Chapter 1: Little Garden/Bugeika/School Entrance Ceremony

Mh, mmhh…

Bathed in sunlight, Kisaragi Hayato opened his eyes.

The sounds of a reciprocating engine and rotating propellers reached his ears.

“We’ll be arriving shortly,” reported the pilot.

The transport had already begun landing preparations.

I dreamt of that girl again, huh…

It was a dream of himself and another having suffered in a Savage attack while in the Gutenburg Kingdom of the Britannia Commonwealth. He’d often seen this dream since he had been a child.

I wonder if that really happened… Hayato thought.

He had, after all, indeed been the victim of a Savage attack in the Gutenburg Kingdom in the past. There, among other things, he had lost his parents, injured his head, and fallen into a coma.

In his weakened state, he had lost most of his memories of his time in Gutenburg, though he wasn’t sure if the attack was the direct cause. Had the full events of the dream been revealed, or was there more to see? Was the incident even real? Even now, he had no way of knowing.

Either way, that sure looked like a close call…

Originally, he’d planned to arrive at the massive aircraft carrier ‘Little Garden’ yesterday evening, but weather problems and other things had come up. Exiting the country had thus taken longer than expected, and his arrival had now been delayed to the very day of the school entrance ceremony.

Given his lateness, he wondered whether he would have the time to visit his little sister, Karen, who was hospitalized, upon his arrival.

He glanced outside the window, seeing only ocean.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned destination, Little Garden, was out there somewhere.

Its training facility housed a crystal which would alter its form when touched by a human. This so-called ‘Variable Stone’ would then reveal the creation of a weapon worn on the arms―― Hyaku Busou[1], also colloquially referred to as a ‘Hundred’. There, Hayato would be armed with this Hundred and receive training to become a Slayer dedicated to fighting the Savage.

He would fight for his sister, whose body had been weakened by illness from the time she was young, to receive better medical treatment.

At the facility, now his new home, he would also fight to protect his fellow comrades from the fate he’d experienced: losing parents to the Savage and a life of poverty.

At that moment――

He looked through the window a second time, finally catching a glimpse of the elusive Little Garden.

If we can arrive without further trouble, there’ll be still some time left until the school entrance ceremony. I’ll be able to visit my sister, even if just for a bit!

So this is it, huh? Little Garden…

With the exception of the harbor section[2] which held its runway, Little Garden was encased in airtight, mirrored glass, giving it the appearance of a long, narrow trapezoid. The design made it impossible to peer inside. Despite how it looked, however, an ordinary town could be found within with residence openings so scarce, they had to be assigned.

I wonder if I’ll find it here…

The answer to his question――

The true identity of the girl in his dream.

Now that I think about it, ever since my sister and I came into contact with the Hundred, my memories have been gradually returning, so I guess it’s just a matter of time.

If he touched a Hundred again, those memories from long ago just might be restored. This hope he secretly held in his heart.

The transport began to lower its altitude, and started to circle the skies above Little Garden.

Only ten minutes later, Kisaragi Hayato set foot upon Little Garden.

 

※※※

 

“Nii-san, you haven’t tied your necktie properly, you know…”

The girl, whose raven black hair stood in stark contrast to the hospital’s white walls, pointed this out as she raised her upper body from the bed.

Her name was Kisaragi Karen.

Though she had a good complexion and otherwise seemed quite hale, her life in the hospital hadn’t given her skin much exposure to the sunlight, leaving it snow-white and clear.

“It can’t be helped, right? I’ve never had to tie one of these before,” Hayato sulked as his sister reached out her arms.

“Please, come a bit closer. I’ll fix the knot for you.”

“It’s fine; it’s good enough already.”

“That’s no good. Knowing that Nii-san is a slob is already unpleasant enough, but you must at least do it properly for the school entrance ceremony. So, please come a bit closer.”

Her tone was gentle, but her eyebrows were raised. Hayato knew that when Karen was like this, she could be quite stubborn.

“…Yeah, got it.”

Deciding it couldn’t be helped, Hayato brought himself closer. She unfastened his necktie and began to retie it.

“There, problem solved…” she said, her face beaming in satisfaction.

He checked in the mirror and it had been tied exceptionally well. It hadn’t even taken a minute, yet the knot had taken its proper shape.

“You’re quite good at this. I’m a bit surprised, you know?”

“It’s because I researched how to tie a knot before Nii-san came. I was thinking, ‘I guess it won’t be tied neatly, anyway,’ so…”

“‘Anyway’, huh? You…”

“I was right, wasn’t I? When it comes to Nii-san, there’s nothing I don’t know.”

Karen bared her feelings with a smile and presented her forehead.

Whenever Karen wanted praise, demanded an apology, or other things of that nature, she would demand a kiss in this manner. If he refused, she’d sulk—not something he wanted. Though, she would eventually cheer up, that’d take time he didn’t have right now. In other words, refusal wasn’t an option.

“Seriously, this girl’s a hopeless case…”

Even while sighing in exaggerated astonishment, he nevertheless placed a hand on her long, black hair, held in place by a white hairband, and lightly touched her forehead for a brief moment with his lips.

“…Will that do?”

“Ehehe. This was the first kiss in a month, right?”

Karen smiled, satisfied. She’d likely be in good spirits for some time to come.

“Oh, that’s right; how is everyone at the institution doing?”

“I think you know the answer to that already, right?”

Hayato turned his gaze toward the computer tablet that was placed near Karen’s bedside. She accessed the cybernet with it and used it to communicate with everyone at the institution. Of course, Hayato was also aware of the fact that she played games on it as well.

“Looks like Nii-san found out…”

“Everyone happily reported how they’re playing games with Karen.”

“Uuh… Even though I told them not to tell Nii-san…”

“I know you feel isolated and lonely, but it’s no good if you don’t study, you know? If you keep this up, and the time comes when you can attend school, you’ll be in quite a bit of trouble.”

“I know that, but…”

“Your reply?”

“Yeees…” Karen answered energetically.

At the same time a knocking sound echoed throughout the room followed by a woman’s voice coming from the other side of the door.

“Karen-chan, is it okay if I come in?”

“Yes, it’s fine,” was Karen’s friendly reply.

The door groaned and opened.

“Ara, could you perhaps be Karen’s Onii-san?”

A woman dressed in a white gown and nurse’s cap with a small mole under her eye came into the room, pushing a medical cart before her.

She had long, black hair and, unlike Karen, a curvaceous figure. Her appearance resembled Hayato and his sister, as if she, too, was from Yamato.

“This is the nurse I’m indebted so much to. Nii-san, please greet her properly and introduce yourself.”

“I’m Kisaragi Hayato. I’m in your debt for caring for my sister.”

Hayato bowed his head, greeting her in accordance with Karen’s urging. The nurse smiled in response.

“Karen-chan speaks about you quite often. Always saying about what a cool Onii-san you are.”

“Ah, not at all…”

His mind went blank. What should he say to such a beautiful and voluptuous woman…

“Nii-san, looking at Miharu’s breasts and turning all ‘deredere’… Ecchi…”

“I didn’t!”

He instantly objected, but the breasts of the nurse in front of his eyes were in fact considerably large. As a man, he couldn’t help it if his gaze was unwillingly captivated by such a sight. On that point, when it came to Karen, however… ‘too bad’ was all that came to mind.

“Ufufu, just as Karen-chan said, I’m a nurse of this hospital. Kashiwagi Miharu. I was also born in Yamato, the same empire Hayato-kun and Karen-chan come from, and so I was asked to watch over Karen-chan.”

“…How’s she doing?”

Her being in charge of Karen mattered much more to Hayato than her being from Yamato. He’d often heard about his little sister’s condition from the person in question, but he had no way of knowing how much of it was true.

“Well, she’s here now, so she’ll definitely get better. It might seem just like a small step, but she’s able to walk now. If progress keeps up during rehab, before you know it, she’ll be attending school.”

Her words filled him with a sense of relief.

“I see. That’s great…”

Karen’s illness caused abnormalities in her muscle function.

The Savage had appeared alongside a huge meteorite which had struck the South Pole. The spread of this illness began shortly after this incident, which later came to be known as the ‘First Attack’. The current methods of treatment hadn’t yet been created at that time, and stricken by illness, Karen had thus never before attended school. It was only recently that she’d escaped the confines of her wheelchair.

If she were able to walk again—something that no longer seemed all that far off—she could finally attend school. One could say that this was all thanks to having come to Little Garden.

“…Interrupting siblings that surely want to be alone after they haven’t seen each other for so long isn’t preferable, but we haven’t had a meeting today, right? We just need to do a few, small examinations.”

“Actually, I have to get going anyway. The school entrance ceremony will be starting soon.”

“That would make today the Bugeika’s[3] school entrance ceremony, right?”

“Yet, I can barely get there in time…”

With a wry smile, he lifted his travel bag from the bed. Suddenly, Karen’s mood turned serious.

“Nii-san, I’m really grateful for everything.”

“What’s this all of a sudden…”

“But― You see, because of me, Nii-san had to come here. Even if you’re bound to catch some ferocious glares because of it…”

“You’re worrying about those kinds of things? Just focus on getting better. Also, that’s not my only reason for coming here, okay? It’s also because of the facility.”

Chuckling, Hayato petted Karen’s head.

“Nii-san will stay safe, no matter what. I’m diligently praying for you every day.”

“‘Praying’, is it? Could you please stop with strange stuff like black-magic?”

“It’s white-magic, so it’s fine.”

“That’s close enough, isn’t it? That kind of thing…”

Karen had gone through a phase where she’d obsessed over the occult while searching for a cure for her illness. She had acquired considerable knowledge of black magic, fortune telling, and other things of that nature.

…When it came to results, however, that was a different matter. On that point, even when it came to fortune telling, there hadn’t been any success stories. No, when it came to black magic and other such experiments, they were an annoyance better left alone.

“Ehehe, I’m just joking. I just pray for Nii-san to be safe, nothing else.”

“Alright then, I better go.”

“…Nii-san, if nothing gets in the way after my tests are over and the school entrance ceremony finishes, please come back. You see, there are still so many things I want to tell you…”

“Gotcha, I’ll do just that.”

Saying that, Hayato put his hand on the door. Once more, Karen’s voice could be heard from behind.

“Nii-san, have a safe trip.”

 

※※※

 

“All this atop an aircraft carrier; it’s pretty hard to believe…” Hayato murmured as he left the hospital.

Looking up toward the sky, he saw mirrored glass, something he hadn’t even known existed.

In fact, were it not for the strong, salty smell of ocean water in the air, he might very well have forgotten he was now at sea.

The university battleship, Little Garden――

Boasting a surface area of more than four square kilometers, a town atop an aircraft carrier.

Simply by scale alone, one could scour the entire world and not find its equal.

In order to preserve its freedom, Little Garden never stopped sailing. For something of this scale, this was undoubtedly a world’s first.

This ship wasn’t attached to any nation.

Little Garden had its headquarters in the federal state of Liberia, where the production company responsible for developing fighters, military ships, and so on, was located. Even though the Warslan company was a PMC[4], they had built Little Garden themselves to serve as a base both for battling the Savage and for the research and development of the Hundred weapon. For the sake of training Slayers—those who wielded the Hundred—no expense was spared when it came to this huge aircraft carrier. That rationale had manifested itself in every aspect of its design.

“So that’s the dorm, huh…?”

The scene reflected in his eyes was of a refined, white, two-storied Western building. There were no other structures in the vicinity, so its appearance was somewhat reminiscent of an airport. Hayato stepped forward, onto the grounds.

All became clear at the entrance to the dorm.

A decorated plate, proudly emblazoned with the emblem of Little Garden Bugeika, was displayed on the wall in front of his eyes.

There was no mistaking it.

“Excuse my intrusion…” he called out as he opened the door, a spacious foyer entered his vision.

He saw a spacious lobby with a sofa, a large table, and other such things within. The students could well socialize here. It also seemed to be a good place to eat.

It was, however, currently empty.

“…Errr, is anyone here?” Hayato asked, when suddenly―

“HAYATO―!”

“…Eh?”

A loud voice resounded through the lobby as the sounds of footsteps drew near.

“I’ve wanted to meet you, Hayato―!”

“Uwaaa?!”

Someone from inside the corridor suddenly leapt at him.

Hayato attempted to dodge, but with his travel bag in his hands, he couldn’t make it in time…

*CRASH!*

Hit with great force, he fell onto the carpet.

“Ouch! What’s wrong with you?! That hurts…!”

Complaining, he looked up at the figure now lying on top of him.

Crystal-clear, white skin and blue eyes.

Well-groomed, captivating features and charming, silver hair beautifully tied with a ribbon. A surprisingly slender and soft physique.

…Is this person a girl?

Countering his impression, the uniform of the person in question rejected that thought. This person appeared to belong to the same Bugeika as Hayato.

It’s a guy after all, isn’t it? Hayato corrected himself. And quite a strange one to boot. That hurt; just what was he thinking?!

Just as he was about to comment, “You, that really――”

“I’m Emil Crossford from the Gutenburg Kingdom of the Britannia Commonwealth, like Hayato. I’m a freshman of the Bugeika. It’s nice to meet you, okay?”

The newcomer leaned in and introduced himself with a smile, and caused Hayato’s heart rate to shoot up.

That guy’s smile; he remembered it from somewhere.

“…”

Motionless, Hayato continued to stare.

“What’s wrong?”

“Ah, no, it’s nothing.” Because you were so forceful, I… he silently thought to himself. “Errr, I――”

Still stunned, he tried to gather his thoughts and offer his own greeting in turn when he was struck by a sudden realization.

“Now that I think about it, you, how do you know my name?”

“’bout that, Kisaragi Hayato’s a famous guy.”

“Famous, you say…?”

“Ermm, that is, you see――”

“Before we get to that, mind getting off of me first?”

Hayato, who’d cut in, still had Emil lying on top of him. Even if this was for the purpose of something like male bonding―— Actually, strike that, keeping a posture like this for that reason was pretty bad itself. It invited needless misunderstandings.

“Aah, sorry!”

Flustered, Emil attempted to rise.

Suddenly, a cheerful voice mixed with laughter interrupted them.

“Hey, you guys. Flirting and getting all intimate here, are we?”

Turning his gaze to the owner of the voice, he saw a tall, young man with short, blonde hair standing there with a scandalized smile on his face.

“No, this so called flirting… It’s nothing like that, alright? This guy suddenly came clinging onto me!”

“Yeah, that’s because this person ‘really, really’ wanted to meet you, you see.”

The young man who spoke was wearing an obviously new male Bugeika uniform like Emil.

“Are you a freshman too?” Hayato asked.

The blonde youth answered with a nod.

“That’s right, I’m Fritz Glanz. I was the first to arrive at this men’s dormitory, so, even if just temporarily, I am the leader of the freshmen. With that said, I’ll be in your care from now on, rumored freshman.”

“R-Right… Same here…”

Taking Fritz’s outstretched hand, Hayato rose with his help.

“That’s nice, isn’t it? The two of you, shaking hands like that. I want to shake Hayato’s hand too!”

“I’m already up so there’s no need for anything like that…”

This was neither the time nor the place for such trivialities. Rather than that, there was something else he should worry about.

“Moments ago, this guy mentioned this as well; what’s this rumor about me?” Hayato asked, turning his head to indicate to Emil.

Fritz nodded with an audible “Ah”.

“I got here the day before yesterday, so I heard the whole thing. The expectations for the new student shot through the roof the moment he placed first in the successive generation’s reaction reading during the Hundred aptitude test.”

“So, the rumors are about that…”

With that, Hayato understood.

Something had been measured at the time Hayato had taken the aptitude test which Fritz had just mentioned. The reading had been astonishingly high; a fact Hayato was more aware of than anyone else.

It had been thanks to that reading that Hayato had received such a warm welcome from Little Garden’s Bugeika.

And a warm welcome it was, for not only was his tuition waived, but he’d even been provided additional scholarship support. His sister, who was frequently hospitalized as a result of her weakened condition, was now being treated by the world’s foremost medical team under the direction of the Warslan group; this benefit, was similarly free of charge.

Even if I haven’t the slightest idea why they would be so generous…

Throughout the world, those who had the aim of becoming a Slayer would study the Hundred and other related matters. In order to deepen their knowledge on these topics, a training school had been created.

However, unlike someone who had studied at that training school, Hayato had touched the Hundred during the school enrollment test not more than twice―― While he had been studying about the Savage on his own long before arriving at Little Garden, when compared to those who had attended the training school, he was severely lacking when it came to technique and knowledge.

This alone made the rumor seem like much ado about nothing, and having such a degree of expectation placed upon his shoulders worried him.

“…Well, that’s how it is. Now I’ll lead you guys to your assigned room! That’s the duty of the freshmen leader! You two are the only ones left who haven’t been shown to their rooms yet!”

Saying that, Fritz walked off.

“Hayato, let’s go.”

“R-Right.”

Hayato took the travel bag that was lying on the floor, and trailing Emil and Fritz, started up the stairs.

 

Only the men of the Bugeika lived in this dorm and so it wasn’t all that spacious.

To begin with, only one third of the students were middle and high schoolers of the Bugeika, and even the male and female counts combined did not amount to more than 30 freshmen.

As Hayato had come to learn, while the Bugeika was technically part of the Little Garden High School, they were heavily influenced by public authorities. It was a fact that Slayers belonged to the Warslan Company as apprentices―― beginning their service as preparatory-department students. It went without saying that entrance required graduation from middle school. Even though the school curriculum was special, it used the same three year system as the Futsuuka[5], and the majority of people that graduated then belonged to a private military company managed by the Warslan Company as mercenaries. Guarding VIP personnel and facilities, disaster relief, and other such things; those were the kinds of duties expected of them.

Of all of those, their most important duty by far would be to fight the ‘Savage’.

It’s said that the Savage first came to Earth via a huge meteorite.

At that time, people had incorrectly assumed it would simply burn up in the atmosphere. Contrary to expectations, however, it had, instead, splintered into tiny meteorites to which the Savage had clung. These had subsequently then showered the surface. The Savage carried by them then fled to the ocean to prolong their survival. After incubating for several years, they emerged once more and began to rampage.

It’s further been said that they had reached their considerable numbers by breeding, and moreover, it appeared that a new batch of them had also been discovered, flying toward the Earth via meteorite, once again.

In the beginning, there hadn’t been any attempts made as to calculate their numbers during the first attack when they first dropped onto the Earth aboard their fragments of the once enormous meteorite. The appearance of the Savage themselves could best be described as ‘insect-like’, though to be truthful, they were rather large and somewhat dissimilar in appearance. Their skin was as hard as steel, to the extent of being impervious to gunfire.

Accordingly, early resistance efforts had resorted to the use of gigantic landmines and air strikes. Though humanity had succeeded in forcing them to retreat time and again, they had never once managed to deal the finishing blow.

It was then that the ‘Hyaku Busou’, or ‘Hundred’, had been developed.

These were anti-Savage weapons.

While the first attack was ongoing, that is to say, when the splinters of the meteorite had first hit the Earth, scientists had become aware of a new material which transformed upon coming into contact with humans. The essential raw ingredient in its development was a red crystal harvested from those selfsame meteorites. This, they called ‘Variable Stone’.

The Hundred, the fruits of those labors, were then utilized to fight the Savage. The children enrolled in this school were devoted to this endeavor.

The school was currently limited to those who had not yet reached puberty at the time the meteorite had fallen; the Hundred would respond for no other.

 

“And that’s your room.”

Fritz had pulled to a stop in front of the first corner room on the second floor.

“It’s surprisingly spacious…” Hayato muttered, passing through the door Fritz had just opened.

It was bigger than any room Hayato had lived in since he had left his homeland, Yamato. The facility room he had shared with his sister had only been a scant, six tatami[6] in size; in other words, not even half the size of this room.

“…Wait. Wait a sec, you said our room――”

Emil’s gaze pointed toward the two installations in the room, single beds with a wide gap between them.

“As you can see, this is a double room.”

“Which means that Hayato and I are in the same room?!”

“Bugeika’s students are meant to fight the Savage in the near future; you know that much, right? You aren’t alone at such times—you’re organized into teams to fight. Cohabitation is meant to strengthen communication, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. I was taught that by the Senpai who led me to my room.”

Fritz cheerfully patted Hayato’s shoulder.

“Well, be good friends from here on, you magnificent two! When you’re done unpacking, come to the lobby. I’ll take you to the Bugeika school building.”

“It can’t be… Could Char have done something unnecessary and put us in the same room…” Emil, leaning on the wall, muttered after Fritz had left them alone.

“So that ‘Char’ you’re talking about deliberately put us in the same room?”

“No, that’s… Err, I wonder, huh? Might be a coincidence after all. Ahaha…” he said, forcing a smile.

“Anyway, please take care of me from today onward, Hayato.”

“Y-Yeah…”

What a weirdo, Hayato thought, but it wasn’t like he could deal with the situation by simply rejecting the roommate he was going to live with from today on.

Emil held out a hand which Hayato caught in a firm grasp.

“Ehehe…”

He positively glowed in response as if his heart’s desire had finally come true.

Make that a super weirdo…

Thus, the curtain was drawn on Hayato’s new life.

 

※※※

 

“So that’s the Bugeika school building, huh?”

After leaving their luggage in the room and walking a little more than ten minutes under Fritz’s partial guidance, they finally arrived at the entrance.

“Rather than calling it a school, this looks almost more like some sort of research facility, I’d say. Or a hideout maybe?”

“I know what you mean…”

They were presented with a most formidable scene. It almost seemed to be a security checkpoint, with two guards keeping watch at the gate. The nondescript design, which featured hardly any windows, only served to further strengthen this impression.

“Hayato, do you have your PDA?”

“PDA, huh? That’s this thing, right?”

In response to Emil’s question, Hayato pulled a flat, card-like portable device, roughly the size of a standard business card, out of his pocket.

He’d been given it upon his arrival.

It not only served as both his student ID and general identification document, it also doubled as a communication device, including features such as mailing, calling, and etc. Moreover, it apparently could even double as a replacement for his wallet.

“It seems it also functions as a gate pass.”

Emil placed his PDA against the sensor, whereupon the gate opened. Quite intuitive. Yamato’s train ticket barriers had a similar system.

“Hayato, you too!”

From across the gate, Emil waved energetically. As prompted, Hayato and Fritz entered the premises as well.

After walking a short distance more, they finally arrived at their destination: the auditorium.

“You finally made it, huh? I was getting tired of waiting!”

Amid the vast throng of both new and old students and the teaching staff, a cheerful girl with boyish looks, her hair done up on the side, called out to them.

She was quite short with rather childish features, but a closer inspection revealed that she was wearing a proper Bugeika girls uniform. Her eyes burned with an unyielding spirit which made you forcefully aware of her strength of will.

“My bad, these guys took longer than expected to get ready,” Fritz replied with the ease of familiarity, casually pointing at Hayato and Emil with his thumb.

“Oooh, are you two freshmen too?!”

Looking at Hayato and Emil with sparkling eyes, the girl thumped her chest and introduced herself.

“I’m Reitia Santemirion, from the same federal state of Liberia as Fritz. This guy and I are acquaintances of sorts.”

“If you’re going to say that much, then just tell them we’re childhood friends already,” Fritz said in mock astonishment, ruffling Reitia’s hair with his hand.

“I’m always telling you not to touch my hair! Isn’t that right, Fritztard?!”

Reitia bared her teeth in a growl at Fritz, who was stirring her up by ruffling her hair.

“It’s not my fault your head happens to be at the perfect height.”

“Gununu[7]…”

Reitia’s face wrinkled in frustration at Fritz’s unconcerned response.

Watching the two closely, Emil remarked, smiling, “You two are very close, right?”

“We’ve always been together since we were young. Unlike me, however, she doesn’t look like she’s grown at all. Hers are as small as before as well,” Fritz answered, without a moment’s hesitation.

Without skipping a beat, Reitia protested in turn, “That. Is. Why. I. Said. Don’t treat me like a child! And don’t talk about my breasts! Anyway, now it’s your guys’ turn to introduce yourselves. I still haven’t heard your names.”

“I’ll introduce them then, I guess. The cute one here is Emil Crossford and the other is the rumored freshman, Kisaragi Hayato.”

“Oooh, so you’re the one who broke Claire-sama’s record, Kisaragi Hayato!”

“…Claire-sama?”

A question marked seemed to appear over Hayato’s head; he had no idea who that was.

“Could it be that you don’t know who Claire-sama is?” Reitia asked in surprise.

Hayato nodded, “Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind telling――”

“Oi, you guys. Hurry up and come into the auditorium,” a teacher called out, interrupting Hayato.

“Looks like the ceremony’s about to start.”

Just as Emil finished speaking, noise began to fill the auditorium.

“Looks like we’ll have to finish this conversation later; let’s head in.”

Reitia rushed in first, followed by Hayato and the others.

 

Following instructions, they lined up, whereupon the ceremony promptly began.

From the wings of the stage, two girls appeared: a tall, pony-tailed girl with imposing eyes and a girl with red-rimmed glasses and a short, studious-looking haircut.

Both were approximately the same age as Hayato and the others and were also dressed in Bugeika uniforms. The green of the uniforms which Hayato and friends wore, however, differed from the blue of the upperclassmen now appearing onstage.

“Dear freshmen, welcome to Little Garden!”

Standing center stage with a mic in front of her, and cutting off all conversation with her words, was the girl with a brown ponytail. As she spoke, noise in the auditorium ceased.

“I am the vice president of Little Garden Bugeika High School’s student council, Ridi Steinberg. I am also the person in charge of the freshmen’s training; please, bear that in mind,” Bowing her head briefly, she continued, “Now, let me introduce you all to the student standing beside me. She, like I, is both a second-year student as well as another vice president of the student council: Erika Candle. Together, we will conduct this ceremony.”

“I am Erika Candle. My fellow students, first and foremost, I’d like to congratulate you on your entrance to Little Garden Bugeika High School.”

The bespectacled girl gave this introduction before bowing politely and placing a small chest on top of the podium. Undoing its cover, she removed a triangular badge from within and presented it for the freshmen to see.

“From this point forward, you are all entitled to wear this badge. This proclaims your status as a student of Little Garden.”

This badge was already attached to the uniforms of the vice president pair and the others standing onstage. Theirs bore the number ‘two’ on their surfaces, likely indicating their status as second-years.

“Each student will now be called by name. Please step forward and claim your badge. First――”

One by one, as called by Ridi, the students proceeded to the front and accepted their badges from Erika.

“It seems like they’re calling those with the lowest rankings on the aptitude exam first,” Reitia muttered, as the ceremony approached the halfway mark.

“How would you know that?” Hayato enquired.

“The rankings have been posted, it seems. On the way over, some people spread the info, so if it’s true, I should be next.”

She was indeed.

“See? Just like I said, right?” Reitia boasted proudly, taking off toward the stage.

Since some 20 or so of the 30 total had already been called, her reaction reading must have been relatively high among the freshmen.

“We’re pretty much the only ones left now,” Fritz remarked.

“I know that Hayato was the best, but are we really the only ones after him?” Emil asked as Ridi called Fritz’ name.

“Looks like you’re better than me. I’ll go first then.”

Parting with these words, Fritz headed to the stage.

As he stepped onto the stage, high-pitched cheers broke out among the girls in the audience.

Tall, with gorgeous blonde hair, and a smart appearance. Even as another male, Hayato well understood his popularity with the opposite gender; that was how much he stood out.

“Speaking of which, given such a testosterone-filled name as ‘Bugeika’, there are surprisingly more women than men…” Hayato murmured, glancing around the room.

The number of males, Hayato included, amounted to less than a fifth of the total.

“Each year, the percentage of men that enroll grows, but it seems the Hundred just react more strongly to women. We’re something of a rare species here, you know?”

“In other words, since this school gathers those that the Hundred react to, there are more women…”

“Do you prefer it this way, Hayato?”

“That’s, well, it’s certainly better than being surrounded by a bunch of lazy, filthy men, that’s for sure.”

“Hmph, Hayato’s just another guy after all.”

“‘Guy’, is it… Doesn’t that apply to you as well?”

“Well, that might be true, but…” Emil responded, smiling vaguely.

“Muu[8]…”

Reitia returned, a look of dissatisfaction evident on her face.

“…Something wrong?”

“That’s obvious, isn’t it? Reitia’s upset about how popular Fritz is with the girls, right?”

“Oi, you! Don’t say unnecessary things!”

“Ehehe, sorry, sorry. Wait―― I’m up next, right?”

Just as predicted, Ridi called out Emil’s name.

“That’s incredible…” Hayato mumbled unwittingly as Emil walked toward the stage, drawing just about the same number of cheers Fritz had.

“What are you talking about? The cheering for you is bound to be far more amazing.”

Fritz hadn’t been back for but a second before blurting out something outrageous.

“Like that’ll happen…” Hayato denied immediately.

Moments ago, the host of voices screaming that Fritz was ‘so cool’ could be easily heard. These same voices could now be heard crying out ‘so cute’.

Hayato was neither as built as Fritz nor as cute as Emil; for better or worse, he felt his own appearance was rather ordinary. Undoubtedly, that, too, was how others saw him. There was no way someone like him would generate any cheers――

“C’mon, it’s your turn. Get going already.”

Urged on by a slap on Hayato’s back from Fritz, the auditorium broke out in a clamor far more intense than it had for either Fritz or Emil.

Indeed, the scale was entirely different. Rather than simply echoing through the auditorium, it resounded throughout the building.

I guess I really am getting some attention here…

That said, the gazes focused on his person weren’t unilaterally welcoming. Some glared at him with hostility, viewing him as a rival, or with a deep, ugly jealousy. Others peered at him as if he were an exotic animal on exhibit. This was all highly troubling.

“Hayato, do your best, okay?”

Passing through the audience on the way to the stage, he crossed paths with Emil, who wished him well.

Wouldn’t ‘hang in there’ be more appropriate here? he thought.

“…So, you are Kisaragi Hayato?” Erika queried upon his arrival onstage.
The eyes behind the glasses stared at Hayato as if measuring him.

He felt a little taken aback, given that she hadn’t looked at any of the other freshmen in this way, but nothing else happened that could be described as out of the ordinary.

“Welcome to Little Garden. We look forward to the day when you can serve as a Slayer.”

Hayato received the same badge the other students had before joining Emil and the others once more. With that, the award ceremony seemed to have drawn to a close. As Erika put the chest away, the program switched over to an introduction of the teaching staff.

“Everyone’s quite young, huh…” Hayato muttered as the teaching staff approached the stage.

The majority seemed to be in their twenties. There were only a small handful who looked at least thirty.

He’d heard the staff was relatively young for having been pioneers in Savage research and Hundred development, but he had honestly never expected it to be to this extent.

After the staff finished introducing themselves, Ridi took the stand once more.

“Next, a word of greeting from the captain of the Academy Battleship, Little Garden; the supervisor of the elementary, middle, and high school section of the Bugeika infantry; our student council president; and she, who holds the position of Queen, Claire-sama.”

A nervous energy filled the auditorium.

A beautiful girl with all the noble air of a young lady, her blonde hair in katemaki curls[9], stepped out of the wings and onto the stage.

Despite having been called a ‘Queen’, she was of an age comparable to Hayato and his friends. That said, she had a strong, keen gaze and an aura of majestic dignity which made it clear the title was well deserved.

This feeling was further reinforced by the fact that her uniform was uniquely a bright red. This likely signaled her status as president of the student council. By the same reasoning, the blue of the others’ probably indicated their status as vice presidents of the same. With the exception of these three, all other upperclassmen wore the same green uniforms as Hayato and the other freshmen.

Queen Claire Harvey finally reached the podium. Silence immediately filled the room as the audience awaited her words.

“Excuse me―!”

“I’m sorry for being late!”

The sound of a door opening could be heard, followed by two voices echoing throughout the silent room. In a flash, everyone’s gaze spun from Claire, on the stage, to the entrance, where the voices had originated.

There stood two girls of Oriental lineage. They wore Bugeika uniforms, the collars of which had a noticeable absence: badges.

“Arriving late on your very first day; you guys sure are brave.”

From her spot on the stage, Claire cast the two a withering glare, leaving them trembling in fear.

“Um… we went out earlier this morning to pick up a few things at the shopping center, but it took more time than expected――”

“I didn’t ask for your excuses. You were warned in advance of the need to be punctual,” Claire said flatly, drowning out the girl’s words. Sternly, she continued, “Little Garden has no need for those who can’t keep their word. Promptly pack your belongings and leave.”

The girls looked about ready to break into tears on the spot. The only person to approach them was the vice president, Erika Candle.

“You’ve received an order from Claire-sama. Please return your PDAs at once, and leave this place. Make all necessary preparations for your departure from Little Garden on the morrow, including cleaning out your rooms later this evening,” Erika ordered coldly.

The freshmen in the room were stunned silent, dumbfounded by the sudden turn of events.

“Hey, just a sec, okay?”

Slicing apart the deafening silence with his words, Emil continued, “I don’t care if you’re the captain, Queen, or student council president; punishing someone so harshly for being late just once—isn’t that too much? They’re crying already; why don’t you show a little compassion?”

“Oi, hold up―!”

“Nguu― What do you think you’re doing, Hayato―?!”

Hayato had frantically covered Emil’s mouth with his hand.

“I’m too much? Those should be my words! What do you think you’re doing, butting in so belligerently? By all rights, I should expel you right along with them!”

“I can’t stand it when people abuse their authority, particularly when the only reason you’re captain or student council president or whatever is because of your family.”

“Leveraging family authority for something like that? How could anyone…”

“Claire-sama is a daughter of the family which runs the Warslan Company, and by extension, Little Garden! That means she wields an amazing degree of authority here, you know―?!” Reitia suddenly interrupted, attempting to forestall further argument from both Hayato and Emil.

“A member of the family which runs the Warslan Company, huh? That certainly does make her someone important… if this keeps up, Emil just might really get expelled here…”

Though he’d only just met Emil, and despite finding him somewhat odd, watching his roommate—one who had wished him the best for the duration of his stay in Little Garden—get expelled was, of course, something that did not sit well with him.

“If it’s come to this, I guess it can’t be helped…”

He had to do something about the current situation. Hayato turned to face the president, and offered up his opinion.

“Putting aside the manner in which the argument was made for a moment; to face expulsion for being late just once—don’t you think that’s a little extreme? That’s probably what Emil’s so upset about…”

“You are Kisaragi Hayato, correct?”

Due to his unfamiliarity with polite forms of speech, he faltered and was cut off.

Claire narrowed her eyes, glaring at him in response.

“Err, yeah… That’s… right, but…” Hayato replied, pressured by the force of her gaze.

It seemed even the the president had recognized Hayato’s existence.

“Kisaragi Hayato—no, all students here: engrave the words I’m about to speak in your hearts,” Claire declared. She continued on in a sober tone, “While the Little Garden Bugeika might appear similar, it is ultimately altogether different from a normal school. Each and every one of you will gamble your lives in a war against the Savage; this is why you are Slayer apprentices of the Warslan Company. After graduation, you will be sent to the battlefield, where a single mistake can cause the annihilation of your entire unit. What’s important here isn’t the number of errors, but rather a lack of obedience to the direct orders of a superior officer. Having said that, there’s one more point I would address――”

Shifting her gaze to Emil, Claire went on.

“Emil Crossford, just now, you said that I am student council president and captain because of who my parents are. That is a mistake. I do not stand here now because my father manages the Warslan Company. No, I am the student council president who oversees all students of Little Garden—primary, middle, high, and Bugeika—and captain because I am the Queen who holds the top rank among the Bugeika student body. More precisely, I am the one who has attained the throne of Queen.”

“And what ranking is that? If we’re going by Hundred reaction readings, then Hayato should be on top, no?”

“He has yet to participate in a contest. At present, he holds the top rank among the freshmen and no more.”

The one who had responded to Emil’s question was not Claire, but the vice-president, Erika.

“From this moment forward, once every three months a ranking contest will be held. By participating in duels sanctioned by the student council, students may thus contest one another for rank. The reaction readings are but one factor in evaluating the students of this school.”

“So if he defeats the president in such a duel, and claims the King’s throne, the punishment can be withdrawn, correct?”

“You will hold your tongue, Emil Crossford! How dare you suggest that a mere freshman could surpass Claire-sama, the queen of this school!” roared Erika’s counterpart, Ridi Steinberg.

“This is the first time in history someone has had readings higher than the president’s, no? Without actually trying it, there’s no way we can say whether Hayato could or couldn’t.”

Erika’s face twisted in rage at those words.

“Emil Crossford, if you insult Claire-sama any more than this, you, too, will――”

“Erika, please stop.”

Claire restrained Erika, who had begun to charge toward Emil.

“But Claire-sama―!”

“It’s fine; please give ear to what I am about to say. I have an idea.”

Claire cleared her throat and grinned. Extending her left index finger, she pointed at Hayato, declaring firmly, “I, Claire Harvey, request a duel with the freshman, Kisaragi Hayato!”

“…Eh? Me?”

Hayato’s eyes gaped wide in shock at this sudden proposal. Ridi, Erika, Reitia, Fritz, Emil; they, and all others watching, were similarly stunned.

“On the off-chance you are indeed victorious, it will be as Emil Crossford has said; we will withdraw the punishment imposed upon those two.”

“Claire-sama, are you serious?”

“Of course I am. The two of you are also curious about the ability of the guy who broke my record, the current holder of the highest reaction reading, right? In any case, this is a chance for us of the student council to demonstrate our strength to these freshmen. We were planning on doing so anyway, so this is killing two birds with one stone, really,” Pausing, she added, “Normally duels are reserved for ranking purposes, but this simplifies things a bit.”

“Just hold on a sec! Why are you proposing a duel all of a sudden; I’ve never even used the Hundred in a fight before――”

“Both the first time you touched a Hundred, and the time your reaction reading was measured before you came here—I understand it took the shape of a sword. From what I’ve read of your history, you were taught swordsmanship from the time you were young. You should have more than enough preparation. I get the feeling you’re not the kind who’d back down from a fight, so how about it?”

“That…”

That was certainly true. However, it was also true that he was a complete amateur in all matters regarding the Hundred. He had no way of gauging his proficiency in Hundred combat without first giving it a try.

“Might I ask a question first?”

“Go ahead. What is it?”

“I understand that if I win, the expulsion of those two students will be withdrawn, but what happens if I lose?” Hayato couldn’t help but ask.

The question, however, was rather like stirring a hornet’s nest.

“That’s a good point. How about you sweep the student council room every day until graduation? Or, perhaps, I ought to make you my assistant?”

“Wait a sec, that’s――”

“We are the ones compromising here,” Claire crushed Emil’s objections with a single line. “If you find these conditions intolerable, then the deal is off.”

Should he refuse, the two students would face immediate expulsion.

Left with no other choice, Hayato responded in turn.

“I accept.”

“Is that really alright, Hayato?!”

“If I’d have to face expulsion as well for losing, then I don’t know what I’d do, but if it’s just something as small as that, then what else can I do? If I don’t accept, those two can’t be saved.”

“If that’s the case, then I’ll be your substitute.” Emil turned towards the president and offered, “Hey, President. I’ll bear the punishment in his place if he loses; it’s my fault that things have come to this, after all.”

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. Don’t think I’ve overlooked your rebellious attitude; I’m already planning on punishing you as well. Should Kisaragi Hayato miraculously prove victorious, I’ll grant you clemency, but I will not allow you to interfere with our wager.”

Emil’s frustration was plain to see.

Claire continued on with an air of innocence, “It would be rather harsh of me to hold the competition now, so I’ll give you some time to prepare. The date for our duel will be set for tomorrow morning. I have given the order for your personal Hundred to be delivered to you immediately; please, retrieve it from the laboratory. Any further questions?”

Hayato and the others didn’t speak. There was nothing left to be said.

“Well then, Kisaragi Hayato. I look forward to our fight.”

With those words, Claire disappeared into the wings of the stage.

“That president is reeeeally hard to get along with…”

Bleeeeh! Emil stuck his tongue out in annoyance.

“That certainly might be part of it, but that doesn’t mean you should start fights like that. It’s because you’re like that that I have to fight her now.”

Hayato was also partially at fault; he had, after all, had the feeling he’d be dragged into some strange things for befriending Emil.

“Silence!”

Erika, standing at the podium, raised her voice in response to the noise filling the auditorium once more.

“The school entrance ceremony has yet to conclude. I will now describe the school facilities as well as the schedule you will abide from today forward.”

The following proceedings were quite straightforward. The school facilities were detailed in pamphlets found in their rooms. Since the following day was a Saturday, there were no lessons or training to be had, and so, with the exception of areas that were off-limits, they had free rein of the school. It was hoped that they would use the time to acquaint themselves with their fellow students and townspeople.

However, because Hayato needed to prepare himself for the duel, he could not afford the time for such activities.

“Thank you so much for helping us―”

“It’s because of us that you’re in trouble; we’re so sorry―”

After the ceremony had drawn to a close and Erika and Ridia had departed, the two who had been threatened with expulsion had approached Hayato and Emil. Bowing, they expressed their gratitude.

“Save that for after the duel…”

The duel’s outcome had yet to be decided, after all. Gratitude was premature. Just as Hayato was about to express his feelings on the matter―

“Everything’s going to be alright; Hayato will definitely save you!” Emil declared with confidence.

“Oi, Emil… Could you cut it out with the unneeded commentary already…?”

Hayato’s first impression had been that he was just a guy with a cute face, but that cute appearance belied the recklessness with which he aggressively picked fights and fanned the flames with his words. Just what on earth is going on in that head of his? Well, not like I can bring myself to hate him, though… he lamented resignedly to himself with a sigh.

 

Translator notes and references

[1]‘Hyaku Busou’: Lit. “One Hundred Arms”.
[2]Had furigana of “Boat”
[3]‘Bugeika’: Lit.: “Martial Arts Department”. It will be kept like this, because there are some really nasty chained terms coming up, which would sound even more ridiculous when translated. Just replace “Bugeika” with “Martial Arts Department” in your mind and judge for yourself.
[4]‘PMC’: Short for “private military company”.
[5]‘Futsuuka’: General department.
[6]‘Six Tatami’: A Japanese measurement for living spaces. 6 tatami is roughly 2.73m x 3.64m.
[7]An onomatopoeia for growling.
[8]Sfx for cute form of annoyance/anger.
[9]‘Katemaki Curls’: A hairstyle, as seen in the next illustration. Or see here.