Hariyama-san, Center Of The World / Hariyama-san, Center of the World Chapter 2

Hariyama-san, Center of the World 1


 

 

Magical girls.
 
Lyrical and magical.
 
Fancy and fantastical.
 
 
“She”, who was nothing more than the product of fantasy, really did exist in that town.
 
A “magical girl”, who should have existed more as delusion than illusion, had truly descended upon present-day Japan.
 
And then–
 
 
“Ah…”
 
There were tears in the girl’s eyes, and at her throat was the sharp naked blade of anagadosu.  The magical girl’s right hand was gripping a black bomb like one that would be seen in the movies. [1]
 
And – there was not a hint of humor in the eyes of the experienced killer confronting her.  Just from seeing the expression in the man’s eyes, it was clear that he was not a respectable person.
 
 
Lyrical and magical.
 
Fancy and fantastical.
 
 
Why was a magical girl, who should have had nothing to do with blood and gunpowder, confronting the yakuza?
 
To find the answer, we’ll turn back the stage to thirty minutes ago.  Performed on that stage was–
 
 
–The magical girl’s jailbreak act.
 

 
Magical girls really did exist.
 
 
Within the fairytale land of magic – in prison.
 
 
“Come out, Number 893.”
 
A dignified voice resounded within a space about 4.5 tatami mats wide.  The voice was that of a young woman, but it echoed off the surrounding walls, gaining an unspeakable pressure that bore down on the girl.
 
The girl called “Number 893” slowly raised herself from where she was lying in a corner of the room and shifted her attention to her surroundings.  There were many lines of letters, their design geometrical and their font severe.  They combined in a complex way to create an ominous, solemn sigil.  Surrounded by the dark green walls on which the sigil was drawn, the girl expressionlessly looked in the direction of the voice.
 
“Kaaaay.” As she spoke, sounding like she was still half-asleep, the girl quietly stood up.
 
The girl still retained some childishness and was probably around twelve or thirteen years old.  She was completely out of place in this environment.  Her surroundings contained only a bed and the bare minimum of essentials.  On the single door connecting the room and the outside, the same sigil as on the walls gave off a red light, turning smoothly like a shadow picture.
 
When the girl stood in front of the door, the light of the sigil faded, and the door swung wide open with a sound like that of an eraser being rubbed.  Beyond the door were a number of men and women clad in predominantly black vestments.
 
The young woman in the center faced the girl and spoke in a dignified voice. “…Prisoner Number 893.”
 
“Yeeeees.” The girl she spoke to answered with a wide smile devoid of nervousness.
 
The girl was called a prisoner, but her clothing did not look at all like a prison uniform.  Her clothes were made in bright colors and looked as though they might be worn by a major supporting character in a musical.  She wore glasses with a fashionable frame, and her large eyes blinked in surprise behind the lenses.  She looked absolutely nothing like a prisoner, her age included.  Most strikingly, the girl’s expression held no trace of guilt or nervousness.  Even if she was brought forth under false charges, her bearing was much too calm.  To begin with, the prison itself was a rather strange room, and it was unknown which country the letters were from, but–
 
–the creature that could explain such a thing suddenly showed itself from behind the prison guards.
 
“Ahh, so it’s finally time to part with you.  Congress chose to ‘eliminate’ you.  Neither you nor I can remember your name, so I’ll just call you 893-chan for now.  This is ‘goodbye’, you know, that’s just how it is.”
 
The one making those casual comments was a green praying mantis about the size of a puppy.  Even just the description of a huge praying mantis that understood human language sounded eerie, but not a single human in that place was disturbed.
 
However, the imprisoned girl alone let out an innocent laugh at the praying mantis’s words.
 

 
This was the so-called land of magic.
 
That girl’s appearance, save for her lack of a wand, was surely that of a magical girl, often seen in Japan’s manga and anime.
 
Within this world, where the abnormal was commonplace, the single real abnormality was–
 
–that the magical girl was a prisoner.

 
The praying mantis, which for some reason had eyelids, blinked its large eyes with surprise as it continued speaking. “Isn’t this the seventh time you went off to the human world?  Even these nice government officials will take action.”
 
“Why?  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I was just using my power for the humans’ sake.”
 
“…you suddenly fell out of the sky, freeloaded off people against their will, and blew up their house when you tried to kill a cockroach.  We really have to do something about it this time.  That’s why you became the 893rd prisoner in our country’s proud 1,500-year history.  Only 893 people in 1,500 years!  In other words, there’s nothing else we can do with you.  Don’t you think you should reflect on your actions?  Think about what that means.  Okay?”
 
Looking slightly dissatisfied, the girl opened her mouth, but her words were drowned out by the prison guards’ cold voices. “Please refrain from speaking.”
 
“Okaaaay.”
 
Looking at the prisoner, who was looking down with her cheeks puffed out a little, the woman who appeared to be the guards’ leader let out a sigh that the others didn’t notice.  The guard was somewhat disappointed by the prisoner’s obviously childish behavior.
 
‘Is it really this child?  This child has the most pure and powerful magic in the country’s history… and is a brutal criminal?’
 
Rather than the strength of her magic, the guard’s doubts concerned the latter claim.  She questioned the girl in front of her about her sins, as if to shake off those doubts.  “…Number 893.  You opened the door to the human world without authorization, concealed yourself in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, in the country of Japan, and before your concealment, used magic to destroy the dwelling place of Shinkichi Hariyama and his family… is this correct?”
 
“Um… I didn’t mean to?”
 
“I am not asking if you meant to.  More important is the result: you used your ‘power’ in the human world.  In addition, personally inflicting harm upon the other world is the gravest of crimes…”
 
“…”
 
The prison guard’s words were filled with emotion and were not at all businesslike.  The girl listened with disinterest to the charges brought against her without any particular expression on her face.
 
“…I do pity you, but you will be placed under Hell’s jurisdiction.”
 
Hell.  In reality, the Hell of this country was not a place full of swaggering demons and devils.  It was a land universally despised by this country’s inhabitants, a place said to contain illusions more frightening than death itself.  That land drained away the magical power of those who lived there and stole away their vitality.  It granted the bare minimum of energy needed to survive, and as it drained their magical power, they lost even the will to escape.  Most of this country’s “criminals” were sent there.
 
The incidents involving theft and assault in the human world were almost always resolved by magically erasing memories and forcing the culprits into service work, but they were not deemed “criminals”.  This country’s science, in the form of enormous magical power, was devoted to maintenance of the world’s public order.  As a result, the ones who were so restrained were usually those “criminals” who committed murder and treason.
 
Regardless, the fact that the girl would be treated as a criminal meant that the crimes she had committed rivaled those of a murderer.
 
‘Throwing a child like this into “Hell”…’
 
Pity for the girl began to swirl beneath the guard’s expressionless façade.  Clutching the staff she held in her hand, the wand which acted as a magical amplification device, she quietly handed down judgment upon the girl. “–Therefore, you will now be transferred to ‘Hell’.  You are prepared, correct?”
 
In this country, those words carried the same weight as the death sentence.  The girl blinked just once – and with an extremely innocent smile, she faced the prison guards and opened her mouth. “Don’t wanna.”
 
“Huh…?”
 
She did not want to be sent to Hell.  It was a perfectly normal reaction, but she had said so with a smile, and so those two words gave rise to a terrible sense of unease.  The other guards around her and even the praying mantis that spoke the human language gazed at the girl’s face, wearing mystified expressions.  And then, in just one moment.
 
 
“I don’t want to go to Hell or anything.” The girl’s endlessly bright voice rang out, breaking her self-imposed silence.
 
“I said I did nothing wrong!” she announced, without the slightest hint of hesitation and with absolute confidence in her own actions.
 
‘Nothing, she says…’
 
The deeds of the girl in front of her were enumerated in the prison guard’s mind.  She had not actually been witness to those acts, and in the end they were only written in the official documents, but – even so, that was enough to make clear the sins of the girl in front of her.  Property damage, injury, obstructing the work of the magical administrators… all of this was due to her magic.
 
The girl had escaped the service work to atone for those sins many times.  She was always in the human world when she fled. The reason for that was always that she was limited to the island country of Japan.
 
There were those who questioned suspiciously why she always went to the same country, even though she could speak any language with magic, but the magical barrier erected in the girl’s head would not allow any to read her mind.  Her ability protected against even specialized mindreaders with plenty of experience, sparking both interest and fear from the state.  There was the option of forcibly altering her memories and spirit, but the state was afraid that would cause both her magical power and ability to disappear.  However, that too had reached its limit.
 
When she set foot in the human world, rather than just stopping there, the girl’s eccentricities escalated – and culminated in blowing up a house with a bomb born from her magic.  Naturally, the government did not take the incident lightly, and had decided to name the girl a criminal and cast her into Hell.
 
‘This is probably another one of their experiments.  One to gauge her magical power.’
 
The prison guard honestly believed that as she looked at the girl’s face.  No matter how she looked at her, the girl in front of her did not fit the label of “brutal criminal”.
 
However, she was about to realize she was mistaken.
 
 
The girl continued speaking, surrounded by people who were shocked and at a loss for words. “I messed up a little, right?  But it’s okay!  I’m a princess!  I’ll train really hard in the human world!  And I’ll protect the human world from demons!”
 
“Princess”?
 
“Training in the human world”?
 
“Demons”?
 
“Protect”?
 
Various words spilled from the girl’s mouth.  However, the prison guards did not understand what she meant.  There was no precedent for training in the human world, and demons existed only in the imaginations of ancient magic specialists.  There should be no reason to protect the human world when cultural exchange was prohibited, and more importantly–
 
“What are you saying?  You are simply an ordinary citizen.  You are not a princess.  In any case, this country has not been a monarchy–”
 
Having said that much, she noticed something was odd.  The girl in front of her eyes was pulling together a vortex of magical power around her body as she smiled.
 
“…!  Please stop resisting!  You don’t have a staff; if you use magic–”
 
“A staff?  You’re wrong.” The girl held out her hand as if ridiculing the nervous guards. “This is a magic wand – it’s called Piriolim.  I named it!”
 
In the next instant, the girl began to gather the “frozen air” eddying around her body in front of her hand – and like a coiled rope, it extended to the staff held by the guards.
 
“!?”
 
‘She’s sending magic to a staff in someone else’s hand!?’
 
Normally, this country’s so-called “magic users” gave shape to magic by sending power through a magical amplification device, the “staff” in their hands.  However, even transmitting magical power through the staff clasped in one’s hands required a considerable amount of concentration.  The girl in front of them was sending magical power to someone else’s staff not in her grasp.  Furthermore, she did so with an innocent, innocent smile–
 
 
The moment she saw the girl’s boundlessly pure smile, the prison guard froze in place and understood, chagrined.  The one before their eyes was not simply a girl with strong magical power–
 
She was a full-fledged monster.
 
 
And then – in this “prison”, unbefitting of a magical country, rang out the sound of an explosion, definitely unbefitting of a fairytale.
 
In that way, the felon who called herself a magical girl successfully escaped into the wild.
 
The wild – that is, into the world inhabited by non-magical humans.
 

 
“As a result of her raw talent, she mistook herself to be a special existence… no, in truth, she really is special.  Especially dangerous, that is.”
 
The man let out a small sigh as he received the report on Number 893’s jailbreak from the prison guard.
 
The room was narrow and rather plain, save for the spread of marble-like stones.  Within, the guard who had previously been in contact with Number 893 and the warden in charge of her faced each other across a desk.
 
The warden in charge of the government officials administering the law in this “magical country” let out a deeper sigh than before as he skimmed over the report on Number 893.
 
“To think that the case of the first ‘criminal’ in my term of office would end in jailbreak.  If this is how it ends, it really would’ve been better to hand her over to the researchers without a trial.”
 
“…I believe she would have suffered more in that case than she would by ‘going to Hell’.”
 
There was no longer any shred of sympathy in the voice of the guard who delivered the report.  After experiencing the abnormal power of the “magical girl”, she felt only that even giving her to the researchers who treated people as guinea pigs would not have been too cruel a fate.
 
“Warden.  Number 893… what in the world is she?”
 
“That’s a vague question.” The warden, whose hair was graying, tried to answer the personal question broached by his subordinate. “Number 893, whose original name has been completely erased from this world.  Her parents’ whereabouts have been unknown ever since she was born, and she was raised in a facility until she was ten years old.  After that, she began a solitary life due to her childish behavior, but–”
 
The warden stopped there and placed a number of books and videos atop the desk.
 
“Though she was forbidden from interacting with the human world, she managed to steal a number of everyday items like these.  I don’t know if I should call her cunning or praise her for her determination… In any case, these were discovered in her room.”
 
The guard picked up one of the materials, but before she could check its contents, the warden opened his mouth.
 
“Manga and anime.  She only collected those with a certain theme.  They weren’t produced in this country, but in the human world.  And they’re specific to the country in the human world known as Japan.”
 

 
“Owowow!  Stop it!  Don’t squeeze my stomach it’ll come out come out my insides will come out!”
 
The praying mantis was held tight around its abdomen, and it raised its voice in protest against the owner of the hand that restrained it.  However, its voice was lost amidst the roar of the wind.
 
It wasn’t that wind was blowing through their surroundings.  The magical girl – the one called Number 893 – had grabbed hold of the praying mantis and was moving with the ferocity of wind.
 
Number 893 had detonated a bomb made with magic, and in the ensuing chaos, liberally used the stolen magic staff, grabbed the praying mantis that used to be her partner, and used weather manipulation magic to make her escape.
 
 
And at present–
 
She was in freefall.
 
 
The girl and the bug simply fell through the huge sky stretching out above the human world.  She used weather manipulation magic, “recalled” the previous coordinates of her contact with the human world next to their own, and forcefully smashed through the barrier.  On the other side was the sky far, far above the island country that was her destination.
 
Number 893 fell headfirst toward the ground.  She felt as if the pressure of air resistance would tear apart her body, and that her bodily fluids were being pulled to one side with a horrible force.  However, the girl put her strength into the staff in her right hand, and a transparent wall formed around her and nullified the air pressure against her body.
 
Noticing that the sound of the wind was lessening, the invertebrate took the opportunity and raised its voice. “Ahh, geez!  What in the world are you thinking?  You’re always like this!  You don’t think about other people at all!  You always just do what you want!”
 
“Ah!  Look, look, Tis!  That’s definitely a baseball stadium!  Good, it looks I managed to get close to where I was last time!”
 
“Listen to me!  Breaking out of jail is one thing, but then why’d you have to bring me along too!?  Are you taking me hostage!?  You felon!”
 
Gazing straight at the ground, Number 893 responded to the insect, which waved its sickles around with a buzzing noise as it complained. “Ehh?  But doesn’t a magical girl who goes to the human world need a magical creature with her?  One that’s noisy, and cute, and speaks the human language?”
 
“In that case, our country–”
 
“I hope my new master is a nice person.”
 
“I said, listen to me!  And what do you mean by ‘master’ anyway!?”
 
Tis seemed to be at wit’s end.  At his question, the magical girl declared with an innocent smile, “A magical girl has to call the owner of the roof they fall through her master.”
 
“Where did that rule come from!?  And this has been bothering me for a while, but what’s a ‘magical girl’ supposed to be!?”
 
In response to the praying mantis’s basic question, Number 893 bragged without an ounce of hesitation, “A magical girl is a princess from the land of magic who comes to the human world for training and fights the bad guys from Hell – that’s me, see?”
 
“Shut up!  How are you a princess!?  You only ever ditched school and you didn’t train or do anything else!  You can only transform and use fire and materialize things!  You can’t heal or use normal magic at all!”
 
“You’re wrong, Tis.” The magical girl shook her head, as if they were simply having a pleasant chat as they fell headlong. “A magical girl should only use flashy magic, you know?  Because no one will believe me if I don’t.  That’s not the way it is on TV.  They can’t make a movie out of it.”
 
The girl said such incomprehensible things with a far-off gaze, and the arthropod gave up on continuing the conversation.
 
“…I hope we at least land safely…” The praying mantis rubbed its sickles together, recalling the last time they fell, when they had nearly been dragged into the turbine of a jumbo jet.
 

 
“It seems the human world imagines people of the ‘land of magic’ to be even more magnificent than we know,” the warden muttered as he threw the manga he had been flipping through down on the desk. “This world, where magic can only be used to deceive.”
 
He smiled masochistically.  As he gazed at the multitude of manga and light novels, as well as anime series, he continued to speak to the prison guard in a tongue of the human world – that of the country of Japan. “To put it simply, Number 893 is a daydreamer.”
 
“A daydreamer?”
 
“I don’t know how she got them to start with, but… Number 893 completely fell in love with the numerous Japanese manga and images.  She would read the same books over and over and over and over, everything she could get her hands on.  She would keep looking, devouring it, only skimming the surface of what was going on–”
 
He stopped speaking for a moment and then murmured as if seeking agreement to the prison guard, who was standing erect in front of the desk, “A real ‘magical girl’, who can no longer tell the difference between manga and reality… huh.  What a joke.  Right?”
 

 
“By the way… why do you always, always go to Japan?” Tis asked a natural question as they drew closer to the townscape on the ground.
 
The girl smiled softly and answered the inquiry of her companion, whom she had forcibly dragged along. “Hey, Tis?”
 
“Hm?”
 
“It’s really gross for a praying mantis to have eyelids, you know?”
 
“Not only did you avoid the question but you were really blunt just now!  You’re terrible!  You’re the worst!”
 
Even as Tis protested, they continued to accelerate and approach the ground.  And then–
 
 
They fell through the roof of a certain house and she once again descended on the human world.
 
The “magical girl” literally did descend.
 

 
“She thinks of herself as the protagonist of one of these works.  The problem is that she really can use magic.”
 
The warden once again let out a deep sigh as he tidied up the materials on his desk. “She was top of her class in school at pyrokinesis and materialization magic.  On the other hand, in healing and mind control – or to put it bluntly, the more subdued magic – her grades are abysmal.”
 
“It seems she didn’t attend those classes to begin with… she reportedly believes ‘magic has to be flashy’ or something along those lines…”
 
At his subordinate’s words, the man shook his head quietly. “If it was the other way around, we would still have her in custody. …In the end, the manual we prepared only holds for those with equal or less magical power than us.  Someone like her is really without precedent.”
 
“Haa.”
 
The prison guard nodded slightly at her boss’s words and proposed her next question. “As for what we should do about her now…”
 
“Just leave her.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Most likely, the human world will reject her.  Not only does she completely go against their common sense, she is someone who has fully lost sight of herself.  All we have to do is observe.  Her magical power will run wild again, we’ll be able to identify her exact location, and then we can go collect her.” The man’s expression was of mingled loss and relief, like someone whose unmanageable pet had run away and was willingly adopted by someone else.
 
“We’ve already decided where she will be sent, the research facility… the place might as well be ‘Hell’.”
 

 
The warden muttered that, and as he said, at that moment–
 
 
Number 893 really was in Hell.  In this hellish situation, the girl was becoming fully aware of “death” for the first time.
 
 
She broke through the roof tiles and the ceiling with a crashing noise.  And then, with the cloud of smoke as a backdrop, the lone girl twirled around grandly.
 
“Hello!  I’ve come all the way from the land of magic!  Magical Girl… umm… I don’t have a name… Anyway, the warrior of love and justice, Magical Girl Something-chan, has arrived! ☆”
 
Number 893 undid the barrier that had softened her fall and gave an embarrassing introduction to the person listening.  However – the one before her was neither a boy confused by this sudden visit from a beautiful girl, nor a girl bewildered by the damage to her house.  Moreover, he was not even an ordinary person.
 
“…What’s with you?”
 
Number 893 felt a freezing cold gaze at the same time as the calm question reached her ears.
 
“…huh?”
 
The smoke stirred up by the destruction of the roof cleared and a single man came into view.  Tatami flooring, shoji, and fusuma.  The man was sitting silently within the typical Japanese room.  Upon seeing that man, Number 893’s exuberance ground to a temporary halt.
 
“You were playing with a cat on the roof… nah, doesn’t look like that at all.”
 
The ceiling of his room had been destroyed and a strange girl appeared in front of him – and yet the man’s voice was the picture of tranquility.  However, that trivial fact was not what had stopped Number 893 in her tracks.
 
What was important was what the man held in his hand.  A sleek, beautiful silver cylinder extended from a simple wooden handle.  One side of the gleaming cylinder was slender and sharp, and it looked as if just touching it would cut anything in two.
 
–In short, it was a nagadosu nearly as large as a katana.
 
Furthermore, a black gun and several bullets lay to the left of the man, who was sitting inseiza.  If they assumed the nagadosu was not a fake sword, most likely the gun was also not some kind of model gun.
 
“Ummm…”
 
“I asked what’s with you… get it?  Mm… to begin with, Missy, are you Japanese?”
 
The man’s voice was not gentle, but it did not contain bloodlust or anger.  Just the fact that he was so calm in this kind of situation caused Number 893 to be weighed down by a strong sense of unease.
 
The man was in his thirties, his age so far removed from Number 893’s that they could have been father and daughter.  The glint in his eye was sharper than the long sword in his hand.  He was handsome at first glance, but the long slash wound that ran across his face exerted so much pressure on the girl he faced that she was unable to reply.
 
“Isn’t this kind of bad?” The praying mantis, which had been thrown flat as they fell, spoke as it stepped up behind Number 893.  And then, carefully so that the man in front of them wouldn’t realize, it immediately spread its wings as if to fly away.
 
The praying mantis’s speech center had already switched over to Japanese when they were falling.  Like Number 893, who had done the same as she escaped from prison, it could perfectly understand the words of the man before them and the words its partner muttered in Japanese.  However, she was not able to respond immediately.
 
‘I-I’ve seen this before.  I’ve seen this before!’
 
She analyzed the man before her with the information she had gleaned from her collection of manga.
 
‘This person – is a ‘hoodlum’!  They’re scary!  They’re bad people!’
 
The girl’s heart had not been shaken even when the prison guard told her she was going to Hell, but now, a little fear began to spring up within her.
 
The human world’s manga – one part of her reality, one to which she gave even greater weight than true reality.  She had read several things besides the stories of magical girls, but in those, how were people like the man before her depicted?
 
It might have been different in a heroic manga, but she had only been reading works targeted to young boys and girls.  In those stories, those like the man in front of her were shown as frightening people about eighty percent of the time.
 
In other words, they were “villains”.
 
 
 As if to support her thoughts, the sound of many footsteps came rushing from outside the room.
 
“Boss!  What was that sound just now?”
 
“What happened!?”
 
The ones who opened the fusuma and came into view were a skinhead and a crewcut man, along with a man with a punch perm, a man wearing a Nehru jacket and a reptile leather belt, and a man wearing a flashy bracelet and a tiepin.  They looked much more aggressive than man before her, whom they called “Boss”.
 
“Eek…”
 
These frightening people, “villains”, were right before her eyes.  For the girl who could no longer tell the difference between reality and daydreams, they were scary both in reality and the world of her daydreams, and that was enough to throw her heart into disarray.
 
“Hey… B-Bro, this is…”
 
The friends of the man called Boss saw the girl, whose face had gone stiff, and after a moment of silence, started saying whatever they liked.
 
“Boss… this’s no good.  Even if we really need the money, doing something like abducting brats… you’ll be kicked out if the leader finds out.”
 
“Boss… she your illegitimate kid?”
 
“What’s Sis gonna say?”
 
“What’s with that brat?  Is she gonna tape us collecting money or something and put it on the ‘net?”
 
“So you’re into this kinda thing, Boss.”
 
Before the last man could say anything else, the man next to him struck him and he collapsed.
 
The girl was not stupid.  She understood exactly what the aggressive-looking men were talking about.  And perhaps she understood exactly what a dangerous situation she was in.
 
“Umm…”
 
“…so, what the hell’s up with you?”
 
Faced with the “Boss”, who spoke as if nothing in particular had happened, the girl was briefly at a loss for words…
 
“Come forth!  Lyrical Hammer!”
 
Smiling and covered in cold sweat, she hoisted the staff in her hand as high as she could toward the ceiling.  The sun peeked out beyond the round hole created when she herself had crashed through the roof and shone warmly upon the girl’s body.  Light gathered at the end of the girl’s magic wand, and like a plant maturing when bathed in light – it finally took the shape of a weapon.   The iron lump, thickly covered in black, was engraved with the huge white characters “666t”.  Of course, it was not actually that heavy, but it was a hammer of such size that it would lightly knock someone out if the girl swung it down from over her head.
 
The small girl held the wand under her arm and waved the hammer high in the air.
 
“Okay!  I’ll steal your memories–☆” Number 893 swung down the iron weapon with an overly theatrical yell.
 
Every time she came to the human world, she would erase all the harm she had done with this.  When she accidentally fell into the house of a deviant, or when the panicked resident seemed like he would call the police, or as revenge against someone who wouldn’t accept her.  After they passed out, she would use her magic and create appropriate false memories.  Normally memory fabrication was extraordinarily difficult, but if they were unconscious, it was relatively easy.
 
Of course, in this case, she had no idea what would happen after one person had passed out, but at present, the girl’s mind was fully occupied with escaping from the villains before her.  And so, she smashed the head of the boss with a blow that would be impossible to recover from – or she should have.
 
Without a single change in expression, the boss stretched his hand out to the hammer, which moved with an abnormal speed born of magic, and halted the advance of the weapon right before it hit his head with a technique one would use to defend against a sword attack.
 
“Wha…”
 
He did not just stop it but skillfully redirect the momentum, and the hammer was easily thrown from the girl’s hand.
 
The hammer fell through the tatami with a heavy thunk.  It was clearly a weapon.  As the aggressive-looking men around them realized without a doubt that it was not a toy, their expressions tensed up and Number 893 was surrounded by their piercing gazes.
 
 
“This is really bad.”
 
The girl stood in front of Tis, who had already begun to flap his wings.  She muttered as a single trickle of sweat ran down her face, “I… I have to beat them.”
 
“Eh?”
 
Tis let out a questioning sound, but it no longer reached Number 893’s ears.  She had failed to escape, and so her heart shifted away from being a comedic magical girl.  Rather than prioritizing escape from that place, her heart was urging her to act like the protagonist of a story of a magical girl fighting demons.
 
‘I have to beat them!’
 
She was a magical girl.  The princess of the world of magic.  She had come to Earth to train and defend the human world.
 
‘So – I have to beat them!’
 
All of the various stories came together in the girl’s mind and charged the staff with strong magical power.
 
“Everyone… everyone…”
 
“T-That’s–”
 
Disregarding Tis’s trembling words, Number 893 manifested a single object.  A rope sprang forth from the black sphere reminiscent of a bowling ball, emitting violent sparks.
 
“I’ll blow you up!”
 
It was a stereotypical bomb straight out an old anime, like those she had created when exterminating cockroaches and escaping from prison.
 
“O-oi…?”
 
In an instant, the attention of the aggressive-looking men gathered at the entrance to the room focused completely on the fuse emitting violent sparks.
 
“What just happened…”
 
They did not know whether or not the bomb was real, but before that, they had seen it.  The strange “miracle”, when the girl created new matter out of nothing.   If it had only been the hammer, they may have believed they were seeing things, but this time, everyone had clearly witnessed the bomb materializing from thin air.
 
The man called Boss also knitted his eyebrows for just a moment at this turn of events.  However, the moment he saw the fuse, his eyes once again grew calm, and his body was already preparing for its next action.
 
 
“Barri-”
 
Number 893 tried to erect a barrier to protect her own body from the blast, but she stiffened at the overwhelming force of the man before her.
 
All the man did was move and wind whirled about the room.
 
The boss grasped the sword lying on the tatami floor, and at the same time he moved only his legs and took a huge step forward, keeping his head at about the level it was at when seated.  In the next instant, his upper body began to move as if following through.  The acceleration of his body was transferred to acceleration of his arm, and the tip of the blade in his hand swung so fast it gave off a sharp whistling sound.
 
“Huh…?”
 
The silver blade pressed against the girl’s slender neck the moment she poured magic into her staff.
 
After a short pause, the fuse of the bomb rolling in front of her plopped onto the ground.  The man had aimed for a section where the flame had not yet reached and cut through the fuse with a horizontal slash.  And then, without halting, he had brought the blade to a stop right at the girl’s neck.
 
“Ah… ah…”
 
Sweat of fear and despair ran down the girl’s cheeks.  Incidentally, Tis had already fled somewhere, and she knew there was not a single person here who would help her.
 
“Missy… gunpowder’s not a kid’s toy.”
 
The staff was already full of magical power.  If the girl concentrated just the slightest bit, she could use magic and send the man before her flying.  However, right now, she couldn’t carry out that small action.  The expression in the eyes of the man in front of her, his blade, and his breathing had frozen her thoughts, movements, and even her nerves.
 
‘He’ll kill me.’
 
She was the protagonist of the story.  So she would definitely not die.  The girl had continued to confuse reality and manga, and so she had unconsciously come to think that.
 
However, in this moment, she was definitely faced with “death”.  A sliver of “reality” returned to her heart in this worst possible situation.
 
 
‘No.’
 
 
The man kept the blade in his left hand at the girl’s throat as his right hand slowly approached Number 893’s neck.
 
 
‘I don’t wanna die.’
 
 
As the girl watched his hand draw closer, she knew it was the end.
 
 
‘I really don’t wanna die.’
 
 
Would he squeeze her neck until he killed her or rip her clothes away from the neck and rape her?  Number 893 trembled in fear, her mind full of thoughts unsuited to her outward appearance.  However, the approaching hand did not stop.  The palm of an experienced killer drew closer, about to tear her own life away.
 
“Ah…”
 
The girl could not help letting out a cry, and tears began to well up in her eyes.
 
The man’s hand approached.  Color began to drain from the scene in front of her.  The shape of the world began to distort wildly, much like the sound of her own ragged breathing.
 
And the moment she completely lost sight of what was happening before her – the man’s hand reached the girl’s body.
 
“Calm down.”
 
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh… aaah… ah?”
 
However, what the man touched was not the girl’s neck.
 
 
The man’s hand rested on the girl’s head, an action that would be drawn in with the sound effect “plop”.
 
“…hic…”
 
With her tears sticking in her throat, the girl slowly opened eyes she hadn’t realized she had closed.
 
The world that had disappeared returned to Number 893’s eyes.  Her distorted vision gradually cleared and the black shades regained their true colors.
 
When she looked at the face of the man in front of her, the look in his eyes was as pointed as ever, but the sharp light from before had vanished.  The blade had been removed from her throat without her noticing, and the sensation of “death” around her was fading.
 
The girl slowly sank to her knees and stared back expressionlessly at the man before her eyes.  The man turned away wordlessly, lifted the sword he had lowered to his side, and smoothly replaced it in its sheath.
 
The aggressive-looking men surrounded him at a distance and raised their voices timidly. “B-Boss… what’s with this kid…?”
 
It was a natural question, and the boss answered indifferently without so much as raising an eyebrow. “Damn… to think those Marubatsu-gumi bastards would send in a brat as cannon fodder like this… Tch, they thought they’d catch me off-guard, but they did a pretty terrible thing.”
 
‘Huh?’
 
Number 893 looked on blankly, not knowing what “cannon fodder” was.  She had not yet stopped sobbing, and she continued to listen to the man’s words without saying anything.   Not understanding why she had been spared, she tried desperately to calm her heart so that she could make sense of the situation.
 
Now that Tis had run away, there was no longer anyone around who knew of her – knew of the magical girl.  Somehow everything had wrapped up without her dying, but she did not know what to do now.
 
When she again began to feel uneasy about her fate, the boss suddenly looked back at her.
 
“Eek!”
 
Number 893 squeaked without thinking, and the boss muttered, shaking his head slightly, “Ah, it’s okay.  You’re okay.”
 
“Um, u-um…”
 
“I dunno what your parents told you, but… a kid like you doesn’t have to be used as a weapon.”
 
She didn’t understand what he was talking about, but the conversation progressed steadily.
 
“Missy.  What’s your name?”
 
Number 893 hesitated to answer the question that was suddenly thrown at her.  It was not just that she was again seized by fear, but also because she remembered she did not have her own name.
 
“I… I… don’t have… a name.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Hic…!  It… it was erased… so I… don’t have one…”
 
It was an answer that would not make sense to those who did not know the circumstances.  If she slipped up, she might be killed.  The girl’s mind filled with such thoughts, and she was about to start crying again.
 
However, the man’s reaction was completely different from what the girl had expected.
 
“I see… you even threw away your own name to protect your family…”
 
“?”
 
“But you don’t have to go back to that family anymore.”
 
“Eh?”
 
The magical girl desperately tried to figure out his intentions, not understanding the meaning of his words.
 
That was when the expression of the man gazing at her relaxed for the first time.  Somehow, it looked to the girl as if he were smiling.
 
“Don’t worry – there’s no one here who’ll drag you into a fight.  I promise.”
 
At his words, the frightening men behind him looked at each other.
 
“Boss, what’re you gonna do?”
 
“Who knows.  But we can’t just leave her,” the man answered without turning around, and the men behind him protested even more.
 
“But what was that… that thing, just now… with the bomb, kinda like a magic trick…”
 
“Like I know.  It’s not important, so just leave it for now.”
 
“But Bro.”
 
“Men don’t chatter on and on in front of brats!”
 
At the boss’s loud, sharp words, the men said nothing more.
 
Number 893 also jumped at the man’s words, but seeing that, the boss hurried to speak to her gently. “Whoa, sorry.  I’m not mad at you.”
 
The boss smiled quietly and continued to speak, with his hand once again resting on the girl’s head. “So – let’s think about your name ‘till dinner.”
 
“Huh?  Huh? –Huh?”
 
 
And so, the magical girl who had rejected Hell and escaped from prison came to live in the Amida-gumi’s residence as their guest. [2]
 
 
Though no one at all bothered to ask her.
 

 
The Amida-gumi’s turf was on the outskirts of the city, and they were an extremely small organization.  There was nothing around but fields.  The atmosphere was completely different from the urban areas in the same city, and to begin with, it did not seem at all like a place where a yakuza residence would be located.  It seemed they had been a large organization in the distant past, but next thing they knew, train stations had been built everywhere except within their territory, and the surrounding area ended up the only one excluded from the city’s growth.
 
For generations, their bosses had been men who hated conflict.  Other organizations thought there was nothing special about their territory and didn’t pay them any mind.
 
Due to legal changes several years prior, they were no longer able to gather the protection money that had previously been their source of income.  Theirs was a small, inconsequential group that just barely managed to make its living through gambling against neighborhood thugs and with the Internet business used as their front.
 
Thus, they had had only small skirmishes with other organizations.  Time passed with no huge conflicts, but–
 
This past summer, that situation changed.  An incident had occurred in which of the members had been attacked by a man with an axe hiding in his room.  They immediately captured the axeman, but the man was a drug addict.  It seemed that the drug was distributed by the Marubatsu-gumi in the urban area.
 
Having learned that drugs were being distributed on their turf without their permission, the boss, Ginjima, personally went to protest.  Then the Marubatsu-gumi declared war and attacked, and the boss turned the tables on them – but the feud had continued ever since.  At present, the leader was laid out sick, so the Amida-gumi was currently centered around Boss Ginjima, who had taken the lead. [3]
 
 
“In the end, once we get started, it won’t end ‘till one of us is gone.  There’s no big group that’ll step in and mediate between small groups like ours either.  Not around here.”
 
The skinhead man was talking about the group’s current situation.  The magical girl wore a serious expression as she listened to the bloodthirsty story.
 
It had been four days since the girl had fallen through the roof.  In the end, Number 893 had settled in with the Amida-gumi as a freeloader.
 
“But ya know, Summer-chan, you came at a pretty bad time… if you want papers, someone’ll take you in for sure…”
 
“No.  It’s fine, Masa-san.  I’ve decided to do my princess training at this house!”
 
 
The gang members already knew that she was not human.
 
In the beginning, it had taken one day to prove that she was a “magical girl”.  Most of what she could do could be rationalized as sleight of hand, and if she conducted large-scale magic, the land of magic could possibly pinpoint her location.  Things would have been simple if she showed them Tis, but he had run away during the initial commotion and had not yet returned.  They had finally believed her when she flew through the sky on a broom and repelled a thrown rock with a barrier – but the gang members even believed her delusion that “she was a princess of the land of magic come to the human world to train.” Most of the gang members panicked when they suddenly learned of the existence of magic, but the young boss, Ginjima, and the leader’s daughter, who they called “Sis”, somehow calmed them down.
 
And then – they decided her name would be “Samantha”, on the suggestion of one of the gang members, who loved Bewitched.  Sis said, “Samantha sounds like an old woman’s name, so I’m makin’ it shorter,” and so Number 893 came to be called “Summer”.  Now, after four days had passed, the group was split between those who called her “Summer” and those who equated “summer” with “natsu” and thus called her “Nacchan”. [4]
 
 
On the second day, they pressed her to prove that she had no connection to the Marubatsu-gumi, and on the third day, she did her best to persuade them to let her stay.
 
Initially, she had wanted to leave and search for another house, but now, Number 893 – Summer – had overcome her reluctance and wanted to stay at the Amida-gumi residence.
 
“If I don’t stay at the first house I fall into, my training doesn’t count!” the girl said, desperately pointing out a fact that existed only in her delusions.  She herself believed it, and so her eyes did not show any hint of a lie.
 
And so, on the fourth day, during the daytime–
 
 
The girl now felt something like hero-worship towards Ginjima, who had saved her when she was terrified.  She intended to use her power to help the people at the residence, no matter what.  She fully believed that was the mission given to her.
 
When she heard the story of the conflict from the skinhead, she opened her mouth reflexively. “Okay, I’ll get them!”
 
“Huh?”
 
The magical girl sat on the veranda of the residence, bathed in sunlight, her eyes shining.  She wore the dazzling outfit of a magical girl, and with the skinhead beside her, she looked completely out of place.
 
However, the girl paid no mind to such trivialities and started sharing her own words with the skinhead. “I’ll finish off those bad guys with magic!”
 
Her voice was brimming with confidence, but the skinhead’s reaction was neither joyful nor cold.  All he did was narrow his eyes slightly and answer, “We ‘preciate it, but… ya know, if ya say that to Sis or Boss, you’re gonna get spanked.  Be careful.”
 
“Eh… why?  You know I can use magic, right?  So then I’ll just go whoosh with magic!” The magical girl spoke with dissatisfaction, as if forgetting that she had had the tables turned on her only four days ago, when she had judged Ginjima and the others to be “villains” and tried to finish them off. 
 
The skinhead laughed, troubled, and slowly began to speak to her. “The rest of the world prob’ly thinks we’re just lowlifes, but y’know… if we dragged a kid like you into our business, we wouldn’t even be able to show our faces before God.”
 
The girl’s expression said that she would not be convinced otherwise, and so the skinhead tried to dodge the question. “Well, to start with, normally you wouldn’t even imagine having a kid in the residence.  Boss really does have a soft spot for brats.”
 
“?”
 
“Y’know, Boss used to be a big shot in one of the bigger groups in the city.  One of those guys who always solved things with violence, and so persistent they called ‘im the ‘Apparition’.  He took out a group with just a gun and sword, chased ‘em around until he finished ‘em all off, got covered in countless people’s blood… sorry, I shouldn’t tell this to a girl,” the skinhead said to the girl as it suddenly occurred to him.  He looked away, wearing an awkward expression. “Anyway, Boss had a kid when he was ‘bout twenty.”
 
“Eh?”
 
“Nah, it wasn’t his own kid.  He took in the kid of his Sis who died… that kid died in the end too.”
 
“……”
 
She could guess what came next.
 
“Might’ve been just about your age if she lived, Summer-chan.  So it’s pretty complicated for Bro too… nah, sorry.  This ain’t somethin’ I should be goin’ on about either.  Just forget it.”
 
The skinhead clicked his tongue, looking awkward, then stood up and left the veranda.  He left behind the girl, who threw herself down heavily on the veranda and thought about what she had just heard.
 
‘Even though magic can do anything.  Maybe they still don’t believe in me.’
 
Pondering over those things, and then feeling uneasy at her own thoughts, the girl quietly fell asleep.
 

 
Several days later.
 
The woman called Sis bought clothes for Number 893.  Of course, it wasn’t as if she had worn the same clothes for a week straight.  She had borrowed casual clothing while doing laundry with magic, but today, Number 893 was given normal children’s clothes suitable for a girl her age.
 
“You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you walk around outside looking like that.”
 
Sis – Megumi – was a beautiful woman in Japanese clothes who appeared to be in her late twenties.  She was dressed primarily in black and purple, and though the hostess at a Japanese inn would be clothed similarly, she gave off a slightly different impression.  She looked severe, but she was a brave woman who ended the quarrels of her fellow group members with her precise and logical opinions.
 
This normally strong-willed woman smiled gently as she presented the clothes.  However, the magical girl could not readily accept them.  That was because she had heard of the Amida-gumi’s dire financial condition from the skinhead and other group members.
 
“U-um… everyone in the group’s short on money, so I can’t just take something like this.”
 
“Hey, it’s nothing a kid should worry about.”
 
“B-but… ah, that’s right!  If I use ma-”
 
“Even if you pull out money with magic, we won’t take it.  Oh, I don’t think anyone will, but if one of the younger guys asks you to, you definitely can’t give ‘em money or anything.  I’ll kick you out right away if you do, so be careful.”
 
“Eek…”
 
Sis had anticipated what she would say, and Number 893 hid her face.  If she had been her former self back when she had lived in the land of magic, she would not have been able to understand why they would not accept it.
 
However, now she was beginning to understand.  She couldn’t really put it into words, but something about her own idea made her feel uneasy.
 
“T-thank you,” the girl murmured quietly as she accepted the clothes.
 
‘Is it really okay to take these clothes?
 
‘I haven’t even done anything yet.  I’m just a freeloader.  Is it really…’
 
As those small doubts began to swirl within her heart, Megumi gripped Number 893’s shoulder, still smiling. “You don’t need to thank me.  By the way, Nacchan.”
 
“Y-yes?”
 
“That good-for-nothing who told you our group’s flat broke.  Now who was it exactly…?”
 
Faced with that bright smile, the girl felt more terror than when she had first fallen into this house.
 

 
Ten days after that.
 
Megumi’s words weighed on Number 893’s mind, and she asked the boss in the large, Japanese-style reception room, “Ginjima-san… I really am just a kid, aren’t I?”
 
“What’s this all of a sudden?”
 
Number 893 told Ginjima about the exchange ten days ago as he replaced the water at the altar.
 
“……”
 
Ginjima was quiet for a while, and then he faced the altar, loudly clapped his hands twice, and turned around, letting out a large sigh. “Well, you’re still just a kid if you think we’ll be happy with money you get with magic.”
 
Ginjima was her current master.  That was how she was starting to feel.  It felt like he was denying her magic, and so Number 893 was a little saddened.
 
Though his gaze remained sharp, Ginjima spoke in a gentle voice, as if to comfort the girl. “Sis was thinking of you when she said that.  We treat you like a kid and treasure you.  You’re lucky.”
 
When Ginjima talked about Megumi, his voice became really happy.  He didn’t at all seem like someone called the “Apparition”, but Number 893 had not asked Ginjima about his past.  There wasn’t really anyone stopping her, but for some reason, she felt that it wasn’t something she should bring up.  And she had heard the reason why Ginjima seemed happy from the skinhead.
 
“Ginjima-san, you love Megumi-san, don’t you?”
 
“Yeah, well.”
 
He did not try to hide it.  Number 893 had been hoping he would be embarrassed.  Even as she felt disappointed, she also respected his frank acknowledgement.
 
“Don’t make fun of Sis for it.”
 
“Does Megumi-san love you back, Ginjima-san?”
 
“Who knows…”
 
Number 893 quietly asked, in response to those evasive words, “Um, then, I’ll–”
 
‘I’ll use my magic to make her fall in love!’
 
If she had been the same as she was just a little while ago, she would have yelled that without hesitation.  But she could not speak.  She felt like something had changed, and she swallowed back her own words.
 
Perhaps Ginjima-san noticed, because he spoke quietly. “You’re still just a kid if you think of using magic to make people get married or make money.”
 
“Ah…”
 
‘He saw through me again.’
 
Everyone could figure out what she was thinking so easily.  Number 893 started to suspect that they were also all magic users.
 
That suspicion subsided quickly, and in its place, a feeling of frustrated powerlessness welled up within her.
 
“Hey… Ginjima-san.  Am I useless?”
 
“Huh?  What’re you talking about?  You didn’t do anything in the beginning, but lately you’ve been helping with the cleaning and laundry.  Sis is pretty happy.”
 
“But… I’m a magic user.  I can do really, really amazing things…!  But I still haven’t done anything for you.  I can’t do anything except magic…”
 
“Can’t do anything except magic, huh.” Ginjima quietly narrowed his eyes, and leaning against a pillar, he turned his gaze to the ceiling. “Then it’s fine.  We can do magic too, you know.”
 
“?”
 
Number 893 didn’t understand Ginjima’s meaning, and without thinking, she asked what, “to her”, was a sensible question. “Um, but don’t people in the human world not have magical power?  So it’s impossible.”
 
“We do,” Ginjima replied without hesitation and turned his gaze to the freeloading magical girl. “Listen, Summer.  You didn’t come to train in this world so you could use magic.  I dunno anything about this land of magic, but… the reason you came all the way to Earth, where people don’t use magic, is so you could learn something magic can’t do, right?”
 
“……”
 
“Well, the rest of it is your problem… Sorry.  I’m talking about weird things.”
 
The girl could not respond to his words.  A single thought simply continued to swirl within her heart.
 
‘You’re wrong.
 
‘I’m, I’m–
 
‘I’m not really a princess and I didn’t come here for training.
 
 
‘I’m not even a magical girl…’
 

 
After one month had passed since Number 893 came to the Amida-gumi, her partner suddenly returned.
 
 
Number 893 was drying the laundry in the garden and began to wave her magic wand.  The clothesline, loaded with a large amount of water-soaked laundry, traced a neat line and fell onto the clothes-drying platform.  After she had taken down all the clotheslines and, when she was smoothing out the wrinkles with her own hands–
 
Suddenly a voice spoke up from behind her.
 
“I-I’m back~ 893-chan…”
 
“…Tis!?”
 
When she realized who the voice belonged to, the girl panicked and picked up the praying mantis at her feet.
 
“Ah… you’re wearing human clothes, so I didn’

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