Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume20 Chapter3
Chapter 3: The Stand-Off Against the Wall of Doubt. Great_Complex.
The foreign unit of mercenaries known as privateers began their invasion.
Hamazura Shiage and the others could do nothing about it.
As expected, the privateers showed no sign of worrying about the injured Russian soldier. They were putting everything into the invasion.
Digurv led them into the basement of the clinic. It seemed the space was originally used for storing cheeses and smoked meats. Of course, it did not have the durability one would expect of a shelter. It could not defend against attacks, so it’s only purpose was to keep the enemy from finding them.
The frostbitten Russian soldier seemed able to move a bit after having warmed up next to the electric heater. They gave him some preserved cheese to help him recover his strength, but his expression looked like sorrow itself. He seemed more bothered by having been abandoned by the army than by his physical condition.
Hamazura embraced Takitsubo’s limp form.
He had never expected things to turn out that way. He had thought the back alleys of Academy City were bad, but they were not the only hell. In each place, a different mouth of darkness opened to swallow them whole. Hamazura and Takitsubo had thought they were desperately running from the darkness, but it turned out “somewhere other than here” was not necessarily a paradise.
Low vibrations resounded from the ceiling.
They didn’t sound like explosions. It was similar to a car engine, but the vibrations were too loud.
“What is that? Treads?”
“They may have come in tanks,” responded Digurv. “There aren’t many. Two I’d guess. They don’t care about the theories followed by a normal army. They probably haven’t brought any infantry with them. …But tanks on their own are more than enough of a threat.”
As the low vibrations brought him fear, Hamazura also had a question.
“We know we don’t have any, but for all they know, we could have people hiding in or behind buildings with anti-tank rockets, right? Wouldn’t they normally destroy the main pieces of cover from a distance before charging in?”
“They aren’t a normal army. They only want to rampage around and they were just given the latest equipment, so normal military theory means nothing to them. It may leave some openings, but they are more brutal than some more mechanical soldiers. It’s best if we aren’t found.”
A terrible splintering sound could be heard from overhead.
The two of them stopped talking.
The sounds of a building being demolished continued. Instead of blowing it away with a shell, they were using the thickly armored vehicle itself to plow into the building. It certainly did not seem like the proper way of doing things.
(…They’re playing around.)
Hamazura gritted his teeth while embracing Takitsubo.
(They’re waiting for us to not be able to withstand the fear and come running out. That way they can carefully aim and shoot us while we’re in a panic.)
The privateers enjoyed the act of killing more than achieving the objective of their mission. Tearfully surrendering would be of no use. There would be no point in begging them to let Takitsubo live. They would just shoot both of them in the forehead.
Intense anger boiled up from the bottom of his gut, but there was nothing he could do. Jumping out before the privateers would just be playing into their hands.
Digurv must have been feeling even more anger than Hamazura.
It was Digurv and the others who had so much riding on that land. Seeing it all mercilessly destroyed half for fun must have doubled his anger.
Digurv managed to endure it both so he personally would survive and so Hamazura and the others hiding there would not get wrapped up in it all.
Hamazura knew for sure he shouldn’t take any careless actions.
But the danger did not leave after only that.
The ceiling suddenly collapsed and the armored vehicle fell down like an avalanche.
Most likely, the privateers hadn’t meant to do that. They had run through the clinic without realizing it had a basement and had fallen through the floor.
However, that was not something Hamazura and the others could endure.
A large number of wooden boards came tumbling down and Hamazura and Digurv desperately rolled out of the way. The sharp edges of the broken boards pierced into the plaster wall. The armored vehicle had a gun turret on the top. The turret did not move. The sudden fall down into the basement had bent the end of the gun.
“Run!!” Digurv yelled.
A metal door on the front of the vehicle started to open.
Hamazura dragged Takitsubo along. He handed her to Digurv who had made it up to the surface.
That was when the door on the vehicle fully opened.
Hamazura managed to climb out along with the frostbitten Russian soldier at almost the exact moment rifle bullets began spraying around at random. The clinic was pretty much gone. Its roof and walls were missing. It was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
They had managed to avoid getting shot by the rifle bullets by getting to the surface.
However, they did not have time to relax.
Digurv spoke with a pale face.
“If we stay up here, we’ll be killed. The other privateers in the area might find us and it’s all over once the ones from the armored vehicle climb out. We need to find some other shelter before they catch up to us!!”
Something nearby exploded. Hamazura and Digurv were knocked in different directions. There was something wrong with Hamazura’s eardrums.
From his position on the ground, Hamazura could see Digurv. It seemed the man had taken less damage than him. Digurv was holding Takitsubo and he looked over at Hamazura for an instant, but he was then forced to run off somewhere. He was likely fleeing towards some other basement.
(…Fuck. I don’t know where that basement is!! He damn well better not let Takitsubo die!!)
Hamazura slowly stood up. He was almost completely in a state of panic. The frostbitten soldier must have gone somewhere, because he didn’t see him anywhere. He smelled smoke. The smells of food, cigarettes, and other signs of human life were gone. They had been completely blown away.
He knelt down behind some rubble and looked around the area.
Already, almost half of the log houses had collapsed and he could clearly see the tracks of treads in the white snow. They did not seem to belong to the armored vehicle from before.
(A weapon. Is there any kind of weapon I can get…?)
He couldn’t overcome that crisis with just the handgun in his pocket.
For better or for worse, there was a machine gun emplacement only 10 meters away. A rather large machine gun was placed in a half circle of sandbags. Surely it was not there to shoot down an attack helicopter. It was possible it was there to merely look like it could do so in an attempt to prevent any from passing by overhead.
Of course, Hamazura did not know how to operate a machine gun.
He would just end shooting wildly unable to deal with the recoil.
But it was better than nothing.
Hamazura was so nervous that he was afraid his raised heart rate would tear his heart apart as he dashed out from behind the rubble and onto the white snow. He was almost falling more than he was running, but he managed to make it to the gun emplacement surrounded by sandbags. It had only been 10 meters, but it had seemed a path through hell to Hamazura.
The machine gun was fixed in place on 3 legs. The joints were made to rotate and the ends of the legs were completely fixed in a square piece of concrete with stakes. It couldn’t be taken out without some tools.
“Fuck!!” Hamazura swore as he pulled out his handgun.
He could still hear explosions in the area, so he guessed that a few gunshots would go unnoticed.
Just as he thought that, an armored vehicle with treads came out from behind a different building. It was about 20 meters away. It had a rotating gun turret with barrels lined up in parallel on both sides. It also had a plate-like antenna. It may have been more of an anti-aircraft gun than a tank. It had those large machine guns instead of something to shoot explosives like a tank. They really weren’t doing things the normal way. That vehicle was not meant to be on the front lines chasing enemies on the surface.
But a flesh-and-blood human would still be turned to mincemeat if they were hit by those guns.
Hamazura was so shocked he thought he was going to bite his tongue, but it seemed they hadn’t noticed him.
They were after another target.
It was a woman in her 30s who was desperately running away while holding a young baby in her arms. A girl of about 10 was running just a bit behind her. The woman holding the baby’s expression was twisted in fear, exhaustion, and humiliation. Hamazura couldn’t tell who she was, but he managed to pull some information from the back of his mind. She was most likely one of the people who had come to the village after having been rescued from the trucks. Her clothes were subtly different from Digurv and the others’.
The anti-aircraft gun adjusted slightly to aim at their backs.
If even one shot hit them, they would be damaged so badly it would be hard to know how to bury them.
Hamazura’s arms jumped up.
The next thing he knew, he was holding the machine gun set in the emplacement.
He didn’t have time to aim carefully.
He pulled the trigger.
The thing was supposed to be set in the ground, but a shock still ran through his right shoulder as if it had been hit by some kind of power tool. The immense shock blurred his vision. Even so, Hamazura gritted his teeth and continued to pull the trigger.
Sparks flew from the anti-aircraft gun’s armor.
Assuming one managed to hit it, the large machine gun did have the destructive power needed to damage a small aircraft.
The force of his barrage must have altered the rotation angle of the gun turret by just a little bit.
When the large guns started firing, the bullets flew by the woman and the girl instead of hitting them in the back.
“Run!!” Hamazura yelled over the gunfire despite the fact that they likely didn’t understand Japanese.
The anti-aircraft gun did not leave it at that.
Using a large motor, the gun turret rotated. They seemed pissed that he had ruined their fun. The barrels looked like a golf ball could easily fit inside and they were now pointed toward the gun emplacement Hamazura was in.
Hamazura immediately let go of the machine gun and hid.
The spray of bullets began immediately afterwards.
The sandbags burst one after another and the soil packed inside was blown away. The large machine gun was torn to pieces. At that rate, he was going to lose his wall in a few dozen seconds. But leaving the wall in the middle of that storm of bullets could very well make his body explode.
Hamazura was unable to move, but the anti-aircraft gun ceased firing.
(Did it jam…?)
Hamazura thoughts moved in a positive direction, but that wasn’t it.
Those privateers did not follow proper military theory like normal soldiers did.
They were doing this for fun.
They put aside the guns and fired a surface-to-air missile instead.
With a trail of white smoke, the explosive flew toward the half-destroyed gun emplacement.
Hamazura frantically jumped to the side away from the gun emplacement he had been using as a shield.
An explosion occurred immediately afterwards.
His sense of hearing was blown away.
His body floated in the air from the intense blast. After landing on the snow, he looked around the area. He just so happened to be behind a building. He was pretty sure he was 10 meters away from the gun emplacement. That was not due to his own ability. That was just how great the blast had been.
His legs trembled in fear.
There was something wrong with those privateers.
Hamazura had lived a life in the back alleys of Academy City that most would not praise him for, yet the privateers’ aberrant morals were enough to scare even him. There was something wrong with someone who crossed national borders to get to a battlefield just to satisfy their desire to kill.
As Hamazura realized this bit by bit, he was unable to move.
He then heard a noise.
He just about to panic and pull the trigger of his handgun without thinking of the consequences, but he realized who it was before he did.
It was Digurv holding Takitsubo. He must have gotten there through a different route of hiding behind rubble. Digurv had not abandoned the unconscious girl.
Hamazura’s spirit had been about to break, but seeing Takitsubo’s sleeping face just barely managed to support him.
“Are you okay? We could really do without any more sick or injured.”
“Hey, I thought you had run off to another shelter?”
“I was running around trying to stay out of sight of the privateers and this is where I ended up.”
That must mean the privateers had them surrounded and were tightening the circle. Hamazura’s mouth felt incredibly dry due to his tension. He was about ready to put a handful of snow into his mouth, but he had another question.
“What about some other shelter?”
“The entrance to the other one is nearby, but the privateers are wandering around near it. They don’t seem to have found it yet, but they may figure out there’s one there if I get close.”
“Shit,” Hamazura muttered.
The noise of engines was surprisingly quiet. The anti-aircraft gun from before was probably the only thing running. The armored vehicle had fallen through the floor of the clinic and couldn’t be used anymore. The few privateers that had come from it just so happened to be blocking their way to the other shelter.
“What were they doing?”
“They were checking everything including the attic and the curtains. They’re even looking under children’s beds in an attempt to find any stash of money or valuables. They also seemed mad that they couldn’t find their targets. They’re all just itching to kill their enemy.”
“…So they don’t intend to let us get away. And they don’t seem like the type that would respond to an appeal to their compassion.”
The privateers ended up sealing up the entrance to the shelter.
There was no longer a safe place they could run to.
It was possible no such place had existed in the first place.
Hamazura looked down at Takitsubo’s unconscious face. Her forehead was damp with a sickly sweat and her bangs were sticking there. When he kindly fixed her hair, he realized that his fingertips had stopped trembling.
He could not let her die there.
He did not want to let people who had worried for her die either.
He didn’t want to be defeated without being able to do anything. He’d had enough of that in the back alleys of Academy City.
Hadn’t Hamazura Shiage decided to escape all that?
He was angry at the unreasonable violence. Why did Takitsubo’s life have to be targeted? Why did the people who had worried for her despite not knowing her have to be attacked for such a ridiculous reason? It was time to fight back. If it was a battle where both sides’ lives were on the line, Hamazura had the right to bite back.
“…Can you hold on to Takitsubo for just a little longer?”
“Wh-what are you going to do?”
Digurv may have noticed the change in Hamazura’s expression and general atmosphere.
Hamazura looked back at Takitsubo’s face once more as Digurv held her.
“I’ve had enough of their shit. I’m gonna blow that thing to pieces.”
“Just so you know, we don’t have any RPGs. That thing may have thinner armor than a tank, but an AK isn’t enough to get through!!”
“They’re like point stickers, right?”
Digurv looked confused at Hamazura’s odd remark and Hamazura repeated himself in a more understandable way.
“You said you had collected all the landmines you’ve dug up in one place so you can hand them over to an NGO, right?”
He rushed from the base.
Accelerator ran across the snow.
He was not chasing anything and he was not sprinting towards a specific location.
He was running away.
Academy City’s #1 Level 5 was running away while holding Last Order.
He honestly found her terrifying.
More so than Kihara Amata.
More so than Kakine Teitoku.
More so than Aiwass.
More so than that boy.
The enemy chasing after Accelerator was overwhelmingly terrifying because she threatened to destroy the pillar supporting his values.
He heard the sound of electricity sparking from behind him.
It was on a smaller scale than a Railgun from #3.
However, it was on a decidedly greater scale than the standard Sister.
He heard what sounded like a popping balloon.
It was the sound of an iron nail about 2 cm long being fired at just over the speed of sound.
Its power was on the level of a handgun bullet.
The iron nail had been fired from behind Accelerator and it accurately pierced into his left arm halfway between the elbow and shoulder.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t been able to reflect it.
He hadn’t been sure if he should reflect it.
No, what he couldn’t decide was if it was okay to kill the attacker by reflecting it.
He may have been able to alter the angle so it only injured her, but he could not deny the fact that he might end up reflecting it and killing her due to a mistake or slipping back into old habits. When he thought about that possibility, he could not act.
Strength left his arm.
The small girl it was supposed to be supporting flew through the air.
The warmth of the girl who was supporting Accelerator’s mentality was swept away by the freezing cold that seemed to split through the snowy plain.
His scream reverberated throughout the area.
Last Order’s body landed in the deep snow.
Accelerator could not even reach his arm out towards her. He lost his balance and disturbed the white snow as he almost completely collapsed.
He almost felt like laughter was going to overflow from the bottom of his gut.
Accelerator had a rule he had imposed on himself.
In the past he had killed a large number of clones for his own experiment.
That was why he had decided that, no matter what happened, he would never again hurt the clones known as the Sisters and Last Order.
To accomplish that, Accelerator had taken part in many bloody battles. Kihara Amata, Kakine Teitoku, and Shiokishi of the board of directors. His body and mind had been worn down during his fights against various monsters. He had lost to Aiwass. That was why he had fled to that land of snow. His efforts had hardly been perfect, but he had felt that he had done an okay job of protecting the lives and lifestyles of Last Order and the Sisters. He had believed that he had done what was necessary for that.
But of all things, Academy City had put together a plan that seemed to be pinpointed to break exactly that. This plan took his desire to protect them even if it meant making an enemy of the entire world and used it as a tool for fighting against him.
(They’re fucking insane…)
He needed to protect Last Order.
He needed to defeat the Sister assassin.
If he protected the one or let the other live, Accelerator would be breaking that rule he had risked his life to protect.
(The Third Season? They created more of them just to create this situation!? They did it just to stimulate my trauma and break my mind!? Academy City is fucking insane. Now that I can see those bastards from the outside, it’s even more obvious. There is something fundamentally fucked up about that city!!)
He could not accomplish any kind of normal thought pattern.
That was proof that the attacker’s mere existence had shaken Accelerator’s mentality.
It may have been true that a mental strategy would be more effective against someone who had the power to reflect a nuclear attack.
“Oh, dear. Do you think you’re protecting Misaka? No one asked you to do that. In fact, it’s rather arrogant of you to think that’s enough to make up for killing over 10,000 people.”
Those words stabbed into him.
The tone of her voice was the same, but the feelings packed into them were overwhelmingly different.
“You should just bring yourself to ruin already. If you just break your rule and fight all out, surely you could kill Misaka,” said the voice coming from behind the mask with the lenses arranged like the face of an analog clock.
There was no fear in the voice.
She may have been sure that he absolutely could not attack back.
She was about 10 meters away.
“It looks like Misaka’s countermeasure for your electrode may have been unnecessary.”
Electricity sparked from the bangs visible at the edge of the mask. She may have been attempting to jam the signal with her electrical powers. Or perhaps she was directly interfering with the Misaka Network.
After thinking that far, a question floated up in Accelerator’s chest.
Last Order was a special clone that held control over all the orders to the Sisters connected to the Misaka Network. If that attacker was one of them, Last Order should be able to seal her movements with a single order.
The higher ups had to know that Accelerator had brought Last Order with him.
Would they still send a Sister who could have her control stolen at any time as an assassin?
(It’s a disguise!!)
Accelerator stopped running once he came to that conclusion.
The snow was blown away and the earth below shattered and flew towards the attacker with overwhelming speed. It was like a shotgun fired using natural objects.
In response, the attacker merely lay down.
However, it was a smooth motion of just lowering her hips.
She easily evaded the uppercut-like strike that had mainly been aimed at her face and upper body. However, the fragments of earth caught on her mask and blew it away into the air.
Her face was now exposed.
This time Accelerator fell down on top of the white snow.
He had not been hit by some strange attack. He just felt an intense resistance to accepting the face below that mask.
“It’s no use,” said the attacker without even a smile on the face that would be the one Last Order could have when she became the same age as high schoolers. “You use the Misakas’ network for your calculations. Misaka is part of the Third Season, so she can monitor the activities of the Misaka Network and read what your next attack will be. It’ll take quite something to fatally wound this Misaka. Do you really have room to hold back? If you’re gonna do this, you need to be intent on killing Misaka. C’mon, if you understand, come kill her. Of course, you can’t do that. If you did, all your work up to now would have been for naught. Then could you shut up and let Misaka kick your ass? Gya ha ha ha!!”
She was a fake.
She was using special makeup.
She was using some kind of esper power.
Accelerator stood up thinking those things, but…
“Help me. Misaka is scared.”
Hearing the girl’s tone of voice, the monster froze.
As blood dripped from his left arm where the iron nail had pierced it, Accelerator could not even swing up his fist for self defense.
“By the way…”
The attacker brought her hand up to her neck.
He saw a thin scar there that would be easy to overlook if he were not paying attention.
“Misaka has sheets and selectors installed in her. Even if Last Order sends a signal to stop Misaka, it’s set up to automatically reject the signal as long as an approval code is not sent from the board of directors. You can’t stop Misaka even if you pathetically rely on that little girl.”
The answer thrust before him was quite simple.
It was kill or be killed.
However, that did not apply only to Accelerator.
If it did, he would just give up and let her finish him off.
The problem was the fact that Last Order was wrapped up in the assassination.
It was not the same as destroying some lowly thug.
Nor was it a situation where giving up his own life would solve everything.
Neither way would save them.
Accelerator was prepared to point a gun at his own head if it meant keeping another Sister from dying. He could not kill them. Even if it meant making an enemy of the entire world and even if it meant he would have to fight countless monsters from the bloody darkness of the world, he would never, ever bring pain or fear to the girls who held that face. He didn’t think that his bloody self would make them smile, but he wanted to at least protect the smiles they had for themselves.
And yet both winning and losing would create a dilemma for a Sister in his current situation.
Having gone through that experiment, Accelerator knew that Academy City was 100% serious if they said they would kill the Sisters. He knew they would not hold back and fail to go through with it or anything like that.
Accelerator knew that he would likely completely lose it if either of the Sisters died.
“…The Third Season,” Accelerator muttered. “If they’ve started that and created you, then replacements can be made for the other Sisters at any time. I’m sure they’ve made that decision both from a cost and ethics standpoint.”
“They have. And the command tower of Last Order is no exception.”
Academy City was carrying out some kind of experiment. He knew that Aiwass was involved in that plan and that the Sisters and their network were being used for it.
“But the board of directors wants to maintain control of the Misaka Network at all times, so I’m guessing the major decision to redo the Network wasn’t made until Last Order went missing. Everything would’ve been fine if you hadn’t needlessly taken her away and now it’s come back to bite you in the ass.”
Basically, that meant she was there to kill Last Order not to retrieve her.
If they were remaking the Misaka Network and its command tower, the old numbers were no longer needed. In fact, having two command towers might actually harm the network. That was why Academy City was taking the initiative and having Last Order killed.
Yet she had done nothing wrong.
It was all for an unnecessary reason that was just for someone else’s convenience.
“What’re you gonna do?” the attacker smiled.
It was a wicked and emotional smile that did not match his impression of the Sisters.
“If you don’t want to kill any Sisters, you have no choice but to let Misaka do you in here. But Misaka will attack Last Order once she’s killed you. Even if you stop her by force, Misaka will still die. Gya ha ha ha ha!! Either way, your mind is done for. Misaka’ll make sure to play with you until your personality is completely shattered, so let’s have some fun!!”
Those words of despair marked the beginning of the battle to utterly destroy the pillar supporting Accelerator’s heart that he had worked so hard to build up.
A Russian navy submarine had circumvented the intense battlefield of the Sea of Japan by heading through the Pacific Ocean. It was currently near Indonesia.
It was not making preparations to fire ballistic missiles at Academy City from an unexpected place.
Russia was already firing missiles from all sorts of angles, but they were all being accurately shot down. Most were being intercepted outside the atmosphere, but some were being blown away by a mysterious beam 5 seconds after launching.
Given the known history of missile development, it was a completely impossible feat.
The interception systems humanity had put together were a concentration of many different technologies, but they still did not have perfect accuracy. The fundamental theory for dealing with ballistic missiles was to take political action to prevent them from being fired in the first place.
The submarine was near Indonesia to carry out the countermeasure the higher ups had come up with. The submarine’s goal was to cut off their supply line.
Academy City was part of Japan which was an island nation. Unlike Russia, its resources were scarce. The Russians hadn’t thought the war would go on that long, but that meant the strategy of cutting off Academy City’s overseas resources was an effective one.
They couldn’t wield that seemingly all powerful technology forever.
The day they ran out of stamina would mark their death.
That was what the higher ups had thought.
To make sure that not a single transport ship made it through, over 20 submarines had been prepared.
“Nothing’s showing up,” someone muttered as no ship appeared no longer how long they waited.
The channel they were in was like a highway with ships headed to places all over the world instead of just to Japan. They had actually seen ships heading to many different countries. But not a single transport ship headed to Japan had shown up.
Maybe they were using a different route and maybe their ships were disguised as ones heading to different countries. They thought of various possibilities, but they couldn’t find the answer. All they knew was that Academy City could not continue functioning without a large number of transport ships coming and going.
A transmission came in from one of the other submarines in the fleet. Both amateurs and soldiers got bored with nothing to do. Not finding a single target was extra irritating when shut inside a submarine.
“Are they really using ships? I’ve heard they’re using some amazing aircraft back home.”
“I doubt they can bring in every sort of material including items for daily living with only those monsters. Don’t let the impact of their tech lead you astray. None of that changes the fact that sea routes are the most popular for bringing in large amounts of goods.”
“But we haven’t seen a single transport ship headed for Academy City. We’ve even carried out a few pirate-like forced inspections, but that turned up nothing. Where are they? They aren’t on the sea or in the air. They aren’t heading underneath the sea, are they?”
“Couldn’t be. Submarines can only be so big for their noise to not be detected. They can’t be used for large scale transports.”
“…What do we do? That was a pretty close guess,” said the young communications officer in an Academy City submarine.
They were slipping past one of the Russian submarines at a distance of only a few meters. Most of their cargo was supplies for Academy City. The Russians’ conversation had hit on the truth.
The only thing off was the size.
While the Russian sub was only 100 meters long the Academy City one was easily 5 times that.
Academy City was not on a coast, but a few of the organizations that worked with it had prepared that secret weapon based on the technological information Academy City supplied them with. When the sub entered Japanese waters, smaller subs would meet up with it and take the materials to the port.
The navigator sitting near the communications officer responded to the young man.
“They haven’t detected us with their radar or sonar, so officially we don’t exist.”
Normally a submarine that large would be quite noticeable by the propeller noise alone. The sound of the water being disturbed would be detected.
That didn’t happen because that submarine did not have a propeller. Instead, the surface of the sub detected the movements of the ocean currents and used water jets to propel itself so that the noise would be blend in with the currents. The noise of the sub itself was impossible to completely eliminate, but the water jets interfered with it so that enemy sonar would not detect anything unusual.
“If we used our ultrasonic weapons, we could make it look like propeller trouble instead of an attack.”
Just to be sure, the surface of the sub was made difficult to detect which even prevented the sub from being detected by magnetism.
Even so, if it rose above a certain depth, it could still be detected, but that also meant that the odds of detection approached zero when it was below that depth.
“Our orders are not to sink the enemy,” the navigator said as if confirming that with himself. “We just need to carry out our mission. The greatest victory for us is to guarantee safety.”
The landmines were stored at the edge of the village.
As the fear-inducing sound of the anti-aircraft gun’s engine continued, Hamazura darted out from behind the rubble. He continued along the snow while hiding behind bits of cover that were just barely maintaining their form as buildings.
He was heading for a small hut.
The wooden building was so small a minivan would not even fit inside of it.
He opened the simple door that was reminiscent of the door to a bathroom stall and saw objects carelessly piled up as if they were magazines. They were pentagonal metal plates that looked a bit like a home base from baseball. In addition to those items that were tied up with string were cylinders about the size of soda cans.
“So this is it…” Hamazura said in almost a groan.
According to Digurv, the home base-like ones were anti-tank mines. Hamazura grabbed one of the tied-together bundles with both hands and placed it atop the snow. It was the kind of action one would not expect someone who knew what the mines were capable of would be able to do.
He untied the bundle and grabbed the edge of one of the home-base like objects.
There was a small triangular part sticking out at each corner of the pentagon. They were most likely the fuse that detected weight. When he flipped it over, he saw that the center was sunken in slightly and a branch a few centimeters long was stuck in horizontally. It was pressing on a pin-like object. The branch was not a part of the mine. It had been hastily installed by the villagers after digging up the mine. Digurv had said the mine worked the same as a grenade. If he pulled out the branch and put it on the ground, it would be ready to go. After that, a rhinoceros beetle climbing on it would set it off. There may have been tools for operating the pin after setting it up.
He wanted to take as many of them as possible, but the mines were heavy. He could only carry 2 or 3 at a time. If he had 4 or 5 of them, he wouldn’t be able to run properly. He was already at a serious disadvantage, so he didn’t want to add on any more handicaps.
(…I guess I’m limited to 2.)
Suddenly, the wall of a house relatively close to the hut was blown away.
It was due to the giant bullets of the anti-aircraft gun.
Digurv had said that only two vehicles had come to the village and the first armored vehicle had already fallen down into the basement shelter. If he could just destroy that anti-aircraft gun, the threat would be gone for the time being.
Hamazura drew back from the loud sound of the barrage and then left the hut carrying the landmines.
Next, he had to get near the anti-aircraft gun.
There was also the means of setting up the landmine in a place the vehicle was likely to pass through, but Hamazura had no proof it would actually pass through any one area. As he also had a limited number of them and he couldn’t exactly head out into the open and set up the landmine, that simply didn’t seem like a good strategy.
To ensure he took it out, it would be fastest to get close to the anti-aircraft gun and throw a landmine at it. He had asked Digurv to be sure, and they could indeed be used like grenades.
(Getting close enough to it is a damn high hurdle to get over.)
After all, his opponent had high caliber machine guns that could blow away buildings as well as people. If they noticed him, it was over and he was going to be charging right in making it easier for them to notice him.
He didn’t really think it sounded like the best idea he had ever had.
But succeeding in that plan was the only way to save everyone in the village.
If he failed, even Takitsubo would be killed.
What was the point of having escaped Academy City if that happened? He wouldn't be able to bring her back to life even if he found something to negotiate with.
(I have to do it!!)
Hamazura ran along the side of the crumbled rubble. The anti-aircraft gun was searching for a target while crushing buildings for fun. The place the villagers were hiding in might be discovered before long. Hamazura ran along an area where the collapsing roof and walls were just barely staying up.
The sound and vibration from the treads squeezed at his heart.
The mass of steel passed by on the other side of a broken window.
Hamazura glanced outside the window while pressing his back up against the wall that seemed like it was about to collapse.
It was close.
It was about 5 meters away.
He reached for the small branch on the back of the anti-tank mine.
If he pulled it out, the mine’s functionality would return. Even a slight shock would set it off. It would definitely go off if he threw it.
He took one deep breath.
And then stopped.
He pulled out the branch on the back of the mine and removed his back from the wall. He leaned out the broken window.
The anti-aircraft gun seemed to have noticed him.
But between the time it would take for the large gun turret to rotate and the time it would take for a human arm to swing, Hamazura had the clear advantage.
He threw the explosive and hid behind the wall.
The mine struck the side of the gun turret and then detonated.
A loud roar shook Hamazura’s brain.
A landmine was different from a hand grenade. Mines were bombs that were meant to be placed on the ground. They could be made so the energy from the limited amount of explosive was focused up rather than in every direction.
The anti-tank mine Hamazura had thrown was made in that way.
As the mine had spun through the air, it had hit the gun turret with its bottom side. The shock had set the explosive off, but the blast had gone in the wrong direction.
The anti-aircraft gun was not blown away.
Hamazura saw the turret rotating towards him.
That was when he heard another odd noise.
It was the sound of a building wall collapsing due to the blast that had gone in the wrong direction. It was the wall of a small church across from the house Hamazura was hiding in. It was the village’s only stone building and it had been on the verge of collapse even before the blast. The steeple with a bell inside crumbled and fell in the direction of the anti-aircraft gun.
The privateers inside had noticed it.
However, the steeple swung down like a hammer before they could get away. The vehicle was a mass of thick steel, so that was not enough to destroy it, but the great weight was enough to completely seal its movements. The gun turret with the machine guns on it could not rotate either.
Hamazura remained silent for a bit.
The various emotions that had been boiling up in his chest did not come out.
He pulled his head inside the window and looked around at the destroyed house. It wasn’t just a set. People lived in that room.
He grabbed a bottle of vodka that was still intact from some shelves that had fallen over.
He left the building and stood before the anti-aircraft gun.
A proper tank would have light machine guns installed on it to take care of approaching infantry, but that anti-aircraft gun was not intended to be brought into enemy lines, so it did not have anything of the sort.
It could no longer hurt Hamazura.
He brought his mouth close to the small ventilation opening for bringing oxygen into the thickly armored vehicle.
“…It sure is cold today.”
He was speaking in Japanese, but he didn’t particularly care.
It wasn’t his job to have them understand him.
“It’s nice weather for cooking some meat.”
When he struck the roof of the vehicle with the bottle of vodka, one of the privateers frantically popped out of the metal hatch.
Hamazura aimed his small handgun towards the hatch.
There was no hesitation in his aim.
Kamijou Touma ran about the half-destroyed plaza.
The result of the encounter had been terrible.
Three professional magicians, Lessar, Elizalina, and Vento of the Front, had been defeated, Sasha Kreutzev had been taken away by Fiamma, and only the scars of the battle remained.
Currently, Kamijou was treating the injured magicians. However, he did not have the proper knowledge to do so. He was mainly following their instructions.
“If you’re trying to thank me, there’s no need,” she said with her tongue sticking out despite the fact that she could barely move otherwise. “I didn’t like Fiamma’s way of doing things. That’s all. I couldn’t allow him to have free reign over the Roman Catholic Church any longer. My actions just so happened to be to your advantage.”
Her voice was filled with hate, but Kamijou felt somehow relieved.
Not everyone in the Roman Catholic Church agreed with Fiamma. There were people in that organization who would object to his methods. Learning that anew relieved his burden much more than he had expected.
Elizalina spoke while lying on the ground unmoving.
“I did not expect for Fiamma to be able to use the knowledge from the 103,000 grimoires.”
“Index does not completely cover spells for God’s Right seat. I’m betting Fiamma is using her to fill in some gaps to raise efficiency.”
“Do you know where Fiamma of the Right went?”
It would probably be best to take Elizalina away on an ambulance, but she refused to. She may have been feeling guilty since the people had been exposed to magic during the fight against Fiamma. She may have wanted to avoid leaving the scene at such a difficult time. Only Elizalina herself knew for sure.
“...He probably headed for a certain base across the border,” Kamijou responded to Elizalina’s question after thinking for a bit. “He was already making some preparations there and he went as far as evicting the people living in the area. My guess is that he’s taking Sasha there to do something.”
It still was not clear what it was that Fiamma intended to do.
However, the preliminary preparations had already caused so much damage and it was possible that World War III itself could be considered part of his preparations. It was possible what Fiamma was going to do from then on would cause damage on an even greater scale. Whatever it was, they could not sit idly by and let him do it.
“I’ll do something,” Kamijou said to Elizalina after thinking a bit more. “I’ll do something about him. I need to save Index. You all stay here. Whatever it is Fiamma is doing could very well end up reaching this place again.”
Just when Kamijou was about to head out, someone grabbed his arm.
It was Lessar whose injuries had been relatively light compared to the other two. She didn’t say anything, but Kamijou could tell she wasn’t going to let go of his arm if he didn’t let her come with him.
Kamijou hesitated for an instant, but finally nodded.
Lessar let go and stood next to Kamijou.
“We don’t have time. We need to get some help from the Elizalina Alliance. We can borrow a car to get us close to the base.”
“They’re enemy nations. Wouldn’t that put us at even more risk?”
“The Elizalina Alliance is a collection of countries that split off from Russia in recent years. They use almost the exact same type of cars as Russia, so we should be fine as long as we can get through an area of the border with light security.”
“…Is it really okay to get them involved in this?”
“As I said before, they’re enemy nations. Getting help is fine, but if Russia finds out, they could be killed. Is it really okay to ask for help in this situation?”
“That isn’t for us to decide,” Lessar unhesitatingly said.
At first, it may have seemed like she was just saying that, but she was just that accustomed to life or death situations.
“The ones whose lives are on the line should decide that. At the very least, they should decide what they do with their own lives. If they refuse, we can just find some other way.”
But Kamijou remained silent once more.
Lessar then put her index finger to her temple and spoke in an annoyed fashion.
“In the end, I think it’s the same.”
“Whatever Fiamma says, people should choose how to live their own lives.”
“And even if you have been hiding something, you haven’t been frozen in that state. You have still continued to move forward, right? And as a result, you have saved quite a few people and even stopped the coup d’etat in the UK. Honestly, I think that’s a life you should be proud of.”
Perhaps it had not been wrong to hide the fact that he had lost his memories.
Perhaps it had not merely been selfish of him to do so to protect Index’s smile.
That was true.
Kamijou had resolved plenty of incidents and saved plenty of people’s lives. Most likely, those were admirable things. There were quite a few people he had met after losing his memories. To those people, it did not matter if he had those older memories or not. The lack of those memories did not change the fact that he had fought for them.
“Even so,” muttered Kamijou as every word seemed to stab into his own chest. “Even so, I’m not sure it’s up to me to decide whether the actions I’ve taken were really for Index’s sake.”
The ocean surface in the Strait of Dover had been solidified and British and French magicians clashed atop it. The battle was almost a free for all, but the British forces were starting to rally together around the knights who were borrowing the power of Curtana Original via the mobile fortress Glastonbury.
However, humans tended to push back harder when others pushed against them.
The French magicians were not about to simply fall back upon seeing the values and conditions. The harder they were pushed against, the more ghastly an expression they held as they used various attack spells.
A few of the British knights fell back a bit.
It was a just a tiny bit and they were doing it to reevaluate the distance between them.
Second Princess Carissa interpreted it as weakness and casually took a step forward from the front line.
“Oh, no. At this rate, those French bastards are going to capture me and then gang rape me to death.”
With that, the British knights could not give up.
It felt like their bodies were at the limit as they swung their swords, but they just barely managed to keep Carissa from being swallowed up by the mass of French forces.
Carissa put her hands on her hips.
“Really, you shouldn’t hold back on the battlefield. You should have been fighting that hard from the beginning.”
At that point, Knight Leader finally used a communications spiritual item to contact Windsor Castle.
“That’s right. Connect me to Queen Elizard! Hurry!! I need to get permission to spank Lady Carissa!!”
“Hey, stop that!! Knowing mother, she’s likely to focus all of Curtana Second’s power on you solely for that purpose!!”
As they yelled at each other while fighting over the communications spiritual item, the larger battle continued. As many swords and spells crossed, Carissa glanced at the French magicians and spoke.
“Hmph. They have no individuality,” she practically spat out. “There are plenty of people with legitimate strength, but they’re lacking any kind of deciding blow. Are they trying to say that modern military force is solely in organizations? They can’t stand up to us with our Saint and our knights.”
An explosive noise rang out.
It came from above Carissa’s head.
A bolt of lightning shot down from the sky directly for the second princess.
However, she remained unscathed.
The knights around her must have had a means prepared because they all swung their swords above her head and blew the lightning away.
“In the end, the Holy Woman of Versailles can only work from a distance,” Carissa said sounding rather uninterested. “It’s clear that you fundamentally cannot leave the palace. It isn’t that there is a seal on the palace preventing you from leaving. Instead, your body cannot live without the magical environment inside the palace. You have just been readjusted to that extent down to the internal organ level by the foolish leaders of France that are afraid of you.”
Her words were most likely reaching the ears of the Holy Woman of Versailles in her distant palace.
No response came.
Carissa continued regardless.
“And you cannot finish someone off so easily with spells that give you the needed range.”
Assume a magician has a power of 100.
If the magician used all of his power for attack, his attack power would be 100. However, spells that extended the magician’s range also lowered his attack power proportionally.
There existed spells that could apply damage to any spot in the universe completely ignoring the physical distance, but the Holy Woman of Versailles’s spells did not have that characteristic. She only had the stereotypical spells that lost power the farther away they were used.
And on top of that, the knights gaining power from Curtana Second had superhuman abilities. They were not a force that could be dealt with using weakened magic.
“Now then,” Carissa said to the Holy Woman of Versailles who was most likely viewing the battle from afar. “I think it’s time to get serious. You can just sit there helplessly watching us land.”
The sound of crackling electricity exploded across the snow.
The Third Season.
That project had been carried out to kill Accelerator who could no longer be controlled and Last Order and the other Sisters that could no longer be used due to the effects of Aiwass.
It was a series different from the 20,000 +α set of Sisters.
And then the attacker gave her name.
“Misaka supposes you could refer to her as Misaka Worst.”
She likely knew that she was a being that should not have been born and no one especially wanted.
She played with the 2 cm steel nails in her hand.
At times, a nail would be fired at over the speed of sound along with the sound of a bursting balloon.
(From the amount of electricity she’s using, that isn’t a practical railgun.)
As the situation had him cornered, Accelerator forced his head out of its chaos to analyze the situation.
(The same method is used in the magnetic sniper rifles some snipers use. Instead of Fleming’s left-hand rule, it more simply uses an electromagnet to fire a steel bullet.)
Accelerator was still not using his reflection.
Instead, he was altering the vectors of his leg strength to take quick bursts of speed and escape Misaka Worst’s aim.
The situation as a whole and his need to protect Last Order meant he could not avoid the fight altogether.
But he wanted to avoid finishing off Misaka Worst if possible. Even if she had been created in a plan other than the one that had created the 20,000 +α set of Sisters, even if she was a part of the Third Season that had been activated to kill Accelerator and the others, he still utterly opposed the idea of letting a clone of the same series die.
It was rather cruel, but Accelerator thought about what he would do if it were Kihara Amata or Kakine Teitoku that stood before them. If it were those fuckers, he would not hesitate. He would rip them to shreds in order to protect Last Order. Accelerator was not a philanthropist. If it brought him towards his goal, he did not mind killing his enemy. However, that was why he couldn’t let himself carry out that set of rules when it came to the “enemy” before him there.
Of course, Misaka Worst had realized that.
She knew Accelerator was hesitating and she was using that in her strategy.
After all, that was what she had been born to do.
“You should be careful,” she said with an expression on her face that was clearly different from what one would see on the Sisters’ faces.
It was a grin filled with spite.
“I don’t have the output of the Original, but Misaka can still manage 200,000,000 volts. That’s around Level 4.”
An explosive noise rang out and Misaka Worst’s body disappeared.
She had used an extremely high voltage current to detonate the air and had used the momentum to fly up into the air. It was the same method she had used to land safely from the transport plane.
Accelerator realized it too late.
“One more shot,” said a voice directly above him.
And then a 2 cm nail flew down towards him.
Accelerator jumped to the side, but he lost his balance partway through and fell down on the snow.
There was a dark red wound on his calf.
That time, the nail remained in his body.
“Run from Misaka more,” said Misaka Worst as she landed back on the snow.
She scraped the steel nails together in her hand.
She was purposefully making that painful noise in order to torment her target just a little more.
“You killed more than 10,000 Misakas, right?”
Her words stabbed into him.
Her words held a completely different meaning from the words of some complete stranger.
Accelerator could reflect a nuclear attack, but the slight vibration of the air that was her voice destroyed him from the inside.
“So run. Pathetically beg for your life. You aren’t a normal person who gets a normal death. You won’t have made up for what you’ve done unless you at least have your human rights trampled on 10,000 times. Just so you know, that’s the bare minimum. If you add in the interest, three times that won’t be enough.”
The skin of Misaka Worst’s face was twisted from within.
The delicate features of that feminine face became distorted like a plastic doll in a fire.
It was caused by hatred.
It was not just simple anger. Such an extreme smile spread across her face that it looked like the frames of her face would never return to normal.
(…Don’t be led astray.)
Accelerator suppressed the pain spreading from his arm and leg and desperately thought.
(She isn’t one of them. She isn’t one of the ones created directly for the experiment. She’s just a fake who is literally borrowing their face and body. I don’t need to pay attention to every little thing she says.)
An unknown feeling gathered in the center of his forehead.
Should he bring his reflection across his entire body?
Should he reflect Misaka Worst’s voice?
He was weighing his options.
“Misaka is the same.”
It was just one sentence, but those 6 syllables were enough to keep Accelerator from making his decision.
“Misaka was created in order to kill you. Misaka didn’t particularly want to be born, but she was forced to do so. In order to cut off the signals from Last Order, her skin was cut open and a bunch of strange sheets and selectors were embedded within. If it weren’t for you, none of that would have happened. If you hadn’t made that decision, Misaka would never have been born. And even if she had been, it would not have been in that way that cut off all chance for a future. ‘It hurts. Help.’ By the time Misaka learned those words, she was already in a situation where she could not say them. That is why Misaka has the right to blame you. That is why she has a reason to kill you.”
She spoke each word like a twisted killer showing off her murder weapons.
“While all the Misakas are individuals, they are also one large Misaka connected by the network. This is not a thought pattern unique to this Misaka. It is a portion of the large Misaka over the network.”
Accelerator heard a dull noise and his vision blurred.
It took a bit of time for him to realize that Misaka Worst had detonated the air for quick movement and kicked him in the face.
“Why do you think none of the other Misakas including Last Order ever blamed you? Didn’t you find it to be odd? You killed them and killed them until you had killed more than 10,000 of them yet they don’t seem to hold any hatred towards you. The reason for that is quite simple. It is not because the Misakas are noble and perfect or because they are pure and proper princesses. …Nor is it because they did not feel any resentment toward you. They merely could not show it on the surface because their means of processing human-like emotions are incomplete. They are unable to comprehend or express their emotions.”
That was her aim.
She was trying to corner Accelerator.
Therefore, he didn’t have to pay attention to what she said.
It was all a calculated ploy, so he didn’t have to take it seriously.
Accelerator just could not ignore the hatred coming from Misaka Worst…and possibly all of the Sisters.
Even if it was a part of her plan, it still bothered him.
What if Last Order’s smile was not there because she had forgiven him? What if her personality that had been quickly constructed by the Testament was just not mature enough to properly recognize negative emotions such as hatred or fear? Would she really forgive him so easily after what he had done? Those fears shook Accelerator.
Drops of red blood scattered across the white snow.
A line of red seemed to trail the path of Accelerator’s body.
Misaka Worst wiped the red liquid off of the tip of her shoe onto the snow.
“Gya ha ha!! The Misakas are getting more human-like bit by bit! As they do, they can do more and more human-like things!! But being more human-like is not always a good thing! Before long, all those Misakas will become aware of their hatred. They will begin to realize they have a legitimate right to revenge!! Your atonement you’ve been getting so caught up in does nothing more than satisfy yourself!! It does nothing to reduce the Misakas’ hatred!! At some point, all the Misakas connected to the network will be after your life based on their human-like resentment!! Will you let them succeed and give up your life or will you have them fail and kill all of the Misakas? Either way, the convenient future you’ve imagined will not come to pass!!”
The tips of her shoes flew towards him again and again.
Each time, blood spewed from various parts of Accelerator.
He could avoid her attacks if he tried.
He could strike back if he tried.
However, Accelerator was not even able to try.
The movements of his heart that let him try would not come forth.
Something was beginning to break within his heart.
It wasn’t just due to the external damage. The anger burning in opposition to that was great enough that he thought something was going to break.
And once that something broke, there would be no fixing it.
If that something broke, he could easily transform into a monster even greater than when he was taking part in the experiment.
“If you want to soak in that sentimental delusion of yours and deny Misaka’s words, that’s fine. But what Misaka is saying is already being proven to you. This Misaka, Misaka Worst, has had the secretion patterns of the substances in her brain intentionally adjusted so that she can easily display the negative emotions that the other Misakas cannot. Misaka can easily read the negative emotions from the giant network. As such, she has proven that the other Misakas do have hatred and that they simply cannot express it. …And that applies to all Misakas including Last Order!!”
Misaka Worst’s foot stopped just as she was about to bring it down on his face.
She was looking at something.
Last Order was collapsed on the snow a bit away. The effects of Aiwass’s appearance had put the young girl in a state where she could barely maintain consciousness. As she lay on the snow, she slowly stretched out an arm in Accelerator’s direction. She seemed to want to somehow protect his trampled and bloody form.
Last Order paid no heed to the realistic values such as whether she could actually reach him or not.
It seemed she was attempting to seal the attacker’s movements using some sort of power, but there was no change in Misaka Worst. It seemed she had some sort of countermeasure towards that and Last Order may not have even had the strength needed to function as the command tower.
Sweat dripped from the small girl’s face.
It was clear something bad was going on within her.
Misaka Worst stopped moving just slightly.
And then an even more twisted smile spread across her face.
“That’s right. Misaka should take care of that defective unit first. That sounds like it would be more effective.”
A very bad feeling swelled up from within the depths of the heart of Academy City’s #1.
“When the Misakas are renewed under the Third Season, the redeployment and expansion of the network will bring about greater performance and faster progress.”
Misaka Worst scraped together the 2 cm steel nails in her hand once more.
“Last Order, the old generation command tower, is no longer needed. In fact, her existence is nothing more than a hindrance to all the Misakas who will be deployed from now on.”
It seemed almost like a cannibalistic situation, but if the Sisters were thought of as single existence ruled by the large network, then what she said made sense using normal human thought patterns.
Humans thought of convenient things.
That isn’t the real you. There is wonderful talent hidden within you. To draw it out, you need to become the real you. Abandon the old you.
Normal humans used that type of convenient idea when it came to mental concepts. But the Sisters were a giant network made up of multiple bodies. The idea of “abandoning the old you” could be taken quite literally with them.
The desire to stop their spontaneous “progress” and have them remain exactly the same was nothing but his ego. It was much like a parent’s desire for their child to always remain a child. It was nothing more than robbing them of their freedom.
(…So that’s what it is.)
He could not resolve that situation without anyone dying.
He only had two options.
Would he kill Misaka Worst in order to protect Last Order?
Or would he just watch as Last Order was killed in order to avoid killing a Sister?
After he had been pierced by steel nails, kicked all over, and stomped on, Misaka Worst’s target had finally changed to Last Order.
Accelerator finally realized what he had to do.
He had no choice but to give up.
An explosive noise rang out.
It was the sound of Misaka Worst’s body flying up into the air just as she had been about to stomp on Accelerator’s face and send a steel nail towards Last Order. She flew through a large arc and finally landed over 10 meters away
That was what happened when Academy City’s #1 got serious.
Whether it was a 200,000,000 volt electric current, a nail flying at over the speed of sound, or one of the Sisters, those tiny threats couldn’t do anything to him.
“Gah!?” Misaka Worst gasped before standing back up and confirming her target’s location.
Accelerator had lost his central core and he looked like a mirage.
Normally, that would have meant that she had succeeded in weakening him and a once in a lifetime chance had arrived.
Misaka Worst gave a short breath and used magnetism to shoot a nail.
The nail flew accurately towards Accelerator’s forehead at over the speed of sound. Accelerator did not evade it. He did not swing his head to the side or even shut his eyes. Even so, not a millimeter of his skin was torn and not a drop of his blood was shed.
He had reflected it.
The nail flew back and accurately stabbed into Misaka Worst’s arm. There was no hesitation in Accelerator’s actions. Misaka Worst fell to the ground and pulled out another nail. This time she aimed for Last Order. She stretched out her arm and attempted to destroy the core of the network that handled Accelerator’s calculations.
The mirage-like Accelerator moved precisely.
He altered the vectors for his leg strength to instantaneously approach and then mercilessly swung his fist down on Misaka Worst’s outstretched arm.
Her arm still held the nails as he put strength into breaking it.
She screamed and detonated the air with a high voltage current in order to move back. However, Accelerator grabbed her leg and slammed her down onto the snow.
A great vibration spread through the area like at a fireworks show.
Misaka Worst coughed as he swung his fist down again.
The sounds of flesh being struck, bones creaking, and blood splattering continued.
It seemed Misaka Worst had a means of interfering with Accelerator’s electrode, but he did not give her the chance to use it. The continuous pain prevented her from concentrating long enough to use her power.
As he did this, Accelerator felt something inside him collapsing. He hadn’t been walking on a path that brought much admiration, but he still felt himself utterly losing the way of life that he had shoddily built for himself. Even if he made an enemy of the entire world or had to crawl through that bloody world as he fought terrible monsters, he had sworn that he would protect the girls who held that face. He could feel that collapsing.
No, that wasn’t it.
It wasn’t collapsing.
It wasn’t disappearing into nothingness.
It was worse than that.
He could tell that he was transforming into a monster much more fearsome than he had been before he met Last Order while he was taking part in the experiment.
“Ha ha ha.”
The next thing he knew, Misaka Worst was no longer moving.
She was just barely managing to breath and her body was split open in places. Her arm was bent at an odd angle. Her well-featured face was swollen. One of the girls that he had sworn to protect with his life was barely breathing.
“Help Misaka. Someone…”
Accelerator was aware of that.
As he knelt down on the snow, he knew that his hands were stained with blood.
“Gya ha ha ha ha ha!! Gyyaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
Only his dry laugh filled the area.
It was over. He could no longer move. What were the people in Academy City doing? He couldn’t deal with them. He couldn’t deal with a world that prospered from their power. He felt a darkness hidden behind all the peace, all the fortune, and every smile in the world. Just as the huge smiles in TV commercials were created to build up huge fortunes, he could no longer believe that the light that he had looked up to was actually good.
It would likely not end there.
Even if the #1’s heart remained unbroken there, a second and third plan would be carried out. Different Sisters might appear, clones made to look exactly like that brat could appear, Yomikawa and Yoshikawa could be used, and completely unrelated towns and cities could be utterly destroyed.
In any case, he was at his limit. In the future, his enemy would surely give him even greater pain. He couldn’t withstand that. He didn’t want to take that on. It would probably be easier if he just broke then. The darkness created by Academy City was not normal.
He then heard a noise.
Even after being so utterly beaten, Misaka Worst was squirming in the red-stained snow.
Misaka Worst had previously said that she had a way of using her power to stop Accelerator from using the Misaka Network for his calculations.
In the previous barrage, she had not had a chance to use it.
She may have been trying to use it as a counterattack.
While still smiling, Accelerator shook his head. He did not know why he did so. However, he did not want to move any more than that. He didn’t care anymore. His heart hurt so much that everything he had been holding inside it up to that point had disappeared. With the inside of his heart in the state it was, Accelerator did not care if he just died there.
But Academy City had done something beyond what Accelerator had been expecting.
He heard a small noise.
It was the sound of the selectors embedded within Misaka Worst’s body rupturing.
Whatever happened from then on, the damage to his mind was at its upper limit.
There was no greater pain than what he was in.
Misaka Worst’s harassment of mental attacks was supposed to be over.
Because he had thought that, his thoughts were completely washed away for an instant.
All of the waves of emotion completely leveled off.
And immediately afterwards, every emotion a human could possess exploded within his head.
“Kha ha ha!? Ga ha ha ha!! Gyaaahh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
It was such a great shock that his vision ceased to function properly.
He could no longer distinguish between colors and a small bit of red started to expand and cover everything.
Something burst from Misaka Worst’s neck and the back of her head.
A large amount of blood flowed out.
Amid it all, the girl smiled as she lay on the ground. It was as if the negative emotions had solidified the skin of her face in that smile. It was like the invisible finger of spite was pulling at her skin from within her face.
Misaka Worst’s mouth moved.
She spoke in a cracking voice.
He thought he was going to vomit.
“Gfh!! Ga hagfh!! Gbah gha ha ha gya ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!”
The Academy City bastards had designed Misaka Worst’s body so that she would definitely end Accelerator’s life no matter what the result of the battle was. She had been made so that Accelerator’s mind would be ripped to shreds even if he used his overwhelming power to only half-kill her.
Up to that point, he had thought they were thinking that weakening him via his trauma and killing him was fine, but he would also be mentally destroyed by the fact that he had killed a Sister even if she lost.
However, he had been wrong.
They hadn’t been that kind.
It wasn’t an issue of whether he won or not.
They had a means of finishing off Accelerator whether he won, lost, tied, fled, reconciled, or brought the situation to any other conclusion. That was the purpose of the girl known as Misaka Worst.
The word “collapse” came to mind.
From a mental standpoint, Academy City’s #1 could be thought of as truly dead.
Accelerator’s heart had been almost completely broken.
He had lost the strength needed to act as a human.
He did not want to live in such a rotten world and he did not think he could change a world that rotten. The world was done for. It wasn’t at a level where a human could do anything about it. If it would take him from that world, it might be better to just sink down into that snow.
Misaka Worst’s body squirmed around.
She was not in control of those movements.
She was probably in shock due to loss of blood.
That was the result the rotten people from Academy City had brought about.
The worst possible result was playing out before Accelerator’s eyes.
He finally yelled out and headed over to the dying Misaka Worst.
His power was vector transformation.
He mainly used the power for attack, but that wasn’t all it could be used for. He could read the direction of the flow of blood and electrical signals within a person’s body to check on their condition. If he went even deeper, he could use it to perform a certain level of treatment and first aid.
“Fuck that, fuck that, fuck that!!”
Accelerator’s eyes were bloodshot.
He had a new goal.
It was a tiny bit of defiance.
“This was all a plan by those Academy City fuckers… Someone is sipping a drink in a warm room and smiling as this brat dies no matter how I struggle and my mind is torn to pieces. Every single bit of this is part of their plan…”
His emotions boiled up.
Those emotions were the driving force needed for him to act as a human.
“Then I’ll destroy that plan of theirs!! If this brat has to die for their plan to succeed, then I’ll save her with my own hands and make it fail!! I’ll show you, you pieces of shit!! I’ll smash those relaxed expressions from your faces!!”
Overwhelming anger and clear determination resided in Accelerator’s eyes.
“You god damn fucking pieces of shit!! You rotten fuckers look down on me thinking my powers can only be used to kill!! I’ll show you right now!! Just like when I saved that brat from Amai’s virus back then, I’ll show you that I have the power to proteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccctttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!!”
Her dimmed vision never cut out completely.
Eventually, Misaka Worst realized that meant she was still alive.
Selectors had been embedded in her body in order to reject signals from Last Order. She had detonated them of her own will. The explosions had been exceedingly small ones, but many fragments were sent deep into her body. Normally, there would have been no way to save her. It would have been impossible even if she underwent surgery in a hospital that had the latest equipment. There was even less that could be done for her on that snowy plain with nothing at all around.
She was a disposable unit.
Even if she had won there, no other use for her had been thought of. She was a unit that had been expected to die before the proper network of the Third Season had been constructed.
Time passed, but she never died.
She continued to be in that vague condition of life. She was able to guess that she would be back to having stable vitals before long.
Had she survived?
Had Academy City’s plan failed?
Had Academy City’s #1 Level 5 been able to overcome a global level of malice?
She was made to easily pick up negative emotions from the network, but what had happened was difficult for her to pick up. However, the reality was that Misaka Worst had survived a situation where she was supposed to have died no matter what. And it had happened by the hands of a third party.
She remained silent for a bit.
As she was created to take in only negative emotions, that silence was out of bewilderment but also somehow comfortable.
She heard an unpleasant noise.
It sounded like whatever it was she was finally bringing inside was shattering.
“Gya ha ha. That’s it. It’s over. Kah ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
The wave of that voice was not stable. It wavered between high pitched and low pitched, loud and quiet. The sound gave her a much greater sense of danger than even the sound of leaking gas.
Misaka Worst slowly turned her head.
And what she saw was…
“Ehya ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! I can’t hold back!! That brat’s smile isn’t enough to stop it!! Gya ha! Gya ha ha ha ha!! I’ll destroy it all! I’ll blow it all away!! I’ll kill those who rejoiced at creating this and those who have gained happiness from its benefits! Every single one!! Every single fucking one!! Gya ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
An explosive wind exploded out.
Misaka Worst assumed Academy City’s #1 had lost himself in his anger and was blasting his power in all directions.
But that wasn’t it.
There were black wings.
Those wings seemed to be a manifestation of every kind of despair.
The pair of wings intertwined with each other and tore at each other as if they were both attempting to crush the other. It was probably an external representation of the movements within his heart. A scream surged from Accelerator’s throat. The air trembled and the excess energy caused the white Russian land to creak and groan under stress. A spider web of cracks raced along the ground with Accelerator’s feet in the center.
Misaka Worst could not tell how far the cracks stretched.
That scene may have been something from the end of the world.
What Misaka Worst had been starting to hold inside a bit before may have not been wrong.
That same warm thing may have been flowing through Academy City’s #1 Level 5 as well.
However, it had been shattered.
She may have pulled some sort of trigger. As Misaka Worst finally began to realize that, she started to tremble uncontrollably.
The anti-aircraft gun attacking the village had been stopped.
The infantry spread around the area were the ones who had been aboard the armored vehicle that was stuck in the basement of the clinic. They had not been equipped for a genuine battle. They may have been more trained as soldiers, but the village had more people armed with assault rifles. After all, those rifles were more ubiquitous there than fire extinguishers.
With the gun barrels pointed at each other, both sides stopped moving.
However, the privateers’ armored vehicle and anti-aircraft gun had been destroyed. That fact had uplifted the villagers’ spirits keeping the intense fear they would normally be feeling away.
It didn’t take long for a disturbance to spread through the privateers when they saw the villagers resolutely staying in place without taking even a step back. If either side snapped and a firefight broke out, both sides would be taken out. The privateers had come to the battlefield with the idea that it would be like a murder tour, so they had never thought it would turn out like that.
It didn’t take long for their spirits to break and their hands to rise into the air.
Since they assumed they would be saved if they did that, they may not have understood the enormity of what they had been doing.
“…We performed body checks and then threw them into the shelter that’s still usable,” Digurv reported to Hamazura.
Hamazura was having his various scrapes disinfected.
“Honestly, I kind of want to break their legs and feed them to wild dogs and some people are suggesting we do just that. If you, the person who blew away the anti-aircraft gun, hadn’t requested we spare them, they probably wouldn’t have listened.”
Hamazura thought for a bit about the weight of the handgun in his pocket.
In the end, Hamazura had not been able to shoot the soldiers who had exited the immovable anti-aircraft gun. No matter how horrible they were, he hadn’t been able to pull the trigger. If they had been about to take his life in that instant, he would probably have fired. He wouldn’t have had time to think about it in that situation. However, he had been given time to think about it then. He had been given time to think about the fact that they were human, too.
At any rate, the danger was gone at least temporarily.
He wanted to bring an end to his brutal thought patterns.
Most of the buildings had been turned to rubble, but even so the people would be happier. The fact that they had not shot the surrendering privateers would surely become a large strength for that village one day. That was how Hamazura wanted to think about it.
“Come here!! This is bad! This is even worse than the previous ones!!” someone yelled in Russian.
Hamazura could not understand the person, but it didn’t sound like it could be anything good. He ran over along with Digurv to find a large number of people gathered in one of the intact buildings. They weren’t just escaping the cold. Something like an old fashioned television was inside. It was displaying green points of light.
“It’s an old radar,” explained Digurv. “It detects reflections from reactions with metal and displays them. The closer to the center, the closer to the village. Objects next to the ground won’t show up on here.”
“What are those 3 points?”
“They’re large objects. They may be greater than 30 meters. They don’t seem to be fighters, so that means…”
“Helicopters.” Digurv’s expression visibly changed from the tension saying that word brought him. “They’re attack helicopters made to bomb the surface. We don’t know the specific type, but they’re rather large. If all 3 are attack helicopters, then we can’t deal with them with only what we have in the village. This isn’t something you can deal with by grabbing a landmine.”
The village had AK assault rifles, but those would not hit a helicopter. Attack helicopters had thinner armor compared to a tank or an anti-aircraft gun, but they moved around much faster. Even handheld surface to air missiles had to be fired from behind them or they could be avoided.
And if their enemy could move quickly, that also meant that it would be difficult to escape. They would be caught almost instantly even if they did have cars to escape in. They wouldn’t be able to withstand the missiles and machine gun fire being sent down from the sky.
“…Is this more privateers?”
“Probably. If it were a normal operation, they wouldn’t be coming with just one type of weapon like that. The usual theory is to bring together different types of weapons or different branches of the army to cover each other’s weaknesses, but those types of theories mean nothing to the privateers.”
Most likely, the second wave was being sent in because the other vehicles had not returned. However, their tenacity did not come from the usual source. Instead of coming out of revenge for their fallen comrades, they were attacking fiercely in order to rid themselves of the shame of a defeat.
“We can’t use any basements anymore. The previous attack did a lot of damage. If a missile is fired from above, we’d just be buried alive,” Digurv said to Hamazura as he spread out a map.
He had already explained the basic plan to the others in Russian.
“There is a forest to the south of the village. The branches and leaves obstruct the view from the sky. We have no choice but to flee into the forest and spread out as much as possible. Before they realize that, the helicopters will likely primarily aim for the village.”
Digurv’s instruction to “spread out as much as possible” bothered Hamazura.
Most likely, the helicopters had sensors that could detect heat sources and magnetism. If they bunched together in the forest, the pilot would know there was a group of people there. If they instead spread out, their chances of surviving went up because they might be mistaken for a larger animal traveling through the forest.
However, that was not the true reason.
In reality, spreading out ensured that fewer people would die at one time if the helicopters fired randomly into the forest.
(…We can’t keep the casualties down to zero.)
Everyone there understood that fact.
But they were all too scared to put it to words.
Hamazura couldn’t accept that. He cut off Digurv’s explanation and spoke.
“…We might be able to win using an anti-aircraft gun.”
“What, so you want to send up a barrage of bullets to shoot them down? But this isn’t a Russian military facility. We don’t have any weapons like that just lying arou—!!”
Digurv trailed off and gulped.
He had realized it.
He had recalled that the vehicle Hamazura had previously taken out was a mobile anti-aircraft gun on treads.
Hamazura brushed away the map that had been brought out in preparation to flee and then spoke to Digurv.
“Do you have any construction equipment? Like a digger or something!? If we can just get that rubble off of the anti-aircraft gun, we can do something about this!!”
“So you’re saying we should do nothing and let them kill us!? Other than getting the anti-aircraft gun moving, the plan stays the same. The others will still go hide in the southern forest. It’ll just be getting them away from the battlefield this way! Having more plans is better, right!? And even if I fail and they manage to blow away the anti-aircraft gun I’m on, they might even leave satisfied with the fact that they took out an enemy that put up a fight!! It’s a lot better than doing nothing, right!?”
Digurv ran toward the exit of the building.
Hamazura followed him.
It seemed they had a digger used to dig up snow when it accumulated up to a few meters and sealed off traffic.
Hamazura had used construction equipment like that before when stealing ATMs in Academy City.
He removed the rubble from atop the anti-aircraft gun.
The treads were not damaged.
However, one of the two large machine guns had been badly bent. If they fired with it like that, they would clearly damage themselves. But Hamazura and the others did not have the specialized knowledge needed to remove that gun. As a stopgap measure, they removed all the ammunition from the damaged gun. That way, only the properly functioning gun would be able to fire.
“That lowers the accuracy by quite a bit,” said Digurv. “Why do you think they put two guns pointing in the same direction? Because they almost never hit. Guns made for anti-aircraft purposes almost never use a single gun. With this kind of weapon, they usually prepare dozens of the same vehicle to cover a portion of the sky and have a few bullets hit and shoot down the target.”
“I’m not complaining,” said Hamazura cutting him off. “Of course we don’t have an ideal weapon. All I need is a slight chance. I’m not just going to stare up into the sky waiting to be killed. As long as I have a chance to do something with my own strength, that’s enough.”
“Do you even know how to operate this thing?”
“The part dealing with the treads is basically the same as the digger, right?”
A bitter smile appeared on Digurv’s face as he watched Hamazura climb up on top of the battered vehicle.
“Antiaircraft guns are not made to be operated by one person.”
“Someone to move the vehicle, someone to aim the guns and fire, and someone to keep track of the surroundings and command the others…At the very least, three people are needed. To operate it at normal specs, five are needed.”
Hamazura stopped moving.
If he were to do it alone, he would have to stop the other two jobs to do any one of them. There may not have been much point in trying to evade an attack helicopter that could freely fly through the sky, but moving as he fought would improve his chances of surviving over just firing from a single position.
“So let me go with you,” Digurv added. “I’ll go talk to the others from the village. With two or three of them, we can actually get that anti-aircraft gun going. I’m more worried about everyone who hears about it asking to help fight then no one volunteering.”
“W-wait a second,” Hamazura said in shock.
He felt a different type of tension from the one when he was just heading to the battlefield alone.
“Is that really okay? As you said before, there’s no guarantee we’ll win. It’s a lot more likely that this half-broken anti-aircraft gun will be taken out by the three attack helicopters.”
“Hey,” someone suddenly called out in Japanese.
Hamazura and Digurv turned around and then looked puzzled.
It was the frostbitten soldier who had called out to them.
“Let me help you. I was stationed at an air force base, but I was trained in using these anti-aircraft weapons before I was transferred there. You’ll have a better chance of winning with an actual soldier helping, right?”
“…Wh-what? But the privateers are part of the Russian army, right?” Hamazura asked a bit suspiciously.
However, the Russian spat out some words in response.
“Those pieces of shit are not part of the Russian army.”
“You all saved me when no one would have blamed you for abandoning me and they tried to kill you like you were worms. …I’ve had enough. Fuck being a soldier. I don’t care if they come after me for this. I can just defect to the Elizalina Alliance if I have to. Repaying my debt is more important. I’ll use these skills of mine to help those who saved my life.”
“…I see.” Digurv’s shoulders relaxed and he smiled. “It seems you feared getting us wrapped up in this more than you thought. I don’t want to let someone with that expression die. I’ll fight fair and square for that reason. …And if we’re going to bet on this chance, it would be better if you weren’t alone. I’ve had enough of the privateers’ way of doing things, too.”
Hearing that, Hamazura silently lowered his head.
He silently reflected on how reassuring it was to fight together.
He then turned back towards the anti-aircraft gun.
It was the weapon Hamazura had won from the enemy.
It was the final chance to save the girl who was more important to him than his own life and to save the people who had been worried about that girl.
He couldn’t let them lose.
Hamazura Shiage strongly reaffirmed that inside his own head.
The foreign mercenaries that were on a murder tour would be there before long in their attack helicopters.
Something in Accelerator’s heart shattered.
The black wings on his back, the symbol of "Evil", kept growing.
It would come to a halt soon, like a dying flame with its fuel spent, for his heart, the source of his negative emotions, had lost its core.
Just at that moment, a convoy driving past appeared in his line of sight. There were several large vehicles moving along in the snow. Judging from the level of technology of those vehicles, they didn't appear to originate from Academy City, but he couldn't rule out the possibility that it might be Academy City's forces disguised as Russia's.
If he was his normal self, he would have observed intently, considering the possibility that they might be from the dark side. But the current Accelerator, his will lost, couldn't be bothered. He wouldn't have cared even if he was shot.
However, the empty shell that was once his heart, shook.
All because of the face of one person, whom he chanced upon in one of the vehicles.
It was the face of the guy who had defeated him back in Academy City’s train switchyard - the one who stopped the "Experiment", permanently froze the Level 6 Shift project, and saved 10,000 Sisters. He would step up to help those in need whenever he could. No matter how despairing any situation was, he would still reach his hand out to those who had nowhere left to go. That was the kind of guy he was.
He should still be in Academy City.
Why is he in Russia?
And that Hero, who was completely different to the apathetic #1 of Academy City, the one who could lift people out of their pits of despair,
How could he pass by without realizing Last Order's pain, who was so close to him?
Unknowingly, Accelerator let out a mighty roar, and directed the vectors of a large boulder buried under the snow to the end of the vehicle. Like a balloon, the end burst open, and the convoy stopped. He knew how unreasonable he was, to ask that person to do something which he had given up.
“Aren’t you the Hero who saved the Sisters? The one who saved almost 10,000 lives by himself?”
That person jumped out from the vehicle.
He seemed to have noticed Accelerator's black wings.
“If you are, please save that brat’s life!! Why must she, who has done nothing wrong, be the only one to suffer so much!?” WHYYY?!
His black wings grew even larger with that roar.
He knew he was wrong to begin with.
And yet, he could no longer restrain his power.
Not even Last Order's smile, the symbol of all things good and pure, could stop him.
The battle against Academy City's #1, a monster who has surpassed his limits from his insurmountable anger, had begun.
Between the Lines 3
Misaka Mikoto was serious about searching through Academy City’s data.
She had seen that boy on the edge of a video from Russia on the news. He truly wasn’t in Japan. And he was walking around nonchalantly in the most dangerous place in that war. There was something there. Without Mikoto knowing, that boy may have been once more fighting some great evil with his clenched right fist.
Focusing on the screen of the PDA, she gathered a few pieces of information.
She had a bad feeling.
She recalled the time when she had desperately attempted to gain any information she could on the experiment involving the Sisters.
She read what it said on the screen.
“Concerning Imagine Breaker being spotted in Russia and in the Elizalina Alliance of Independent Nations.”
Imagine Breaker referred to that spiky haired boy. She had a vague recollection of him referring to his power that way.
Mikoto scrolled down.
There were a few maps with remarks written next to them. A couple of arrows were drawn on the maps. They probably referred to the movements of the Academy City forces or to the path taken by that boy.
“According to the directive from the chairman of the board of directors, Imagine Breaker will be dealt with differently than the normal method.”
It seemed the “normal method” referred to the method of suppressing a force that was attempting to leak information on Academy City’s psychic powers development technology to an external organization. It was a very strict method that could even give the approval to have people shot.
However, it seemed that method did not apply to that boy.
Mikoto almost felt relieved.
But she realized she was being naïve.
In the Sisters incident, she had seen much more than she would have liked exactly how dark the underside of Academy City could get.
“Imagine Breaker is an esper who has great value even among every esper in Academy City. Keeping that value in mind, try to retrieve him while doing your very best to keep him alive. However, if it becomes clear that Imagine Breaker has sided with an organization other than Academy City, promptly attack him and ‘retrieve’ him within the same life support system as used for the #2. Your secondary objective should be to keep this chaos from growing any further. Currently, it has been confirmed that Imagine Breaker is travelling with someone from an external organization. If this person is merely being used as a temporary guide, then the issue does not need to be dealt with, but carry out your secondary objective if it becomes clear that it is more than that. We have the approval of the chairman, so there will be no problem. At your level of authority, you cannot view the details, but the chairman’s plan will continue.”
Misaka Mikoto remained silent for a bit.
She was surprised, but she had also half expected something like that.
On the PDA, she could see detailed plans on how to attack that boy. It had the personnel and equipment for the unit to parachute down and a mission schedule. Of course, the military airplane was waiting in District 23, the district that focused on air and space technology.
Mikoto turned off the PDA and headed for District 23.
That boy had once risked his life and stood up to Academy City’s great darkness in order to stop the massacre of the Sisters in the Level 6 Shift project. That boy may not have accurately imagined just how terrifying a thing he was standing up to, but the fact that he had crossed that dangerous bridge for Mikoto and for her “younger sisters” remained.
She was greatly indebted to that boy.
As Mikoto ran, she decided that it was about time she repaid him for that at least a little bit.