Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume12 Chapter1
Chapter 1: Sunny Morning Classes. Winter_Clothes.
It was September 30th.
As it was the final day of September, every school in Academy City had only morning classes. This was simply because the schools switched to using winter uniforms the following day.
Academy City had been created by redeveloping the western third of Tokyo and it had around 1.8 million students living within it. This left the clothing businesses very busy for nothing more than the switch to winter uniforms.
The actual measurements and orders were carried out at around the time of the Daihaseisai, so the only thing left was for the students to pick up their new winter uniforms. Even so, the congestion was on a great enough scale to require special treatment. Having only morning classes was also customarily a means of giving the students a time to wear their winter uniforms and “break them in”.
But for students who did not have to worry about getting a new uniform, it simply meant they had a half day of school.
One such student was a boy named Kamijou Touma. He had entered a certain high school that same year, and the winter uniform he had purchased when entering the school still fit him fine. As such, he was spared having to deal with the busy stores on that day.
His position was not unique. Most of the students in his year were in similar positions. It was primarily second and third year students having to frantically rush to the stores. The first year students were almost all completely carefree.
Currently, the students were resting during the 10 minute break between third and fourth period classes.
Kamijou Touma, the average student mentioned before, opened a window in the hallway and blankly stared out at the scenery. The math lesson before had bored him half to death and he had just washed his face at the water fountain to wake himself up.
He was of average height and weight, but he had a bit of muscle tone. This was not because he was on a sports team. He had gained those muscles from fighting or fleeing within the back alleys. His pointy black hair hinted that he at least sometimes checked fashion magazines and that the fortress of his heart led him to show some care about his looks as a high school boy. But the way he looked around with sleepy eyes and opened his mouth wide to yawn repeatedly made that fortress’s defenses seem rather weak.
Kamijou Touma rested his elbows on the window sill and enjoyed the coolness of the soft autumn breeze now that the last remnants of the summer heat had faded.
“Sigh… I wish I could meet someone nice,” he muttered.
As soon as he said that, a straight thrust punch struck Kamijou’s temples on either side as if his head was being crushed in a vice.
The impact created a tremendous noise.
To his right stood Tsuchimikado Motoharu and to his left stood Aogami Pierce.
They were both Kamijou Touma’s classmates.
“Idiots, what the hell are you doing!?” shouted Kamijou as he swung his head around.
But in response Tsuchimikado only let his eyes behind his sunglasses sparkle as he said, “…Nyah. Kami-yan, when you say that, it just sounds like you’re making fun of us.”
“Those words will likely act as a trigger causing some strange girl to come falling out of one of the classrooms around here. Yes, it’s always that way with you, Kami-yan! I get the feeling you could win the complete set with everything from a super AI robot girl to a high class spring fairy lady!!”
As always, those two were going on about some nonsense or another, but it did not seem they had meant any real harm.
The three boys were wearing black collared jackets and black slacks. Kamijou had his jacket unbuttoned so the red T-shirt underneath was visible. Naturally, a dress shirt was meant to be worn underneath, but from the example set by Aogami Pierce and Tsuchimikado’s blond hair, necklaces, and such, it was obvious the school was not very strict about that sort of thing.
“So what are you two out here for?”
“Oh, right. Come look at this,” said Aogami Pierce.
He held out a copy of the top-selling weekly manga magazine in Japan. His friendship may have been evident in the fact that he had not used it when striking Kamijou.
Aogami Pierce flipped open the back cover of the manga magazine.
The page displayed a color advertisement for mail-order products.
“Do you see the ‘Shoulder Massage Holder-kun’ listed here?”
“Sounds good, right? Lately, my right shoulder has been hurting oddly, but when I massage it myself, my left shoulder starts hurting.”
The photo of the product was incredibly small, but it showed a U-shaped plastic device. It was probably somewhere between 15 and 20 cm long. The U-shaped portion would fit directly over the shoulders when it was used. They came in an economical set of two.
“Come to think of it, I saw an advertisement for this on those late-night mail-order TV ads.”
“So did I! If they’re advertising it so heavily, it must feel really, really good!!”
“Eh?” said Tsuchimikado sounding dubious. “That’s probably a bluff. Especially because there’s no way to quantify how good or bad something feels. You’ll probably find out it’s terrible but they’ll just insist everyone in their test group thought it felt good if you complain. Don’t you think, nyah?”
“Keh! Someone like you who gets his younger stepsister to give him a shoulder massage every day just doesn’t understand!!”
“It isn’t every day. It’s only about once every three days, nyah!!”
The way the direction and topic of conversation changed from line to line was normal for their chats, but Kamijou was confused as to what the other two wanted from him.
And then they made that quite clear.
“So, Kami-yan, what do you think? I think it’ll definitely work great.”
“No, I don’t think you’ll find any joy from that thing, nyah.”
Kamijou sighed as he realized they just needed a third opinion to break their tie.
He also wondered why those two were so hung up over this shoulder massage machine in the first place.
“Y’know, I’m hardly a specialist when it comes to shoulder massages, so I doubt anything I say will be very persuasive. Doesn’t this kind of defeat the purpose of finding the majority opinion?”
“Stop being so uselessly picky about this, moron!!”
“I am not useless!!”
It was only after reflexively shouting back that Kamijou belatedly realized that was the driving force behind Aogami Pierce and Tsuchimikado’s energy.
And continuing on with it despite that realization was simply how an argument worked.
“I doubt it would have much of an effect. You talk about having stiff shoulders, but the area that hurts and the level of stiffness differs from person to person. Also, don’t you think the effects would be different between a guy and a girl? It sounds pretty fishy to me from the moment it claims to be able to cure any and all shoulder stiffness.”
“Told you, nyah. You just can’t beat a stepsister when it comes to shoulder massages.”
“How am I supposed to know that without trying it out myself!? And I wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place if I had a girl to give me a shoulder massage!!” shouted Aogami Pierce as he began to lightly beat Tsuchimikado. Kamijou watched that unproductive conflict as an unrelated third party.
“I have an idea,” he said as he tore Aogami Pierce and Tsuchimikado apart. “How about you try it out? I know someone who has constant issues with stiff shoulders and is quite fond of this kind of mail-order good.”
A girl named Fukiyose Seiri was in Kamijou Touma’s class.
She had a strong sense of duty and had been their class’s member of the Daihaseisai committee up to a few days before. She had black hair parted so it lay behind her ears and she had large breasts for a student. She had an atmosphere of being strict about school rules and she had already prepared her textbook and notebook for the next period despite the break not being over yet. She wore a long-sleeve sailor uniform. With the sole exception of her slightly-too-short skirt, everything from her scarf to her indoor shoes was perfectly measured for uniformity.
She just so happened to have a habit of collecting health-related mail-order goods.
She must have felt somehow embarrassed about it because she had kept that fact hidden from everyone but a certain boy.
Fukiyose Seiri was calmly chatting with Himegami Aisa, the classmate who sat in the neighboring seat, instead of frantically comparing homework with the other girl.
“Is Fukiyose here!?”
The instant the classroom door flew open and that shout entered from the exact same direction, she flinched back a bit. It was Kamijou, Aogami, and Tsuchimikado, the class’s three biggest idiots who were collectively known as the Delta Force. Those three had caused all sorts of trouble in the past, but Fukiyose silently swore she would keep her presence of mind no matter what happened. But then Kamijou opened his mouth and spoke.
“I beg you, Fukiyose, let us see how good those two things you have feel!!”
An odd snapping sound came from that large-breasted girl’s head.
Before the term “presence of mind” could flit through her mind, she intercepted Tsuchimikado Motoharu and Aogami Pierce with one straight punch each. Kamijou Touma’s expression stiffened in shock when he saw what happened to the other two, and then he received a powerful blow from Fukiyose’s hard forehead. As she looked down on the villains who were collapsed on the ground, the victorious Fukiyose brushed the dust off of her hands. It was at that moment that Tsukuyomi Komoe, their 135 cm tall female teacher, entered the classroom.
“Now then, class. Today’s final lesson is chemistry, so…gyahhh!? My tender class has been transformed into a lawless delinquent battleground!?”
Komoe-sensei was completely taken aback by the horrible scene before her, but Fukiyose replied with an entirely cool expression.
“It was necessary to ensure peace.”
“What in the world happened!? Fukiyose-chan is acting like a member of a peacekeeping force!!”
He must have heard Komoe-sensei on the verge of tears because Kamijou let out a groan.
While still collapsed on the ground, he said, “S-sensei… No one was in the wrong here…”
“Then how did this happen!?” lamented Komoe-sensei.
In response, Kamijou pointed a trembling finger slightly below Fukiyose Seiri’s face.
“…I know Fukiyose-san has these two things that probably feel really good, but she won’t let us see how they feel!!”
Hearing that, Komoe-sensei’s face turned beet red and she collapsed straight backwards. Without even checking on her, Fukiyose Seiri slowly approached with her fist clenched for an additional attack.
Four girls were in a hospital.
The area they were in was not off limits, but people almost never came there because of how far away it was from the routes leading to the exits. In the hospital, it was known as the clinical research area, but warm sunbeams came in through the window despite that over-the-top name.
The girls were standing in the hallway.
All four of them had shoulder-length brown hair and skin so white it almost looked transparent. They all had the exact same silhouette and their eyes were the same in every way from the shape and color to the iris and retina. Despite the season, they all wore the Tokiwadai Middle School summer uniform: gray pleated skirt, short-sleeve white blouse, and sleeveless summer sweater.
They went by many different names.
Mass-produced military models of a Level 5.
Due to the effects of growth acceleration techniques using genetic manipulation and drugs, their lifespan had been drastically reduced. They were undergoing various treatments in the hospital to overcome that, and they were going to begin the second stage of that treatment today.
They had lived in the hospital up to that point, but they would now be heading outside bit by bit for rehabilitation.
A doctor with a frog-like face spoke to those Sisters.
He was holding a small clipboard of the sort waiters used.
“Are all of you okay with wearing Tokiwadai Middle School’s winter uniform while outside?”
“That is not a problem, replies Misaka #10032,” said one of the four girls.
They could only be distinguished by serial number rather than by name. That frog-faced doctor had not decided on that. It had apparently been a decision from when they were being produced.
“Is the same size fine for all four of you?” said the doctor as he wrote their “order” on the clipboard.
In response to his question, the four Sisters did not even exchange a single glance. Their expression made it clear they felt that was a silly question.
“There is no need to even take measurements. We all match, answers Misaka #10032.”
“Every Misaka was made from the same genetic information. We are mass-produced models, adds Misaka #13577.”
“Since we were all made via the same process, there is no need to even entertain the possibility of differences, concludes Misaka #10039.”
The final girl trailed off.
The other three Sisters turned toward the one that had made that inarticulate comment, and Serial Number 19090 averted her gaze and shrunk down. From the way she used her hands, it seemed she was trying to hide her upper body.
#10032, the girl a certain boy referred to as Misaka Imouto, looked over with a bit of suspicion in her eyes. She then approached #19090 as if she had just realized something.
She clenched both fists with just the thumbs extended, turned those fists upside down, and stuck her thumbs into the gap between #19090’s body and skirt.
“Mh!? According to the spec sheet, we should all be exactly the same, but there is enough room for two thumbs, says Misaka #10032 in an emergency report!!”
“But every Misaka should be the same, says Misaka #13577 as she displays her shock!”
“Her waist may be different but what about the rest of her? says Misaka #10039 as she completely calmly suggests a thorough examination.”
To carry out that plan, #10032 pulled her thumbs out from the skirt and moved them upwards, but #19090 used both hands to intercept them. Unlike the other models, her face was tinged a bit red and her facial expressions seemed more diverse.
With a shocked look on his face, the frog-faced doctor said, “The faces and physiques of monozygotic twins can grow distinct due to differences in diet and exercise, so maybe this is the same. It wouldn’t be surprising to see variations in style between clones.”
The doctor silently regretted some things he had said before.
This situation had come about because he had taught them that skinnier girls were better, and the better the girl, the more choice they had in guys. That was simply the frog-faced doctor’s own prejudiced preferences, but the Sisters knew very, very few guys. For that reason, they assumed that the frog-faced doctor was a good example of an average guy and had likely come to the conclusion of “If this man thinks that, then perhaps that high school boy thinks so too, decides Misaka amidst her confused thoughts”.
And he did not know where the knowledge had come from, but they had also learned that there was a special ring that was placed on the ring finger and that a girl had to be the best she could be to acquire it. He was not sure whether to call that information accurate or not, but it had led the Sisters to grow more and more individualistic nonetheless. (Although the Sisters themselves did not seem aware of it.)
“So this Misaka has been going behind the other Misakas’ backs and cheating with a diet, says Misaka #10032 as she continues the investigation.”
“#20001 aka Last Order is supposed to keep control of every Misaka. What is she doing? asks Misaka #13577 as she brings up the concepts of mission and duty.”
“She is so little that she may not know what the purpose of those actions was, speculates Misaka #10039 as she keeps a level head.”
While the Sisters spoke back and forth, the frog-faced doctor spoke up once more.
“Is this really something to get that worked up over? You are all the same basic model, so can’t you achieve the same result by doing what #19090 did?”
Three of the Sisters turned toward the remaining one at high speed.
#19090, the Sister who had acquired a weight-loss technique before the others, slowly stepped backwards.
“Misaka will do what her danger management ability tells her and run away! says Misaka as-…!!”
Before she could finish shouting, the other girls jumped at her.
A woman named Yoshikawa Kikyou was inside the same hospital the Sisters were rampaging around within.
She was a former member of the research group that had planned and carried out the experiment meant to create a new category called Level 6 to exist above Academy City’s current classifications of Level 0, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5.
By her own admission, she had a naïve but not kind personality. She had created a total of over 20,000 clones and killed over half of those in the process of that experiment. The one doing the actual killing had been a Level 5 student who was the prime candidate for achieving Level 6, but that was no excuse.
Currently, the experiment had been not just frozen but ended after a fatal flaw was found in it.
However, that had not caused everything related to the experiment to just disappear into thin air. The girls created just to be killed and the esper who had been ordered to do nothing but kill them were still human children even if they had special characteristics or lived in a special environment. The mental pressure this brought down on them had to be unimaginable. Their individual problems were bad enough, but there was a rift of absolute depth between them and the relationship between them could only be called a catastrophe. Normally thinking, there was no way the gap between them could be bridged.
“No! says Misaka as Misaka refuses you! Misaka isn’t getting down! Misaka is never getting down! This bag is Misaka’s territory! says Misaka as Misaka strongly objects while sitting on top of the bag you are holding!!”
“Why you…!! Don’t swing around on the bag someone’s carrying over their shoulder, you little shit!! Did you forget that I’m still recovering!?”
(The victims in question are as lively as ever.)
Accelerator, the one who had done the killing, was standing on wobbling legs with a tonfa-like modern cane in his right hand and a sports bag strapped over his left shoulder. His colorless white hair and red eyes were his most notable characteristics and he now wore primarily gray clothes.
Last Order, one of the ones to be killed, was sitting seiza-style on top of Accelerator’s sports bag with one hand on either side of the shoulder strap like it was a swing. She could only pull this off because she looked like a child of about 10, but she may still have been too much for someone who needed a cane. She had shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. She wore a light blue camisole with an unbuttoned men’s dress shirt worn over it.
Accelerator had been hospitalized after being shot in the forehead on August 31st, but he was finally being released after spending a month there. Technically, his body had not been healed, but he had undergone all the treatment available. The after-effects of the damage the fragments of his shattered skull had done to his brain were not gone and he still had to wear a choker-style electrode around his neck to supplement a portion of his brain’s functions. Without that, he could not even speak or stand on his own two feet. But after the injury he had undergone, it was a miracle he was able to go back to his normal life at all.
And that was why those three currently stood at the main entrance of the hospital.
Yoshikawa too had been shot at the end of the previous month and the bullet had grazed her heart, so she was not exactly in the best condition to watch after those children, but she had taken on the duty nonetheless.
It was not that she had no choice but to do it.
She wanted to do it.
“Okay, listen up. This is the entrance, so stop playing around so you don’t trouble the other people here. You can play once we drop off this luggage and calm down a bit.”
“Misaka wasn’t playing! says Misaka as Misaka forces her center of gravity further and further down and objects with a serious expression!!”
“If that sense of leisure oozing off of you isn’t playing, then what the hell do you call it!?” shouted Accelerator while the sports bag still threatened to flatten him. Yoshikawa ignored that exchange and headed out from the entrance and lightly waved at the driver of the taxi waiting for them. He drove up to them with practiced motions.
Accelerator held out the bag Last Order was sitting on toward the driver and said, “I’ll just throw all this in the trunk, so hurry up and open it.”
“You’re treating Misaka like luggage!? says Misaka as Misaka flees to the back seat while trembling!!”
Accelerator tossed the sports bag into the back seat so it squashed Last Order underneath and sat in an open seat.
There was still room in the back seat, but Yoshikawa headed around to the passenger seat so she did not have to deal with the commotion in the back.
Just to be sure, she said to the driver, “They’re just feeling a bit giddy after being in the hospital for so long.”
“Ah ha ha. It’s a good thing for kids to have that much energy.”
“Oh, and the small one isn’t used to cars so she might vomit.”
The driver’s body twitched at that. Yoshikawa guessed he was new at the job. She could hear the sounds of a struggle as Accelerator grabbed his sports bag and moved as far away from Last Order as he could get. Yoshikawa’s warning had only been a bluff meant to make sure the driver gave them a smoother ride, but it seemed it was not as well known a trick as she had thought.
The taxi set off as smoothly as if it was delivering raw eggs.
Yoshikawa informed the driver of their destination and checked the digital clock above the meter. It was just before noon.
Since he had believed the announcement about Last Order vomiting, Accelerator grabbed her face and shoved her away when she tried to approach. As he did so, he looked at the back of Yoshikawa’s head with a puzzled look.
“Where are we headed?”
“To the school someone I know works at. I have arranged for us to meet there. You’re planning to quit your current school, right? I’m sure you know what that means.”
Most of the students in Academy City lived in dormitories. There were some who did things like freeload at a city bakery, but those were very rare cases.
Leaving a school (technically they were psychic power development institutions that included schools) meant losing your place to live in that school’s dorms. Accelerator was constantly targeted by Academy City’s delinquents and they would also trash his dorm room, so he had no problem ditching that residence. Every single piece of furniture had been destroyed, so there was no value in the place. However, losing his only real place of shelter was still a big deal.
The reason Accelerator had chosen to leave that school despite that risk was…
“I don’t want to have anything to do with that Level 6 shit ever again.”
The organization that had directly carried out that experiment had been destroyed, but the disappearance of the research institution that used the Sisters did not fully free them from its curse. It was on a different scope, but his school had a special classroom. He was the only student in the class and it essentially functioned as a square cage to isolate him as an experimental animal.
If he truly wanted to leave that bloody world, he had to throw away all of that. The lab, the school, the dorm…everything.
From now on, he would have to choose a school that did not have such powerful intent behind it. He had no idea if there really were any researchers who would not leap at the chance to experiment on a test subject as desirable as Accelerator, but he would do his best to find one.
Accelerator and Last Order were such special beings that they would never find a place to live outside of Academy City.
And if he stayed in Academy City but did not attend a school, his only choice was to live in the back alleys as a member of Skill-Out. If Academy City’s strongest Level 5 chose that path, it would only lead to complete destruction.
“So did the board of directors decide to leave us under your control? I suppose this is perfectly suited to your field of research.”
As a research member involved in the experiment, Yoshikawa had once helped produce Last Order and the other clones and had helped with the maintenance of Accelerator.
Even after the research related to Level 6 had been stopped, he was still Academy City’s strongest Level 5 and excellent research material. If Yoshikawa could research him and find some new way to use him for psychic power development, he would be very valuable indeed.
Accelerator sensed the influence and planning of someone from behind the scenes.
Most of the people Accelerator had ever met could be summed up with the term “monster”. As long as it allowed him to escape the curse of that sort of adult, he decided it might be easier to leave the decision to Yoshikawa. Of course, if he ever disagreed with her methods, he would just crush her and try elsewhere.
“No,” replied Yoshikawa Kikyou without even turning around.
“I am not your next supervisor. Think about this rationally. With my research job gone, I am essentially unemployed. Also, after the experiment itself and August 31st, I have been involved with an incident related to you twice now. If the board of directors still decided to assign me as your guardian, they should all be fired.”
“…Then what? Are you only here to run an errand for the strange new researcher that we’re being handed over to?”
“You certainly are deeply suspicious. But given the environment you’ve grown up in, I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, that view is incorrect in two different ways. First, I am planning to hand you over to someone you know. Second, this person is not a researcher.”
Accelerator narrowed his eyes as he carefully thought through what Yoshikawa had said.
He did not trust her.
He did not like having that kid next to him, but he was willing to crush any enemy even with that handicap. It would be faster to thoroughly crush an enemy that showed itself here than to spend a long time constantly being on guard for some unknown attacker.
(…This is getting boring.)
And then the perfectly innocent girl known as Last Order gave a carefree remark.
“The only person I know who isn’t a researcher is Yomikawa, says Misaka as Misaka raises her hand to give her answer.”
“That’s right,” replied Yoshikawa happily.
Yomikawa was a woman who worked as a member of Academy City’s Anti-Skill and was one of Yoshikawa Kikyou’s few friends in the public world. Accelerator and Last Order knew her as the track-suit-wearing woman who had looked after the two of them in the hospital while Yoshikawa was still incapacitated from her gunshot wound.
Accelerator clicked his tongue as that possibility had not come to mind until Last Order mentioned it.
Hearing that, Yoshikawa said, “Oh? I thought maybe you would relax a bit when you heard the answer.”
“Then how about you give me some more thorough answers?”
“Well, you will see whether I am lying or not when we arrive. It may be best if you actually don’t fix your bad habit of being cautious about the naïve words of others. Especially since you know the value of what you must protect.”
Yoshikawa was not giving in at all. Accelerator looked out the car window in annoyance as a means of averting his gaze from the passenger seat. Last Order alone seemed oblivious to the exchange and said, “Eh? So it isn’t Yomikawa? says Misaka as Misaka starts tugging on your shoulder.”
At noon, school was let out for the day.
Kamijou was not a part of any clubs or teams, so he just had to head back to his dorm.
He put his leather shoes on at the shoe lockers and continued on off of the school grounds.
“What did I do wrong?” he muttered.
He was of course thinking about the series of events with the massager and Fukiyose Seiri’s headbutt.
(Hmm. Did I word it too familiarly? But even when I said please and called her “Fukiyose-sama”, she still hit me. And even when I started with “Dear Madam, the colors of fall certainly have deepened”, she still headbutted me across the room. I wonder what had her so upset.)
That boy had grown used to the misfortune that was always pouring down on him, so he was resilient when it came to direct blows. That was why he did not have any bandages despite the beating he had taken. Kamijou Touma had worked up incredible endurance from having his head constantly bitten by a starving girl.
And without ever realizing the fundamental issue despite the deep thought he gave it, he finally decided he should have worked in the seasonal words more casually. All the while, Kamijou continue to walk through the standard cityscape of Academy City.
By September 30th, the final traces of heat had been swept away. The gentle breeze turning the blades of the wind turbines showed that he would no longer need to use his air conditioner. The weather forecast displayed on the large screen on the department store wall had switched from saying “watch out for heatstroke” to “the season is changing, so keep a careful eye on your health”.
“There! There! There you are! I finally goddamn found you!!”
A girl’s voice shouted that comment that proved the breakdown of the modern Japanese language that linguistic critics often warned of.
Kamijou turned around and saw (what should have been) a lovely girl of the prestigious rich girl’s school, Tokiwadai Middle School, charging toward him at high speed.
It was Misaka Mikoto.
She had shoulder-length brown hair and was about 7 cm shorter than Kamijou. Instead of the summer uniform he was used to seeing her in, she wore a beige blazer and a dark blue checkered pleated skirt. She had to have received that winter uniform brand new only that day or the day before, but the skirt had already been shortened. As befitting a student at a rich girl’s school, she held what looked like a violin case in addition to her thin school bag.
Whenever Kamijou saw her face, an annoyed look appeared on his own face.
“Well, this is…ugh…such misfortune.”
“Don’t react like that every time you see me!! Gyahh!” shouted Mikoto.
Kamijou had received punches and headbutts from Fukiyose Seiri that morning, but he felt more misfortune about this encounter. That may have only been natural since that girl was known as the Railgun and she had a habit of sending lightning spears and other such things his way.
Kamijou readjusted his grip on his thin school bag as if it was quite heavy.
“So do you need something with me? Keep it short. And let’s keep walking if possible. I’d like to get home.”
“Was that first comment not enough to piss me off, so you had to go one step further?” Mikoto tilted her head to the side with her lips twisted up in an evil grin. “Actually, do you even have the right to treat me so horribly?”
“What are you talking about?”
Kamijou sensed some kind of evil intent behind Mikoto’s flat words, so he slowly distanced himself from her.
Then, that Ace of Tokiwadai Middle School who was supposed to have the impeccable conduct of a high class lady folded her arms and said, “The punishment game♪”
Kamijou Touma’s eyebrows twitched.
The punishment game in question had been a bet made between Kamijou and Mikoto during the Daihaseisai, Academy City’s large scale sports festival that began on September 19th and lasted 7 days. Simply put, the one whose school ranked lower had to do whatever the other said.
In a city of psychic power development, the use of esper powers was allowed during the sports festival. And Tokiwadai Middle School’s students could use things like lightning spears reaching hundreds of millions of volts and wall-like blasts of wind that reached 80 m/s to blow away the students of their opposing school like some kind of natural disaster.
Kamijou was in high school while Mikoto was in middle school, but that age difference was not enough to make up for that natural-disaster-level threat. Everyone in his class had been horribly thrashed during their direct confrontation on the third day. Also, several members of Kamijou’s class such as Tsuchimikado, Himegami, Fukiyose, and himself had been injured during the trouble on the first day of the Daihaseisai. All those various circumstances had led to his defeat. His school’s overall ranking had been terrible and they had certainly had no chance against a prestigious school like Tokiwadai in that state.
But a loss was a loss.
That meant Misaka Mikoto was completely in the right to bring up the punishment game. But…
“Huh? That thing’s still valid?”
“Don’t one-sidedly let something like that go!! I really am going to get you to do whatever I ask! Hah! You should thank me for keeping things as they were rather than adding on interest!!”
Mikoto puffed out her chest in triumphant pride.
Some of the students passing by looked over curiously.
Her excessive reaction seemed to be an explosion of resentment over the fact that she had wanted to do this earlier but had not been able to thanks to Kamijou’s time in the hospital and in Italy. Kamijou started to voice a complaint about the idea of adding interest, but he took the mature route and held his tongue.
Instead, he sighed and said, “That’s fine I guess, but there really isn’t much I can do.”
“Hmm, so you’re trying to talk your way out of this like that, are you?”
“No, that wasn’t my intention.”
“I suppose you’re right. Someone as mediocre as you really can’t do very much, can you? But don’t worry. While you may not be, I am wonderful enough to have already taken that into consideration. I intend to ask you to do things even an idiot can do, so make sure to work hard with your full mediocre ability.”
An odd snapping noise came from Kamijou’s temple.
Getting angry would lead to nothing good in a situation like this, but Kamijou Touma was not a wise enough student to think rationally by that point.
“Fine then,” replied Kamijou with his head hanging down.
For some reason, Mikoto breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Kamijou’s casual response.
His head then shot up to stare Mikoto directly in the eye and he gathered up all his strength to shout.
“Fine!! Go ahead and command your beloved slave, Kamijou Touma, to do whatever you want!!”
The crowd around them suddenly froze in place.
They looked back and forth between Kamijou and Mikoto, and then started whispering amongst themselves. After a pause of a few seconds, the crowd of people moved away from the two of them like a wave.
“What…? Wait…slave…ehh!? What are you saying!?”
Even though he saw the color withdraw from Mikoto’s face as quickly as the crowd from them, Kamijou was not the type of person to go easy on her and stop there.
Kamijou reverently knelt on the ground, pulled a thin desk mat out from his thin school bag, and began fanning her with a completely serious expression void of any mocking whatsoever.
“Ensuring a comfortable environment for you naturally goes without saying, milady. I may be unused to this sort of task, but I will do my very best. I beg your forgiveness for any mistakes.”
“Wait, you idiot!! You’re going way overboard here! And don’t fan my skirt up from below!!” shouted Mikoto as her pale face quickly grew tinged with red and she used both hands to hold down her already short skirt. She was wearing shorts underneath, but it was more about how it felt.
A pigtailed girl in a blazer named Shirai Kuroko forcefully charged toward them, breaking through the crowd that had drawn away in shock.
“Wh-what is this…!?”
Normally, she would probably have either embraced Mikoto or grabbed both of her hands, but for once her upper body was knocked backwards as if she had run into an invisible wall between herself and Mikoto. The grand scene before her seemed to have come as quite a shock.
While (it looked like) Mikoto publicly had an older boy fanning her while he prostrated himself at her feet, she turned her head toward her underclassman with her expression frozen in place.
But it seemed Shirai Kuroko could not hear her beloved onee-sama’s voice because she merely stood in place trembling.
Her gaze was fixated on Kamijou Touma who (it looked like) had become Mikoto’s loyal servant.
Shirai said, “Wh-what a gallant and straightforward display of subordination… But that is supposed to be my role!!”
Shirai’s eyes contained envy, jealousy, and a hint of respect.
“Stop that, you idiots!! Don’t you both bow down to me like that! Is this some kind of ritual!? You’re making me look like the leader of some cult!!” shouted Misaka Mikoto, but Kamijou Touma merely continued to earnestly fan her from below while Shirai Kuroko could not stop trembling with fear at how formidable a rival he was.
Tsukuyomi Komoe let out an exhausted sigh in the staff room.
That level of fatigue did not suit her 135 cm height and 12 year old appearance, but it was well deserved. Not only had she been forced to deal with the violence between her students that morning (while it might not stand out much around Kamijou Touma, that was quite a bit of trouble for a normal school life), but she had another reason as well.
This other reason was scattered atop her steel desk.
The cheaply printed papers had Future Career Survey printed at the top. During the first year, this was a very general survey that simply asked what kind of job the student would like to work in the future. Whether the student would continue his or her education or get a job, what school and what department the student would choose if continuing with their education, or what company would they aim for and what methods would they use to get hired if heading straight out to get a job were all questions for further down the line.
Komoe-sensei held her head in her hands.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu had been as serious as he possibly could when he wrote “I want to go to the maid kingdom. There, I will start a coup d’etat, and as the mastermind, I will make an unhappy maid into my empress.” Aogami Pierce had written “I want to be popular” in such big letters it did not fit within the answer box. Kamijou Touma had written “As long as I can be happy, I don’t care what I do” as an earnest desire that threatened to bring tears to her eyes.
(Someone important said more and more of the modern youth lack a desire for a specific job, but I get the feeling this isn’t quite what he meant…)
In all likelihood, those three boys had not simply written some arbitrary answer with their mechanical pencils because they had no interest in the survey. They had likely been completely serious in those answers. And that was the real problem.
At that point, a female teacher in a track suit named Yomikawa Aiho approached.
“Hey, there. Would you prefer a smoke or a drink for a change of pace?”
“Alcohol is not permitted on the job…”
Normally, Tsukuyomi Komoe would have replied very loudly and begun a lecture on what it meant to be a teacher, but her weariness from the day left her with only that weak response.
Yomikawa glanced across Komoe-sensei’s desk.
“Then I guess that leaves a smoke.”
Komoe-sensei pulled a cigarette out of the box Yomikawa held out and stuck it in her mouth.
“Huh? This has a high quality taste to it.”
“Well, I did get these at that smoking bar that opened recently. They’re 70 yen a piece.”
With no smoking areas expanding in recent times, shops specifically made to smoke in had begun to appear. Bars with a variety of tobacco products from around the world instead of cocktails had become fairly common. This example was 70 yen per cigarette, but they also had cigars from South America that were 3000 yen each.
Usually, the entirety of a school was a no smoking area, but Academy City actually often allowed smoking inside the schools. This was because the teachers often also worked as researchers in various fields, so the board of directors decided it was in the best interest of Academy City as a whole to ensure those teachers could remain focused.
And so teachers who had requested for permission to smoke were provided with small high-efficiency air purifiers. Komoe-sensei opened the drawer of her steel desk and pulled out four machines about the size of 2 cigarette packs. She placed them on the four corners of the desk.
Each of them would suck in air from only one direction. With four of them in use, they moved the air above the desk in a circle like it was being spun by a washing machine. The flow of air was not even strong enough to move a single scrap of thin paper, but it was enough to catch the cigarette smoke, suck it in, pass it through a filter, and then release the purified air. This latest model used the principles of aerodynamics to their fullest and also kept the cost low enough that they could be provided to teachers at no cost. It was an excellent item for use in everyday life.
“There we go.”
Komoe-sensei switched on the air purifiers sitting on the corners of her desk.
Yomikawa Aiho, the green track suit wearing teacher with unbelievably huge breasts, put a cigarette in her own mouth and lit it with the small lighter sitting on Komoe-sensei’s desk.
“Apparently, these are rare Belgian ones…Ugh. This was a failure. I can’t pick up any subtle flavor.”
“Yomikawa-sensei, that is because your taste had been dulled by just smoking through them quickly rather than savoring the flavor of each individual one.”
“I don’t want to hear that from White Smoker Tsukuyomi-sensei who easily smokes 5 times as much as I do.”
The two women blew smoke out at the desk.
When the white smoke hit the top of the desk, it scattered in every direction, but it seemed to hit an invisible barrier when it reached the edges of the desk. It stopped moving and then started spiraling around until it was sucked into the desk’s four corners.
The air purifiers only had any effect directly above the desk. Komoe-sensei was fine in her chair, but Yomikawa had to lean forward a bit to bring her head close enough. It seemed the system still had some room for improvement.
“It seems they’re going to raise the price of tobacco products again. I can’t believe it.”
“It’s still better than the prices for sweets and manga.”
Eighty percent of Academy City’s population was made up of students. Even with the exceptions of the college students, surprisingly few people in the city were allowed to smoke or drink. This meant taxes on those things did not do much to increase the budget. For that reason, it was generally understood within Academy City that taxes would be placed on the things kids liked.
The city was primarily a place for learning, so the general opinion was that it was only natural to tax the items and indulgences that were not needed for that purpose. In exchange, rent for the standard dormitories and costs for school lunches (some of those were “prototypes” made by Academy City) were incredibly low, so it all evened out in the end. That said, there were still some schools that tried to make money off of the school buses and textbooks.
“But the students’ living expenses mostly come from scholarships and subsidiary aid. It really seems like a roundabout method to me,” commented Yomikawa.
“If they directly lowered the amount the scholarships pay, they would be flooded with complaints. It’s the same way people react completely differently to a raise in the taxes on cigarettes and a cut in pay even if the amounts add up to the same.”
“Is that so?”
Yomikawa pulled a portable ashtray from a pocket on her track suit and tapped the ash off of the end of the cigarette.
She then noticed something.
Komoe-sensei’s cigarette was slowly bobbing up and down in the corner of her mouth.
She had never done that before.
“Ha ha. Were you influenced by that smoking priest you mentioned, Tsukuyomi-sensei?”
Komoe-sensei’s shoulders jumped.
She frantically moved the cigarette from the corner of her mouth to the center.
“N-no! C’mon, Yomikawa-sensei, what are you talking about!? The idea of his habits infecting me is just preposterous!!”
“If you say so.”
Komoe-sensei had brought up all of her defenses, so Yomikawa readily backed down. Komoe-sensei felt she had evaded the issue, but the look on her face told the truth.
Komoe-sensei remained on her guard, but Yomikawa just blew out some more smoke and said, “Now then, it’s about time I get going.”
“Oh, are the kids you mentioned about to arrive?”
“That’s right. They’re in a pretty bad situation, but I like dealing with an idiot or two. If my class was filled with nothing but straight-A students, things would be too boring.”
“Wait, wait! Our cigarettes are still plenty long, so let’s keep smoking for a bit longer!”
Komoe-sensei grabbed Yomikawa’s hand since the staff room was the only area they were allowed to smoke in.
A few minutes later, Komoe-sensei had smoked her cigarette right down to the filter and she left the staff room along with the track suit wearing PE teacher.
Accelerator could hear the sound of a taxi driving away behind him.
He did not turn around to look at it.
Last Order was saying something next to him, but he did not look in her direction either.
His eyes were fixated on the mysterious sight before him.
He was near the main gate to a certain high school. He could see a reinforced concrete school building that, as far as he could tell from that distance, seemed completely normal and average with nothing unusual about it.
But that was not the issue at hand.
Accelerator was not looking at the school building.
He was looking at the two women standing before him who worked as teachers at that school.
He recognized one of them.
She had long hair tied back and wore a green track suit. Her name was Yomikawa Aiho and she also worked in Academy City’s Anti-Skill. She did not like aiming a weapon at children, so that crazy PE teacher was known to take on anyone up to a Level 3 with nothing but a shield.
But she was not the issue at hand either.
Accelerator was staring at the other woman.
“I-is something the matter…?”
The woman had said she was named Tsukuyomi Komoe…but she might have been even smaller than Last Order who had once more started sitting seiza-style on Accelerator’s sports bag.
Accelerator thought for a bit, gave one more glance at the short woman, and asked, “What kind of unexplainable creature is this? Where the hell did she come from?”
“No, that’s not it at all. I came to Academy City after graduating from college like normal.”
Accelerator narrowed his eyes at that comment that only confused the situation further.
“So they’ve completed research into stopping cellular aging, hm? Fucking hell, is this one of those 250 year methods I heard whispered about during the experiment? I thought I knew how deep all this went, but how much further does Academy City’s technology go!?”
“U-um…You are mistaken.”
“The research might be incomplete and she was captured as a living sample to analyze, says Misaka as Misaka puts on a fairly serious expression. …Poor thing. She must have so many experiments done on her she has no free time, says Misaka as Misaka readies a handkerchief in hand.”
“Um! Why did this have to take such a serious turn from nothing but my introduction!? Yomikawa-sensei, stop laughing and do something!!”
As the mini-teacher grew flustered, the track suit woman laughed so hard she had to hold her sides. Yoshikawa Kikyou, the one who had brought Accelerator and Last Order there, did not seem to have expected Yomikawa to bring that companion. She smiled, but it was a slightly dangerous-looking smile representing her researcher’s spirit flaming to life once more.
As she continued to laugh, Yomikawa looked over toward Accelerator and said, “Anyway, I will be looking after you two from now on. I have some extra rooms, so feel free to just stay as freeloaders.”
“…This will only be for the time being,” said Accelerator in a disinterested tone.
“H-has the misunderstanding been resolved?” asked Komoe-sensei, but Yomikawa only repeatedly slapped her on the top of the head and laughed.
“Are you sure you want me there?” said Accelerator in a completely normal tone. “You know what circumstances I’m coming from, right? If you only think this will only lead to getting a Molotov cocktail thrown at the place in the dead of night, you’re underestimating this. Sheltering me is the same as taking on the entire goddamn dark side of Academy City.”
“That’s exactly why I’m taking you in.” Yomikawa also spoke like this was a completely normal conversation. “Have you forgotten what my job is? It’s easier to deal with that kind of thing as a member of Anti-Skill. Plus, I doubt there are many people who are going to straight-out attack an Anti-Skill member’s home. This city’s darkness operates in the areas we can’t see. If they actually declared war on us, who knows which side would crush the other.”
Accelerator fell silent as he contemplated what Yomikawa had said. Meanwhile Komoe-sensei looked around and said, “Huh? When did the atmosphere grow so heavy?”
“Well, don’t come crying to me if you get killed,” he finally said.
“You don’t have to worry about that.”
“They might add your name to their list.”
“It’s my job to rehabilitate those delinquent groups. If I let myself be scared by the kids I’m supposed to be helping, I can’t even take the first step.”
Accelerator clicked his tongue.
First it was Last Order and now this woman. That kind of idiot kept popping up around him. He felt all alone and completely out of place standing there.
While Accelerator reflected on those bitter thoughts, Yomikawa gave a smile that did not belong on an adult woman’s face.
“I’m relieved. It looks like you’ll be a lot easier to save than I had heard.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
She was talking about whether she could rehabilitate him or not.
She had no way of knowing, but Accelerator had already killed over 10,000 human beings with his own hands. With that fact in mind, it was obvious why Yomikawa’s words seemed so out of touch with reality to Accelerator.
Unaware of that, Yomikawa Aiho continued speaking.
“I am. Whatever you might say, when you heard you were going to live with me, you started going through a checklist to get rid of all the possible blind spots. You wanted to close up even the smallest hole to prevent a real attack. That means you have a real intention of protecting us, right?”
Accelerator wrinkled his brow.
“That’s why I can’t stand you idiots who don’t even check over the situation properly,” he muttered under his breath.
Kamijou parted ways with Misaka Mikoto.
This was simply because he was hungry, he wanted to change out of his sweaty school uniform, and he had a massive amount of extra soumen he needed to use up back at his dorm.
Kamijou had no idea when dried soumen went bad, but he had a feeling it would be best not to keep this year’s soumen around into the next year.
Mikoto had yelled “What!? It’s just soumen!”, but Kamijou had gotten her to let him go by forcefully yelling back “Then do you want to be stuck eating soumen for three meals a day and having to spend all day coming up with new ways to use it for salad, pasta, udon, and anything else you can come up with!? If so, I can send you a giant cardboard box full of soumen!!”
Since he did not have much time until they had agreed to meet back up, Kamijou ran at a reckless speed back to his dorm.
“Dammit. If only I had sensed the trap back when this soumen was so cheap at that supermarket sale. This must be why no one was touching it despite the excellent price.”
And in a case of horrible timing, right after he had bought all that soumen, his parents who lived outside of Academy City had sent him a massive amount of dried noodles with a note saying “We won this in a lottery. Touma, you like soumen, right?” When things like that happened every day, it could only be described as misfortune.
When he arrived at the dorm building, Tsuchimikado Maika happened to be heading out. It was a boy’s dorm, but the public morals had been in great disarray lately with that maid apprentice girl coming to clean her stepbrother’s room like a girlfriend and a starving girl lazing around in Kamijou’s room.
The girl named Maika usually sat seiza-style on top of an autonomous drum-shaped cleaning robot, but she was walking normally today.
Her bangs were pushed up by the frilly headband characteristic of maids, so her forehead was completely visible. She wore a dark bluish long-sleeved maid uniform, but it was apparently actually the designated (winter) uniform for her school.
She attended a maid school.
When Kamijou saw Maika walking along with short strides, he asked, “Oh? What happened to your usual cleaning robot?”
“Heh heh. I’m in too good a mood to stick with that thing’s slow speed.”
This girl’s expressions were usually as hard to read as Himegami Aisa’s, but today her face was plainly beaming with joy. Kamijou looked puzzled as he tried to figure out what could have caused that, and Maika placed the back of her right hand on her left cheek and let out a domineering laugh that did not suit a maid.
“Oh ho ho! It’s these. These cuffs turned out perfectly.”
“The end of the sleeves here,” said Maika while grinning. “A maid is supposed to be inconspicuous, so we cannot use too flashy of accessories for our hair or wherever. That is why we show our individuality in small places like our cuffs and collars.”
“Oh, I see,” said Kamijou as he looked more closely around Maika’s hands.
The cloth of the sleeves was folded back at the wrist. Kamijou was unsure what about it was different from normal, but he guessed this was similar to a girl’s joy after shortening the length of the skirt to her first uniform.
With an entranced look, Maika rubbed her sleeve against her own soft-looking cheek.
“Ahh… This term’s Gauntlets were a tremendous success. I’m in suuuuuch a good mood, I’m willing to listen to any troubles you might be having.”
“Really? Then do you know how to use up a bunch of extra soumen?”
“If you cook the soumen, chop it into small pieces, and mix it into the contents of a spring roll, it doesn’t change the flavor much at all. It’s a light way to increase their volume.”
After answering, Maika trotted off somewhere. Rays of joy could be seen coming from even her retreating back.
Kamijou looked off in that direction for a bit.
“…I guess that’s just throwing it in with something with a strong flavor to hide its own flavor.”
With that casually muttered comment on Maika’s answer, he headed into the student dorm since he had no reason to stay outside.
After riding the worn-out elevator up the 7th floor, he just had to head straight down the row of doors to reach his own room.
When he unlocked the door and entered, he found the starving girl called Index collapsed face up in the middle of the floor. He guessed she was hungry as always.
Kamijou tossed his thin bag on the floor and said, “It’s soumen again today.”
“No!!” The silver-haired girl in the pure white nun’s habit forcefully sat up with dissatisfaction filling her sparkling green eyes. “Touma, why have you been making nothing but Japanese noodles lately!? What kind of ritual is this!? Is it some kind of bodily regulation magic using culinary culture!?”
Index was complaining now, but it was no big deal since she would happily eat the soumen once it was laid out on the table. She was simply getting tired of soumen. And you could only get tired of a food that you fundamentally liked since you tended not to eat something you did not like enough to get tired of it.
Kamijou nodded and said, “Romance is tough.”
Index looked at him like he was some suspicious person, but Kamijou did not care.
Incidentally, the room had another freeloader besides the girl. The calico cat was bathing in the sun on the balcony. Not long before, it had usually chosen to curl up in an area it could feel a breeze in, but it must have been changing its habits as the season changed. The cat did not have to deal with the soumen, so it managed to remain completely carefree. It had recently started growing its winter coat, so there was cat fur everywhere. And Kamijou had a feeling the cat was growing larger bit by bit.
Kamijou reached for some clothes to change into using the dorm’s bathroom and said, “Maika passed on a secret technique to me, so how about we try it out? It’s time for some soumen spring rolls!”
“Then can’t we just have normal spring rolls!?”
Just as Index let out that cry, the intercom suddenly rang.
“Who could that be?”
Kamijou opened the door and found Tsuchimikado Motoharu standing there.
“Oh, you’re here, you’re here, nyah. Kami-yan, could you help me out a bit, nyah?”
Those words made Kamijou wary.
“H-help with what? Don’t tell me you want me to go sink another international magic fleet.”
“Kami-yan, you can already say that kind of thing with a straight face? …Maybe I should feel a bit sorry for you.” Tsuchimikado gave Kamijou a sympathetic look. “It isn’t that. Maika made too much food, nyah. She just left an entire pot full of stew that had been cooking for 10 hours, and there’s no way I can eat it all. But it would be a waste to throw it out, so if you like you can-…”
“…I’ll eat it!!”
It was Index that shouted out, not Kamijou. She also shot out from behind the boy who actually owned the room and quickly approached Tsuchimikado. Tsuchimikado also must have smelled like the food in question because the calico cat stopped lazing around and trotted over towards him.
Kamijou wanted to make a complaint, but he decided to hold his tongue when he saw how unusually excited Index was. The words “wise decision” floated up in the back of his mind.
And so the group headed next door to Tsuchimikado’s room.
Naturally, the overall layout was exactly the same as Kamijou’s room. However, the kind of training equipment you would see in a gym was lying about, so it gave quite a different impression. One wall had two bookshelves on it with one of the two transformed into a collector’s field by being filled with manga and the like that featured maids, but Kamijou decided it was the duty of a friend to let that go without comment.
“Here it is,” said Tsuchimikado as he pointed at the table.
Maika must have only just brought it because the kind of silver stock pot used by cooks was sitting on the table. Naturally, a normal dorm did not have a trivet that could fit such a giant pot, so old newspaper had been laid out on the table.
Tsuchimikado approached the pot and opened the lid. An orange stew could be seen within.
“She said the base of the stew is carrots, but they’ve been cooked so much they completely fell apart, nyah. She then threw in other vegetables and stuff, so it’s quite a stew.”
“Aren’t carrots actually pretty sweet?”
From what Kamijou could smell, that seemed to be the case. It may have been a method of letting the natural flavors of the vegetables sweeten it without using much, if any, sugar.
They scooped the stew onto large shallow plates with a ladle. The potatoes and pork had been cut up into large pieces. It had quite a number of different vegetables in it, so it seemed like it would be as nutritious as a health drink. Incidentally, it had onions in it, so they could not give any to the cat. Kamijou could not look the small animal in the eye as it rolled around and as if to say “Oh, c’mon! I want some too! I want some too! I want some too!!”
And so they began to eat.
It was an unexpectedly wonderful meal, but Kamijou was still worried about what he would do with all that soumen.
“Time to eat,” Kamijou said with spoon in hand before looking over at Tsuchimikado. “You sure are generous. Maika may say she’s an apprentice, but her cooking is on par with your average restaurant, don’t you think?”
“Nyah. That’s the whole reason I did this. I didn’t want to waste something so valuable just because I couldn’t eat it all myself. And I definitely can’t eat this much on my own, nyah.”
“I guess. But couldn’t you save it for later?”
Tsuchimikado froze in place.
He usually ate out or had his younger stepsister cook for him, so he did not do much cooking for someone living on his own. That must have been why the possibility never occurred to him.
Kamijou Touma, the home cooking boy, clarified further.
“Also, if Maika made this much for you, doesn’t that mean she probably isn’t coming to your room for a while? She probably made something this nutritious you could reheat as needed so you wouldn’t starve.”
The cat began swatting something like a box with its front paws.
They looked down and saw a sealed container for leftover food. It was very, very large.
Kamijou Touma, Index, and Tsuchimikado Motoharu all exchanged glances.
Given Tsuchimikado Maika’s great kindness and Tsuchimikado Motoharu’s hopelessness, they could all guess just how much danger loomed in that sunglasses boy’s future if that stew was taken from him.
The silence continued for a few seconds.
The cat let out a meow.
Using that as their sign, Kamijou and Index almost simultaneously began vigorously devouring their stew.
Tsuchimikado’s face had gone completely pale.
“Wait! Kami-yan, stop, stop!! I was mistaken! I can’t give you any of that! Listen to me! My stepsister’s cooking is mine and mine alone!!”
“Hah hah! Sorry, but I’m not about to wait!! And you should probably be more concerned about stopping Index!! She’s about to go back for seconds!!”
“Nyahh!?” shouted Tsuchimikado, but Index could not be stopped. Her spoon moved so fast it looked like she was going to devour the entire contents of the pot.
In its own way, this was another peaceful day.
Between the Lines 1
London’s Lambeth Palace had always functioned as the official residence for the Anglican Church’s Archbishop. The grounds were currently opened for sightseeing, but the inside of the building was still off limits to normal people and all information on it was off limits as well.
Simply put, no one knew what it was like inside.
The most one could do was imagine what might be inside from the historic look of the exterior. The area was wrapped in mystery and fascination, and any member of the Anglican Church that cared about social status and influence set it as their goal. Without exaggerating, it could be called a throne.
The building had nothing to do with your average person and yet no one found its absolute privacy suspicious. It also had a greater magical defense network surrounding it than even Buckingham Palace where the queen lived. Everyone from the guards to the gardeners and the cleaners were well-versed in anti-intruder close combat magic. The layout of the pillars, the patterns on the wallpaper, and even the amount of light put off by the Western lamps all held magical meaning that functioned as a single trap. The building itself was a single giant device, so an intruder could not simply avoid the traps. Everything related to the building was designed with the intent of making such a ridiculous concept a reality. Due to the specific clergyman who lived there and the idea of the iron maiden, it was sometimes sarcastically referred to as the Nail Bedroom.
Lambeth Palace was currently wrapped in the silence of the night.
There was a time difference of approximately 9 hours between Japan and England.
Much fewer personnel were there than during the day, but the actual level of security was markedly higher. It was simply made to look more lax so no one would realize that fact.
Archbishop Laura Stuart was in the bath.
“Hm hm hm hm hm hmm♪”
For those who had noble visions and aspirations about Lambeth Palace, the sight of that brightly-lit room with nothing but humming echoing through it may have utterly shocked them.
It was called a bath, but the huge space was 20 meters square. But despite that size, it was not designed as a single large bath. Several dozen small premade bathtubs were crammed into the room.
And each of those bathtubs had some function that stank of the science side. There was an electric bath, a negative ion bath, a water jet massage bath, and many others.
They had all been sent to Laura from acquaintances in Academy City, seemingly as Bon festival gifts and year-end gifts.
Currently, Laura was using both hands to hold up the skirt of her beige habit, sitting on the edge of a water jet bath, and sticking just her feet into the bathtub.
She did have basin-like baths meant to be footbaths, but Laura seemed to like sticking her feet into those water jets.
Her blonde hair, that was twice as long as she was tall, looked like a spider web with raindrops in it because the steam had washed over it, but she could easily fix that later. She was focused on the footbath for the moment.
(Nnn… Now this is happiness. Okay, after I loosen up my feet, I can warm my entire body in that electric bath.)
While Laura Stuart tried to get rid of the weariness of the day, Stiyl Magnus seemed to almost smash down the door as he suddenly charged in without knocking.
“Archbishop!!” shouted that outrageous priest who had his hair dyed red, a cigarette in his mouth, silver rings on all ten of his fingers, a barcode tattoo under his right eye, and the smell of perfume and nicotine mixed together.
Laura jumped in surprise.
Even if it was just a footbath, she had her skirt pulled up quite a bit, exposing her bare legs. Laura frantically tried to lower her skirt, but her sudden movement caused her hips to slip, sending her spilling magnificently off the edge of the bathtub she was sitting on.
A loud splash like that of a crashing wave spread through the room.
With report in hand, Stiyl paid that no heed.
“Is what this report says true!? This better not be another demonstration of your skill at being a complete moron. The words of the Archbishop can cause the world to move, so you need to be more-… Stop blowing bubbles below the water and answer me! You wrote this, didn’t you!?”
In reality, she was only blowing bubbles because a water jet was blasting her in the face and she could not breathe, but Stiyl could see nothing but a woman splashing around in the bathtub with her legs spread out in an M-shape and her panties clearly visible.
With another splash, Laura forcefully brought her head out of the water.
“Wh-wh-wh-why would you suddenly charge into a lady’s bath with your shoes still on, Stiyl!? And even if I am a member of the clergy…no, specifically because I am a member of the clergy, I cannot let you see me like thi-…”
“Please. Just. Answer. Me!!”
“Stop, Stiyl!! If you stab your flame sword into the water, the bath will boil!!”
Laura practically fell out of the bathtub as she escaped. In the next instant, the water did not just boil; it underwent a slight phreatic explosion. The Archbishop lay on the wet floor, opening and closing her mouth as she gasped for air. Her long, long hair was wrapped around her like a cocoon, making her look like some kind of monster.
The veins on Stiyl’s temple bulged out and he said, “Please just reread this report and explain it in detail for me. I just want to get my work done with so I can get to bed. Why do I have to look after such a lonely woman?”
But Laura was not listening.
“Ah!! The bathwater is causing my habit to stick to my skin, revealing the impure lines of my body! You mustn’t look, Stiyl! Turn around! I do not intend to let anyone see my underwear!!”
A crunching sound could be heard.
It was the sound of Stiyl biting through the filter of his cigarette.
“W-wait, Stiyl! If you strike me directly with your flame sword, I will burn away!!”
Laura fled and Stiyl gave chase with a flame sword in one hand.
It did not look like he would get any sleep that night either.