A Certain Special Workshop
"As we understand Personal Reality, or reality unto one's self, one other thing that cannot be avoided is quantum theory, based on the uncertainty principle postulated by Heisenberg. What Personal Reality and quantum theory have in common is that both of them are rooted in probability..."
As the woman of child stature continues to lecture in her likewise cute voice, a girl is trying her hardest to study, but the concept is well above her head. Simple notes are scribbled on her notebook, but they are no different than a summarized entry she could find in any school textbook. As she doesn't understand the principle in the first place, it won't make a difference what is copied or written. It simply isn't sticking on the poster board of her mind.
Trying her best not to get distracted, the girl of middle-school age focuses again on the teacher of elementary size. Tsukuyomi Komoe continues to quote and explain theory like a professional, while the students absorb practically none of it. It's not really surprising considering they're taking this Special Workshop in the first place. After all, this is where-
Finally reaching the girl's ears over the cute voice of the teacher, slightly averting her glance she sees a boy's pencil furiously tapping away as he transcribes the majority of the lecture to paper. Shaking her doubt, the girl refocuses on her own efforts. She can't forget, there is a reason she is here! If she truly desires to improve herself, she must take this workshop seriously! Understanding or not isn't the point; it's about the effort!
A couple hours pass and the girl feels no further enlightened. Still, she's proud of herself. The majority of her notebook is filled. Even if she doesn't understand now, she can take it home and repeat it to herself over and over again. Maybe not the next time, or the next ten times, but perhaps eventually these words she'll understand, and a whole new world will open to her. She can only hope.
With a curious fancy, the girl turns to again glance at the boy. She wanted to compare the size of their notes, but finds the boy gone. Well, it's not surprising. After all, the teacher recessed from the lecture in consideration for lunch.
"-Well, stinking up the place here won't help. Why don't we eat?"
The girl missed most of the conversation between her three friends, but considering the circumstances no one would blame her. The important thing, however, is that,
"I forgot to bring a lunch."
As the girl left the comfort of her associates, she exits the classroom in search of an alternative. This isn't her school, so the girl knows little of the layout other than the path she's already taken. Though that isn't to say she can't find it on her own. In the end all school layouts are similar, and finding the cafeteria isn't a particularly difficult task. But before the doors to the lunch hall-
"Of course the cafeteria is closed. We're the only ones here. Such misfortune."
It was the voice of a boy. Before the more relevant issue of how to fill her stomach, the girl considers the identity of this encounter. Can it be the very same one who so attentively listened to the lecture? Curiosity is one of the girl's strongest virtues, though to her degree it might be considered a vice. As the girl leans to peek through the door,
the boy has turned to face said door.
Their eyes meet as they distinctly notice the other. Tough she might be curious about the boy, it doesn't necessarily mean she wishes to engage. Now that she's been caught just as her play was beginning, she's thoroughly unprepared. She freezes.
It's the boy who first speaks, "Did you forget to pack a lunch too? It's a shame, but it looks like we're both out of luck."
Now feeling silly he would nonchalantly react while she has become embarrassed, the girl rushes inside as if nothing was wrong in the first place.
"Ah, that's too bad. It's bad enough they have us come out here to study, but they starve us as well?"
She regrets the words coming out of her mouth. She doesn't feel this way at all. This Special Workshop is important for everyone in attendance. To belittle it while speaking careless words make her feel ashamed.
Not particularly dissecting her tone or aforementioned irritation, the boy continues, "Well, there's a store down the hill we could go to. It may take a little while but we can make it back before the afternoon class starts."
Did he really just ask her out without a care? Maybe it's due to his age. As far as the girl can tell, he's a high schooler, where she's only in middle school. Possibility a difference of three or four years. Though as to his experience, he isn't particularly handsome. In some ways he's of little resemblance to a monkey, especially with that spiky black hair. The girl finds it hard to believe he's experienced with women, but instead regards gender with indifference. No, the girl concludes, he isn't trying to hit on her.
Before she can speak the boy suddenly looks past her, "Oh, sorry, I didn't know you were here with a friend."
Noticing nothing, the girl turns to find a presence that wasn't there before. If the girl had to say, this intruder appeared as a ghost.
It's another female, of the short stature variety. She has long bangs which cover most of her face, and hair tied back into twin buns, making her look somewhat like a mouse. Likewise does this person carry a "mouse" presence. The girl appears almost frightened, ready to run away and hide in a hole at a moment's notice.
"You noticed me?" her voice squeaks out.
Unsure what that meant, the boy can only continue to gaze in confusion.
"Huh? Y-you mean, you're taking this workshop too, Miss Jufukuu?"
The middle school girl knows this intruder, Miss Jufukuu. Most recently they've been involved in a number of incidents together. Actually, it isn't surprising at all Jufukuu being here in the first place. What surprised the middle school girl was she missed her acquaintance's presence altogether.
"Sorry," she apologizes, "I didn't even notice you."
Jufukuu gently shakes her head, "My ability Dummy Check, is the ability to affect one's recognition that they are looking at a subject, isn't it?"
"You made yourself disappear?"
"No," turning her head down, "my level is too low, so I can't do that. I can just make things lack a certain presence, you might say." Then, looking up to the boy, "I didn't want to intrude, so I tried to hide myself like in class."
Feeling as if inadvertently doing something wrong, the boy scratches at his head with his right hand in reaction, laughing slightly as he does.
"I guess you can say those kinds of things don't work on me," nervously he spits out.
Does it relate to his ability, the middle school girl wonders.
Taking certain notice of the object held in Jufukuu's hand, "Well, it appears not everyone is as unlucky as I am. Were you going to ask your friend to eat with you?"
Jufukuu's lips pucker lightly, perhaps out of irritation she couldn't give the invitation herself, but otherwise pays it no heed.
Feeling proud of the warm scene he helped usher, the spiky-haired boy nods, "Good. I'll just get out of your hair then. I still have to find something for myself."
And just like that, the boy gives a wave and leaves the girls to themselves.
Silence follows as she watches him leave.
"Um, do you know him?" Jufukuu's sudden question surprises the middle school girl.
"Oh! No! Never seen him before. We just ran into each other because we forgot each our lunches."
With this explanation, Jufukuu breathes a sigh of relief, "I thought you were dating," she softly mumbles.
"What was that?"
Shaking her head, "Nothing. So, would you like to eat lunch with me?"
The girl finds it hard to refuse, not that she particularly wants to. She wants to be nice to Jufukuu, but sometimes the shorter girl's introverted and attached personality can make it difficult. Still, the middle school girl feels a bond with this mousy girl that isn't shared between her three classmates who are also attending this Special Workshop. It doesn't take long for the invitation to lift her spirits.
As stated before, the two of them were involved in a couple of incidents. The first was a foolish attempt to exact revenge on girls who attended a certain all girl's middle school, and ended up attacking her in a case of mistaken identity. It ended in abysmal failure for Jufukuu, but somehow she managed to bond with the girl before her now. This relationship started with correspondence between the two while Jufukuu was serving in detention. The middle schooler accepted every letter and always wrote a response, though Jufukuu complained the girl never wrote first. She would have to work on that.
As pure as the first incident concluded, the second was anything but. The middle school girl had her suspicions before the Special Workshop, but upon noticing Jufukuu she is now certain. The people gathered here from different ages and schools all have one thing in common. They used Level Upper.
These students, despite their schools, all belong to Academy City. Academy City, taking up one third of Tokyo, is a massive scale experimental ground for the development of Extra Sensory Perception, or ESP. The subject of these experiments are the school children like Jufukuu, the middle school girl, and the spiky-haired boy. Otherwise known as Espers, some of the children have developed extraordinary abilities. Jufukuu's Dummy Check is one of them. With it, she can hide in plain sight; not making her invisible but otherwise hard to notice. So to speak, kind of like hiding a tree in the forest, but without the forest. Many variety of abilities have been uncovered.
However, as one would expect not all abilities are created equal. Jufukuu's might make her able to escape any kind of social discomfort, it's not nearly as spectacular as using a electromagnetic discharge to fire a piece a metal faster than the speed of sound. Jufukuu's ability is considered Level 2, where as the electromaster is Level 5, the highest classification currently recorded. One could imagine Jufukuu not being satisfied with even this superhuman ability. While Level 5 is considered the highest, there are actually six ranks. Level 0, or no ability whatsoever. It's curious how they even got admitted to Academy City, but they exist. The middle-school girl is one such individual.
Such cruel realities are what gave rise to the appeal of Level Upper. As the name states, it's a way to raise one's level without the normally accepted therapies within Academy City. Jufukuu rose to Level 4 and could completely conceal herself from all human senses. Another could use gravitons to cause aluminum to erupt, rivaling C4. Similar results surfaced from use of Level Upper. But like all miracle cures, it came at a price.
In truth the raised ability was only a by product of the true experiment. Level Upper's hidden purpose was to match the brainwaves of all who used it, creating a type of psychic network. This put the individuals who used Level Upper into a comatose-like state. Jufukuu was one, as well this middle-school girl. And now she was certain, everybody attending this Special Workshop used Level Upper. That spiky-haired boy included.
After lunch the class reconvened on the track field. They were led by another teacher, introducing herself as Yomikawa. She's a tall woman with fantastic proportions but little feminine sense. Most of her supple body was hidden underneath a rather drab track suit and pants, and long lustrous black hair tied in a simple ponytail. It was little question what subject she taught.
"Alright, what do you say we start with an endurance run?"
Nearly everyone voices their displeasure.
"Heh," Miss Yomikawa reacts with a grin, "want to challenge your limits?"
Practically nobody does. Reluctantly most take to the starting line, while the rest did with a defeatist attitude, the middle-schooler included.
All except one she notices. Again, it's the spiky-haired boy. In fact he seems enthusiastic, going as far as performing simple stretches beforehand. He takes Yomikawa's challenge in stride, nearly issuing one of his own. The middle-school girl didn't notice prior as he was in a school uniform, but in gym clothes she sees his sturdy build; namely his legs. A task such as this might actually be right up his alley.
Dedicated to making the most of this experience, the girl can't let herself fall behind; enthusiasm-wise at least. The middle-school girl is no slouch herself. At the starting whistle she blasts from the pack and their lazy stride. As the remaining students of the Special Workshop came closer to understanding something about this lecture, their motivation dropped to the point they merely did as instructed with as minimal effort required. The girl won't, she refuses to. If bringing the victims of Level Upper to one place is to mean something, she will do her best to understand the lesson attempting to be taught. She will take their every instructions in full stride.
And to say the least, the spiky-haired boy is doing very much the same. And dang is he fast.
"Stop dragging your feet! Run! Run!"
Yomikawa's voice was intended for everyone minus those certain two, the middle-school girl could tell.
"When you think you can't run anymore, raise your hand!"
The middle-school girl tries to channel out all other distractions and focus on her own running. Perhaps she can be considered an athletic type, but that isn't particularly through her own effort. For her age she's pretty tall and has developed her secondary sexual characteristics before most of her peers. She can pass for several years older than she really is. Likewise does she possess an inherent strength and endurance which allow her to lead the females of the Special Workshop despite not being an avid runner. If she would truly work at it, she could be incredibly fast.
Several long minutes pass before she finally feels herself approaching her limits. For the first time in a while her greater focus fades and takes notice of her surroundings. All but three of the student have since retired. The spiky-haired boy of course is still going strong, but there's also an overweight boy who's all-too-clearly giving his all. She admires the effort of both individuals, but she can continue only so much further. It might be time to finally call it quits.
"I can't...I can't..." and she raises her hand.
"Giving up?" the girl suddenly finds Yomikawa jogging right beside her.
"Alright, make this last lap a dash."
"Huh?" to say the least, she couldn't believe what she just heard.
As would a drill sergeant, Yomikawa simply commands, "Dash!"
Perhaps motivated more by fright of this teacher's enthusiasm, the middle-school girl summons her last well of strength and pushes her legs even harder. Muscles protesting in trembling support, lungs inflames, the girl completes that last lap.
And just as she crosses the finish line, falling to her knees, Yomikawa tells her, "Good, good! Now, how about one more lap?"
Even more ridiculous than her previous request, the middle-school can't even summon the strength to be shocked.
"I can't," she flatly states.
"Get up." Yomikawa doesn't take that proclamation lightly. "Hang in there for one more lap."
"What you're doing isn't training!" cries from an uninvolved party who had since given up. It's a high-school girl who came surrounded by boys. They call her "Anego" (big sister) the same way a gang might call their boss. It isn't difficult to imagine her as a delinquent.
"It is training," Yomikawa regards this interruption with near-indifference.
"How so? You're just putting her through the ringer!" To emphasize this point, she grabs the teacher by the collar and forcibly pulls her forward. This might not be the best of ideas. The teacher Yomikawa is still well taller than the high-school girl. "Why don't you just call it what it is? It's punishment! This whole workshop is meant to punish us, right?"
Everyone's attention is now on the two of them. Even the spiky-haired boy has ceased in his stellar performance.
"You've got it wrong," Yomikawa states matter-of-factly.
"Then explain to us what the meaning of this endurance run is!"
Without missing a breath, "It's meaning is how to overcome your limits. Look at him."
The focus wasn't directed at the spiky-haired boy, but regardless he continues running. Instead Yomikawa motions to the overweight boy. "He was the first to raise his hand, and yet he's still running."
And true to her word, he is.
"When you give up, saying you can't do any more, you're finished. Even though you may still have some strength you're not even aware of. Take her," and now the conversation is finally brought back to the middle-school girl, "she thought she couldn't do any more, and ran another lap. Where did the power for that lap come from? It's the same for developing your abilities. The lesson is, you can't decide what you're own limits are."
At that moment, something seems to fit into place a piece of the esper puzzle in the girl's mind.
But the person in question aside, "Don't give me that rhetoric!" the high-school girl takes a swing at the teacher.
Which practically anyone could tell would be a mistake. Yomikawa catches the fist, pulls it forward, kicks at her foot, and splendidly throws the high-school girl to the ground. The teacher made it look all to easy.
"Anego!" her lackeys cry.
They further threaten the teacher, but Yomikawa likewise disregard their yelping the same she did the high-school girl, "Class dismissed."
Taking it personally, the high-school girl cries, "You're running away?"
But the teacher doesn't look down, and instead up, "Time is up."
Just as she says, clouds blot out the sun and it begins to rain.
Back in a classroom the girls change out of their wet gym clothes and into their uniforms. The middle-school girl's friends check the weather report on their phones and inform her it shouldn't last much longer. There's to be one further lecture and an ability test, and afterwards the Special Workshop will officially come to a close.
After changing but before reuniting with the boys, something the high-school girl mentioned has become the main topic of interest. Namely,
Upset with the entire situation, the older girl rants, "Sheesh, first we slip into comas, then we are forced to take these classes. Out of the frying pan and into the fryer. Something shady's going on here. They could just come out and say we're being punished without calling it a 'workshop.'"
Even further continuing, "Man, what did we do that was so wrong? If you can easily raise your level, you should use whatever you like."
And perhaps the saddest thing is this sentiment isn't felt by her alone. Everyone at one point decided exactly that, any many still agree despite what happened.
And yet, "It's not right to cheat."
It's the middle-school girl. What made her stand up to the older girl is perhaps not entirely certain, but knows it's something she firmly believes.
"We cheated, so it's only natural we'd be punished."
The older girl isn't the type to take this lying down, but at the same time doesn't respond. In no way did she relent under the younger, smaller girl's rebuke, but neither react. Perhaps something was understood, an intention conveyed, and in a display of maturity the older girl pursues this topic no further.
"Hmph, you're pretty earnest, huh?"
And with that, she leaves to return to the final lecture.
The three friends immediately rush to the side of the middle-school girl. In truth she was absolutely terrified of the older girl. Her stare was intense. However, it was something the younger believed entirely, and she simply couldn't let it go. It wouldn't relate to her ability whatsoever, but standing up for her ideals made her feel stronger.
"Since it appears there are some who have gotten the wrong idea," the child teacher Komoe begins when everyone's changed and the lessons resumed, "I would like to go over something once again."
As she says this, the middle-school girl has the word "punishment" written on an empty page of notes. She was correct, wasn't she? After what they did, isn't it only natural to pay some sort of price?
However, the next set of words change that, "This workshop is not to punish those who used Level Upper."
This draws the entirety of not only the middle-school girl's attention, but everyone's.
"Certainly, it is not laudable for you to have so lightly turned to Level Upper to raise your levels. However, there is no need for you to disproportionately feel remorse, or overly blame yourself for doing so. As far as 'punishment' goes, you have all been through the bitter experience of falling gravely ill and being in a coma. You have already atoned for what you've done the hard way.
"So now, don't you think you should make the most of that experience? By having used Level Upper, you have all temporarily had a greater taste of the ability that you already possess on your own now. Or in other words, as Miss Yomikawa would say, 'You've overcome the limits you thought you had.'
"Okay then, we will now being the last class of the workshop. Please remember that sensation. Close your eyes, focus, and as closely as you can, imagine the time you used your power. Each of you should achieve your own Personal Reality, or at least, improve the footholds you already have."
As instructed, everyone remembers the time when they achieve the power they've sought. The middle-school girl too. Being Level 0, she's never tasted the effect of an ESP ability in the first place. Despite what happened afterwards, the girl could only describe the experience as incredible. After leaving her family and traveling all the way to Academy City, going through years of experimentation and not receive a single reward, the experience of Level Upper would still be one of the highest of her life. And it hurt her, how much she nearly sacrificed for just those fleeting moments. And how much she still desires them even now. But deep down she knows it, knows it well, that a time her ability will reflect that fledgling produced by Level Upper will never come again. Still, that's alright. Her life's worth isn't solely determined by her ESP ability.
As she comes to this conclusion, the clouds part and rays of sunlight break through the sky. At the moment she's the only one to witness this beautiful scene. Perhaps she is different. Perhaps everyone is trying their hardest to reach the height they were once able. But the middle-school girl knows different. She knows that time will never come. So in a way the purpose of this lesson wasn't to strive for what she once achieved, but to let go. If it happens it happens, but there is so much here for her in Academy City, it honestly doesn't matter. The girl can only smile at this because this is the true lesson taught.
Finally parting her view from the breathtaking sky, she glance back to the rest of her class. For just a brief moment she wonders about the spiky-haired boy who also tried his hardest,
who now appears incredibly nervous. In fact he's sweating bullets. All that focus and motivation from before completely vanished. To where, the girl has no idea. He nearly appears a completely different person at this moment.
As previously stated, the Special Workshop concluded with an ability test. Some of students scores actually rose, many stayed the same. As for the middle-school girl, she didn't even need to check. Without a doubt she is still a Level 0, yet doesn't feel the slightest bit dismayed. In fact she feels relief. Not entirely certain why, all the same she cherishes this moment. The chain which was her lack of ability was shattered. Even if she never develops, no longer will it hold her down. At this moment she can almost fly.
As she and her friends leave the Special Workshop and discuss what to do to celebrate, the girl finds an envelope hidden within her locker. There's no question, it's from Jufukuu.
"Oh, sorry, go ahead without me. There's something I need to take care of."
Her friends accept the excuse easily enough. They were slightly upset about the distance she was keeping throughout the entire workshop, but her entire atmosphere has improved considerably. They accept their friend's request for privacy and continue on their own.
Looking for a private place to read her letter-
Inadvertently she crashes right into someone as she walks. Keeping her balance, she's able to meet the identity of this small misfortune. She almost isn't surprised to find it to be the spiky-haired boy.
"Sorry about that," they both apologize, as both were apparently distracted.
"Are you okay?" he further speaks.
"Yes, I'm fine."
Though she might have felt something of a pull towards this boy, they don't really have anything further to say. Giving an apology, the boy continues on his way. Yet the girl can't help but notice the way he's dragging his feet. Since she's feeling so well right now, she can't possibly let him go with his mood as it is.
"Your level didn't improve, did it?"
Stopping, he turns and almost appears confused, "Eh? No. It's still 0."
To be this similar to her comes as a surprise, but a pleasant one. The reason he was trying so hard is the same as the girl's.
"I'm a Level 0 as well."
It feels a bit odd he can't read the atmosphere and tell where this conversation is heading, but the girl braves through and tries to be encouraging, "You shouldn't let it get to you, you know? I felt the same way after all. I've never been able to produce an ability until Level Upper, and now that it's gone again I fell into a depression. Or I tried my very hardest not to. I know I still want it, but I also know my life won't be determined by one. So you shouldn't beat yourself up even if your scores don't improve."
She says all this with a genuine smile, but that sentiment doesn't appear conveyed. The boy still has the same confused expression. Irritation bites at her but tries not to let is show.
"Um," he finally speaks after a long period of silence, "I've been wondering about this for a while, but what exactly is Level Upper?"
The girl simply has no words. At that moment her brain completely freezes and requires a reboot.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
Scratching at the back of his head, "Well, um, what is Level Upper?"
"How can you not know that?" practically screaming. "What were you even doing here in the first place?"
Completely on the defensive and speaking rather fast, "Apparently I'm an idiot and came here thinking it was just remedial lessons! I haven't even heard of Level Upper before today!"
Still, her brain nearly refuses to function. What was spoken almost couldn't be comprehended.
"You haven't heard of Level Upper?"
Rapidly he shakes his head.
"And you just came to this school thinking everything was normal?"
Now he's rapidly nodding.
"And nothing about any of this felt odd?"
Still sweating, "Well, students from other schools felt odd, but otherwise it was normal up until the PE class was ending. And then everyone was arguing about 'punishment' and 'Level Upper' and I had no idea what was going on! I swear!"
All previous images she had of him shatter like glass. Her secret admiration of his ethic and effort, the courageous face held throughout, and perhaps some small inkling she herself wasn't aware of; all of those just up and vanish. She has absolutely no idea what to think of this boy now.
"Ha," so she laughs, "bwahaahahahahahahahahaaha!"
Side-splitting, hold on to her gut, bent over laughing out loud. Her hysterics are uproarious, laughing away not only his predicament, but her own as well like a lame joke; a joke so stupid it can only be funny! And it is! The ridiculous nature of this situation is simply too much to even attempt to comprehend. So all she can do is laugh.
Scratching the back of his neck nervously, "Jeez, cut me some slack here."
The sight of his ashamed expression only add to the ridiculousness, and she doubles over. It takes quite some time before she finishes finding humor at his expense.
"Sorry," she wipes the tears which have spilled from her eyes, "but is such a mistake even possible?"
Apparently it is.
"I just spent the past ten minutes being raked over the coals by Komoe-sensei, and I still have to go to my regular scheduled lessons later. I still have no idea what Level Upper is!"
The clarity of his eyes are entirely truthful. He really doesn't know a thing about Level Upper. Should the girl really spend her time explaining it to the spiky-haired boy and risk reopening her wounds? She thought this, but dismisses nearly immediately. Perhaps it will be good for her.
"Come on, sit down and I'll explain it."
Recounting in near entirety, the girl tells the story of how she came to find Level Upper, nearly abandoned it altogether, passed it to her three friends who also attended the Special Workshop, and how she fell into a coma. All the while he listens intently, an expression so serious he appears several years the more mature. Frankly, she finds it handsome.
After telling him everything minus a few of the more personal details, she concludes, "Couldn't you understand why we did it? You're also a Level 0, so haven't you ever wanted your ability to grow stronger?"
The boy's reaction isn't exactly what she expects, "No," and his words feel like God-honest truthfulness, "if anything I'd want it gone." Looking at his right hand for some reason, "My ability is Imagine Breaker. It's," and pauses as if not sure how to explain, "extremely Bad Luck. Take today for example," he weakly smiles, "I though I was doing good making up a lecture I'd have otherwise missed, but it was for victims of Level Upper and I still have to come back on another day. Things like this happen all the time. If I were to tell you everything that's happened, you'd realize my Bad Luck is an ability in and of itself."
The girl never thought of it that way. Let alone a weak or powerful ability, but an ability so dangerous it brings the bearer harm. To him, Level Upper must seem like an aberration that shouldn't exist. Or maybe that's how he sees himself.
But the next couple of words completely overturn her assumptions, "Well, it's not like something like that will ever happen."
Catching the girl by surprise, it fells as if she'd just been called stupid for even attempting Level Upper, "But, if you could get rid of your Imagine Breaker, wouldn't you jump at the opportunity? If you knew of a method that with certainty would remove your misfortune, wouldn't you take it?"
"Absolutely not," he states firmly. "Bad luck might seem terrible from the outside, but I'm far from miserable. I've lived with it my entire life, and I deal with it. But every so often I take somebody else's misfortune as my own, and you know what, I can alleviate their suffering. I won't say it's all roses, that sometimes I sigh and throw my hands up into the air, but at the end of the day I can put things in order and continue with the world as it was meant to be. I wouldn't be me without my misfortune, and frankly, I like me."
Suddenly the girl's heart begins to race. A deep impression is made on her. She doesn't know from where it originates, but she knows one thing. She has to say something. She has to ask him a question.
"How would you define Personal Reality?"
The sudden question throws him for a loop. All he can do is try and shrug it off, "Um, didn't I already say I was taking remedial lessons? I'm actually pretty stupid."
Despite attempting to skirt the question, she insists. She must hear the answer. She must hear his answer.
Seeing he's not getting out of it, he can only respond to her insistence, "Um, this is just my opinion, but it always felt like they explain it backwards. They always say, 'a reality unto one's self,' but to me it feels more like 'one's self unto reality.' To call it how one views reality isn't correct. That's 'perspective.' Personal Reality is recognizing the world, your self, and imposing one over the other. I guess you could simplify it by saying it's forcing your will over the world's will." And then to the side, "Or maybe that's closer to the definition of magic."
The girl doesn't particularly pay attention to that last comment. After all, aren't abilities like magic in the first place?
Regardless, his answer greatly contributes to her own. Feeling closer to grasping the truth, she honestly thanks him, "Thank you for putting up with my sudden question. If you're dumb for being here by mistake, I'm even dumber for being here on purpose."
He almost objects, but realizes she meant it as a joke. He fires right back with his own.
"Then it's far better being dumb together than it is being dumb alone."
The girl smiles widely and they both share a good laugh.
After they settle the boy rises from where he sat and stretches his loose muscles.
"Well, I guess I should get going. I've already spent far more time at school today than necessary. I better hurry up a do something about dinner before that freeloading bottomless pit get's hungry."
The girl nods and sees him off with a smile. She almost wants to walk with him, but remembers the reason she left her friends in the first place. Jufukuu's letter. It would be really impolite to brush it off like this.
But as it turns out, it's even more impolite to attempt to read while being so distracted. She opened it and started on the first few lines, but her mind kept returning to the spiky-haired boy. There was something different about him. This middle-school girl has met plenty of amazing people since coming to Academy City, but something about this ordinary boy made him stand out from the rest. No, it wasn't like he outshone them or was somehow even more incredible, but there was a groundedness, an "even if the world burns he will still remain the same." He wasted an entire day taking a lesson that weren't required, yet doesn't feel the least bit of ill emotions towards this fate. He accepted it like he would the weather report every morning. Maybe it was good, maybe it was bad, but he wouldn't let it stand in his way, or if it did, he would brace himself against it regardless. He was certainly an interesting young man.
"I didn't even hear his name," she complains.
"It's Kamijou Touma," his voice rings right next to her ear.
Yelping, Jufukuu's letter flings from her fingertips. The spiky-haired boy leaps to catch it, and does, but his feet leave the steps they were previously sitting and don't plant themselves correctly. In other words he tumbles and falls.
"Oh my god are you okay?" the middle-school girl urges in one breath.
"Such misfortune," he mumbles. Then getting up, "Yeah, I'm fine. A fall like this is just par for the course."
After returning the letter, she has to ask, "You came back?"
Her expression is more confused than anything, but he doesn't find it strange.
"Yeah, I think it was when we bumped into each other before coming here, but did you drop this?"
Carefully, in his left hand, he presents what appears to be a "good luck" charm to the girl. She recognizes it immediately.
"That's mine!" Then checking to see if she did in fact drop it, and she did. Previously it was tied to her bookbag. It must have come undone when they crashing into the other. She should have been doubly careful and pay attention as the same thing happened just this morning.
"Thank you," she accepts, "this was a gift from my mother."
And then repeating, "My name is Kamijou Touma, and you're welcome."
To Touma, she smiles gratefully, "My name is Saten Ruiko."
Welcome to my first chapter of Never the Twain Shall Meet. This is my first romantic story, or ship, I've ever written, and being honest I'm probably way out of my league. But there was something about this pairing that got my fires burning and I couldn't help myself. It came to me as I watched the English dubbed version of Railgun Season 1 and was utterly impressed by Briana Palencia's portrayal of Saten. It gave her an impression which Kanea Ito (original VA) did not. For whatever reason the image of Saten and Touma together popped into my head and I couldn't get rid of it. So, I thought I would give this a go and what do you know, 20 pages went through like a blur. I haven't written like this in a while. Go me!
Shameless plug out of the way, Never the Twain Shall Meet will contain light novel spoilers. So if you've only read the manga or watched the anime, you're going to be spoiled. That's the only warning I'm going to give.
I'm not planning this story to be as long as some of my other works (and don't ask about Song of the Strongest, I've rewritten it and started from scratch more times than I can count. I'll get to it when I get to it), but I don't expect it to be particularly short either. It's going to follow the plot of the anime/manga/light novels fairly closely. This first chapter covers an alternative Railgun ep 14. A few more will be like this, especially at the beginning, but at a point it will branch into a completely original plot. Also, the timeline will jump by leaps and bounds at times. Sometimes a single day will be covered in 6k words, and times weeks will pass in a single paragraph. As for the official timelinewise, this story will conclude well into New Testament, so that's a lot of area to cover. Well, the story is meant to focus on Saten and her relationship with Touma, so little emphasis will be placed on, let's say, the Poltergeist Arc, even though events will unfold in parallel. You'll just have to wait and see what I got cooked up.
Well, I think that enough wall of text for a simple chapter afterword, so I'll leave it at this for now. As for chapter uploads, I'll add them when I feel like (I'm already 30 pages in, preedited). Till next time
(31 March 2015 Edit)
I must have been asleep when I first proofread this chapter. It was pretty bad, even for me. This edit was mainly improvements in structure and minor dialog tweeks. The most substantive change was the middle school girl (Saten) accepting her level is still 0 without checking the results of the ability test. Otherwise the chapter largely remains the same. Thank you for putting up with this sub-par release.