Chapter 1:

Scuttlebutt

The Mildpowered Virgins of Novylion High


(Future) Captain Umito Dishahara’s Journal
Entry 1
Wednesday, 22nd April Bromtusk 59 (1086 SE)
Port Shōripur
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I was advised by Sarikawa (my elder sister) to start keeping a journal as practice. She says it’ll help me one day when I need to write about my travels on the Great Ocean. I’m only fourteen now and such travels are still a few years away but they say it takes a long time to get good at anything. So it is with sailing and so it must be with writing. And what a great time for her to suggest it too. Today was truly eventful.Bookmark here

I reached Naraya Wharf by 0650 and started prepping my canoe. After a few friendly exchanges with Mano-ji – and a bite of the exquisite sashimi he was eating – I headed out by 0700. Bookmark here

It’s a shame that IX-class students aren’t allowed to bring in sailboats or motorboats. For that I’ll have to wait one more year. It’s still better than not being allowed your own boat at all as was the case until just a month ago when I was still an VIII-class student. Anyways, building upper body strength is important too. And the feeling of complete connectedness that you get with a canoe just cannot be replicated in a motorboat. It’s just a man and the sea and only his oars in between. No loud engine to drown out the quarks of the gulls and the gentle splashing of the waves against the bow. A kayak would serve the same purpose but the stability of a well-built canoe makes for a much more refined experience. The water was calm and still today and the sun wasn’t too harsh. One couldn’t ask for better weather.Bookmark here

By the time I docked Bicep (that’s what I named my canoe lol) in my designated slip, it was 0735. Hagesh’s kayak was already docked. Only Hagesh can outrow me in our batch. In fact, I think he can row faster than anyone in the entire school. Not because of his enthusiasm for paddling or some amazing technique he discovered but because he works out for three hours a day. You see, Hagesh is completely bald. His scalp is as smooth and shiny as a bowling ball dipped in oil. And as if to compensate for the lack of head hair, his eyebrows and chest hair are denser than a field of grass that cows are allergic to. He’s also very short. He’s been stuck at the same height – 5 feet and 3 inches – since VII class. That was also when he went bald. The weird thing, though, is that no one in his family is bald. He says that it’s his guṇa (lit. quality; what is known as an ability or power in the Southern Continent). He says that one day he suddenly lost all the hair on his head and since then he’s been able to communicate with aliens from another dimension. He says that they transmit cross-dimensional EM waves directly into his head (for which he needs to be bald) and tell him little titbits about the future. But so far, no one’s seen a prediction come true. And so, no one believes him. His bald head must be related to whatever his actual guṇa is but no one, not even him presumably, knows what it is. He went through this phase of obnoxiousness for about a year and once even claimed that the aliens were trolling him. Then he got depressed for a while but then he started working out and hasn’t stopped since. In his own words, ‘I can’t be short, bald and fat.’ Now he never talks about aliens unless someone brings up the topic.Bookmark here

But what stuck out at the pier like a sore thumb was the presence of a raft. An honest-to-goodness raft. I’d never seen a raft at school before and my heart was filled with admiration and respect for whoever had the courage to trust a bunch of bamboo sticks tied together with jute rope. They say that thousands of years ago, our ancestors came here from the Southern Continent on rafts. Of course, our current rulers came here on huge gunships only a few hundred years ago. Someday I’ll return the favour. But who was this great man who followed in the paddle-strokes of our forefathers? Who was this great man who had the skill to balance a rudimentary raft at such a young age? What kind of upbringing had he experienced to make him so hardy? What material were his balls made out of? What kind of food did he eat to become so strong? I couldn’t imagine standing on a little raft out on the wide ocean even on a clear and sunny day like today. My entire being was engulfed in a feeling of utter devotion the more I thought about it. Little did I know at that moment that I would lose all respect for him once I met him.Bookmark here

It’s a hundred and fifty steps from the East Pier, where I dock my boat, to the gates of Archemperor Novylion Abode of Learning. I reached my classroom, IX-A, by 0745. The ferries would be departing from their various docks by now and would reach the South Pier by 0800. Four bags were already in the classroom. Three of them I recognised but one I didn’t. Could it belong to the owner of the raft? It looked cheap and quite well-used. The odds were high. Wednesday is assembly day so I kept my bag in the front row and hurried over to the large courtyard. Ashukami and Tan were standing at ease exactly where they would need to be in the height-wise line that would form once the ferry-riders arrived. It’s almost funny seeing two people standing in line, waiting for the rest of the line to appear around them. Bookmark here

No. No! Bad Umito! It’s not funny. It’s not lame. It’s discipline at its finest. It is but a little sign of their resolve to be members of society who contribute to it meaningfully and follow its rules and principles conscientiously. I must learn from them and I must be like them. I can improve and so can everyone. I need to improve or else I’ll never become a captain.Bookmark here

Sorry for that, dear reader. Back to the events of the day:Bookmark here

I greeted a good morning to both of them and stood in line just like them behind Ashukami.Bookmark here

‘Did the sea treat you well today, brother Umito?’ asked Ashukami Momokani, the religious nut. Everyone is a brother or sister to him, he who is a follower of the Isekami sect. Bookmark here

‘Yes, the water was very calm today. Thank you for asking.’Bookmark here

‘Ah! A blessing from the Giver and Taker.’ That’s how they refer to God. To each his own.Bookmark here

‘Say, did you notice a new bag in the classroom today? I also saw a raft at the pier when I came in.’Bookmark here

‘I don’t know anything about a raft but I did see the bag. We have a new transfer student in our class. I didn’t meet him but brother Tan did.’Bookmark here

‘But both of you arrive together, right?’Bookmark here

‘We do but I make a short stop to offer my prayers at the little shrine to the big GnT near the dock while brother Tan goes ahead.’ This was news to me but not surprising. And it’s always jarring to hear him just casually plop in the words ‘the big GnT’ in the middle of his overly formal speech.Bookmark here

‘What was he like, Tan? What’s his name?’Bookmark here

Except for responding to my greeting, Tan Talaragi had been completely silent until then. He’s always been quite quiet. He always keeps to himself. He always does the right thing and stays out of trouble but also never rats anyone out to a teacher and is generally non-judgemental. He just goes along with the flow. Truly a nice guy.Bookmark here

‘Well, Umito, I only saw the transfer student but we didn’t speak. I greeted him but he didn’t respond and just stared at me. He just kept his bag on a seat and walked away. I think a teacher was calling him but I couldn’t make out his name,’ Tan said. It’s rare to hear him speak so long.Bookmark here

‘What was his build like? Was he tall and strong?’ I asked. He must have been to have been able to handle that raft, right?Bookmark here

‘Oh, I didn’t know you were interested in men in that way, Umito. Good to know that you trust me so much to share something like this with me,’ Tan said.Bookmark here

‘……’Bookmark here

‘Brother Umito, I do not approve of this. If this be true, we must end our association.’ You knew you were in trouble when Ashukami broke out the Medieval grammar.Bookmark here

‘What you guys talkin’ about?’ Hagesh Malumaru – Mr Bowling Ball himself – had entered the chat. Things could only go badly from here. I wanted to kill myself.Bookmark here

No. No, you didn’t. Life is meaningful and we all have a purpose. Always remember that, Umito. Always.Bookmark here

‘Umito has strayed from the path of righteousness and been tempted by Southern lust. He will burn in the fires of hell with those men who… go against nature.’ So I wasn’t a brother anymore? Bookmark here

‘Whoa, you gay, Umito? Sweet! I’ve always wanted a gay best friend,’ Hagesh continued. ‘Girls really dig guys who are cool with the gays.’Bookmark here

‘Gay or not, nobody would ever want to be your best friend, mongrel snot! Go make your bed with those aliens of yours!’ I just couldn’t contain my anger. Bookmark here

No, you must be calm. A great captain always remains calm. Be as the sea you want to sail on. Gentle but not still. Gentle but not violent. Bookmark here

‘I’m sorry for that, Hagesh. I didn’t mean it.’Bookmark here

‘Ha! Joke’s on you. When the aliens come here, I’ll rule the world and all of you will be my slaves. I’m not joking. Annoying followers of fake sects won’t be spared either.’Bookmark here

‘The big GnT will judge all corrupters when He comes back.’ What a rude liver pimple Ashukami can be sometimes. But I didn’t mind it as long as the target was Hagesh. Bookmark here

‘I was only asking about the transfer student’s physical characteristics because he is probably the owner of the raft I saw this morning. Only a man possessing a certain amount of strength could pull off such a feat.’Bookmark here

‘How do you manage to bring up boats in every conversation? You’re almost worse than the evangelist.’ Bookmark here

Gentle as the sea.Bookmark here

‘Guys!’ The tall, lanky frame of Puna Maiwal was running towards us. Both of his hands were raised up to his shoulders. He always looks like a damsel in distress when he runs. But it’s not like he has a choice. Any time his legs move, his hands must go up. It’s a side effect of his guṇa. Sometimes guṇas are like this. In exchange for a truly useful ability, something else is taken away. In Puna’s case, in exchange for superhuman skills at the game of badminton, he lost his dignity as a man. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But if my first step made me look that ridiculous, I’d break my own legs and use a wheelchair for the rest of the way. You see those kinds of people on the street sometimes, with unnaturally shaped limbs or weird outgrowths of flesh on their foreheads or noticeable twitches that make them stand out. Always makes you wonder whether it’s simply a disability or an amazing guṇa. There are also some rumours floating around that Puna’s guṇa is not a guṇa at all but a siddhī. But siddhīs are illegal and I don’t believe Puna would ever do something illegal. I’ve seen him pick up other people’s garbage. Bookmark here

Siddhīs are terrifying powers, with terrifying consequences. I only know of one person who actually has a siddhī and that is Ashukami. He gets a pass because it’s controlled by the priests at his monastery. Anyone else found to have participated in the unspeakable ritual to get a siddhī would have been sentenced to death. Even talking about is taboo but I like living on the edge.Bookmark here

Puna’s left elbow hit my neck. My height is above average, if you must know; he’s just freakishly tall. Bookmark here

‘Ow!’Bookmark here

‘Sorry. Anyways, I need some advice about— oh, I’m not interrupting anything, am I?’ Mr Badminton Damsel has a habit of almost always almost getting to the point immediately but then giving up at the last moment. He’d be a legendary tease if he were a woman.Bookmark here

‘Nothing important apart from yourself, brother Puna.’ I hate when this literal fake person can actually be witty once in a while.Bookmark here

‘We were just talking about how little Umito here has been performing unnatural acts and how he’ll be my slave once the aliens invade our planet.’Bookmark here

‘Don’t do that to Kinu, please. I love that little guy. I couldn’t bear to see him suffer.’ Kinu is our family dog. So I was an animal molester in addition to being a homosexual now? Puna’s been to my house a few times and he loves playing with my dog. I hoped nobody would notice this detail but Hagesh is not to be underestimated.Bookmark here

‘Oh, so you’ve met his dog? I’ve never been to Umito’s house but you seem like you go all the time.’Bookmark here

‘My father and Umito’s father are work colleagues so his family hosts ours for dinner once or twice a year during the holidays and vice versa. Umito and I play with Kinu while all the adults talk… adult stuff.’ Bookmark here

‘Why are you making it sound like our parents are doing something improper?’Bookmark here

‘Just you and him and Kinu in the summer heat while the adults are all drinking tea in the living room… I can picture it. He he hue hue.’ Of all the laughs I’ve heard in my life, his is the second worst. It sounds like someone installed a broken car engine inside a donkey’s throat. Bookmark here

‘Any other day, Hagesh, I would have played along. But not today. I have…’ Again with the teasing. Why is Puna Maiwal a man? It was masterful too. His expression changed to one of genuine sorrow, his pitch dropped a little and his voice became a little raspy and moist, like he was about to start to almost cry but not quite. These mannerisms did not suit the ugly face of a man, especially not one so tall and rugged. But so biologically responsive are we men to certain frequencies of womanly sounds that all attention shifted from my sexual deviancies to Puna’s plight.Bookmark here

‘Never mind, actually. It’s embarrassing.’Bookmark here

‘Get on with it, footpath gunk.’ Hagesh is quick with the curse words but Puna is lightning fast. The badminton team is the most vulgar and foul-mouthed group of individuals that I’ve ever met. And that’s coming from me, a guy who hangs out with sailors all the time. I was eager to hear Puna’s comeback, which was probably going to be like a symphony of slurs compared to Hagesh’s kindergarten recital. Puna is the headmaster of the school that Hagesh isn’t even smart enough to get into. But what he said completely blew me away and shattered all my expectations.Bookmark here

‘……’Bookmark here

Nothing. He said nothing.Bookmark here

‘Puna, are you alright? Is something wrong?’ Even Tan was shaken. What had seemed to be a tease had turned out to be a full-blown crisis.Bookmark here

‘I’ve decided to make a change in my life. Perhaps you can help me the most, Umito.’Bookmark here

‘Wh– What is it?’Bookmark here

‘I’m not going to say bad words anymore.’Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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