Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume13 Chapter7
Chapter 7: Changing Raindrops into the Color of Blood. Revival_of_Destruction.
Yomikawa Aiho gripped the steering wheel.
She was driving what looked like a cheap Japanese-made sports car, but the sound of the engine was oddly deep. It had been nicely tuned up below the hood so she could chase down criminals. Just the fact that the car now had seven gears was enough to imagine how far she had gone with the upgrades.
She had been driving around randomly to search for Last Order who had disappeared from the apartment that afternoon. However…
(…? The roads seem oddly empty.)
Academy City was primarily a city of students.
Only the teachers, workers, and university students used cars, so the city had much less traffic than a normal large urban area.
However, the number of cars today was low even for that.
The road visible through the windshield and periodically obstructed by the wipers looked just like a runway.
“What is going on?” muttered Yomikawa.
That was when a light lit up on the in-vehicle radio installed in place of a car audio system. She switched on her turn single, slowed down, and stopped on the side of the road.
She looked over to the radio just in time to see it spit out a piece of paper about the size of postcard with a low grinding noise.
It worked the same as a small printer for a digital camera. That allowed Anti-Skill command headquarters to send photos of wanted criminals and the like to the individual members of Anti-Skill.
The photo was grainy. It had likely been taken at a distance. The camera must have shaken because the outlines were blurred. Even so, it was enough to see a woman wearing yellow clothes standing in the middle of a large group of collapsed Anti-Skill members.
Yomikawa was confused.
Normally, text descriptions of the situation would be printed out along with the photo, but nothing else came. With just the photo, it was unclear what the pictured woman had done. Yomikawa could not tell if she was a suspect or if she was someone in need of protection.
Yomikawa was worried about Last Order, but a major incident took priority over a lost child.
She switched on the radio and said, “Yomikawa to HQ. Requesting details regarding Call 334.”
Assuming it had been a simple mistake, she called to check. But she received no response.
She could hear nothing but some low static.
She spoke into the radio a few more times, but never received a response.
Yomikawa switched off the radio.
Yomikawa once more grabbed the postcard-sized piece of paper inside her parked car. It showed the Anti-Skill members collapsed in the rain and a woman wearing yellow standing in the middle of them all.
She used a finger on her other hand to flick the woman in the middle of the photo.
(Who is she? From the looks of her, I doubt she’s in need of protection. This looks more like she just defeated some of my colleagues.)
An ominous feeling raced down Yomikawa’s spine.
At the same moment, she felt anger at seeing her colleagues collapsed on the ground.
(Well, if I see her, I’ll make sure to politely ask her some questions.)
Despite that arbitrary thought, Yomikawa did not drive off in her sports car once more.
A sudden shock ran through Yomikawa Aiho’s brain.
She could not even cry out properly.
All strength left her body and her upper body leaned up against the steering wheel. This put a painful pressure against her chest, but there was nothing she could do about it. She had lost all strength from the core of her body to her fingertips.
Her field of vision rapidly narrowed.
Yomikawa began losing consciousness while still not knowing what was going on.
The switch for the radio was only a few dozen centimeters from where her arms dangled limply down. But she could not move her arms. She could not call for help. In fact, she could not even control her breathing.
The photo might have been a warning from a colleague. It was possible an Anti-Skill member in her same state had used their last strength to send it.
But it had not helped.
The photo held between her thumb and forefinger slipped out and fluttered down.
At the same moment, Yomikawa Aiho completely lost consciousness.
The road was free of cars.
The city was much too quiet.
The radio had given no response.
It was possible something was progressing on an unbelievable scale.
“The Third Resource Recycling Facility.”
One of the men in black spoke those words while looking out at a group of buildings filling one section of District 5.
The facility was right next to the border with District 7. The van used by Accelerator and the Hound Dog runaway had been found abandoned near a park on the District 7 side.
“He’s fled to quite a troublesome place, Nancy.”
The woman spoken to smiled upon hearing her colleague’s words.
“What do you mean ‘Nancy’?” she muttered to herself.
But that was her codename, so there was no helping it.
Nancy was an Asian who looked like the standard Japanese woman. Her hair and eyes were black, but she did not have the slightest complex about it. In fact, she would have preferred a codename in kanji. She guessed Kihara Amata was the type to choose a flashy screen name on the internet.
Nancy’s entire body was covered by the black armored outfit and mask she wore, but it was not enough to hide the body lines of a fully-grown woman. Hound Dog was made up of the scum of society whether they were men or woman, so a few other members were women too. However, she did not feel any solidarity with them just because they were the same sex. Some of those in the organization were former Anti-Skill members who had grown addicted to the high of cornering suspects or analysts who had suggested using “torture that does not leave any marks” during an investigation. Basically, all of them were horrible people who deserved contempt.
Nancy lightly waved around the tool in her hand.
The device that looked like a toy gun was an olfactory sensor.
At the portion just above the grip where a handgun’s hammer would be, a small LCD monitor of about 3 inches was attached. Multiple bar graphs were constantly fluctuating up and down on it. They resembled the audio bars displayed on a stereo’s screen.
“The target’s scent continues in that direction. There’s no mistaking it,” said Nancy to her colleagues behind her.
The target’s scent.
A police dog would have been unable to track the scent on a rainy day like this, but they had mostly solved that problem. When scents were washed away, they were usually mixed with other scents rather than actually eliminated. This sensor could handle that mixed scent.
They looked in the direction the scent led.
“That’s a huge facility,” said one of the men in black standing next to Nancy.
It was a pointless comment, but it was exactly right.
The facility spreading out before them was about 2 kilometers square. It was used to recycle trash. Academy City had few resources, so it would recycle the standard paper products as well as metals such as iron and aluminum, petroleum products such as rubber and plastic, and many other types of materials. This facility collected resources from District 5 and three other surrounding districts and then processed them into a usable form.
The vast facility was somehow reminiscent of a coastal petrochemical complex. One section was lined with cylindrical fuel tanks with radiuses of over 100 meters. Another section contained factories with countless smokestacks sticking up.
Nevertheless, it was a recycling facility.
It was almost too perfect a place for scum to fight it out.
“Nancy, what do you think he’s trying to do?” asked Rod. “This facility does not seem important strategically. But slipping past the security would have been too much work simply for somewhere to hide.”
“Hmph. The answer might be surprisingly simple,” replied Nancy casually. Rod looked dissatisfied, so she waved the olfactory sensor in front of his face. “He might want to travel through a waste treatment plant in order to eliminate his scent and escape from this thing.”
“So he knows about our equipment?”
“That idiot Orson ran off with the target and that van had some spare equipment in it.”
It would be difficult to fool the olfactory sensor simply by getting the smell of garbage on oneself. He would need to use some type of cleaning agent that changed the molecular structure of his scent. Hound Dog’s suppression team had developed their own version, but a material recycling facility might have some similar chemicals.
“Such desperate measures,” muttered Nancy with a thin smile before turning to her colleague. “Rod, do we have the layout of the facility?”
“I’ve already gotten it from the Bank.”
“Send it to everyone. Include the number of workers and the patrol routes.”
“We don’t need to worry about patrol routes,” readily replied the man known as Rod. “The facility is mostly automated. There are about 14 workers, but they all sit in front of keyboards in the control center. It seems they call in some external organization to deal with any mechanical maintenance.”
“Good. That will save us some time in cleanup.”
With that offhand comment, Nancy handed the olfactory sensor to a colleague. She then began to check the submachine gun hanging from a shoulder strap.
Rod lightly waved the small device displaying the layout of the facility.
“There are exits in 24 locations. We do not have enough people to cover every exit and check the inside of every single part of the facility.”
Hound Dog’s forces were currently spread between a few different groups: one to create a diversion against an unknown enemy, one to pursue Last Order, one to guard Kihara Amata, etc. For that reason, they had only about 10 members here.
“We just have to guide the target’s movements. He should think we have a large number of personnel. We will attack from Point A on the map and then go in for a surprise attack at Emergency Exit C once his focus has been guided there. If we toss in a few explosives, it should shake him. Understand?”
“What if he uses his powers to break through? We can’t guide him then.”
Upon hearing Rod’s voice, Nancy looked back towards the facility.
With its thick concrete, and layer after layer of intertwined metal pipes, the group of buildings was reminiscent of a heavy industrial facility.
“If what Kihara-san said is true, the target is not that almighty.”
“This is it…”
Accelerator gave a small smile in the Third Resource Recycling Facility’s control room.
The small room had no windows and dozens of monitors covered every wall. Everything from the work done in the factories to the security was controlled from here.
The 14 workers had been unable to resist the intruder who was armed with a shotgun. They were cowering down and trembling here and there in the room, but Accelerator was not looking at them. He was staring at one of the monitors. It displayed a list of the cleaning agents kept within the factories.
Accelerator was looking for a cleaning agent that used a chemical reaction to transform the particles of a scent into some other type of matter.
(Found it. They have a few different types. I can escape their olfactory sensor with this.)
He was prepared to fight Kihara Amata and Hound Dog to the very end, but he did not want to have to constantly worry about an attack. He had less than 7 minutes of usage time left for his full power. Kihara himself was one thing, but he wished to avoid wasting that time on the subordinates of Hound Dog. For that reason, he needed to grasp the initiative of the battle.
Of course, what mattered most was not his battle with Kihara and the others; it was rescuing Last Order safely.
(I need to escape Hound Dog’s pursuit before I can track down Last Order. In fact, the danger of stray bullets goes way up once I retrieve that brat!)
The difficulty level would shoot up once he rescued the girl. Accelerator’s power could only really protect himself and his battery would not last if he had to use his power every time Hound Dog showed up.
That was another reason why he had to be able to make sure he was the one to choose when he would fight and when he would fall back.
(I need to hurry up and erase my scent with one of those cleaning agents and get out of here. I don’t have much time before Kihara reaches that brat. I can’t waste too much time here. I need to get back to my main objective. Where do they keep the cleaning agents in the facility?)
Suddenly, the monitor shook with static.
One by one, the images on the dozens of monitors in the control room were erased by gray static. Just before they were all wiped out, Accelerator glimpsed someone wearing all black on the security footage of the second northern entrance of the facility.
If they were skilled enough to completely wipe out the alarms for the Third Resource Recycling Facility, they had to know where the cameras were. That meant the man in black had intentionally let himself be seen to lure Accelerator over.
(Goddamn them! I didn’t expect them to get here this soon!!)
The facility was already surrounded.
Accelerator could not travel without his cane. That meant he could not move quickly. Even if he could use a cleaning agent to escape the olfactory sensor, he would need to defeat the group that had entered the facility.
He could not escape from them. And…
(I have no intention of escaping. I’ll crush those stalkers here.)
Accelerator looked around while supporting his weight with the shotgun he was using in place of a cane.
He gave a warning to the workers who had truly only been wrapped up in this mess.
“A firefight is about to break out here. More of them might come even after the battle ends. You all wait for about 20 minutes after the gunshots end, change out of your work clothes, and leave the facility.”
Accelerator could not tell if they were nodding or trembling in response.
(Interesting. What pieces do I have to play with?)
He checked on the situation.
It did not seem he would be able to use his powers. Inside the factory, he was surrounded by concrete, so the accuracy of electromagnetic communications would drop. Also, the conveyer belts, presses, and other machines with large motors were scattering powerful electromagnetic waves. The Misaka Network was an electric information network created by transforming the Sisters’ brain waves into electromagnetic waves, so he could not use it at all here.
At any rate, the noise was deafening.
The difference between the good moments and the bad was drastic. In a normal conversation, that would do nothing more than cause a bit of confusion. But if it happened while he was using his powers, it could cause him to lose control.
(And if I use my powers here, I’ll never reach Kihara.)
He had never before fought while stripped bare like this.
Without his powers, he had the athletic ability of a boy who needed a cane to walk.
His only weapon was the single shotgun he was using in place of a cane.
The number of bullets in the magazine was likely about 30.
“What should I do?”
He searched for a means of intercepting Hound Dog, a group that specialized in organized combat, with only the equipment he had on hand.
The man in black that had intentionally shown himself on the camera worried him.
(What should I do?)
Accelerator looked away from the monitors, searched for a paper map of the facility, and spread it out.
Would he take them up on their invitation? Or would he refuse them? That decision was where the battle began.
Misaka Mikoto was inside a convenience store.
She stood in the corner with rain gear.
“Hmm…Too small,” she muttered while looking at a cheap plastic umbrella.
With that sort of umbrella, the ones that were not too bulky were popular, but she thought she would get pretty wet if she used one that small.
She looked outside the large window to see the pitch black nighttime scenery. Fairly large raindrops were hitting the glass.
After defeating him during the Daihaseisai, Misaka Mikoto had gained the right to give Kamijou Touma a punishment. But that punishment had been cut short, so she had been searching for Kamijou once more. However…
“Why did it have to start raining?”
Her gaze dropped to the paper bag from a cell phone company that she held with her school bag.
(I don’t want the Gekota and Pyonko straps to get wet.)
As Mikoto groaned over that issue, her phone suddenly rang. She grabbed it in annoyance.
It displayed the number of her underclassman Shirai Kuroko.
“What is it, Kuroko?”
“I have Judgment work, so I won’t be able to return to the dorm. Can you pass that on to that annoying dorm supervisor? The curfew has passed after all.”
“Um, I’m actually at a convenience store.”
“Gyahh!?” was Shirai’s very unladylike response.
Another quieter and more distant voice could be heard coming from the phone’s speaker.
“Huh? Shirai-san, could you not contact Misaka-san?”
That was likely Uiharu Kazari, Shirai’s fellow Judgment member.
That meant Shirai was likely in her Judgment branch office.
“Shut up. Onee-sama is out, so she cannot contact our dorm supervisor. But this is not good. The curfew extension process requires a document to be submitted and the dorm supervisor is not answering the phone. At this rate, both of us will receive a demerit.”
“Hehh. By the way, why is Misaka-san breaking curfew tonight?”
Mikoto heard a gasp and then a dull creaking sound. Shirai was likely violently squeezing the phone in her grip.
Shirai Kuroko asked, “O-onee-sama, do not tell me you are on a nighttime date with that rotten ape! Curse him! Enjoying the rainy night scenery is quite a refined choice!!”
“No, you damn idiot!!” shouted back Mikoto without thinking.
However, Shirai did not seem to be listening.
“Kh. This cannot stand. It is my duty to protect onee-sama’s chastity!!”
“D-don’t say chastity so loudly!”
“Then to be more specific…”
“Don’t be!!” shouted Mikoto with her face beet red, but Shirai was past the point of listening.
Words flew from the speaker like bullets from a machinegun.
“At any rate, I will be heading there. I will definitely go there. Where are you, onee-sama? You use the GPS service, so just email me your confirmation code and-…”
Uiharu’s one short statement caused Shirai’s machinegun to jam.
Uiharu went on to say, “Look, we have barely made any progress on this bundle of office files, this pile of financial files, or this mountain range of instruction files. Shirai-san, we really are going to have spend all night on this. I bought bentos for dinner, so please do not set one foot outside of this office. No heading out for a bath either.”
“H-hgyahh!? Shirai-san, Shirai-san!!”
Mikoto heard sounds of a struggle over the phone.
She removed the phone from her ear a bit and said, “Um, I’m going to hang up.”
Instead of the crazed Shirai, Uiharu answered.
“Oh, okay. I will keep Shirai-san here, so…um…good luck!!”
“I’m not on a date!!” shouted back Mikoto as loudly as she could, but it did not seem to reach the girls on the other side.
The sounds of a struggle continued for a bit and then the connection ended.
Kamijou Touma and Last Order hid behind the pillar.
A frightening silence filled the dark family restaurant.
The next 30 seconds were filled with despair.
Kamijou thought the stress would cause his brain’s structure to collapse.
But as he held his breath behind the pillar, he noticed something odd.
No matter how long he waited, the men did not reach them.
The men in black who had entered the family restaurant had to know generally where Kamijou and Last Order were. And the men had to know they had no real weapons. A group armed and armored would not stop altogether out of caution for an unarmed high school boy and little girl.
(What is going on?)
Part of him warned that making any move would be dangerous.
Part of him warned that he might lose his chance if he did not make his move soon.
As Last Order pressed up against him, she forlornly grabbed onto his shirt.
The feeling of her small hand just barely allowed Kamijou to keep his presence of mind.
Another 30 seconds passed.
He heard no noticeable sounds.
Only the sound of the broken glass raining down sounded oddly loud in Kamijou’s ears.
He held his breath.
He squeezed his eyes shut.
And then something happened.
“Hiiii♪ Did I surprise you? Don’t be afraid and come on out.”
He heard a high-pitched female voice
Due to the pillar Kamijou was using as a shield, he could not see her face.
He did not even know where she was.
(What? This is clearly different from those men.)
The men in black who had been pursuing Kamijou and Last Order had tried to kill them quickly and silently while avoiding as much self-assertion as possible. To put it simply, they eliminated all that was unnecessary and took the bare minimum of action.
This female voice was the exact opposite of that.
The very act of speaking out to appeal to her own presence did not match the behavior pattern of those men in black. She seemed to be the sort of commando that was far removed from those shadow-like existences that might be men, women, or even not human for all Kamijou could tell.
(So is she not with those men in black?)
But he still felt it would be dangerous to head out too readily. He still did not know who the voice belonged to.
“Ha ha. Don’t be afraid. Well, I guess it can’t be helped after such a close call. But I have my own problems to deal with, so if you refuse to listen…”
With a laugh, the female voice continued.
The indifferent voice did not seem to care at all about Kamijou and Last Order’s unrest and concern.
“…I’ll beat you to a fucking pulp.”
Kamijou grabbed Last Order’s body in his arms and lay down on the floor over her as if leaping out from behind the pillar.
A great roar rang out.
An unseen horizontal strike struck the pillar they had just been using as a shield. The attack struck the center of the pillar and the center bent to the side before it broke completely in two and flew into the wall. It happened with such great speed that the two pieces slammed deep into the wall like artillery shells and the wall crumbled.
The entire building shook.
The framework of the building must have been damaged because all the glass in the restaurant that had survived the men in black’s attack shattered with a high pitched noise.
While still covering Last Order, Kamijou’s eyes raced around the area.
A woman stood in the center of the dark main floor.
The streetlights outside dimly illuminated her silhouette.
She was a strange woman.
Her clothes looked like the kind of dress woman wore in medieval Europe. Her hair was covered by a cloth wrapped around her head, so not even a single hair was visible. She had piercings in her mouth, nose, and eyelids that destroyed the balance of her face. She wore gaudy makeup that accentuated her eyes which made her seem all the more intimidating.
And in her hand…
She held a giant hammer that exceeded a meter in length. Sharp barbed wire was wrapped around it from halfway up the grip to the very top. It may have been to prevent anyone from grabbing the handle or it may have been a ceremonial decoration.
Being hit by that would definitely hurt, but it seemed unlikely she could defeat a group covered in armored uniforms and armed with submachine guns with just that hammer. Yet for some reason or another, the men in black were collapsed on the ground around the woman.
None of them seemed to be conscious.
How had she completely silently neutralized these men in black who were armed, armored, and highly trained?
(This reminds me of…)
The lack of information accentuated the eeriness of it all.
(Of the collapsed Anti-Skills I found outside the underground mall…)
The one thing Kamijou knew was that this woman was not his ally.
(And the men in black collapsed next to that destroyed vehicle!!)
“Who are you…?” asked Kamijou in a low voice as he stood up from Last Order.
In response, the woman lightly shook the strange hammer and quietly spoke.
“I am Vento of the Front, a member of God’s Right Seat.” The woman naming herself as Vento stuck out her tongue teasingly. “Target located. And so it’s time to kill you, Kamijou Touma.”
A thin chain jangled down when she stuck out her tongue.
At the end of the chain was a small cross wet with saliva.
Hound Dog silently entered the Third Resource Recycling Facility in which Accelerator hid.
When they entered the concrete factory, the noise of the machinery was much louder than they had expected.
Nancy wondered for a second if they should have cut the power there as well, but increasing the amount of work they had to do would only waste time. Currently, Accelerator likely could not use his powers much, but they still wanted to avoid giving him time to regain mental composure.
About five colleagues surrounded Nancy.
Her group was meant to guide him into their trap, so they needed to appeal to the idea that they had a large number of people. The plan was for Nancy and her team to fire bullets all over the place so the target would flee down the passageway and to where another team lay in wait.
The general path the target had taken could be tracked with the olfactory sensor Nancy had handed a colleague not long before. By using that indoors, they had no chance of overshooting his position.
(The only other thing to worry about is if he has a gun.)
According to the olfactory sensor, the target’s scent had travelled from the van parked on the road to this facility. No one had been in the vehicle and the bag filled with spare equipment had still been inside. The zipper had been open, so it was possible he had taken a gun.
(No, Accelerator has no real ability with firearms. He has lived his life fully relying on his power and has never received proper training. We should be able to assume we have a great advantage over him.)
That was what Nancy thought.
(But even so…)
Most of the production work was automated, so the inside of the concrete building was not air conditioned and was therefore hot and stuffy. Despite the cold rain outside, the area was filled with heat from the giant motors that were in constant use.
They slowly walked through the steel passageway while the heat and noise wore down their nerves bit by bit. Even the bright illumination of the fluorescent lights seemed to produce heat.
They were nervous.
Nancy decided that was why it seemed so oppressive.
When she glanced over at her colleagues’ mask-covered faces, their movements seemed stiff and somewhat awkward.
The facility created electromagnetic interference from multiple sources.
Accelerator received assistance for his powers using transmission equipment, so Kihara Amata had claimed the boy would almost certainly not use his powers for fear of losing control of them.
Nancy and the other members of Hound Dog with her decided that was a valid assumption. With all the restrictions, he was very unlikely to use his powers. The stronger one’s powers, the greater the risk of losing control.
But that also meant they could not ignore the risk that he might use them when cornered despite the fear of losing control.
If Accelerator was serious, only Kihara Amata could defeat him.
The guns and explosives Nancy wielded would accomplish nothing.
(That is why we must kill him before he realizes he is cornered.)
That was the point of the plan to guide him into a trap.
The target would be cautious of them, but he would remain somewhat relaxed because he could flee further into the factory. The other team would wait until he did so and then shoot him. For the plan to succeed, Nancy’s team needed to take a bit of a risk and head forward to draw Accelerator’s attention. Even if he could not use his great esper powers, he likely had a gun. If they focused too much on the diversion side of their role, they could end up shot in the head.
(It’s only natural we would be nervous. Everyone on this team is used to just killing people right away. We were given no training for this sort of situation.)
There were different types of soldiers.
Ones battling in the jungle did not need to know how to handle hostage negotiations. Urban snipers would be fine not learning how to survive on a desert island. Training programs were specialized to a specific field by eliminating unnecessary portions and putting that time to better use. That created several varieties of specialized units with skills weighted in one direction.
In other words, Nancy and her team’s situation was similar to a unit trained in desert warfare walking through a snowy mountain in the Arctic.
(Can we do this?)
Nancy swallowed some saliva underneath her black mask.
(If we can’t, we’re dead.)
A small metallic noise cut off Nancy’s thoughts.
Nancy and her team all pointed their guns in its direction.
But no one was there. Nor was there enough space to hide. Without altering her posture, Nancy used her eyes and fingers to contact the colleagues near her.
“(That noise was different from the ones made by the machines, don’t you think?)”
“(I agree. But there is nowhere for anyone to hide there. And more importantly, it doesn’t seem like a useful point strategically.)”
“(Could the target have thrown something that made a noise?)”
“(If so, then he must be hiding quite nearby.)”
They all grew even tenser.
“(Rod. What does the olfactory sensor say?)”
“(Wait. The analysis just finished.)”
Their pulses quickened. Their fingers on the triggers trembled slightly. Sweat covered the gap between skin and glove.
All of the factory’s lights cut out at once.
Darkness came as if it had been timed.
The target’s plan was to mentally torment them by increasing their tension with light and noise.
Nancy belatedly realized just how bad the situation was.
If she pulled the trigger here, she would injure her closely-packed allies. Even if she pointed the barrel straight up, the metal walls and ceiling would cause any bullets to bare their fangs by ricocheting back.
Her thoughts never turned to the gun’s safety.
Her thoughts were bound by the fear that her trembling fingertips would accidentally pull the trigger if she tried to move them at all. Accelerator seemed to have realized they had no night-vision equipment.
She immediately tried to use her eyes to contact her colleagues, but they could not see the movements through the darkness.
Using her voice to communicate would be best, but that would tell their enemy where she was.
Her pulse sounded eerily loud in her ears.
Her trigger finger trembled.
Trigger…gunshot…accidental discharge. Various images ran through Nancy’s mind.
And then a great noise exploded out.
She thought her heart was going to stop.
(Kh…ah…!! That was…the sound of steam exhaust! It was just a sound!!)
She somehow managed to keep her index finger from moving and began pouring all her focus on her outward senses to search for the target that had caused the sound. But then…
A low voice suddenly cried out from right next to her.
Her feet on the floor felt the vibration of a human collapsing.
The scent of iron reached her nose.
If she had calmed down and thought, she might have realized the target had simply thrown a wrench from the darkness. If she had seen the trick for what it was, it might have actually restored some of her mental composure.
Her enemy’s plan was to rob that calm from her step by step.
(That bastard… It’s not just those powers of his. He can even use people’s fear!)
By the time Nancy realized that, it was too late.
It happened precisely when she began focusing all of her senses on the darkness.
Another tool flew into her shoulder with a force that was not all that great.
She had lost more of her calm than she had realized, so her body reacted on its own.
The trembling in her trigger finger exceeded a certain level.
Several gunshots rang out and the scent of iron grew stronger.
A strange tension enveloped the dark family restaurant.
Kamijou Touma stood opposite the woman named Vento.
(Dammit. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.)
If this woman was a member of a magic group, then unlike before, this was a job for Imagine Breaker. But that did not mean he could relax. If Vento’s ability was real, she was skilled enough to annihilate four men armed with submachine guns so quickly they could not even cry out. Even with Imagine Breaker, there was a danger of being killed instantly.
Even if he had not taken a close look at the collapsed men in black, the lack of obvious injuries or blood reminded him too much of the unconscious people he had seen too many of recently. If their state was identical, it meant this Vento standing before him was the one who had paralyzed Academy City’s functions as a city.
This woman had come to crush the top of the science side all on her own.
For that reason, she was much more dangerous than those men in black.
“You don’t need to be so nervous,” said Vento while the chain jangled as it waved. “You won’t even have time to feel the pain.”
Vento casually swung the barbed wire-wrapped hammer in her right hand.
It was a horizontal strike.
Kamijou was easily over 5 meters away from her. And yet…
Feeling a chill run down his spine, Kamijou immediately shoved Last Order away from him and crouched down just as something flew over his head. It was a mass of wind that had swallowed some small fragments. It sucked in the air, destroyed the wall, brought small fragments into its center, and changed from transparent to a dull color. This blunt weapon of air shot over a wide area from right to left.
The entire building tilted diagonally.
(Does she have magic that fires a projectile when she swings the hammer?)
Kamijou grew pale as he heard the pattering sound of small fragments falling down.
Vento’s action made it clear she did not care about the customers collapsed around the restaurant.
“Go hide, Last Order!!” shouted Kamijou as Last Order tried to get up from where he had pushed her.
He watched until he saw her move behind a square pillar.
(What is all this? First those men in black and now this woman!!)
Kamijou gritted his teeth, but of course that would not stop Vento.
Vento moved back a bit as she casually swung the hammer vertically and then horizontally. The chain attached to her tongue jangled while shaking almost as if being swung around. The hammer’s trajectory just barely grazed the tongue chain. Sparks had actually flown from it a few times. If her aim was off by just a few millimeters, she would rip out the piercing holding the chain in her tongue, but Vento’s expression showed no concern.
Vento’s hammer ripped through the air.
An explosive noise pounded at Kamijou’s ears.
The hammer was like a bat that launched heavy metal balls. A table was blown away, the floor was torn up, and the limbs of the collapsed men in black were blown off and landed on top of the collapsed customers. That filled Kamijou’s head with rage, but he had his hands full dealing with the wind weapons flying his way.
The instant Kamijou’s right hand touched one, the air weapon would burst and disappear.
That was Imagine Breaker.
Without that ability to negate any supernatural power, his body would have been crushed long ago.
The masses of wind did not simply fly straight for him. Some curved from the right or left to cut off his path and some dropped straight down from above his head.
“Hah hah. So that’s your rumored right hand. Nice effort!!”
Vento raised the hammer and swung it forcefully down while laughing. This produced a mass of destructive wind.
Kamijou frantically held his right hand above his head.
The mass of wind blasted through from the right to the left.
Sweat poured from Kamijou’s entire body. He immediately bent his back to move just his upper body backwards. An unpleasant roar shot past his face and tore off a bit of the skin on the tip of his nose.
The wall to his left was loudly smashed to pieces.
The ceiling was already tilted and now it began vibrating even more.
(What!? That wasn’t the same trajectory as the hammer!)
Questions floated up in Kamijou’s head, but Vento would hardly answer if he asked.
“Gya ha ha ha ha ha ha!! I love this!!”
The long chain in Vento’s tongue swayed back and forth as she moved.
The cross attached to the end emitted an unnatural light.
It blinked two or three times.
Vento then frowned as if something had gone against her expectations.
“I see, I see.”
Vento nodded interestedly as she fired attack after attack of violent wind. She was handling Kamijou perfectly well. He could not get any closer than 5 meters.
“It’s called Imagine Breaker, right? It seems that right hand of yours is as amazingly effective as the report said. Even when I occasionally weave in my true attack, it has no effect whatsoever.”
(Her true attack?)
That phrase stuck in Kamijou’s head as he swung his right hand around.
He was also curious about the mention of a report about Imagine Breaker. The Roman Catholic Church may have started viewing with more importance.
“But this isn’t enough to know for sure… Okay, I’ll test it out.”
“I’ll do this!!”
With that shout from the gut, Vento swung the hammer horizontally from one side to the other.
With a roar of wind, a weapon of air appeared.
Instead of Kamijou, she was aiming at one of the customers collapsed unconscious over a table.
He immediately leaped over with his right hand stretched out. The end of his right hand touched the air weapon just before it reached the customer’s head and it burst in every direction. That strike had held a shocking amount of power. Anger filled Kamijou to the very core of his mind.
Vento narrowed her eyes with great interest as she watched on.
“Hmm, so that’s how it works. Seems surprisingly difficult to use to me.”
(So she’s testing out what I can do.)
Vento may have been testing the exact range of Imagine Breaker.
“Sorry!” All of her attacks had been stopped, but Vento showed no sign of worrying. “It looks like painlessly isn’t gonna happen. I need to kill you directly. It’ll hurt like hell if you’re still conscious, but you’ll probably die from the shock. So if you want to enjoy this, you’ll have to become a masochist.”
Kamijou heard the sound of the chain.
The chain attached to Vento’s tongue drew an arc from right to left as she moved. Vento forcefully swung the hammer vertically so it scraped along the chain.
Orange sparks flew out.
(!? For a while now…)
A weapon of air blew the sparks away as it curved from the right to the left.
(…the attack’s direction has been different from the hammer’s!?)
It almost seemed to follow the trajectory of the chain attached to her tongue.
It almost seemed to be guided by it.
“You don’t mean… The cross on that chain!!” shouted Kamijou as he crushed the wind weapon with his right hand.
Vento laughed in response.
“Oh, did you find out!?”
The long chain with a cross accessory attached freely drew vertical and horizontal trajectories through the air. Whenever Vento swung her hammer so it scraped across the chain, a weapon of air would fly along the same route as the line of the chain.
(Dammit! It’s hard to defend against even when I know how it works!!)
Without meaning to, he would instinctually react to the trajectory of the giant hammer that was producing shockwaves. But the hammer and the chain moved differently. She would swing down from above, but the chain would be drawing a curving line. She would swing the hammer horizontally, but the chain would move upwards from below.
The motion of the attack and the direction in which the actual attack flew were different. That slight visual deception slowed his reaction time and threatened to have his body sliced in two.
“Oh? This has gotten to be a real pain in the ass.”
An even more powerful wind weapon flew at him.
But this one flew at the floor just in front of Kamijou rather than at him directly. The flooring was torn up and transformed into sharp wooden splinters which flew at Kamijou.
Instead of being stabbed in one spot, he was struck over his entire body.
Kamijou was thrown backwards where he was sent rolling along the floor.
He shook his head that was hazy with pain and desperately brought clarity back to his mind.
At some point, he had been pushed back to just behind Last Order.
As if he had realized something, Kamijou suddenly lifted his head up from the floor.
Last Order stood up from behind the pillar and was about to run over to him.
Vento laughed in pure delight at Kamijou’s shout.
Her attack could easily smash straight through the pillar and into Last Order.
Last Order did not move. Kamijou had no idea whether she was unable to move or if she was choosing not to.
At that rate, her small body would be smashed into mincemeat.
Kamijou began running and knocked last Order to the floor. She fell over at the exact moment Vento let loose her attack. The weapon of air that was produced mercilessly broke through the pillar before being negated by Kamijou’s right hand. Even so, fragments scattered everywhere.
The area was too dangerous.
Last Order had to leave as soon as possible.
“Go!! Hurry!!” shouted Kamijou, but Last Order shook her head while looking dazed.
She must not have wanted to abandon Kamijou.
“Hurry!! Go call for help!!”
That was why Kamijou gave her a false objective he knew would be no help.
Hearing that, she finally stood up on unsteady legs. But it seemed the contents of her pocket had come out when she had been knocked to the ground. Some sweet-smelling lip gloss that looked like a toy and a cutesy child’s cell phone had fallen to the ground. Seeing them, Last Order began to crouch down once more.
“Leave them!!” shouted Kamijou.
Her shoulders shook in surprise and then she ran away on her small legs. She headed out to the road through a broken window. As she ran impatiently away, she looked almost stupefied.
Vento turned the giant hammer wrapped in barbed wire towards the short girl.
But Kamijou circled around to cut off the direct path to Last Order. Meanwhile, the building vibrated dully. Due to the pillars being destroyed, the ceiling collapsed diagonally. The line of windows Last Order had escaped through were crushed and sealed off by the falling ceiling.
One of Vento’s targets had gotten away, but her expression showed no irritation.
She laughed delightedly instead and spoke to Kamijou.
“You sure are cruel. Running aimlessly through the darkness seems like quite a burden for a girl that young. The fear might be destroying her as we speak.” She swung the giant hammer. “Wouldn’t she have been happier being killed here with you rather than having to go through that?”
Kamijou spat on the floor in response.
This woman was horrible.
“I won’t put any burden on her,” he said while clenching his right fist once more. He continued to speak to Vento who was smiling in delight. “As long as I go to meet her, it’s no problem. That’s why I can’t let myself die here.”
“Oh, how fun♪ But, but! Will you be able to say that again after I shake up your organs and make human flesh juice out of you?”
A dull noise rang out as she swung the hammer. The chain in her tongue jangled as it swung.
“Well, you’re my target anyway and having a heathen ape trouble me really pisses me off. If you aren’t gonna run away, that would be a huge help. Makes it easier to aim!!”
Several more wind weapons blasted out and carelessly destroyed the inside of the family restaurant.
Accelerator held his breath within the dark factory.
With his plan, everything would fall in place as long as he prepared his first move correctly.
Accelerator had swiped a few pieces of equipment from the van. One of them was the shotgun he used in lieu of a cane and another was a small radio.
He would use both in his plan.
Currently, the enemy group was afraid of causing friendly fire in the darkness, so they had scattered out while communicating via radio. Accelerator had mixed in his own communications where he used a staticky voice to play the part of an “ally” that provided false information to destroy the enemy’s coordination. It seemed they had quickly realized what Accelerator was doing, but they had no way of knowing which voices were from their comrades and which were tricks. As a result, their suspicion of every voice they heard had deepened.
Without the use of their radios, the enemy no longer knew where their allies were.
Even if they spotted a figure in the darkness they would be too afraid of causing friendly fire (or being the victim of friendly fire) to react quickly. Their cooperation was falling apart. On the other hand, Accelerator just had to view every figure he saw as an enemy. That gave him a great advantage.
Hound Dog’s primary threat came from their weapons and the fact that they were a group.
His plan had almost entirely robbed them of both, so no real problem remained.
This was the first time Accelerator had worked up an enemy’s fear instead of using his powers, but the enemy had fallen for it amusingly well. Fear truly must have been a common factor across all of humanity. In the back alleys, Accelerator had reigned as a symbol of fear without doing a thing. Simply concentrating that a bit and actively using it had produced this wonderful result.
The enemy group was no longer a threat to him.
They were nothing more than moving targets.
He had used the radio and fear to split apart and isolate them. Even if he went a bit nuts here, he would have a few minutes to spare before reinforcements arrived. He did not need to worry about the surrounding Hound Dog members.
As Accelerator hid in the darkness, a smile appeared on his lips.
His gaze was fixed on his prey that he had spotted trembling alone and away from its comrades.
(It’s time for a feast, you fattened beasts.)
He was about 15 meters from his target.
The closer to the target, the more powerful a shotgun was. For that reason, his distance was still not the best it could be, but nevertheless Accelerator leaned against the wall, lifted his “cane” from the floor, casually took aim, and fired.
A great roar tore at his ears and a great shock slammed into his shoulder. As expected, the shotgun blast scattered before it reached the target. But the target was surrounded by hard concrete and metal plates. The scattered bullets bounced like pinballs and struck the man in black from multiple angles.
A scream resounded through the factory.
A liquid splattered in the darkness and the human silhouette spun like in an action movie. After seeing that, Accelerator used the shotgun as a cane to approach the man in black.
It seemed his arm had been taken out. And falling while spinning appeared to have wrenched the other hand.
The submachine the man in black had been holding had slid far away. He tried to pull out his backup handgun but was unable to grab it like he wanted thanks to his injured arms.
He looked like an ugly caterpillar.
Accelerator placed a hand against a nearby wall and held the shotgun barrel up against the man in black’s cheek.
The voice was surprisingly high-pitched. When he looked closer, Accelerator could see feminine body lines below the black outfit.
“Joking? I suppose so. Not that it matters,” spat out Accelerator. “But this is new material.”
He pulled the trigger.
Accelerator’s body could not withstand the dull shock of firing, so he fell over backwards.
(This isn’t a gun to fire one-handed.)
As he shook his head and stood up, he could see the woman in black writhing on the ground.
She was holding her mouth with her crushed hands, but they seemed to be pressing oddly deep into her face. The shotgun had blown off her lower jaw. If she had moved her hands, only her upper teeth would have been visible.
Accelerator realized something warm had landed on his cheek.
He brought it into his mouth with his tongue and chewed it along with his saliva.
It tasted of meat.
A laugh leaked out.
He did not need to give any more time to this woman who could no longer fight. Accelerator needed to leave as quickly as he could. The other Hound Dog members would arrive after hearing the gunshots. He wanted to avoid being spotted and fired at head on. The best plan for him was to hide in the darkness and destroy his prey one at a time. And so Accelerator decided he should leave as soon as possible.
He stood on wobbly legs while using the shotgun as a cane.
He was starting to enjoy himself.
He knew he could not stay, but he could not overcome the bursting feeling of release within him.
As he chewed the crunchy and juicy delicacy in his mouth, he stood before the woman whose jaw he had blown off.
“…Ohh, ohh. You look like you’d give great head now.”
The woman missing the bottom half of her face jumped in shock and looked toward him.
Accelerator could not imagine what expression was on his face.
“How the hell can you live looking like that!? Don’t you fuck with me!!”
He kicked the woman in the gut as she tried to crawl along the floor.
Repeated sounds of dull impacts rang out. He kicked her 5 times, 10 times, 15 times, 20 times, and eventually her body suddenly disappeared into the darkness.
Accelerator looked over to see a press meant for processing metal.
He could see what looked like a cliff. It seemed metal products would be dropped in from a conveyer belt where the press would crush them together. The pit was about 3 meters deep and 10 meters square. A pile of empty cans and steel rods could be seen filling the bottom, so it may have actually been deeper.
The woman struggled three meters down.
With her injured arms and missing lower jaw, she was quite a pathetic excuse for a human being.
But Accelerator felt no pity even while watching her.
He glanced over at the corner where objects were brought into the press. Most of the equipment was operated from the control room, but some equipment appeared to be manually operated. A large button could be seen on the wall.
And the woman seemed to understand what it was Accelerator was looking at.
She seemed to begin begging while looking up towards him.
“Afhhe… afhehh… farhhheh…”
“Sorry,” apologized Accelerator while cutting her off. “Do you have any idea who you’ve made an enemy of?”
He slammed his palm against the wall to press the giant switch.
He did not hesitate in the slightest.
The dull, dull noise of the motor reverberated throughout the facility.
“Now then…” Without giving the woman even a parting glance, he let out a hot breath while once more resuming his patrol of the factory. “Where has my next prey wandered off to?”
A smile tore across his face from right to left.
Vento’s attacks destroyed the interior of the family restaurant further and further.
It did not take long for her to corner Kamijou.
He was bloody and pressing his back against a crumbling wall. Even if he could defend against the direct attacks with Imagine Breaker, he could not stop the fragments of the broken floor and tables.
Ultimately, the paths in the narrow restaurant remaining for Kamijou had grown severely limited.
Once he was cornered in a single spot, he had no choice but to continue defending with his right hand. Vento did not attack that frequently, but the trajectory of each shot was complex and he could only move after reading what that trajectory would be. His hand was starting to fall behind.
In pure destructive power, the attacks were inferior to those of Misaka Mikoto the Railgun. But it was partially due to the terrain that Kamijou was able to handle Mikoto. When he had to fight her, he never wanted to be in a narrow area. He would only confront her in a wide open area in which he could move as he wished and freely run away.
Otherwise, she would corner him in no time.
However, in this half-destroyed family restaurant…
(There’s also the other unconscious people.)
Here and there, customers and waiters were lying unconscious after succumbing to some unknown attack. Not only were they threatened by a direct hit from one of Vento’s attacks, but the ceiling could fall and crush them all if the building took too much damage.
Kamijou was paying more attention to his surroundings than was absolutely necessary.
And Vento plainly saw through that.
“How kind of you.” Vento giggled while holding her giant hammer up horizontally. “But should you really be worrying about others? Look♪”
She swung the weapon with a careless motion.
The chain attached to Vento’s tongue flew in a trajectory to the side of Kamijou’s face.
The wind weapon curved to the side slightly. It had intentionally been set to fly just far enough away that Kamijou could not reach it with an outstretched arm.
Kamijou leaped with all his strength and repelled it with his right hand just before it struck one of the customers.
Vento now fired a wind weapon in the opposite direction.
Kamijou was forced to throw his body around like he was practicing for receives in volleyball. Shots were fired one after another at the surrounding customers and occasionally one would actually fly directly at Kamijou himself. The unreasonable demand on his body left him short of breath. The stamina remaining in his body was quickly depleted.
“Neh heh heh? Why are you getting so upset now? You know what state Academy City is in. If I cared at all about others, I wouldn’t have done that in the first place.”
Kamijou could not believe it, but she almost seemed to be saying everything she had done was simply in order to kill him and him alone.
But he did not see how that could be the case.
It was just too grand a scale for killing a normal high school student.
“Please realize how valuable you really are,” said Vento lightly as she swung the giant hammer through the air once more. “My objective is you, Kamijou Touma. Everything else is a bonus. Even that Index Librorum Prohibitorum is trivial compared to you.” She said it so readily. “You are unmistakably an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. And we will use any means necessary to kill our enemies. Let me spell it out for you: We are willing to annihilate the entire country of Japan to kill you. …But given that right hand of yours, my usual pattern is unlikely to be of much use. That is why it seems I need to kill you directly.”
As she spoke, Vento waved a document she had pulled out as if by sleight of hand.
It may have been her orders, but it was too dark to read the document. Kamijou also doubted it would be written in Japanese.
“As you can see, it is directly signed by the pope himself. You are being targeted by 2 billion people.”
“What?” muttered Kamijou in astonishment at what she had said.
He was astonished to hear her mention the Roman Catholic Church and to hear her speak of erasing an entire nation from history to get at him.
In the past incidents, Kamijou Touma had mostly gotten himself involved in someone else’s incident. The last time an incident had actually occurred around him personally was with the Aztec magician on August 31.
As Kamijou stared in horror, Vento hid the document once more by sleight of hand.
“Do you think I’m joking? Then I’ll open your eyes to the truth by doing something that can never be passed off as a joke.”
Vento smiled as she brought the hammer up with a wooshing noise.
The chain attached to her tongue moved and caused the cross to sway back and forth slightly.
“What are you-…?”
“I will now kill everyone in this restaurant.”
Kamijou’s breath caught in his throat.
Vento grinned as she continued speaking.
“I am doing it because that should be painful for you. I am killing them all for no other reason than that. If I go that far, surely even you will grasp the situation.”
Kamijou ignored the circumstances and ran toward Vento without thinking. She stepped backwards while smiling. As she stepped back, she swung her head around. With the sound of scraping metal, the chain attached to her tongue spiraled around her.
If Vento swung the hammer now, a spiral of destruction would appear around her.
“I’ll blast you all to pieces!!” roared Vento while moving her right hand.
A great roar rang out.
The stench of iron filled the dark ruins of the family restaurant.
Sounds of shallow breathing could be heard in the darkness of the sweltering factory.
Vera of Hound Dog was hiding behind cover. No one would have imagined that a woman like her would fall to these depths. She was a bright, sociable person who never failed when measuring the distance between herself and others. She always performed flawlessly in both intellectual and physical tasks. That was the sort of person she was.
She had her own circumstances for being here, but even when others showed interest in what those might be, she had the verbal skills to adroitly turn the conversation elsewhere.
As she possessed a fair amount of good sense for someone in the collection of trash that was Hound Dog, Vera tried to cooperate with the others. In a group in which everyone showed contempt for everyone else, those attempts stood out, but Vera still wished to build at least some trust with her “comrades”.
(The radio is too noisy.)
Screams and cries for help were constantly streaming from her radio, but Vera’s response was nothing but annoyance. She had no way of knowing which were real and which were traps. Caines had set off on his own saying he would rescue their comrades, but Vera had been unable to contact him since. Responding to the cries for help was simply too dangerous.
Vera could not trust anyone.
The bonds she had slowly attempted to build up had all crumbled away here.
“Uuh…” groaned Vera.
Her best bet was to leave the facility for a fresh start. Rod had said over the radio that the exits were booby trapped, but that sort of warning was suspicious. Had that actually been Rod? She needed to leave even if it was a bit risky. She would leave behind her comrades if necessary. That was the only way to avoid complete annihilation.
(This is horrible… This day could not get any worse…)
Vera began searching for an exit on unsteady legs. She had lost her will to fight. The tension inside her was so great that her focus and thoughts had completely cut out.
And then she realized something.
The radio had been so noisy before, but now it was emitting nothing but a steady sound of static. She had avoided saying anything into the radio before so as not to further confuse matters, but a sudden sense of hopelessness filled her. Vera switched on the radio and brought it close to her lips.
“This is Vera. Repeat, this is Vera. What is your situation? Over.”
No response came.
Sweat poured from her skin. Had everyone assumed her transmission was a fake? Or had the worst possible scenario happened? Had everyone else fallen prey to Accelerator?
(No, there’s another option.)
Vera thought up another possibility as she searched for a mental escape route.
(Maybe all the other survivors have evacuated outside like I’m trying to do. The factory walls are thick, so they would cut off most of the signal. If they’re all outside, my signal might not reach them.)
That would mean Vera had been abandoned by her comrades, but it was still the better option. At the very least, it was better than if her comrades had been annihilated within this trash processing facility.
(That’s right. Hound Dog wouldn’t be taken out so easily. Accelerator is using the darkness to his advantage, but he needs complete darkness for it to work. Under the moonlight, we can distinguish between friend and foe without our radios. We can handle this more efficiently outside.)
And that meant she needed to head outside to safety.
After making up her mind, Vera searched for the exit with more strength in her stride.
She still had hope.
Once they regrouped, they had no reason to be afraid of Accelerator.
But it was due to that very hope that Vera’s thoughts reversed directions and plunged into terror the instant she saw her colleague being crushed by the press.
Technically, Vera did not directly see the familiar face of her colleague. What she saw was a piece of equipment meant to crush steel parts into a single mass. It existed in a pit extending about 3 meters deep into the ground. It was about 10 meters across.
The thick metal plate that did the crushing was pressing down into the pit.
And yet she could hear cries coming from beyond the metal plate.
It was due to the slight camaraderie she had built up that Vera was able to tell who the voice belonged to. Meanwhile, she could hear a crunching sound as the thick metal plate slowly continued downwards.
She slammed her palm against a button on the wall while in a state of almost complete panic. With a loud metallic noise, the press finally stopped moving.
The cries from below continued.
A flesh-and-blood human could never withstand the pressure from that metal plate. It was likely due to the pile of metal parts covering the floor below the press that Nancy was still alive. Her body had sunk into the pile of metal parts like a cushion.
Nevertheless, she was certainly dying.
Dying more quickly might have made the experience less painful for her.
Vera pressed a different button on the wall and the metal plate rose back up.
That might be enough to save Nancy.
The button was covered in something sticky. It was a dark liquid similar to what could be found on a trash can next to a vending machine. She had been forced to touch the stain in order to press the button.
Even though the stain was made up of human flesh and blood.
A small piece of flesh with crushed bone and skin inside was stuck to it.
It felt like the string supporting her consciousness had snapped.
She could have sworn she literally heard the small sound of it snapping.
“Gah!? Gyahh!! Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!”
Vera rushed backwards while shouting out so loudly she thought her throat would tear apart. She could not stay there any longer. She could feel what she had built up come crumbling down. She felt as if a single drop of water falling on her skin would make her die of shock.
While in that state, she tripped over something and landed on her ass in something wet.
She looked down and found a handful-sized piece of flabby flesh.
It was smashed almost beyond recognition, but it could only be a human’s lower jaw.
She shook it off and began to run away.
But as her gaze raced randomly around, she met another colleague. But it was unclear whether it was right to say she “met” him. His body was held in place by thick wires and had been boiled by the high temperature steam spewing from a severed pipe, so that really may not have been the best word.
The mask covering her face prevented it from leaking out. The viscous liquid gushed from her mouth and nose, but Vera showed no sign of being bothered by the discomfort. She had bigger things to worry about.
Her voice grew weaker and weaker as it stretched out longer and longer.
Vera looked down at her silent radio.
She knew the truth now.
The meaning of the silence had been simple. There was no plan. They were not retreating to regroup. Most likely, not a single one of her colleagues had made it outside. Every single member of Hound Dog had been annihilated by the eerie attractions within the Third Resource Recycling Plant. Their minds had been worn down like hers until they had lost all ability to think properly, and then they had been toyed with as they stood around blankly.
Strength left Vera’s hands.
Her radio and submachine gun clanked as they hit the floor. Vera herself dropped to her knees.
Who was she fighting?
Accelerator had never used weapons before. He had never given a single thought about the terrain. He had simply charged forward while plowing through any obstacle with his powers. And so they had assumed he would be an easy opponent while his powers were restricted so long as they had a plan.
But it was too late now.
He was using weapons. He was using the building. He was reading their mental state and thinking up the most effective means of throwing their minds into disarray. Instead of simply charging at them in anger, he would even choose to not kill an opponent if that would apply the greatest psychological damage.
The most frightening thing was how quickly he had grown mentally. He was no longer a child who simply relied on his powers. He could now use everything at his disposal to kill. Accelerator was enough of a threat now, but he would likely accelerate even further in the future. He would grow to the point that he could defeat the entire world and no one could hope to oppose him.
Vera felt such terror that her senses grew numb.
He had robbed her of even the ability to feel fear.
He was a monster.
And Hound Dog had foolishly aided in breaking open the egg to let him hatch.
Vera heard a quiet footstep from directly behind her.
She did not turn around. Instead, she gave a slight smile with her head hanging limply down.
A wet sound could be heard within the dark family restaurant.
It was the sound of blood dripping to the floor.
The scene before his eyes caused Kamijou Touma to freeze in place with his fist still raised in preparation.
This was most certainly fresh blood.
He stared blankly at the point from which the splattering of red had come.
He stared at Vento’s mouth that had been shouting triumphantly not long before.
She was doubled over with a hand held to her mouth. She gave small repeated coughs and a heavy and slimy liquid flowed from the gaps in her fingers each time.
She took a few wobbling steps backwards. The confidence from before was gone. This did not appear to be a ruse. She truly appeared to be suffering.
Vento suddenly coughing up blood had cut off Kamijou’s thoughts as if cold water had been dumped on him.
(Is this a side effect of her magic? That’s too bad for her, but this might be my chance.)
He came back to his senses.
He was a bit hesitant to raise his fist against someone who was suffering, but this was no time to be idealistic. If he did not defeat her when he had the chance, she would likely cause even more sacrifices just for fun.
Kamijou gritted his teeth, prepared his resolve, and clenched his right fist.
But before he could act, Vento spun around and swung her barbed wire-wrapped hammer in the wrong direction.
It scraped along the chain in her tongue and sparks flew.
Her carefree mood from before was gone. These were similar to the confused and violent actions of a drunk in a fistfight.
With a heavy sound of destruction, a large hole opened in the wall.
Vento ran towards it.
She fired two or three attacks to keep Kamijou from pursuing before rushing out of the building.
Kamijou was unsure whether he should pursue her or be thankful she had left and he was still alive.
(What was that?)
Even after leaving the building, Vento did not try to destroy the entire restaurant with Kamijou inside. He doubted she would restrain herself out of concern for the others inside. She likely had her hands full with whatever it was that had come over her, so she had been unable to think about anything else.
Kamijou mentally went over this new problem that had presented itself:
God’s Right Seat.
Vento of the Front.
And the Roman Catholic Church.
Shirai Kuroko and Uiharu Kazari were in Judgment’s 177th Branch Office.
It had a fancy name, but it was nothing more than a room in Uiharu’s middle school.
A number of desks were lined up, but they were not the ones made of plywood and metal pipes usually seen in classrooms. The area looked more like an office. Work computers were lined up on the desks, but that delicate equipment was being ignored in favor of a potato chip bag on one desk.
Uiharu Kazari was rummaging through a plastic bag with both hands.
“Shirai-saaan. Do you want the chukadon or the fish bento for dinner?”
“I don’t care about that!!”
“Eh? Then I will take the chukadon.”
“I will eat the chukadon! Uuh… Right now, onee-sama is walking through the city at night with that rotten ape… Gwaaaahhhhhh!!”
The twintailed girl slammed her hands against the desk.
Only their two voices could be heard in the room. The room was equipped with a large radio, but it remained silent. Normally, Judgment’s work ended when the curfew arrived because their primary mission was to handle disputes within the school. It was unusual for students to remain in the office this late.
And one of those girls working late, Uiharu Kazari, pulled out her cell phone and said, “Oh, it’s time for the variety show I always watch!”
“Do your work, Uiharu!!”
“You are not one to talk, Shirai-san. And I can work while I watch TV.”
Her phone would have had TV functionality, but Uiharu must have really liked that variety show. She went out of her way to turn on the large television in the room.
Shirai swiped the remote in annoyance and changed the channel randomly. It ended up on an uninteresting news program.
“Dahh! What are you doing, Shirai-san!!” shouted Uiharu as the two girls began fighting over the remote control.
The woman on the TV who was a cross between an announcer and a performer read her script.
“Next up is, let’s see…news about A-Academy City.”
Shirai and Uiharu stopped struggling and looked towards the TV.
That station was a national station located outside Academy City. Information about Academy City did not often make it to a station located outside. That may have been why the announcer seemed confused.
“Currently, Academy City is experiencing an uproar over an intruder. This has led to spreading damage within the city. We have footage of the scene. Issako-san?”
The image changed.
It was a grainy shot taken from a great distance. The camera was likely outside of Academy City. A woman wearing yellow could be indistinctly seen walking along a road as the rain fell.
The woman had an unsteady gait and shoved collapsed people out of the way with her feet. She was sticking her tongue out and a long chain attached to it swayed back and forth.
Before the reporter on the scene could say anything, the camera wobbled. After the sound of some sort of impact, the screen was filled with gray static. The studio announcer called out a name a few times, but received no response. It was unclear if the reporter was there or not.
The footage of the studio quickly returned.
It was the perfect timing to just barely prevent a broadcasting accident.
“W-was that the intruder?” asked the announcer.
The commentator sitting next to her replied in a calm voice.
“Given the level of Academy City’s defenses, it is highly unlikely this is the work of some pervert who is simply after the children.”
“It may be a terrorist attack against perceived science worship or someone after their cutting edge technology.”
“I am sure our viewers are most concerned about the safety of the children. Will this affect that?”
“Of course.” The commentator shook his head in a theatrical sign of disapproval. “They have gotten the children wrapped up in the adults’ issues. This is even worse than a simple attacker on the street. Honestly, who is that woman in the footage? People will occasionally neglect the lives of children, but letting ridiculous social nonconformists like that run free is-…”
A thud was then heard.
It was the sound of the commentator’s forehead hitting the table as he suddenly collapsed forward.
She thought it was part of a performance, but then the commentator’s body shifted to the side and collapsed below the table. The announcer screamed, the camera shook, and some lightly dressed youths who appeared to be ADs dashed into the studio.
A deep voice of someone not shown on camera shouted several instructions and a commercial started playing. Some form of trouble had clearly occurred.
As a female star known for her small face was shown being deeply moved by how wonderful a face washing foam was, Uiharu turned toward Shirai.
“Have we received a report about that footage? I have been dealing with handwritten paperwork all day, so I did not notice. If this intruder really did defeat Anti-Skill alone, she must be quite dangerous. How did someone so creepy get in?”
“Judgment is rarely called for activities outside of the schools during the day, much less at night. If the situation is bad enough, Anti-Skill will request our help. We need to focus on this paperwork until-…”
Uiharu Kazari did not reply to Shirai’s words.
Her body leaned backwards unsteadily and then she collapsed onto the floor without providing any resistance. Shirai heard a surprisingly loud thud after which Uiharu showed no sign of moving.
Shirai ran over to Uiharu in shock.
She called Uiharu’s name in her ear and slapped her cheek, but received no response.
Shirai still had no idea what was happening when she heard a voice from the TV.
The commercials were over, but the news program did not return. The screen only displayed scrolling text saying “Please wait a moment.”
Accelerator had cleaned up most of the Hound Dogs.
He did not know their exact numbers, so he had to watch out for an ambush, but his instincts told him the battle was already over.
He would have respected any surviving Hound Dogs if they were able to fake that atmosphere, but he knew they did not have the presence of mind left to do so. Everything Accelerator had done, from the timing of his gimmicks to the intervals of silence, had been thoroughly calculated out based on the physiology of the brain to function as a program that brought them into a state of panic.
This was not a level of fear that could be overcome with guts. He had pounded the feeling into them down to the level of the brain’s signals. None of them would be able to fight properly. No human that was not completely insane could escape this attack. All they would be able to manage would be crying out and flailing their arms and legs around.
Accelerator opened the lid to the bottle of cleaning agent he had found in the facility. He poured the clear liquid over his head and tossed the empty bottle aside.
(After going this far, Kihara will definitely take action. If I’m lucky, that bastard will get scared when he hears this. He’ll receive word of this in a few minutes. What do I need to do before that?)
Accelerator’s goal was to rescue Last Order.
But he did not know where she was as she continued to flee (or even if she was still fleeing). He could locate her if he could contact her via cell phone, but he doubted he could rely on that. In that case, the best way of saving Last Order was to focus on interfering with Kihara and his Hound Dogs.
He would keep their focus on him.
He could never win if he did not make sure they felt the need to do something about him before taking Last Order.
And the closer he came to accomplishing that, the more danger he would be in.
(That doesn’t matter.)
He headed for the facility’s exit while using the shotgun as a cane.
He could have tortured the Hound Dogs for information, but Accelerator had avoided that method. He could not use his powers in this facility and he could not carry an adult outside while using his cane. He had only won so far due to following a strategy. Even if his enemies were injured, he could not let his guard down. Right now, a single bullet could kill him. If he screwed up here and let the Hound Dogs turn the situation around, no one would remain to save Last Order.
Accelerator thought about what he should do next.
(I guess I should check that Hound Dog van again. I doubt I’ll be able to find their hideout, but I need to know a general location to crush the other team.)
But then his thoughts were cut off.
He had spotted blood on the floor.
Accelerator frowned slightly at that dotted trail of red stains. He had guided the enemies, filled them with fear, and crushed them one by one all according to his calculations, but he did not recall using this route.
Someone was still alive.
From what he could see of the bloody trail, the enemy’s gait had been shaky and their focus had been all over the place. They had been in such a panic that anything and everything had frightened them. Accelerator’s psychological manipulation had been in effect.
(Or are they just making it look that way to lure me in?)
Accelerator slowly followed the trail of blood with his cane.
It led to a small emergency exit. A green light was installed above the metal door. A box protected by tempered glass was installed next to the door. The glass had been broken and the lever inside had been pulled.
Someone had unlocked the door and left the building.
Accelerator leaned up against the wall next to the door and reached out a hand to touch the doorknob. The cane irritated him at times like this. If he could use both hands, he could have had his other hand on the switch for his choker-style electrode. He might lose control of his powers in here, but he would have to use them if it came down to it.
He slowly turned the doorknob.
He pushed the door as silently as possible.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
At the very least, it did not seem a bomb had been set up. After making sure of that, Accelerator pushed the metal door open wide.
It had begun pouring rain at some point and the raindrops struck his entire body.
After hiding in that stuffy facility, it was a pleasant stimulation.
“There you are…”
He was not smiling.
Accelerator stood on the second floor. If he climbed down the steel emergency staircase and ran across the asphalt for about 20 meters, he would find a chain-link fence signifying the end of the facility’s grounds.
He could see someone climbing that fence.
The person was dressed all in black, so they were clearly a Hound Dog member.
And a car was parked just outside the fence. It was obvious where this man in black was headed.
He thought the car was Hound Dog reinforcements, but it was not.
It was the type of car Anti-Skill used for its official patrols.
It was not right for Anti-Skill to be showing up here.
This was a battle between two sides of the darkness; normal people should have no place in it.
A thin, thin sigh escaped Accelerator’s lips.
He had no words.
In his silence, he could hear the man in black shouting.
Despite the pouring rain and the distance of 20 meters, the man was shouting loud of enough for Accelerator to hear it clearly.
“Hey! Is there someone in there!? H-help me! Help me! Anti-Skill is supposed to protect the people of this city, right!? Then protect me! It’s him! He did all of this! Ha ha! What now!? I’m safe now. I’ve escaped you grasp!!”
Accelerator felt like he was hearing static.
(I’ve lived in the underside of this city for so long, yet I’ve never heard such pathetic bullshit!!!!)
“No matter how much you struggle, it’s over for you! I have Anti-Skill on my side. If you think you can do something to me, just try it!! If you attack Anti-Skill, you’ll get an official wanted status!! Your days with that damn brat you wanted to protect so much are over now too! You’ll be thrown back into a cold research lab and play the role of guinea pig for the rest of your life!! Gya ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
An intense power built up in the hand holding the shotgun.
His head felt like it was going to burst.
The electrode battery, the need to preserve the remaining seven minutes, and the trouble he would have with Kihara Amata if he used it up were all blown clean out of his mind.
Accelerator’s hand moved up to his neck.
It moved up to the electrode’s switch.
He did not hesitate.
He had to make a bloodbath out of that piece of shit.
That was all that remained in his mind.
Saigou Ryouta and Sugiyama Edao of Anti-Skill were lucky.
They had carelessly been asleep while most of the city’s law enforcement was taken out, so they had not suffered the same comatose state the other members had. When no one had responded to their in-car radio, they had assumed it was nothing more than mechanical trouble. For better or for worse, they had been left out of the loop.
And they were lucky once more.
Saigou had left the driver’s seat and Sugiyama had left the passenger seat and walked over to help the bloody man climbing the fence.
What they heard first was a great roar.
It was a bestial roar coming from a human being.
The second wave arrived before Saigou and Sugiyama could determine what was causing that roar of rage.
The second wave took the form of a thick metal door.
The metal door flew at horrific speed while rotating vertically. It came so close that it almost grazed across Saigou and Sugiyama’s skin and then slammed into the center of the parked Anti-Skill patrol vehicle like a gigantic circular saw.
Sparks flew and the vehicle was bent into an L-shape.
It was as if that completely normal vehicle had suddenly been struck from the side by an artillery shell. The back half of the vehicle stayed the same while the front half was smashed up and bent directly to the side. The vehicle did not even slide to the side. The blow contained such force that the area struck by the “shell” opened up like a blooming flower of destroyed metal. The metal door that destroyed the vehicle had enough momentum to continue on. Only after smashing the asphalt to pieces did it finally come to a stop. The gasoline pipe that had been torn apart touched an electric cable that had been disconnected. A small spark formed.
And that was all it took.
After that single blow from the side, the vehicle exploded. Flames and smoke were scattered around the area.
“Wh-what the hell!?” shouted Saigou with his vision completely cut off by the smoke.
The metal door had flown at such high speed that Saigou was not sure what had caused the vehicle to explode. However, the fact that he had not seen anything happen only furthered his panic.
He could not see his colleague who was supposedly right next to him.
“Gyaahhh!? S-stop!!” shouted an unfamiliar male voice.
And before Saigou could realize it belonged to the man in black he had tried to help…
“Wait! Please wait, Accelerator! No, no! This isn’t right!! Anti-Skill! Wh-wh-where are you!? Help! Hel-byah! Byah gwaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!?”
Saigou heard a sound reminiscent of a tough wiener being bitten into. Sensing danger, Saigou grabbed his handgun from his waist, but he could not move any further. The smoke was so bad he could not see anything around him. Shooting blindly posed a risk of hitting his colleague Sugiyama or the man he was supposed to protect. He could not tell what was happening beyond the smoke or if it was being caused by a human or a wild beast. He could not imagine where he should aim or what he should shoot at to resolve the situation.
“F-freeze! Don’t move! Get away from him!!”
Despite not being able to see anything, Saigou aimed his gun randomly and shouted out.
He thought he heard a laugh come from very close by.
It was not a loud laugh. It sounded more like something that had slipped out while the person had their mouth covered.
Several dull noises continued afterwards.
After about 10 seconds, the screams died out.
In the end, Saigou had been unable to move.
There were some things one was better off not seeing.
He could instinctually tell he had been lucky to have the smoke cutting off his vision.
The pouring rain put out the fire of the exploded vehicle. Once that happened, the smoke finally dissipated.
Saigou’s colleague Sugiyama had fallen to a sitting position on the ground.
His mouth was flapping open and closed, but no words escaped his lips.
His face was horribly pale and he was pointing a trembling finger at the ground.
Saigou looked where he was pointing.
The man they had been trying to help was not there. No matter where he looked, the man could not be found.
But in the spot Sugiyama was pointing to…
Saigou saw a small bloodstain and two big toes that had been torn from human feet.
Between the lines 7
Many different areas existed on the outer circumference of Academy City.
The city possessed the1/3 of the area of the Tokyo Metropolis. The scenery and characteristics of the areas it bordered could change greatly depending on whether it was Eastern Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, or Yamanashi.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu was running through an area that was halfway between an urban area and a forested area. Several large abandoned factories had been overgrown by a thick forest of coniferous trees. Extremely fertile weeds and ivies had grown all over the concrete walls and mercilessly remade the manmade structures into a portion of nature.
Tsuchimikado Motoharu suddenly skidded to a stop within one of those buildings.
It may have originally been a bus maintenance building for a transportation company.
The concrete space was a bit smaller than a school gym. All valuable equipment had been removed so nothing but useless rusted hunks of metal remained. That made the building feel completely empty, but walkways that were nothing more than steel scaffolding still remained on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The floors of the upper passageways were made of a metal mesh, so holes had opened in places where the rust had grown too bad.
About half of the roof had collapsed and the rain was mercilessly pouring in. One entire wall had been made up of a giant metal shutter, but it too had rusted and fallen away.
(This is it.)
He was looking at a single wooden stake sticking up from the floor.
It was gigantic. It had a diameter of fifteen centimeters and was over three meters long. The point that was roughly sharpened like a pencil was sticking straight up. Countless raindrops fell on it and flowed down the surface of the stake like it was bleeding.
It was a magical item.
It was likely made of windmill palm wood.
“What a surreal sight.”
As soon as the edges of Tsuchimikado’s mouth twisted up in a smile, identical three meter stakes shot forcefully out of the side of the original one 360 degrees around it. It was no longer a wooden stakes; it was a stake tree. After Tsuchimikado back stepped out of the way of the tips of those stakes, stakes began growing one after another from the floor, the walkways on the second floor, and the piles of rusted equipment. They all tried to stab into Tsuchimikado.
He continued to back step on a path reminiscent of an undulating eel. Someone must have realized the stakes were not going to reach him because a few of them exploded from within. With a great roar, hundreds of fragments flew toward Tsuchimikado.
By sometimes crouching down and sometimes hiding behind machinery, Tsuchimikado managed to avoid it all.
In just a few seconds, the area had transformed into an execution ground covered by thousands of stakes.
Those giant pencils had grown over everything.
(I see. So they were planning to attack Academy City like this. All of the unmoving people would have been skewered.)
“Don’t underestimate us,” spat out Tsuchimikado as he darted about the area and thought.
The enemy could likely grow the stakes outside this maintenance building as well.
(Was I being led into here as a trap? …No. This is too large scale for that. I probably just so happened to run right into the center of it.)
Windmill palm was a wood that represented “blessings”. Using that characteristic, it was possible to give it the ability to slip past defenses that would otherwise hold it back or repel it. If Tsuchimikado had carelessly used defensive magic, the attack would have been recognized as a “blessing” and easily passed through his defenses. He would have been skewered from every angle.
He was surprised they had been able to prepare thousands of those spears, but…
“Heh. You’re trying to trick me with these overwhelming numbers.”
As soon as Tsuchimikado said that, the explosive appearance of the stakes suddenly stopped.
A white figure appeared from supposedly empty darkness.
It was like seeing the exit of a tunnel. The spell user seemed like the single missing puzzle piece of the darkness. Because he alone was glowing, twelve shadows spread out from his feet at even intervals around him. It looked like an analog clock.
The shadows may have been the key to activating the magic because each of them was continually growing and contracting according to some kind of instructions.
Tsuchimikado took a step forward, but he grew no closer.
The man had shown no sign of moving, but he somehow kept his distance.
It was as if he was saying Tsuchimikado would never make it any closer.
On top of it all, he sensed more than one presence
He sensed several people both inside and outside the building. It was a few dozen people all told and it was possible similar groups were deployed to other spots around the outer circumference of Academy City.
Tsuchimikado calmly spoke to his silent enemy.
“Three indicates the heavens, four indicates the earth, and twelve indicates the world. You did not have to prepare all of these stakes. By giving meaning to a certain number, you are able to work in units of ‘vast amounts’.”
Basically, if Tsuchimikado found the seven stakes acting as the core of the spell, he could seal his enemy’s magic by destroying one of them.
He had to find the main seven among all of these.
He had to find them amid the thousands that existed and the many more that were sure to come.
Tsuchimikado grinned and said, “It’s a nice spell…but it is not Christian. This is the theory of the Pythagorean Order from BC Greece. Since when did you accept the world before the birth of the Son of God?”
His words must have angered his enemy.
The vague figure roared.
A tremendous noise burst out as the wooden stakes exploded and the entire maintenance building shook. Rust fell from the walkways on the second and third floors and the half-collapsed ceiling. Power filled those falling rust fragments and new stakes grew from them to attack Tsuchimikado from every direction.
The wooden stakes sealed up all space in every direction. They crashed into each other and destroyed each other.
However, Tsuchimikado was no longer there.
He was standing on a steel third floor walkway at the top of the maintenance building.
Cold, inhuman eyes locked on to him from far below.
The countless stakes filling the concrete floor exploded from within, one after another. The fragments shot toward him like antiaircraft fire. Tsuchimikado jumped along the walkway that had holes rusted in it at places. As soon as he passed over a point on the walkway, it would shatter, break, and collapse.
Red blood slowly trailed from the corner of Tsuchimikado’s mouth.
This was not due to the magical attack. He had used magic to jump to the third floor walkway.
He was both an esper and a magician.
And when an esper used magic, a rejection reaction damaged the esper’s body.
(Tch. I gain nothing from extending this battle.)
He wiped away the blood as he thought.
He could feel no sense of distance with that figure. It was as if he was being chased by an afterimage burned in his eyes. The more he approached it, the more it would move away. The more he moved away, the more it would approach. That was the slippery type of existence this was. While this was not enough to say directly defeating this enemy would be impossible, it was going to take some doing.
If he was going to stick around, it would be best to destroy the stake spell first.
He could take his time on this enemy once he could not use his weapon.
“Such a shame.”
As the rusty walkway was smashed to pieces, Tsuchimikado jumped over one of the holes in it and ran toward a specific spot.
“I’d rather not destroy a spell as delicately put together as this!!”
He was heading for a single wooden stake that stood buried beneath countless other stakes.
It was one of the seven core stakes that controlled all the others. It was the spell’s weak point.