Chapter 3: Opportunities
The quadrangular room was dark and the walls were layered with several tubes and pipes. There was only one source of light from the single glass cylinder in the room which was filled with that mysterious, glowing red liquid, giving the room a tint of red.
Inside was an effeminate-looking man floating upside down in the liquid. He had white, flowing hair which made it difficult for anyone looking to determine his true gender. Outside was a tall man who had who had disheveled light blue hair wearing his blue jacket for the air inside was chilly. Equally as chilly was the slience between the both of them as the man outside continued to smile causally at the man inside, who had a serious look on his face.
After a while, the man inside decided to break the slience, "Pitting Saten Ruiko against Accelerator? What were you thinking."
"Even though we have the same hair colour, but my hair is certainly more dishevelled than cropped."
"From what I know, his sister suffered no permanent damage to her mental state while Saten Ruiko remained unconscious up till the point where she got up and faced Accelerator herself. I want an explaination, Aogami Pierce."
Aogami's eyes narrowed as he dropped his smile, "So do I, Aielster Crowley."
"Such experiments has never been of your concern, why this particular experiment, if I may ask."
"That is none of your concern. Besides, you know fully well what I'm capable. No need for explainations."
Aielster closed his eyes for a moment.
From his understanding, Aogami's ability is metaphysical teleportation; the ability to teleport into abstract places such as a dream or thoughts of people. He is also able to teleport concepts such as memories and thoughts inside to a certain extent. Arguably the most complicated ability he had ever encountered since Sogiita Gunha; equally difficult to comprehend.
Just like any teleporter, he must also calucate the spacial coordinates of jumping between dimensional spaces. However, in the metaphysical plane, it must be defined by him before he could start his calucations.
Moreover, to even exist in the metaphysical plane, he must first construct a metaphysical body composed entirely out of his AIM field and all of the processing power in his brain in the physical body is required to control it. Thus, if you see him asleep, its either that he's really asleep or currently in process of using his ability.
"Teleporting concepts into her subconscious that would force her to sleepwalk and fight Accelerator, is that so?"
Aogami gave a light chuckle as his smile returned once more, "If it was that easy, I'd be even stronger than that albino. No, I can teleport concepts into her subconscious but it'll be erased it's not congruent enough."
Seeing Aielster's rare flash of annoyance as he was unable to figure out the true reason behind Saten's fight with Accelerator, Aogami smirked. While Aleister may have set up a huge surveillance network in Academy City, but it is impossible to set up one in a metaphysical plane.
Aogami continued, "Saten Ruiko had a dream caused by an error in upgrading of her AIM field, but she was far too powerless in her dream to fight the killer that was after her, thus I teleported a concept into the subconscious of her dream self, which resolved the error."
"Teleportation into the subconscious of her subconscious. The metaphysical plane of existence never fails to be fascinating."
Aogami grinned, "Ah, I don't know if I should be asking you this, but do you happen to have watched Magical Powered Kanamin?"
Aielster rolled his eyes and sighed," Magicians aren't supposed to be that cute. It's a horrible show in my opinion."
"A scheming mastermind like you would never appreciate the beauty behind this show." Aogami said as he protested in a comical way.
"That's not the point."
If Aleister could use his hands, he would have put a palm right at his face in embarrassment.
"Ah, no point trying to convince you of the beauty and wonders of Magical Powered Kanamin."
With that, Aogami turned his back and after raising a hand to wave goodbye, he vanished into thin air. He was running out of AIM dispersions that would maintain his metaphysical body to be visible to Aleister in the room anyway.
Running haphazardly through the people who were walking about the corridors of the hospital, Uiharu was rushing to see Saten, who had just awoken from her coma after a few days.
Apparently, Anti-Skill was informed of a girl found unconscious in an alleyway of District 19 by a mysterious person and she was promptly sent to a hospital in District 7 as there were no hospitals nearby. Uiharu was soon informed about this when the girl was confirmed to be Saten Ruiko. However, she was in a coma at the time. This morning, the hospital had called to inform that she had already awaken from her coma.
Upon reaching Ward 1062; Saten's ward, Uiharu quickly pushed the door open to see Saten calmly sitting at her hospital bed, basking in the sunlight from the large, transparent window to her left. There was a small cabinet beside the bed with a glass of water placed on top of a letter.
She quickly rushed to her bedside, "SATEN! ARE YOU OKAY?!"
Saten turned to face Uiharu with a confused look on her face, "Who... are you?"
"Really, who are you?"
Tears started to well up in Uiharu's eyes, "Sa-Saten... You really don't remember me? I'm Uiharu! Th-The girl who you just love to flip her skirt up, don't you remember?"
Still confused, she shot her an inexplicable look, "No..." but soon broke into a smile and burst into laughter, "Of course I do! I wonder what colour are you wearing today though..." said Saten as she eyed Uiharu lecherously in a comical way.
"That is not funny!" Uiharu said as her face blushed red with anger. Upset at her friend playing such a stupid joke at her, but yet glad at the same time that this was all just a joke.
Saten cracked a wide smile at Uiharu, "Life is no fun if you take things so seriously."
"But you made me so worried for nothing!"
"No worries, I'm all good isn't it so?"
Turning to the cabinet beside her, Saten reached for the letter and passed it to Uiharu enthusiastically with both hands outstretched and a smile.
"Uiharu! Read this."
Hesitantly, she started to read what was on the letter.
Tired of being deemed as weaker than others just because of the SYSTEM's ranking?
Wait no more, for this competition will prove who's truly strongest.
Not by ability nor level, but by pure wits and a little strength.
This is Fort Royale, proudly brought to you by PLUS Inc.
By virtue of luck, you have been granted direct qualification for Round 1.
1st Prize: 1,000,000 yen
2nd Prize: 500,000 yen
3rd Prize: 200,000 yen
Bonus Prize: One Loving-U's one-of-a-kind entire collection.
Kindly refer to Page 2 for details about this competition.
Uiharu exclaimed as she looked at Saten who was grinning at her now, "You're so lucky! This is the biggest event since Daihasei Festival in Academy City. Too bad there were limited slots and registration closed early, or else I would have participated too."
"Hehe. A gift from Komoe-sensei. She said it would be a good experience for me."
"Komoe-sensei...? I don't remember such a teacher in our school."
Saten pouted; how could Uiharu forget so quickly, "She was the teacher for a supplementary lesson after that Level Upper incident."
"Oh, that really short girl with pink hair... no, woman."
Flipping to the back of the letter, Uiharu read the 2nd page of the letter.
There will be 4 rounds in total, 1 qualifying round and 3 official rounds.
Participants will be grouped in teams of 3 with their total levels not exceeding 4, except in the qualifying round, where it is individual play.
However, there will be a hidden Level 5 inside. Fret not, for it is wits that determine the winner, not sheer power. Whichever team manages to eliminate the Level 5 will receive the bonus prize and an additional 2,000,000 yen.
The qualifying round will start on 26th January and Round 1 will begin at 2nd Feburary.
Venue will be at PLUS Inc. HQ in District 15.
Please remember to produce this letter for verification.
Just then, Uiharu felt a vibration in her pocket and realised that it was her phone. It was Kuroko informing her that a Judgement meeting is starting in 3 minutes.
"You should seriously get a watch." said a girl with auburn hair tied into two curly pigtails who appeared out of nowhere right beside Uiharu. She was Shirai Kuroko, a Level 4 Teleporter and a member of the 177th branch of Judgement together with her.
"Are you okay?" Kuroko asked when she noticed that Saten seemed afraid of her presence; as if a demon unleashed from hell was trying to kill her.
With a reassuring smile, she said, "Yeah... I'm fine." but it was not enough to conceal the fear in her voice.
Kuroko sighed, probably some after-effects from being a coma. After Uiharu gave the letter back to Saten, she teleported both herself and Uiharu away.
"So you don't really remember anything after all, do you?" Aogami said.
Just like Kuroko, he had also appeared out of nowhere right beside Saten.
"My dream is now a reality while my reality is now a dream."
"While I'm the transfer student in Tokowade Middle School that you knew, but your days in Tokowade were simply just a dream."
Saten stretched her left hand out in front of her and looked at it with melancholy in her eyes.
"This very hand was the hand that killed Mikato. Even when she wanted me dead, even if Uiharu was killed by her. I regretted killing her because she deserved a second chance."
Aogami took the empty glass of water from the cabinet beside him, "Lay the palm of your left hand up."
After she did that, he placed it on her palm, much to her confusion.
"Think of that gentle woman you've touched on my palm, it's Sanae from Touhou so don't say you forgot how she looked like."
Although Saten had never watched Touhou before; not to mention knowing who is Sanae, but she couldn't forget the scene where he offered her powers like no other just by touching the woman. After visualising the woman in her mind, a small wind orb with a light green hue started forming, slowly pushing the glass to the top of the orb. Instead of falling off, it remained balanced as it rested at the top sideways.
"Level 0, Aero Hand."
Saten stared at Aogami with amazement, "How can this be? Only a machine can detect AIM fields! Not to mention determining abilities is something done only on SYSTEM scans."
And then it dawned upon her; he was the person who gave her that ability, how could he not know.
Aogami smiled in response, "Only this ability wasn't a dream. The rest is really just a dream."
"Since the memories I have now are merely just a dream, then my true memories can be considered lost. Even if that is the case, the memories of those who are dearest to me still resides in my heart."
He chuckled, "I know of a guy who said something similar too."
"Oh yes, in exchange for Komoe-sensei's kindness and my persuasion..." Aogami continued as he knelt down to the ground, clasping both of hands in a prayer, "PLEASE WIN THE BONUS PRIZE! IT'S A ONE-OF-A-KIND COLLECTION!"
Embarrassed at Aogami's sudden outburst, Saten had no choice but to agree. Still, she wasn't confident of eliminating a Level 5. After all, even if it's pure wits, being a Level 5 still has its advantages.
"I'll be counting on you then!" He winked at her before disappearing into thin air again.
Meanwhile, Kamijou Touma was currently in the streets of District 15, making his way to PLUS Inc. HQ, the venue for Fort Royale. Today is the 26th January and the qualifying round will start at 2pm which was an hour away from now.
A few days ago, his teacher, Tsukuyomi Komoe had supposedly given him a letter that would grant him a direct qualification to Round 1, until Aogami came into the picture. Apperently, a girl named Saten Ruiko from Sakugawa Middle School had a relative who was dying of cancer and desperately needed money. Coincidentally, that girl was also once a student of Komoe. Hence, Saten Ruiko got that letter while he got another letter that would allow him to enter the qualifying round.
Given his misfortune, he had already calculated the possible scenarios that would guarantee the worst day for him today. All of them were deadly accurate.
For this competition, he decided to wear his best clothing; a white piece of T-shirt given by Aogami with a striking picture of a girl from the latest anime; K-ON's Akiyama Mio on the front. Some time ago, Aogami won the T-shirt in a lucky draw at an anime convention, but since he preferred K-ON's Yui Hirasawa more, hence he decided to give it him instead.
However, the Imagine Breaker that he possesses on his right hand, had negated his own luck. In exchange, he is able to negate all supernatural powers, such as magic, ESPer's ability, and even divine powers. Thus, even a gift from a friend could somehow lead to an unlucky incident.
This morning, after washing the T-shirt, he had left it outside the balcony to dry. However, Index spotted the T-shirt that was hanging on the balcony while sipping on a cup of grape juice. Jealous of the girl on the T-shirt, she splashed the juice right at it. When confronted by Touma, she merely claimed that it was an accident that the juice went on the shirt.
Fortunately, while he may have been blessed by misfortune, but it doesn't mean that it is unpredictable. Taking out his red shirt from his drawer that he had prepared as a backup, he quickly did a quick ironing of the shirt before heading out 3 hours earlier.
As predicted, all of the bus heading to District 15 had broken down. Relying on directions from passer-bys and after shaking off a few gangs who were picking a fight with him, he had made it to District 15. However, the biggest obstacle he had to face was right in front of him now.
It was a girl with short brown hair and that distinctive light brown vest with a school emblem on the left side wore under a short-sleeved white dress shirt; there was no mistaking that this was Tokiwadai Middle School's uniform.
She was Misaka Mikoto, the strongest Electromaster and the 3rd ranked Level 5. Ever since that incident at the bridge that caused a city-wide blackout, she had an obsession of challenging him to fights whenever they cross paths.
"Stop right there! Today is the day that I finally beat you!" Misaka said.
Touma sighed, of all days, today. Besides, he was rushing to the competition that is starting in about an hour time. Given his misfortune, it might just start in 5 minutes due to some unforeseen circumstances.
"Biri-biri. How about another day? I'm rushing to a competition right now."
"Fort Royale? If it wasn't for the fact that Level 5s are obviously banned, I would have joined too."
Touma sighed once again, "So you aren't that hidden Level 5 eh..."
Mikoto's face flushed red with embarrassment as she tries to explain, "Well, it-its not like I didn't want to be that hidden Level 5, bu-but I was busy with extra classes, that's why."
"Oh? Then do you happen to know who might be that hidden Level 5?"
"Just keep a lookout for any person who has blonde hair."
Before Touma could say anything, Mikoto turned to her right and walked away. He could now see that PLUS Inc. HQ was right ahead.
After failing the verification 10 times, Kamijou Touma was finally verified after an administrator fixed an error in the system, much to his relief. Walking down the corridors of PLUS Inc's stimulation studios with a guide, he could see that there was a significant crowd in each studio.
"Room 190, this is it." The guide said before leading Touma inside.
It was a large, white room with grey tiles on the ground. But it was just an empty space with a crowd of 50 people inside. Touma observed that most of them were students judging from their appearances, however, there was a girl with blonde hair that stood out among the crowd. Could this be the hidden Level 5 that Mikoto mentioned?
"Such misfortune." He muttered under his breath. Perhaps that 1 million yen was not meant to be.
A woman dressed in a black business suit stepped into the room with a remote control. With a press of a button, the room was instantly transformed into an interior of a building layered with various art pieces. There was a black, futuristic-looking box placed at a wooden stage located in front of the crowd. However, it still seemed like an empty space without the furnitures and windows in place. A door was located behind though.
She also gave everyone a pamphlet and 10 pieces of numbered paper with 'Yes' written on 5 pieces and 'No' written on the other 5.
Kamijou Touma was numbered No.36.
A person who wore a mask of K-ON's Azusa Nakano appeared on a screen that suddenly appeared right at the stage. PLUS Inc. was a sponsor of the latest animation called K-ON and the mask was part of their advertising campaign.
The woman walked out of the room through the door, leaving the person on the screen to explain the rules.
"Everyone, please take a look at your pamphlet to understand what this qualifying round is all about. You have exactly 5 minutes." The person on the screen spoke and he activated a timer that was ticking down from 5 minutes.
Stuffing the 10 pieces of paper into the pockets of his jeans, Touma started reading the pamphlet.
Firstly, congratulations on making it to the competition. For the qualifying round, the game you will be playing is called Minority Rule.
How do you play this game?
A random player is chosen to ask any question as long is the answer is either "yes" or "no."
Using the pieces of paper given, players then vote for either "yes" or "no."
To vote, a player will place either a small sheet saying "yes" or "no" into a box. The paper is numbered to identify who voted for which answer.
Players do not need to vote honestly.
The answer with the most votes is declared the majority and anyone who voted for that answer is eliminated.
The game is over when there is only 2 people left.
Violence is forbidden and any player who fails to abide to this will be disqualified.
That is all.
An alarm sounded, signalling the end of 5 minutes.
"No. 27. Kindly step up to the stage to ask a question."
A petite sized girl with dark brown hair stepped up to the stage and asked a question. Touma noticed that there was a star shaped design on her eyes. In fact, everyone in the crowd including the blond haired girl seemed to have similar eyes as hers. He sensed that something was wrong but he brushed that feeling off. Perhaps they were cosplaying as Kaho, a starry eyed character from yet another popular anime in Academy City, Dan Dan Hoshii. If it wasn't for his otaku friend, Aogami Pierce, he probably would not have known the names of some of the most popular animes trending right now except Magical Powered Kanamin, which that freeloader of a nun Index always watches everyday.
The question was, "Are you a girl?"
Resigning his fate to misfortune, he simply grabbed a random piece of paper from his pocket and stuffed it into the box. Soon, everyone had already finished voting. The box that contained everyone's votes started to flash bright green as it calculated the amount of votes inside.
After a while, the box stopped flashing and the person on the screen spoke once again before fading away to reveal the results on the screen.
"The results are as follows."
And from the screen, Kamijou Touma saw the results.
Players who voted for 'Yes': 48
Players who voted for 'No': 2
No.36 and No.5, congratulations on making it into Round 1.
"It can't be... I made it?"
That blonde haired girl was surprised to see another person who made it together with her. Taking out a remote control from her purse, she pointed it towards the blue, spiky haired boy who was apparently that No.36 from reading the mind of a girl who noted that he was No.36.
To her surprise, the boy remained unaffected by the remote control. The blonde haired girl who was Shokuhou Misaki; the hidden Level 5 with the ability to manipulate human minds now realised that perhaps winning the competition wouldn't be that easy after all.
Author's Note: Yes, K-ON is a real anime that actually exists unlike Dan Dan Hoshii, which is just something I made up on the fly. And no, PLUS Inc. is not a sponsor of K-ON. Just wanted to clarify this in case of any misunderstanding.
Sadly, Touhou is not considered as an anime even though there are some doujinshi's anime which are pretty nice. Go watch them!
Lastly, do leave a review if you have any comments :D