however, it wasn’t rare to have disagreements within the military, especially among the air force, navy, and infantry units. Perhaps this was necessary to keep a good rivalry going so that everyone would always strive to do more.
“Yeah, exactly. In terms of individual achievements, Hime-sama is usually number one in all of Kanto, so don’t let her down, heh. She really is on a whole new level, though… Maybe once you fight her in some mock battles you’ll understand the full extent of her power,” said Sugiishi. He folded his arms together and nodded. “Plus she’s cute… Like, way cute. Her cuteness is on a whole new level, too… damn she’s awesome!”
Shino was speechless. He just stared in silence as the school bell rang, so the students went back to their seats. Sugiishi lightly waved goodbye and went back to his as well.
Kanagawa wasn’t just a place where soldiers fought the <Unknowns>. It was also a place where students could learn and grow as people. Other than the obvious military training, the school followed a curriculum that a normal school might have had before the war.
Someone opened the classroom door, rattling it. Surely it must have been the teacher, but the unexpected reaction from the class indicated otherwise. There was even somewhat of a commotion.
Shino turned and saw what was going on. The one who entered wasn’t the teacher… it was a little girl wearing a uniform with a large coat wrapped around her. Her lightly colored hair was tied into two pigtails, and her even lighter skin looked as pure as could be. She was small and didn’t look fit for battle, but her eyes reflected upon her unyielding inner spirit.
This girl could have only been one person. Yes, she was Maihime Tenkawa.
“H-Hime-sama?” a student blurted out.
Another did the same, “Woah, what are you doing here?”
The students were livid to see her, and their expressions sure showed it. The classroom started to get noisier and noisier, so Maihime clapped a few times to calm the students down.
“Alright everyone, calm down. Today’s first period is aura management, right?” she said as she put her arms on her hips triumphantly. “So, I’m here as a special guest lecturer!”
That just seemed to pump the students even more though, as more and more started to cheer out:
“Hime-sama? Wow, that’s actually so awesome!”
“Holy! Isn’t this like super rare?”
Once again, the classroom was in disarray. Generally, it’s the teacher’s job to teach the classes, but things like aura management and weapon usage required students to materialize their <Worlds>, so the adults who didn’t possess them couldn’t possibly teach such things. That’s why these topics were left to the high ranking students to teach. Still, it was extremely rare to have the city head personally come teach these classes, so it was only natural that the students were this surprised.
Even with that in mind, Maihime’s popularity was incredible. It was as if she was an idol meeting her fans.
Shino just stared quietly at her within all the commotion. There was no way he could have imagined that he’d be meeting her so soon. Of course, he wasn’t really planning to do anything special yet, but this did present a good opportunity to see what she was like.
Maihime took a good look around the room. “I heard this class had some transfer students, so I got a little interested, heh…” she said, still looking around. “Where they at?”
Shino silently raised his hand a little bit.
Maihime saw that and smiled. “It’s you, huh? I’m Maihime Tenkawa, nice to meet you! Let’s work hard together, okay?”
“Sure,” replied Shino awkwardly as he bowed. With his head down, he took a quick glance at Hotaru, but for some reason, she was trying really hard to hide herself and not show her face. It was always wise to not let the target notice you too much, though in this case, it did look a little strange. She probably stood out even more like that.
Luckily, Maihime didn’t seem to notice. “The fact that you’re a transfer means you just got out of the sleep, right?” she said, opening her textbook. “How much do you know about ?”
“Just the basics,” he promptly said.
<Worlds> weren’t something one could understand just by looking at the word, but Shino already knew what they were.
“Everyone sees different <Worlds> within their heads,” he started to explain. “Some people see <Worlds> where it’s natural to walk on air. Some have <Worlds> where things melt upon being touched. And for some <Worlds>, it’s even possible to talk to other living things.”
Upon hearing Shino’s explanation, Maihime nodded satisfactory and said, “Yes, indeed. And when we make the <Worlds> we see within our heads a reality, that’s when the magic happens,” she added on.
Maihime took a peek at the textbook and continued. “Umm… one theory is that the <Worlds> we see were from the dreams we saw in our cold sleeps… huh…” she paused. “Oh, so it was like that, wow!” She was quite surprised.
The students laughed awkwardly. “Hime-sama, don’t tell me you didn’t know that?” one of them asked.
“Don’t tell the teacher about this, okay?” she said, raising a finger up to her lip. She looked back down at the textbook. “Ah, I see… but if our bodies were frozen completely by the cold sleep, how were we able to dream? Our bodies shouldn’t have been functional, right?”
“Maybe we had a dream right before we were completely frozen,” shouted out a student. “So we just stayed in that dream state until we were awakened?”
“If that was the case then, I would have loved a dream where I was with my cute sister!” joked another student. The boys laughed, but the girls looked completely disgusted.
Maihime smiled and then cleared her throat. Her face got a bit more serious as she looked at Shino and said, “Well, if you know that much about <Worlds>, you’ve used your power before, right?”
“Yeah, many times,” said Shino.
“Excellent, excellent. The first usage is always the hardest, so if you’ve done that, then you’re all set. Oh, quick tip… if you are focusing on using your <World>, focus your mind on the back of your neck,” she said as she turned around and pointed to it. “It’s much easier to visualize the image that way.”
After she moved her hair out of the way, she showed everyone her barcode mark. It was a weird mark, but she definitely wasn’t the only one to have it. Everyone, including Shino and Hotaru, had the same mark imprinted on the back of their necks. According to the higher ups, these were codes that helped the students materialize their <Worlds> into reality. If they weren’t there, it would be incredibly hard, almost impossible, to use any powers at all. That’s why the students were trained to be careful not to let them get damaged, as they wouldn’t want to find themselves powerless on the battlefield.
“Alright, so let’s work on utilizing that code today… Hmm, how do you say this… When you focus on your aura, you feel a bit fuzzy inside, right?” continued Maihime. “Now before you let that fuzzy feeling spread, you kind of go pew pew pew, and with that I feel you can smoothly bring out your <World>.”
Maihime was doing all sorts of weird motions during her explanation, so the students were already having a hard time following her. Despite that, it was extremely rare for Maihime to come teach anything, so the students listened intently and tried to absorb everything she was saying.
Shino, however, didn’t pay much attention. He pulled out his tablet from under his desk and started to focus on that instead.