No matter how brightly their cities are lit, nor how much Science exposes the darkness of superstition, people cannot abandon God.

It is because Science has exposed the shallowness of the human heart. In order, to fill this hollow void, people try to stuff them with religion.

How convenient!

People built this city to escape from God's rules. Yet when things go bad as, which, of course, they do, they go right back to relying on God.

Taking advantage of God's endless love...

Not that I am in any position to criticize it, or talk about anyone else.

Be that as it may... today is the day my story begins...


"Ohoho... Finally!"

I stepped out off of a long-distance bullet train shaped like a long, narrow whale and onto a white platform.

Dragging my suitcase along, I walked past the person who specialized in running the train and was opening a holo-screen in the space before his eyes. The station was quite crowded with people of various cultures and social statuses. Book stores and stands selling candies were lined up within the facility and that slight market was filled with activity. Even so, no arguments were evident and the uniformed security person in the center of the concourse was toying with the shock baton at his waist out of boredom.

—Academy City sure is amazing. There are so many people moving around as they please, but no chaos. They must be used to all this movement… No, everyone is headed towards what they want to buy, what they want to see, or where they want to go, but that can't be all there is to it because some people are standing still. Oh, I get it. The person who designed this station may have known what everyone wanted to buy or see and designed it so people would flow naturally through the station according to their desires. The power of engineering is amazing really.

Holding on to that thought, I followed the directions displayed on a large screen floating over my head and headed towards the bus stop that would take me directly to the Screening Facility.

The bus stop was built above the train station and the path leading there ended with a long stairway. As soon as I began climbing those stairs, at the center of the stairway, I spotted a Onee-san wearing a top and jeans trying to tug and haul a few large, heavy-looking bags.

—She's wearing a top with that impressive figure?! Surely things are very different in Academy City?

*cough cough* That aside...

From the look of things, it would be very difficult for her to transport all that luggage alone.

And so, I ran up the stairs and called out to the woman from behind.

"I can help you with those."

The Onee-san looked back, looking surprised for a moment, but then smiled as she accepted the offer.

"That's rare!"

"Umm... what is?"

"I have seen quite some young people around here, but no one is interested in helping others."

The Onee-san's chestnut-colored hair waved softly as she giggled softly, amused.

"Mhm...I think it is only natural to help someone carry something heavy. By the way, "seen quite some young people here", are you someone who works here, Onee-san?"

"No, no... I don't haha~ It's just my daughter, she studies here. So, I've been here quite a lot of times to drop her by."

"Oh, I see..."

"My name is Misaka Misuzu. By the way, young man, is it your first time at this place?"

Touma nodded "I am", and the Onee-san smiled gently in response.

"Actually, my daughter forgot her luggage. She's a student at Tokiwadai's. She returned home for a break but left all her luggage behind.

"A-All of it?"

That's quite something when you think of it.

By the way: why does the name "Tokiwadai" ring a bell?

"Silly, isn't it? She only took her daily supplies with her. Can you imagine!"

And, so, both me and the Onee-san burst out into a burst of slight laughter.

Just as this was going on, a figure appeared on top of the stairs, having heard that laughter.

"Mama! I thought I heard your voice, but what are you doing here?" The girl that appeared to be a miniature middle-school version of the older woman asked.

She looked surprised and glanced back an forth between her mother and me. She was wearing a uniform.

-That uniform- isn't that the one the girl on that Academy City flier I got wore.

-Oh, so that's where Tokiwadai is.

So that means that this little girl is an esper?

Strange... Looks can indeed be deceiving.

The world is indeed a very wide place...

"Miko-chan, you forgot something," the mature Onee-san said with a smile.

"U-Ueeh~ I forgot something? What could I have... Eeh~"

The girl's glance shifted right next to her Mom, widened in shock. No, they were already wide upon spotting her Mom here, but now they widened even further and she brought a hand to her mouth.

I have to say... while she was a flattie, her short glossy chestnut hair and her almond-shaped eyes gave her an almost frightening level of beauty, but her expression displayed her emotions almost too honestly.

Well, it isn't like I can't see from where all those genes come from. Good luck, little girl!

Still, the amount of luggage she forgot, I felt like calling it just 'something' was an understatement.

One needs to be quite an impressive individual to 'forget' this humungous amount of luggage behind.

I was surprised. The girl gave an impression of being a cool-headed beauty, yet it seemed she could be quite the airhead.

The girl looked over at me, growing a bit red from indignation I presume, and cleared her throat.

"Uhm...Uhm.., And who is this?"

"Oh, just a boy who helped me with these heavy bags. Such a rare thing these days. It seems he goes to Academy City as well, so you can look after him. Or perhaps he needs to look after you."

Misaka Onee-san laughed like a child.

"What? Mama!" The girl reflexively replied like a teased child, but her face stiffened and she cleared her throat once more when she noticed me looking at her.

"Ahem… I have not…seen you around here. Mhmm... middle... no, you must be a high-schooler. So, which highschool do you attend?"

The girl's tone was bossy, but it seemed like she really wanted to help me.

"Ahaha... I m told I would be attending A Certain Highschool, but it all depends on the screening I guess..."

"Oh, that's a surprise. Nice to meet you. I am Misaka Mikoto, from Tokiwadai Middle. You have my thanks for helping my mother."

"Haah..."

Misaka bowed a bit. Unlike before, her behavior perfectly matched the cool impression her appearance gave.

"No need to thank me," I denied frantically.

"Oh, my. She really is going all out. Well then, Miko-chan, young man, I have places to be right now, so I'll get going then," said Onee-san before giving me a short bow and heading down the stairs.

Only me and Misaka remained at the bus stop.

Some slightly awkward time passed, so I decided to speak up to break the ice.

"Misaka-san, right?"

"Uhum..."

"Earlier you said you were 'surprised'..."

"Yea. New students are very rare."

"Is that so?"

"Yup. Academy City is a closed world. To be a resident here, it's the normal standard to receive all your schooling here, so only transfers from Academy City's satellite cities are accepted, and that too under very special circumstances..."

"I see..."

"So, which city were you from originally?"

"Actually, I have been tutored all my life just outside here, in Tokyo. I made it in on a scholarship. You know the entrance exam?"

"No way. You're kidding, right? Those exams are super-tough, and I heard almost zero people make it each year. You must be an exceptional student."

I felt my cheeks loosen in embarrassment.

"Thanks. I hope this is not a rude question, but are you an esper as well, Misaka-san?"

"Yea. That I am. I must give my all for the welfare of the citizens."

Her passion surprised me, but for some reason, I felt it wasn't just her passion speaking...

Because when she said that her face changed for some reason. Suddenly, she felt like she had grown a lot older.

This little girl had a fair share of life experiences under her belt. Those were the eyes of an adult.

The welfare of citizens, huh?

I had never before had a friend I viewed as an equal.

No one else in my locality had wanted to become an esper for the sake of the country, so this was not entirely my fault.

At any rate, if all espers were like her, I could tell by looking at Misaka that I would find kindred spirits in this city.

I grew even more excited about what lay ahead.

The bus arrived. Me and Misaka were the only two onboard, so we sat facing each other in the center box seats.

"Are there really no other new students? I thought I was not the only one."

"The students from overseas will have entered the City earlier. You will likely meet up with them for the System Scan."

"I see. …Oh."

System Scan. A process where espers are categorized by the virtue of their powers and ability into Six Levels.

Level 0s to Level 5s.

I hear most of the City's populace is Level 0s, and there exist only seven Level 5s in existence.

I wonder what kind of people they were.

*sigh*

I let out a voice as he saw the scenery outside the window.

The bus vroomed fast towards the city. Pretty soon the city walls started to become visible on the horizon.

The walls were quite a majestic sight. Made completely out of concrete and metal, it was an imposing sight to behold. I could even spot some of the extra tall buildings jutting out from behind the wall.

"You probably already know this, but like everything- Academy City, too, has skeletons in its closet. People disappear if they aren't cautious. So, be careful."

What brought that on?

Still, I felt like heeding her words... It didn't feel like useless banter.

I might be her Senpai in age, but in this case of being around in Academy City, she was clearly my Senpai.

"I will. In fact, I intend to live a life away from danger. I came here to learn. I intend to reform the world for the better, so I need to learn at the best possible place."

"Reform the world?"

Misaka's eyes glittered with interest.

"I want to become someone who can redesign the society for the better."

I was a bit embarrassed to say that loud. Guess I got too carried away by her passion.

"Oh!" uttered Misaka in admiration. "I've never heard someone actually say that before."

"Ahaha..."

Now that I have let my mouth run off, I could only laugh awkwardly.

"Actually, that's a pretty nice dream you have there. Think you can really do it, though? The road's gonna be pretty harsh, you know."

"I would appreciate that. I get the feeling that school life here would present me some challenges."

—It looks like you get on oddly well with someone if you hold similar values. Even with the opposite sex.

I reached out for a handshake. Seeing that Misaka took my arm in hers and gave a firm wave.

"This is the most minor form of friendship, but it's the first time I've ever done it with a boy... guilty ahaha," said Misaka.

"I'm honored, Misaka-san. This is the first time I have ever met someone like you as well. I can sense something noble in you." I replied honestly.

"Hey~ Hey~ I'll blush if you compliment me like that. Recently, there are fewer and fewer proper students, and those who act out of a sense of justice or a desire to help others are only laughed at. That must be why we feel such an understanding between us."

"I'm surprised to hear a lot of students here do not take this seriously."

"Academy City provides everyone with a lot of freedom. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. It provides experiences that will be useful later in life. However, as with most people in power, some espers like playing around with their powers a bit too much. With that being said, powerful espers like those of us from Tokiwadai are constantly monitored. Honestly, it is quite stressful. It is only on breaks like these that we get to unwind a bit..."

As Misaka spoke exhaustedly, I felt a slight smile form on my lips.

"Is that why you forgot your luggage?"

"Ahaha~ don't tease me, idiot" snapped back Misaka. But then, for some reason, she suddenly began fidgeting with a reddish face while looking up at me. "Um… Could you…keep that fact a secret…at school? Some people here look upto me."

-Look upto you, huh? So, you must be quite a famous esper, huh?

"Don't worry. I will not betray you."

Misaka smiled back.

"We're here..."

"Mhm... yea..."

With that, the bus slipped into one of the Gates of the city.

It seems like we have to get off here since this bus won't go inside Academy City.

So when the disembark sign came on and the doors opened, I stepped out of the bus.

The first thing I felt was the firmness of the asphalt beneath my feet. The gate was indeed a huge construct. It was divided into several large terminals where your documents will be checked.

"You should have your entry pass, right?"

"Mhm... yea. This thing?" I showed Misaka a black plastic-card that I received from the Consulate when my entry into Academy City was approved.

"Yes. Yes. That. That... Just show it at counter number 7 that way, and you'll be all set to go."

"Oh, I see. Thanks for the help, Misaka-san."

"Don't mind it. So, you're off to the counter, right? I need to go to my dorms soon, and it's not a good idea to let her wait too much."

"Is that so?"

"And oh, how can I forget... show me your cellphone."

"Mhm... here." I didn't know when I took out the phone from my pocket.

Misaka moved towards me and tapped her cellphone with mine. My phone beeped in response.

"Oho... so your name is Kamijou Touma, huh. And since no one will probably say this to you, I'll say it: Welcome to Academy City. And with this, you can contact me if you need." Misaka said waving her green phone.

Gekota?!

"H-Hai..." I could only absentmindedly stare at her enthusiasm. The words "Misaka Mikoto" was flashing on my phone screen.

"Now, off you go, and like I said: Be careful. Goodbye!"

And with that Misaka Mikoto left. It seemed she had a couple of students waiting for her down the road. One of them, the one with twin pigtails, glared at me for some reason.

Quite a lot of fascinating people are here!

While thinking that, I decided to go to the place Misaka instructed me to go.

Quite some people had gathered there. Most of them were probably the students that Misaka said are only accepted from Academy City's satellite cities. There was a lady officer checking the students in the queue.

Soon the security lady responsible for checking the new students came to me.

"Oh, you're?"

"Kamijou Touma. I received a scholarship to attend here."

"Oh. I see. I see... you are that scholarship recipient-kun, ney. May I see your entry pass?"

On hearing the words 'scholarship recipient', I'm quite sure all heads in the queue turned towards me. I could even make out words like 'That guy, really?' , 'He really doesn't look all that special', ...'Shush, he might hear you', ...'So, one more monster has joined, huh? Good to see that the place gets livelier and livelier as days go.'

It seems receiving a scholarship is quite rare as Misaka said. I remember the exam: it wasn't anything very tough. Just basic aptitude and mathematics. I wonder why clearing it to receive a scholarship is such a big deal.

"I have. Here..."

I handed the black card to the security officer lady with "ANTI-SKILL" written on her uniform.

"Mhm. Okay. You're cleared. Go to the counter and get your luggage checked and cleared as well. I hope you have a pleasant experience in Academy City."

Security seems pretty stringent. It's kinda like an immigration department. Well, technically it is. Academy City is not a part of Japan, it is a sovereign city-state.

Soon, I got my luggage cleared as well, and I got my card back.

The young lady manning the counter also told me the way to the Screening Office. It is almost 3 kilometers from here, but if I wait, a bus will leave soon to ferry all these new students there for their pilot system scan. When I told her that I'll be waiting, she smiled and gave me a lot of pamphlets containing this and that information about Academy City.

Okay, and so I ended up sitting in the waiting area for a while.

Having nothing else to do, I decided to read the pamphlets I just received.

One of them was the city map. And the others were information tabloids and other tourist pamphlets.

[Academy City: The City where dreams are given wings.]

A city with over 2.3 million people residing in it. Of which, nearly 80% are students, and the rest- teachers and researchers.

A futuristic city said to be around 30 years ahead the time of rest of the world.

The city 1/3rd the size of Tokyo is divided into 23 segments called Districts, and each of them have a very specific role to play towards the overall functioning of Academy City as a whole.

As I sit here and observe, I can understand a bit of what kind of place Academy City was.

Cleaning Robots litter the streets, and espers are freely moving about using their abilities.

Misaka said that it is a free world. But sitting here in the sidelines, I can almost see that that is not the case.

They certainly are not free. There're shackles binding them. Well, a sound society is detrimental to the smooth functioning of the city, but human beings are indeed very funny creatures.

The more you try to bind them, the more they resist, and through my unbiased eyes- Academy City felt like a huge birdcage.

I can kinda understand what Misaka meant by 'Be careful' when she left.

[Ting Tong Ding Dong]

Huh...

The shrill sound caused me to look up.

A red light flashed on the large panel above my head.

[SYSTEM SCAN Alert! All candidates to be present in the Screening Office by 12:15 pm]

"About damn time..."

With that, I stood up and walked towards the bus that had just slid into the waiting area. All the new students were getting busy to embark on it.

With nothing specific in mind. I decided to follow the flow for the moment.

Then, I had no idea that this will indeed be the starting point of what many would call 'a grand adventure'.

.

.

.

.


[Notes]

Well, this is my first fic. I hope you all like it. Like you guessed, in this fic, Touma isn't a resident of Academy City, and now he transfers in. The reasons will be elaborated soon.

Please put your reviews so that I can make the story even better.

See you next time...