Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume3 Chapter2

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Chapter 2: Radio Noise. Level2(Product_Model)

Part 1

The next day was tutoring as well.

It seemed sorrowful, watching a student sitting in the middle of the classroom on an evening. At first, Kamijou thought, “Come on, is this an elementary school of a depopulated town?” but as it went on for three to four days and then five to six days, the brightness of his soul had disappeared, and tutoring only left him feeling sick of it.

But that tutoring would be over in two days, today included. Kamijou could have felt hopeless that “Summer break finally starts on August 22!?” but he was happy to be getting out of tutoring at all.

Kamijou stared at the teacher's desk in front of him.

There stood a twelve-year-old-looking female teacher with a height of 135 cm, Tsukuyomi Komoe, showing only her face. She was talking with her paper placed on the desk, but Kamijou wondered why she had put it on the desk. It would have been far easier to read if she had just held the paper in her hands.

“So for the ESP card experiment, the card's material is changing from vinyl resin to ABS resin, a needed condition reinstituted by America in 1992. This is a trick in which the fingerprints on the card make it possible to figure out what the flipped-down card is... Hey, Kamijou-chan, are you listening?”

“...Yes, Komoe-sensei. I am listening, but what does this have to do with powers?”

Kamijou was a Level 0. By the check of a peerless machine, he was told that no matter how much effort he put in, he wouldn’t be able to even twist a single spoon, but it didn't make sense that he was getting tutored because he was “weak”.

It looked like Komoe-sensei seemed to know about the contradiction, as she said,

“You can't give up just because you don't have any power. If you give up, things you can achieve won't get achieved. So, by learning the basic basics of power, I think that you can find the way of finding your very own skill.”

“Sensei.”

“Yes?”

“...Well, you seem to be working very hard, but things that can't get achieved won't be achieved.”

“Kamijou-chan! I can't say that effort will always lead to success, but people that never try will never succeed! Even the third place out of 2,300,000 people, Misaka Mikoto from Tokiwadai Middle School, was once a Level 1, but she worked hard and got all the way up to Level 5! So, Kamijou-chan should work hard, too!”

“...Elite? That? She's the kind of girl who kicks vending machines!”

“? Kamijou-chan, you know her?”

“Not really. Well, going back to the topic, seeing some TV show like that and saying 'Look at that high schooler: they have the same age as you, but look how active that person is! Compared to that, look at yourself, don't you think you're worthless?' I'm not the kind of person that gets motivated by those kind of speeches! Arrrggghhh...”

“Don't go 'arrrggghhh' on me! That troubles me!”

“Okay? Then why do you look so happy when you're troubled?”

“Oh, um... Well, that's because… Um... It's because I... like you…?”

“Buowahh!”

“...Teaching you.”

Index v03 065.jpg

“...Oh. Okay, teaching. Ah, that scared me... Oh, wait! Come on! I had just let the conversation go a different way, and then it immediately gets put back on the path again!”

“Ahaha. You are 100 years too early to fight me with words. Now, Kamijou-chan, open up your textbook to page 82 and read about the Psychometer's mind-protection power used in criminal investigation.”

Like this, today's tutoring time went by.

Part 2


And thus, the day’s extra lessons ended.

It was 6:40 PM. Kamijou had missed the last train that left at the time all students were supposed to have left school, so he was leisurely walking through a shopping district. In order to prevent students from spending all night out, the last trains and buses in Academy City all left at 6:30 PM. The idea was that people would not go out late at night if the transportation system was stopped.

(I’m not sure if I should be glad it’s only one more day or be complaining that there’s still another day. At any rate, this has gone on way too long. Dammit. Once it’s all over, I’m going to the beach!)

Kamijou thought to himself as he returned home that evening. It didn’t look like the wind was blowing, but the blades of the wind turbines were definitely turning.

“Mh?”

Kamijou spotted a familiar-looking back amid the crowd. It belonged to a brown-haired girl wearing a Tokiwadai Middle School summer uniform. It was Misaka Mikoto.

Kamijou had no real reason to avoid her, so he jogged a bit to catch up with her.

“Hey. Are you on the way home from some extra lessons, too?”

“Ahn?” was Mikoto’s unfeminine response. “Oh, it’s you. I’m pretty tired and I want to preserve the strength I have left, so don’t make me biri biri you. So what do you want?”

“Nothing really. We just happened to be on the same road, so I just thought we could walk together.”

“Oh?” Mikoto’s eyes narrowed a bit. “You ‘just thought’ you could walk with a Tokiwadai lady? Heh. Do you have any idea how much effort guys put into taking that position?”

“…It’s pretty bad to be referring to yourself as a ‘Tokiwadai lady’.”

“I was joking, you idiot.” Mikoto stuck her tongue out a bit. “What you learn at your school is more important than where you go to school, anyway. I’m sure you’re old enough to know at least that much.”

“Hmm. Well, everyone has their own field they specialize in. By the way, is your little sister not with you? I wanted to thank her for carrying the drinks yesterday.”

Mikoto’s eyebrows twitched slightly.

It was only a few millimeters, but those few millimeters seemed odd to Kamijou.

“My little sister…? Did you meet her after that?”

“Yeah…”

(Crap.)

Kamijou recalled that Mikoto had grabbed Misaka Imouto’s hand and forcibly pulled her away from him. Should he have kept it a secret that they met after that?

Mikoto narrowed her eyes slightly.

“Are you that interested in this little sister?”

“No. I just wanted to thank her for carrying the drinks yester-…”

“So you choose the little sister despite us being visually identical? Or can you not choose and you want both of us together?”

“I said no! Where the hell did you get that kind of knowledge!!”

Kamijou and Mikoto walked along a main street continuing their argument in that vein.

Many different wind turbines stood along the street. Kamijou looked up at the spinning blades and then noticed a blimp floating in the evening sky. The exhibition screen on the side was displaying the day’s news. Apparently, three research facilities related to muscular dystrophy had been evacuated over a two week period and there was concern over the intense cold coming to the entire city.

The conversation trailed off because Kamijou’s focus turned to the blimp. A blimp may sound old-fashioned, but it used solar power to heat carbon dioxide with a heater for lift and to spin a large motor for thrust, so it was an ecological craft that did not need fuel.

Because of the effort that must have gone into developing the thing, Kamijou wondered if the world’s supply of oil was about to run out. The concept didn’t particularly bother him.

“I hate those blimps,” Mikoto muttered.

“Ahn? Why?” Kamijou asked as he looked back up toward the blimp. He was pretty sure he had heard that the blimps had been sent out because Academy City’s board of directors had said the students needed to be more aware of current events.

“…Because people follow the policies decided on by a machine,” said Mikoto quietly in response as if she were spitting out something that annoyed her greatly.

Kamijou turned his gaze back to Mikoto in surprise. There was nothing odd about her face. There was nothing odd at all. It was as if a crumbling clay mask had been remade while he wasn’t looking.

“What’s with you? What’s that thing called? Um…Tree Diagram, was it? Hah, are you the kind of person that can’t stand it when a machine beats a human at chess?”

Simply put, Tree Diagram was the world’s smartest super computer. It was the ultimate simulator created under the pretext of being a perfect weather forecaster.

Weather forecasting may sound familiar, but that was a field where things could only be forecasted. They could not be declared as fact. Because the movements of each of the air particles that created “weather” were incredibly complex and intertwined with the butterfly effect and chaos theory, one could say that there was an 80% chance of rain the next day, but one could not say that it would definitely rain at 9:10:00 AM. That started to enter into the realm of quantum mechanics.

However, Tree Diagram had moved weather forecasting to weather predicting.

It did not do anything complicated. Basically, if it could perfectly predict the movements of every particle in the air around the world, there was only one answer it could come up with.

Tree Diagram had ridiculous enough specs to do that, but some people theorized that its use for weather forecasting was just a front and it actually had some other true use.

Incidentally, there was one irregular aspect of Tree Diagram’s weather forecasts.

It calculated the weather forecast for an entire month all at once.

There was no real problem with that because it was still accurate, but it still seemed like unnecessary effort. After all, next month’s weather was much, much more likely to be off than tomorrow’s weather. If the goal was accurate weather forecasts, it would be better to redo the calculations each day.

Yet the Tree Diagram used the more difficult method.

It was rumored that the leftover time was used for research simulations.

Drug reactions, physiological reactions, electrical reactions, and all sorts of other things could be calculated by Tree Diagram and a couple of tests could confirm the answer given. Being able to create a new drug like that almost sounded crazy. According to the rumor, there were researchers that did not know how to use a test tube and who did not like touching lab rats.

A super computer with that much power had plenty of enemies. Human supremacists who hated machines could try to blow it up in a terrorist attack at any time and AI supremacists who hated people might try to sneak into the storage area for Tree Diagram to steal the technology.

In order to protect it from external enemies, Tree Diagram was currently kept in a place where human hands could not reach it.

Basically, the satellite launched by Academy City was Tree Diagram.

The fact that Academy City could privately use the kind of rocket technology that was usually only allowed by national agencies showed just how much influence Academy City had on the world.

(Well, the fact they allowed it also shows how valuable it was.)

Kamijou stared blankly up at the evening sky. Tree Diagram was orbiting outside the atmosphere even then and it was possible it would continue calculating even if the world ended.

“It’s a steel brain watching down on mankind from above, but it can’t turn on us or anything. This isn’t some cheap SF movie. It’s just like a bank ATM. It operates according to the buttons you press.”

No matter how powerful a supercomputer it was, Tree Diagram could only operate based on the commands people gave it. It was the same as how ATMs did not ruin people’s lives because machines were revolting. They did it because they were not being used properly.

“…”

Mikoto did not respond and looked up into the evening sky again. Kamijou couldn’t tell if she was looking at the blimp or if her gaze went even further into the distance than that.

“Tree Diagram…The world’s most powerful super computer that was launched aboard Academy City’s satellite, Orihime I, in order to analyze weather data. It has been determined that no one else will catch up to its level in another 25 years,” Mikoto muttered almost under her breath as if she were reading from an Academy City pamphlet. “They say that, but does such a ridiculous absolute simulator really exist?”

“Hah?”

Kamijou looked back toward Mikoto’s face, but…

“Just kidding! Ah, I think I started to become a poet or something. Ah ha ha ha ha!!”

Mikoto suddenly chopped Kamijou for no reason.

Standing before him was indeed the lively, smart-assed, and selfish Misaka Mikoto.

“Ow! What the hell was that for!?”

“You really don’t have any dreams, do you? Doesn’t a friendship drama between a human and a high-level SF computer with a human heart sound like it would have some romance to it!?”

“Listen, dammit…”

“Or what about a maid battle robot?”

“I said listen! And there’s no romance or any kind of friendship drama-like stuff to that thing! And are you really a ‘lady’!? I thought a lady read romance novels with a cup of tea in hand!?”

“Hahn? Stop that, please. What age is that idol of an image from? I’m human too, so I read manga at the convenience store every Monday and Wednesday.”

“Buy it! That’s just being a nuisance!”

“Well, I have to go this way,” Mikoto said ignoring Kamijou’s yell.

Mikoto’s spirits had been changing from instant to instant, but she then left. Kamijou blankly watched her leave with a puzzled look on his face.

“…I don’t understand her. Is this what you call the characteristics of puberty? Or does she just hate me?”



Part 3


But in that case, he couldn’t make sense of the scene before him.

(…That’s Mikoto, isn’t it? What’s she doing?)

After heading down the road a bit after Mikoto left, he saw Mikoto crouching by the side of the road. She was next to a cardboard box sitting at the base of a wind turbine. Just as Kamijou’s brain sent out warning signals because the scene was familiar, he saw a black cat sticking up from the cardboard box.

Mikoto was trying to feed the cat by bringing a sweet bun close to it, but the frightened cat pressed its ears back on its head and balled up as if someone were swinging his fist down toward it.

(??? Does she hate me so much that she purposefully went down that other road to get away from me? But then why is she ahead of me now? Why would she circle around ahead of me?)

Kamijou’s head was full of questions, but then he noticed something. At Mikoto’s feet as she crouched was a pair of NV goggles.

That wasn’t Mikoto. That was Misaka Imouto who looked just like her.

“…Without the goggles, you really can’t tell them apart,” Kamijou muttered.

Misaka Imouto suddenly stopped moving while staring emotionlessly at the black cat. Without saying a word, she turned just her head like a lighthouse to look at Kamijou.

“Hey. Thanks for carrying those drinks and taking care of those fleas yesterday.”

“…Misaka did not do that in order to be thanked, replies Misaka.”

A slight bit of annoyance was mixed in with her expressionlessness as Misaka Imouto took the goggles from the ground and put them on her forehead. She also drew in the hand holding the sweet bun.

“Misaka only removed her goggles because she had heard that cats hated shining things like lenses, explains Misaka. Should she apologize for making you mistake her for onee-sama?”

As she spoke, Misaka Imouto for some reason expressionlessly hid the sweet bun behind her back.

Despite having been frightened before, the black cat was mewing in dissatisfaction.

Kamijou looked puzzled.

“If I needed an apology for something like that, I think I’d end up asking everyone in the world for an apology.” Kamijou sighed. “But if the cat hates lenses, why did you put the goggles back on? Did you want to maintain a sense of individuality?”

It was hard to tell because of her lack of any expression and the calm with which she acted, but for some Kamijou felt like she had frantically put the goggles back on once she knew someone was looking.

“…No, not really, replies Misaka.”

She replied immediately, but her words were somehow vague.

Kamijou looked puzzled once more. It was true that taking off her goggles to not scare a cat on the road side and crouching down while holding out a sweet bun for it seemed out of character for the expressionless and emotionless Misaka Imouto, but there was no real reason to hide it.

“Then you can just give the sweet bun to the cat. It likes it, right?”

“No…That is not it.” Misaka Imouto froze. “Either way, it is impossible for Misaka to feed this cat, concludes Misaka. Misaka has a fatal defect, says Misaka in an additional explanation.”

“A defect? Don’t say it like that.”

“No, it is the appropriate term. Misaka’s body is constantly forming a weak magnetic field, explains Misaka. The human body cannot detect it, but it seems other animals can.”

“???”

“It is said that the strange movements of animals that act as an omen of an earthquake are the animals’ reactions to changes in the earth’s magnetic field caused by changes in the earth’s crust, says Misaka giving an easy-to-understand example.”

“…Hm. The animals don’t like it and run away, right? So does your magnetic field make animals hate you, Misaka Imouto?”

Misaka Imouto looked ever so slightly annoyed.

“They do not hate Misaka. They merely have a slight dislike of her, says Misaka correcting you.”

“…”

Kamijou felt a little sorry for her, so he decided against joking around anymore. Animals didn’t like Misaka Imouto just because of the magnetic field emitted from her body and she stared at the frightened cat with expressionless eyes. Kamijou felt bad for interrupting her, so he decided to leave.

“Wait, says Misaka requesting that you stop.”

“Oh! You sensed that just from my presence!”

“Listen. There is a black cat here, says Misaka as she points toward the cardboard box. How can you leave without giving anything to this hungry cat? asks Misaka?”

“…Why do I have to give the cat some food just because you’ve grown fond of it!? And you’re the one with a sweet bun in your hand!”

“No, not that. There is an abandoned cat here, so why did you not think of taking it in? asks Misaka a second time. Do you know how animals are treated when they are taken in by the health centers? asks Misaka as an example. First they put the animal within a clear polycarbonate case and inject 20 milliliters of a nerve gas called ASD10 inside…”

“Wahh!” Kamijou yelled cutting off Misaka Imouto’s words.

Hearing that while the frightened black cat looked him in the eye was incredibly awkward.

“You take it in! You found it and you’re the one that was feeding it!”

“…It is impossible for Misaka to raise this cat, honestly replies Misaka. Misaka lives in an environment that is slightly different from yours, says Misaka giving a reason.”

Kamijou guessed that her dorm’s rules must be pretty strict, but then he recalled that his own dorm’s rules did not allow pets. Kamijou was the type who had no intention of following rules he couldn’t see the reason behind, so it seemed odd to him that Misaka Imouto would give up on the cat for a reason like that.

Misaka Imouto crouched down and simply stared the black cat in the eye.

Her expressionless eyes followed the black cat despite knowing that it would never take a liking to her.

“…Ahh.”

Kamijou stood still.

Index v03 079.jpg

He had been worried about this when he had taken in the first cat. He had been worried that one cat would lead to taking in a second and the second would lead to third and a fourth. Of course, Kamijou’s finances were not well off enough to create an animal kingdom.

Kamijou wanted to refuse the black cat, but he had a feeling Misaka Imouto would stay there all night staring at the cat and then get into a fight with the people from the health center if he left the cat there.

“D-dammit! This is just like with that calico cat!!”

“Misaka does not understand what you are saying, but are you intending to take in this black cat? asks Misaka. If you do not take it in, the health center workers will-…”

“Yes, I get it, I get. Quit staring up at me with those expressionless eyes and talking about the health center!”

(You and I certainly do live lives of misfortune, don’t we?)

As Kamijou addressed the frightened cat in his mind, he picked it up from the cardboard box.

“That’s right! A name! This is your cat, so take responsibility and give it a name!”

“…It is Misaka’s?”

“Yeah, it’s yours.”

Kamijou looked down at the cat in his arms and the cat timidly returned his gaze. Misaka Imouto looked up at the evening sky for a bit with her usual expressionless face.

“Dog.”

“Hah?”

“Misaka is naming this black cat Dog. …Dog even though it is a cat. Heh heh.”

Misaka Imouto’s expression was that of someone remembering a funny joke, but it looked a bit scary.

“…No, um…Please give it a more serious and dignified name that fits the type of animal it is.”

“Then Tokugawa Ieyasu, says Misaka after reconsidering.”

“That’s too dignified! Wait, are you the kind of character that pretends to think about things but doesn’t think at all!”

“Then what about Schrödinger?”

“Hell no! Even if it was just an example, some professor who would happily come up with a story about sticking a cat in a box and spraying poison gas inside couldn’t have liked cats!”

In the end, they decided to name the cat later. However, Kamijou had a bad feeling that they would be unable to agree on a name later either and she would end up literally nicknaming the cat “Later”.



Part 4


The orange sky had turned to purple.

Kamijou walked along a main road while looking down at the black cat in his arms.

If they were really going to raise an animal, they needed to know how.

(Well, I know how to well enough. Index on the other hand…)

Kamijou sighed as he walked along the street as it started to look more like night. If it was just a cruel prank, you just had to get rid of that cruelty, but Index was acting completely out of the goodness of her heart, so doing that would have the reverse effect. As she was doing it out of the goodness of her heart, she would feel it was the right thing to do and would not hesitate to continue. If he didn’t hurry to a bookstore and buy a book on raising cats, that smiling pure-white nun might end up with the nickname Death End.

“This is a different route from yesterday, points out Misaka,” Misaka Imouto said while walking next to him.

Every time she glanced over at the black cat in Kamijou’s arms, she looked like she was barely holding herself back. It seemed she really, really wanted to pet the cat, but she was giving its feelings of dislike toward her magnetic field priority and holding back.

“Oh, I’m just dropping by somewhere on the way home. There’s a book I kind of want.”

“Are you headed for a bookstore? asks Misaka. Geographically, taking a right at that last intersection would have been the shortest route, says Misaka as she turns around.”

“No, I don’t want a new book. I’m headed to that used bookstore up ahead. How you raise a cat doesn’t change. Only 100 yen a book is ideal.”

Kamijou had no way of knowing, but knowledge and information related to living beings would change from time to time. Let’s use baseball training as an example. A ten year old book would tell someone to throw and throw and just use some guts to bear with the pain in order to pitch faster. However, that person would actually destroy their shoulder if they did that.

“Do you want a book on raising a cat? asks Misaka to make sure.”

“It’s not so much the book but the knowledge within. You saw those girls in the nun’s habit and the shrine maiden outfit, right?”

“…” Misaka Imouto looked at Kamijou’s face with her emotionless eyes. “To repeat, carelessly handling a cat’s life falls under the crime of property damage, warns Misaka.”

“Ah…Eh? What, are you mad?”

“Misaka is not angry. This is not a situation where everything is fine as long as you are not directly involved, cautions Misaka. If you leave those two alone knowing what they will do, you are responsible as well, says Misaka giving her objective opinion.”

“…Sorry. Are you mad, Misaka Imouto?”

“Misaka is not angry. And not everything is okay just because it is not legally restricted, says Misaka as she admonishes you. Just think using common sense and…”

“Ah, I’ve had enough of this.” Kamijou said as if it were a type of magic spell. “But don’t worry. Index and Himegami were only doing that because they thought it would be good for the cat. They won’t do anything clearly bad for the cat like beating or abusing it.”

“From what Misaka saw yesterday, that statement has close to zero credibility, responds Misaka. And how do you plan to deal with the situation if the book has incorrect information in it? Misaka knows how to deal with cats, so you should get her advice on how to-…”

“Ahhh!” Kamijou didn’t let her finish. “I said not to worry! Index and Himegami were only doing what they thought was good for the cat! They won’t do anything clearly bad for the cat! Like beating it! Or abusing it!”

“…Misaka thinks you are just saying the same thing again verbatim just with more energy behind it, says Misaka expressing her thoughts. That is not Misaka’s main point. She is saying that you should get her to-…”

“Abhah!” Kamijou became completely nonsensical. “Bi said bot to borry! Bindex and Bimegami were bonly doing what they bhought was bood bor the bat! Bey won’t bo anything blearly bad bor the bat! Bike beating bit! Bor abusing bit!”

“…(anger)”

“Pant pant…! Ah, here’s the bookstore.”

They were standing in front of a large used bookstore that belonged to a chain. Kamijou looked down at the black cat in his arms and thought for a bit.

“Mh. Come to think of it, I’m probably not supposed to enter the store holding a cat.”

“…That was an extremely expository statement, but please do not leave it with Misaka, says Misaka in a preemptive denial.”

“…Because your magnetic field will make the cat dislike you? Well, if you can overcome that obstacle, true friendship will blossom. Take this! Ultimate Cat Bomb!”

Kamijou lightly tossed the cat toward Misaka Imouto who was standing next him (on the assumption she would catch it). Of course, it was clear the cat’s reflexes would allow it to land nicely even if no one caught it. However, Misaka Imouto reflexively reached out for it (just as Kamijou had predicted). It was the sad habit of one who loved animals.

Misaka Imouto was about to complain, but Kamijou had already entered the used bookstore.

“…Really. What is wrong with him to think it is okay to throw a kitten? asks Misaka as she mutters to herself.”

Misaka Imouto was now alone on a twilight-colored street of Academy City.

The black cat reacted to the electromagnetic waves emitted by her body and looked up to her with trembling eyes. She thought of lowering the cat to the ground, but it had not yet recognized Kamijou or her as its owner. If she let go of it there, she had a feeling it would simply run away.

Even if it was only a kitten, there was no way for a human to catch up on foot to a cat that was truly trying to flee. The first thing an owner had to do was to feed the cat and give it a place to sleep, so the cat would feel secure and not feel the need to run away.

“…And yet he threw it, says Misaka with a sigh.”

She spoke with a completely expressionless face. Luckily, the cat she was holding did not stick out its claws or struggle. This was more due to cowardice than obedience. It was true that she had wanted to touch the cat, but she sighed again at the fact that resisting was better than seeing it so frightened.

And then she noticed something.

It was summer break, so on that evening in Academy City, the street was filled with boys and girls wearing casual clothes. As Misaka Imouto was wearing a school uniform, she stood out quite a bit.

However, she did not stand out nearly as much as the boy she had spotted.

The boy’s hair and skin were dreadfully white. They were white, but they were the opposite of the image of purity white often gave. This white was a very dirty white. That rotten white was accentuated by the fact that his clothes were all black.

And there were his eyes.

Those eyes were red like fresh blood, crimson like burning flames, and scarlet like the depths of hell.

He was amid a distant crowd, but the boy’s presence was simply too vivid. The special boy was not doing anything in particular. The exceptional boy really was not doing much of anything.

Yet the mere fact that hellish boy was standing on that peaceful street was abnormal.

He was Accelerator.

He was the strongest Level 5 in Academy City…no, probably in the entire world.

He stared at Misaka Imouto and silently smiled.

“…”

Misaka Imouto silently lowered the black cat to the ground.

It would be killed. If it stayed with her, that black cat would get caught up in the conflict and would be killed. She knew that, but the cat refused to leave her side. As it trembled, it merely looked up at her face mewing.

Accelerator continued to look at Misaka Imouto and smile. That distant white smile was warped, twisted, and perverted. The white was incandescent, dirtied, and insane.

A single image passed through Misaka Imouto’s mind.

It was the image of a girl’s right arm being torn off late at night due to her Metal Eater exploding.

In that instant, Misaka Imouto’s everyday life ended.

In that instant, her hell began.



Part 5


A great number of boys and girls flooded into the air conditioned store.

The chain of used bookstores it belonged to advertised the fact that its prices were cheap and that reading things in the store was okay. Most of the people in the store were there because they wanted to read a certain manga but not enough to buy it.

“…”

Kamijou stood blankly amid it all.

There was indeed a book called “How to Raise Cats” on the bookshelf in front of him. The spine of the book was faded and it was cheaper because of it, so he had no complaints there.

But Kamijou couldn’t get over the fact that a book titled “How to Cook Delicious Beef” was in the shelf right next to “How to Raise Cats”.

“…Well, it is true that both books are about animals I guess.”

When he moved his gaze even further to the side he spotted a book called “New! The Scientific Cows of the Farm Buildings”.

There were a few buildings in Academy City that had no windows. They were referred to as agriculture buildings and were used to grow hydroponic vegetables and raise animals for meat.

Inside the buildings were vegetables that were bathed in ultraviolet light, breathed carbon dioxide that had been through air purifiers, and spread their roots in water that had all sorts of nutrients mixed in. Apparently people from outside of Academy City found all that to be “creepy”. They seemed to think eating things that were created scientifically was bad for you.

(…It’s the opposite. How can you eat vegetables that were grown in dirt that could have had industrial waste and who knows what else mixed in?)

That difference in values was one of the walls between those within Academy City and those without, but Kamijou simply pulled “How to Raise Cats” from the shelf without thinking on it any further.


A girl ran through an alley that ran behind the used book store.

One of her shoes came off.

The girl felt that running with only one shoe would be difficult, so she pulled off the other one and continued to run.

With her shoulder-length brown hair, short-sleeved white blouse, summer sweater, and pleated skirt, she reminded one of a Tokiwadai Middle School student at first glance. And someone more familiar with a certain Tokiwadai student would be reminded of the name Misaka Mikoto.

However, there were two things that did not match the title of middle school student.

The first was the military goggles on her forehead.

The second was the assault rifle she held in her right hand.

The assault rifle was made of laminated plastic instead of steel. As it was shaped in a functional aesthetic type of way like something one would see on a fighter aircraft, it looked like a toy gun from some kind of SF world. And that appearance was not necessarily wrong.

The rifle, the F2000R Toy Soldier, detected the target with infrared rays and used electronic control to adjust the trajectory in real time to give the bullet the best odds of hitting. The shooter did not have to think about the wind direction or the expected evasion patterns of the target. If one aimed the barrel the way the “thinking machine” told them to, anyone could become an expert marksman. On top of that, it had special rubber wrapped around it to absorb shock and used carbon dioxide to reduce the recoil from firing as much as possible. While the Metal Eater antitank rifle was a monster that only a large adult could wield, the F2000R with its low recoil that was said to not even crack an egg was also a monster in that it could easily be wielded by a 2nd grader.

However, the girl had no way of dealing with her current situation even with that monster in hand.

Her raging pulse, exceedingly irregular breathing, and flickering, chaotic thoughts all clearly showed that she was the one being hunted.

A form approached from behind.

A white boy was heading for her from not even 10 meters away.

“Ha ha! What’s with those fleeing hips? Why are you shaking your ass like that!? You’re just asking for it!!”

That narrow alley was straight and lacking any kind of cover to avoid a bullet with, yet the unarmed “hunter” was overflowing with crazed passion.

Without stopping her flight, the girl twisted her body around to look behind her.

She aimed the barrel of the F2000R at the white boy named Accelerator who seemed to freeze the summer heat.

She did not hesitate to pull the trigger.

The rifle silently absorbed both the shock and the sound of the gunshot, so only the tiniest of an explosive noise left the barrel as if only a cheap firecracker had been set off. Nevertheless, 5.56 mm bullets accurately shot toward the boy’s vital points.

Or so she had thought.

“...!?”

The girl’s body froze due to shock. The 5.56 mm bullets held the destructive force to fly out the other side if they were shot into the side of a car, but they were repelled in every direction the instant they hit the boy’s body. It was as if she had fired a cheap handgun at the front of a tank.

With the sound of flesh being crushed, a red hole had been opened in the girl’s right shoulder.

One of the repelled bullet had pierced her shoulder.

“…E…Gh!”

The girl staggered. She immediately reached for the wall, but her legs got tangled together and her head struck the dirty wall. From there, she slid down to the ground.

“C’mon, how about a riddle to kill some time? Here’s your question: What is it that the power of Accelerator does!?”

The girl heard a crazed laugh. When she looked up, she saw the boy’s leg coming down with all his weight behind it to crush her skull.

“!”

She immediately rolled along the dirty ground and evaded the downward swinging foot. She then held the F2000R up and pulled the trigger.

She fired at what could almost be called pointblank range. The bullet seemed to be absorbed in toward the white boy’s eye, but the instant it touched his soft eyeball, it was repelled to the side.

The white boy did not even blink.

His expression changed to a smile that made his dirty-white face look hideously burned.

He swung up his white hand. He swung up that hand that had an unknown effect.

“…!”

The girl immediately threw the F2000R at the boy’s face as the rifle was now empty. She did not think that it would act as a fatal blow, but she hoped it would provide an instantaneous opening she could use to escape.

However, the boy did not move even slightly. The instant the rifle struck the boy’s face, the F2000R broke to pieces. It was as if the gun had been chomped on by giant invisible fangs.

The girl did not have time to be frozen in shock. She twisted her body and managed to roll a step away from the boy. She swung around her left hand as she could still move that one and gathered power there.

She released a lightning spear from it.

The spear of purple electricity moved forward at the speed of light and held enough destructive force to knock someone unconscious.

She did not think that it would act as a fatal blow.

As long as it distracted him long enough for her to get away, that was enough.

However, the lightning spear she had fired at the boy rebounded and struck her in her own chest.

“Gah…!?”

The girl was knocked back to the ground with a shock that felt like she had been struck in the chest with a hammer. Her breathing stopped and every muscle in her body moved irregularly.

The girl’s trembling lips managed to put together a single word.

“Re…flection…!?”

“Sorry, that’s not entirely wrong, but it still doesn’t get to the essence of what I can do!”

The girl somehow tried to distance herself from the boy, but her body would not do what she told it to due to the electrical attack she herself had fired.

“The answer is vector transformation! Motion, heat, electricity. I can alter any kind of vector that touches my skin. I have it set to reflect by default, though!”

The girl looked up at the boy’s face in shock.

The 2.3 million espers in Academy City were indeed special humans, but not many of them could defeat even a handgun with their power. And if they could defeat a handgun, you would use a machine gun. If they could defeat a machine gun, you would use a tank, a fighter aircraft, a battleship with submarines, or as a last resort, even a nuclear missile.

There were no espers who could defeat something like that. In fact, it would just be a lot easier to buy a handgun rather than controlling the brain and altering the arrangement of genes in order to create a power that could fight against a gun. It just seemed absurd to create a huge psychic powers development institution that slipped past international law in order to create something on the level of a cheap weapon that could be bought in American supermarkets for about 30,000 yen.

That was why Academy City’s goal was not to create espers. The espers were nothing more than a type of litmus paper. It seemed what was truly important was why espers had been born and what mechanism brought them about.

Yet the boy before her eyes was different.

That boy could alter all vectors be they motion, heat, or electricity, so he would not be injured even if he were directly hit by that last resort of a nuclear missile. He would just reflect the shockwave that would blow everything way, the heat that would scorch everything, and the neutrons and radiation that would kill everything.

He was Accelerator, Academy City’s strongest Level 5.

The word “monster” came to the girl’s mind. The creature before her eyes that had a human form held the power to singlehandedly make an enemy of the entire world and survive.

The boy crouched down next to the girl.

“My Level 5 power lets me control every kind of vector.” That boy seemed so different, but he spoke as if it was nothing. “If I use it, I can even do this.”

The boy stuck his slender index finger into the dark-red hole in the girl’s right shoulder. It was like the action of a child squashing a bug on the road.

“…!!”

There was a sound like a red fruit being squished and the girl’s body stiffened in intense pain.

“Now, it’s time for the question for the consolation round,” Accelerator said mockingly. “I’m touching your blood. I’m touching the flow of your blood. Now, if I reverse that vector…If I reverse the vector of your blood, what will happen to your body? A correct answer gets you a nice peaceful sleep!”

A blank expression appeared on the girl’s face as if she did not understand what was going on.

An instant later, unimaginable pain assaulted her entire body.


“Huh?” Kamijou said upon leaving the used bookstore with a paper bag in one hand.

Misaka Imouto was nowhere to be found.

(Maybe she got mad that I forced her to take the cat, so she left.)

The cat alone was sitting there on the ground.

Kamijou picked up the cat as it laid its ears back and trembled a bit. He looked around the area again, but everything about the street tinted in the colors of twilight seemed normal. A lot of boys and girls wearing private clothes were walking along the street as they returned to their dorms after an exhausting day of fun.

(…?)

As Kamijou casually looked around, he felt something from that normal scenery. He spun back around and looked at the alley between the used book store and the multi-tenant building next to it. Something about it drew his attention.

(What is it? What’s wrong with that alley?)

Kamijou looked closer. A tile walkway headed along in front of the entrance to the alley and a wind turbine spun nearby. The entrance must not have gotten cleaned often because quite a few leaves and a single girl’s shoe were gathered there. The tiling of the pathway ended right at the alley entrance and the ground in the alley was made of incredibly makeshift-looking asphalt.

…A single girl’s shoe?

“…?”

Still holding the black cat, Kamijou approached the entrance to the alley. A bad feeling crawled up within him like a centipede. There was definitely just one girl’s shoe there. It was a small brown loafer that looked like something that would be required by a school. The shoe was clean and had no dirt on it, so it couldn’t have been there for long.

Kamijou stared into the alley.

The sun was already sinking below the horizon, so its light did not reach the gap between the buildings. The darkness made it look like the entrance to a cave and he could not see anything within by just peering in.

“…”

Kamijou took one step into the alley.

With that one step, it felt as if the temperature had lowered 2 or 3 degrees. A feeling of having stepped into some unknown place slowly rose from his foot up to his body.

Kamijou continued on. There he found the other shoe lying on the dirty ground of the alley. He continued further on. The bad feeling grew. He tried to keep his pace slow, but his legs continued to accelerate. Kamijou didn’t even know why he was hurrying, but his breathing and pulse were picking up pace as if they were falling down a hill.

Then Kamijou realized there were marks like part of the wall had been scraped off. It was as if someone had scraped along the concrete with a metal stake. And it was not just one or two marks. Both walls were covered with those marks like someone had been recklessly swinging a metal rod about.

Kamijou stepped on something.

It was a metal similar in color to gold…or more accurately, copper. It was a metal cylinder about the size of a battery. Kamijou thought it looked like the empty ammunition cartridges he had only ever seen in movies. There was a faint smell of smoke remaining as if someone had shot off a firework.

(What…?)

Kamijou almost spoke out subconsciously, but he suppressed it. For some reason, he tried to walk silently as he headed further in. With each step, he felt like the air was getting dirtier.

As he continued on, he saw something lying on the ground further ahead in the darkness. No, it was someone collapsed on the ground. He could see the legs from where he was. He could see two legs, but he could not see the upper half of the body as if it had been eaten by the darkness. Something was scattered around about the legs. It was plastic-looking shards and springs. It was almost like the remains of some sort of toy.

“Misaka…?”

Kamijou did not know why her name came out first. He headed closer as if he were cutting through the darkness obscuring his view.

And there she was.

Misaka Imouto’s corpse was lying on the ground.



Part 6


She was lying face up as if she were staring up at the rectangular visible portion of the purple sky.

There was a sea of blood. The sea of blood was so large that it made one wonder if a single human body really held that much blood. It wasn’t just on the ground. Both walls were painted red up to eye-level. It looked like someone had wrung out a human body to get every last drop of blood out.

In the center of that explosion of red lay a girl.

The arms and legs extending out from the short-sleeves and the skirt were torn up. It was most likely the same on her skin within her clothes that he could not see. Her school uniform had been dyed so red that its original colors could no longer be seen, but the clothes themselves were not torn at all.

Her body seemed to have been torn apart from the inside along the paths of the blood vessels as if someone had passed narrow wires through all of them and then forcibly torn the wires out. Her torn-up arms were reminiscent of a diagram of a dissected frog. The torn-up girl had nothing that could actually be called a “face”. Instead, she had what looked like an open flower or a peeled boiled egg. It was a dark-red cavity with pink muscles and soft yellow fat inside.

“Uuh…Ahh…”

Upon seeing the red and purple scene before him, Kamijou took a step back. He must have started squeezing with his arms because the black cat started mewing like it could not breathe.

“Ah…Gh…”

Kamijou had seen a type of hell within the Misawa Cram School, but the corpses he had seen there had not had a “flesh-and-blood” feeling to them because they had either been encased in armor or transformed into melted gold.

But this was different.

He felt the urge to vomit as if he had stuck a finger down his throat. He screamed in his heart not to vomit. He used nice logic in thinking that he was looking at Misaka Imouto and he shouldn’t vomit upon seeing her, but then he suddenly noticed her skirt in the edge of his vision.

Something was sticking out from within her skirt, from between her legs.

The soft and squishy object with a pink surface and a hint of purple was…

“Ugehh!”

In that instant, Kamijou could no longer hold back and his body doubled over. A sour flavor filled his mouth and then the contents of his stomach shot from his mouth.

Kamijou vomited.

He was looking at the person who he had been smiling and speaking with just 10 minutes before. That strange truth felt like it was going to blow away the gears turning in his head.

With a disgusting sound, the vomit fell to the ground. It spread out and mixed with the edge of the sea of blood creating an odd marble pattern.

Blood.

Finally, Kamijou realized that the blood had not dried at all. Blood took about 15 minutes to coagulate, so the person who had done that to her may still have been nearby.

The person who had done that to her.

Kamijou paled at his own thoughts. It clearly did not look like an accident or a suicide. He started to feel dizzy. The only other possibility was something he did not want to think about.

And then he heard a noise further down the alley.

“!?”

Ordinarily, one would assume it was a stray cat or something, but the sea of blood had already sent the situation beyond the ordinary. Kamijou’s legs naturally brought him back. Something scary was ahead in the darkness, but even more, he simply could not even think about stepping over Misaka Imouto.

Kamijou took a few steps back and then noticed something hard in his pocket. It was his cell phone. He thought about calling for help, but he also thought the danger would come before help could arrive. Even if he called for help, he had to get out of there first, so he turned his back on Misaka Imouto and ran back through the alley.

The alley was completely straight, but the ground felt like it was shaking and he kept running into the walls. As he ran, he hit the buttons of his cell phone, but his fingers were trembling so much he didn’t know what buttons he was hitting. It might have been 110, it might have been 119, or it might have been 117 or 177. At any rate, he pressed them. He heard it ring a few times and then he heard a slight click.

(It finally connected!)

Just when Kamijou got excited, he started hearing a cold electronic dial tone.

Kamijou removed the cell phone from his ear and looked at the screen.

It said it had no signal. He felt like throwing the phone against the wall.

(Cell phones are surprisingly inconvenient.)

He had tried to use the cell phone to call for help, but it didn’t get a signal in that narrow alleyway. He had no choice, so he left the alley and dialed 119 again in front of the used book store.

He wasn’t even sure what he said.

He had merely yelled something that didn’t explain the situation at all and the rare number of 119 was contained within his call history.

Normal life continued on that main street and Kamijou doubted anyone would believe him if he told them a girl’s destroyed corpse lay inside that alley.

“…”

Kamijou lowered his gaze to the cell phone in his hand.

He should probably let Mikoto know what had happened, but he didn’t know her number. Not even being able to do that left Kamijou feeling incredibly powerless.


The cat within Kamijou’s hands yawned.

He had called 119, but it was the police who had come.

His internal clock was not working properly, so he had no idea how much time had passed since he had called. He had a feeling it had been more than an hour, but he also had a feeling it had only been 10 seconds.

Looking at his phone, it had apparently been half an hour.

At first, Kamijou had thought his phone was broken, but he looked up and saw that the purple of evening had changed to the blue of night. He stared blankly up at the shining stars.

“…”

Kamijou silently watched the police who had arrived.

However, they were technically Anti-Skill not police. They were not espers. They were something like soldiers armed with next-generation weapons. They must have been thinking that it was possible it had been a murder committed by an out-of-control esper because a windowless station wagon pulled up and around 10 Anti-Skill members got out. They wore black helmets and suits made of special fibers which made them look a bit like some kind of robot. They also held a strange kind of rifle in their hands. Their equipment seemed to boast that they were putting priority on capturing the criminal rather than on protecting the civilians.

“…Hey! Hey, you!”

As Kamijou stared at them blankly, one of the Anti-Skill members suddenly called out to him. He was confused at first. He had only called, so they should not have known what he looked like. But then he noticed that they were calling out to all the people in the area.

“Oh, I was the one that called in. But I was calling for an ambulance not the police.”

“I see. The police are contacted as a matter of course in issues like this. We probably just arrived first.” The Anti-Skill man looked at Kamijou. “Is that the alley? And it would help if you could explain what you saw in there.”

Kamijou closed his eyes.

It felt like the scene he had witnessed in that back alley was stuck to the underside of his eyelids.

“…A person was dead,” he said.

It irritated him that his own voice was surprisingly calm.

“It was like her body had been torn up. …I don’t know what kind of weapon was used. It might have been some kind of power.”

Something swelled up within him with each word he spoke.

It was an unpleasant feeling like all his paralyzed senses were returning.

“She was an acquaintance of mine. I only met her two days ago, but I know what she looks like well enough to identify her from a photo. Ah, no. Why am I so calm? My thoughts should be more scattered, so why am I so…!”

“That’s enough,” said the man shaking his head. “I’m sure you made the best choice. That’s why we are here. You were able to do something.”

“…But I ran away.”

“You still did something to help,” the Anti-Skill man said.

Kamijou knew that the man was only saying that to console him, but it still managed to hold him in check. Kamijou just barely managed to stop before he reached definite destruction.

“We normally like to bring the person who discovered the crime scene along with us, but what will you do? We won’t force you.”

A chill ran down Kamijou’s back. That scene of blood, flesh, and guts was stuck on the underside of his eyelids and his fingertips seemed to go numb.

Yet…

“…I’ll go,” Kamijou said slowly as he held the cat.

He didn’t know why, but he did not want to run away anymore.


As he thought about seeing it again, Kamijou’s body started to tremble. He trembled, but he had to go back into that alley. What had happened in the darkness there? He had to find out.

Kamijou led the way into the back alley as the armed Anti-Skill group acted as a shield for him.

(…Huh?)

However, something seemed off the instant he stepped into the alley.

The shoe was gone.

When he had first entered the alley, he had seen a girl’s loafer lying in the entrance. And there had been another shoe a bit further into the alley.

Kamijou spun around.

The shoe at the entrance was definitely there.

However, the other shoe that was supposed to be further into the alley was gone.

(…?)

Kamijou felt something heavy within his gut, but the Anti-Skill group continued on. Next, they should have come across the scrapes on the wall and the empty cartridges. Yes, they should have. However, the cartridges were gone. As if someone had cleaned up the alley, not a single one could be found on the dirty ground. The scrapes on the wall had been scraped off. The scrapes themselves couldn’t be erased, but it looked like someone had desperately tried to hide them by making their source impossible to identify.

(…Wait a second.)

Kamijou had a bad feeling. He felt a pressure in his stomach. He wanted to stop and think for a second, but the Anti-Skill group continued on. He felt as if bugs were crawling about under his skin. The missing shoe, the missing cartridges, and the obscured scrapes on the wall. Those words seemed all over the place, but they seemed to lead toward a single meaning as if their combination created some kind of chemical reaction.

Kamijou wanted to stand still, but he could not. As if he were being dragged by an invisible rope attached to the Anti-Skill group, he headed forward.

And they finally arrived.

Kamijou’s breathing stopped.

They had arrived at the murder scene where Misaka Imouto had been lying dead in a pool of blood.

However, the corpse was nowhere to be found.



Part 7


It wasn’t just the body.

The red blood that had been covering the ground as well as both walls was as cleanly gone as a stain that had been wiped off of some glass. None of the flesh or hair that had been scattered about remained. The area did not even smell like blood. The stink of flesh was gone as well. It was as if there had never been a body there and thus nothing had occurred there at all.

“Eh?”

At first, Kamijou only let out that surprised voice.

He stood in place and the Anti-Skill group ahead of him turned around.

“What is it? Did you notice something?”

“No, it’s not that.” Kamijou pointed toward the ground. “It was here. This is where the body was. And where it should still be.”

“What?”

The Anti-Skill members looked at the ground, but there was not a single drop of blood much less a body there. There weren’t even any damp traces of something having been wiped away.

The Anti-Skill members exchanged glances. An unpleasant atmosphere hung in the air. Some of their shoulders relaxed and some were clearly staring at Kamijou.

“Wait a second! There really was a dead body here!”

“Okay,” one of them said while looking at Kamijou. “Even if you really did see what you think you did, are you sure it was here? Your memories could be a bit confused and you mistook this for the actual place.”

His words were kind, but they had no seriousness to them like a soda that had lost its carbonation. Kamijou heard the words as those used to pacify an unmanageable drunk.

He was at a loss for words because he couldn’t figure out what had happened.

Had it really all been an illusion? If it had been an illusion, then why had Misaka Imouto disappeared from in front of the used bookstore? Kamijou pulled out his cell phone. The quickest way to figure out if it had been an illusion or reality would be to contact Misaka Imouto. If the phone connected, he would know she was alive.

However, Kamijou did not know Misaka Imouto’s cell phone number.

As he could not even make a simple phone call, the only thing left was to try to figure it out on his own.

“…”

Kamijou was frozen in that spot.

The scene before his eyes seemed so ordinary that he started to doubt his own memories. And Kamijou was actually glad to doubt his memories. If he had been seeing some sort of illusion, then his report to the police would have been nothing but nonsense. Misaka Imouto would be walking around in some completely different place and would appear before him after remembering about the cat. That future was clearly the more desirable one.

(…Dammit. What is going on?)

He would prefer it if Misaka Imouto was not dead, but he hesitated to just write off the reality he had seen as an illusion. That odd contradiction ate into his heart.

“What the hell is going on!?”

Kamijou could not stand it any longer, so he pushed past the Anti-Skill group and ran further into the alley. He heard a voice calling out telling him to stop, but he doubted they would come after him. Those Anti-Skill members were probably thinking he had called in that report as a prank.

The black cat in his arms mewed.

Kamijou ran along the narrow alleyway, but he had no idea what he was searching for. He knew he was searching for something, but he had no idea what that something was. It may have looked like he was just running to get rid of the strange gloom that had come over him.

As he continued to run down the dark and rotten back alley, he approached a T-intersection. The path split off to the right and left. The right path was a narrow path continuing into the darkness, but he could see the glow of streetlights coming from the left path. Most likely, it connected to a main street. It looked a bit like the exit of a tunnel.

Emotionally, Kamijou wanted to head for the exit to the left.

However, leaving that back alley felt like giving up, so Kamijou headed for the darkness to the right.

That part of the alley was a little wider than before so the word “path” fit it better than “gap”. Because of the extra space, polyethylene buckets, unused bicycles, and other items were scattered about. A tipped over case of beer bottles, a cardboard box that seemed to have soaked up water, and other sources of liquid led to all sorts of liquids flowing across the ground, mixing together, and forming a sticky liquid.

Footprints could be seen in that sticky liquid leading further down the path.

Kamijou followed the footprints with his eyes and stared into the darkness. He heard something moving in that darkness.

Someone was there.

He thought his heart would be crushed by the shock.

The cat struggled in pain. He may nervously have started squeezing it in his hands again.

“Who’s there!?” Kamijou yelled.

The person in the darkness turned around in response to his voice.

Surprisingly, the person was shorter than Kamijou and appeared to be a girl. However, the body bag-like object she was carrying over her shoulder was quite ominous indeed. Yes, it was a body bag, a bag used to contain a human who was at least unconscious. The body bag was bent into an upside down V-shape over the person’s shoulder and Kamijou felt like he could see a limp girl’s silhouette in it.

(What is that…?)

That silhouette left Kamijou speechless. It looked less like a living human was stuffed inside and more like the parts of a dismantled mannequin had been thrown inside. While the overall silhouette was collapsed, what were clearly wrists, ankles, and other body parts could be seen pressing against the fabric from the inside.

And then Kamijou saw.

He saw the person who he had not been able to see properly due to the darkness. He saw the person holding the body bag that clearly had a person stuffed inside.

Kamijou saw her.

With the darkness cleared away, he saw the person standing there.

It was Misaka Imouto.

“Wha-…?”

Kamijou froze up in front of that ridiculous sight. The friendly mew the black cat in his arms gave seemed strange.

That was clearly Misaka Imouto.

She had the shoulder-length brown hair and the military goggles on her forehead. She wore the short-sleeved white blouse, summer sweater, and pleated skirt. She stood there as if she had been remade in a mold.

Kamijou did not understand. He simply did not understand, but…

“Misaka apologizes. She intended to return there after she was finished working, says Misaka as she starts with an apology.”

That gaze, that behavior, that atmosphere, that manner of speaking…It was clearly her.

“Hey, wait a second. You’re Misaka Imouto, right?”

So was what he had seen a very real-seeming illusion after all? Kamijou felt dissatisfied in some way, but Misaka Imouto was standing before him the same as she had always been.

He lost strength in his legs and collapsed to the ground.

“Dammit. What the hell is going on?” he spat out. “Oh, sorry. This may sound really weird to you, but I seriously thought something bad had happened to you. But it seems you’re all right. I’m glad.”

“There are some parts of what you said that Misaka is having trouble understanding…”

(Well, I’m not sure how she was supposed to understand that.)

Kamijou didn’t know why he had seen that illusion, but he didn’t particularly care as long as Misaka Imouto was fine.

“…but Misaka is indeed dead, reports Misaka.”

Kamijou’s breathing froze.

Misaka Imouto was right in front of him, but Kamijou belatedly started to wonder what the body bag she was carrying over her shoulder was. The silhouette within was like a broken mannequin. The construction seemed off and the joints were all pointing in odd directions.

He looked toward it wondering what was inside. As he did, something jumped into the center of his vision. It was an object sticking out from the zipper of the body bag. The brown object was sticking out from the gap next to the zipper like it was a weed.

It was hair.

Kamijou was utterly shocked. A strange chill ran across his entire body.

(Is she carrying around a realistic life-sized doll or something?)

But that brown hair was much too familiar. The color, the gloss, and everything else about it was exactly the same as the hair belonging to the girl holding the body bag.

“Wait, wait. What are you carrying? What’s inside that body bag?”

“…? You do not know? asks Misaka in return. As you entered the testing site, Misaka assumed you were related to the experiment, but…yes, it is true that you do not look like someone related to the experiment, responds Misaka based on her intuition.”

(Experiment…?)

Kamijou fell silent as he had no clue what Misaka Imouto was talking about.

“Just to make sure, Misaka will check using the passcode, says Misaka as she does as she says. ZXC741ASD852QWE963, says Misaka testing you.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“As you were unable to decode that passcode, you do not seem to be related to the experiment, says Misaka having received logical proof backing up her intuitive assumption.”

Misaka Imouto’s words sounded like some kind of alien language to Kamijou.

He looked at her doubtfully.

“This body bag contains a Sister, responds Misaka.”

The voice that had answered Kamijou’s question had clearly been Misaka Imouto’s.

However, the voice as well as a footstep had come from behind Misaka Imouto.

The voice had sounded like it was coming from a ways down the alleyway.

This was not mistake in Kamijou’s senses. With the sound of more footsteps, someone approached from behind Misaka Imouto.

“Misaka apologizes for leaving the black cat behind, states Misaka.”

The person who had appeared from the darkness was a girl who looked exactly like Misaka Imouto.

(What? She looks just like Misaka Imouto…so is that Mikoto?)

“However, she did not want to get an animal involved in unnecessary conflict, says Misaka explaining her actions.”

However, that other girl’s footsteps were not the only ones.

“Misaka wishes to apologize to you for the same reason, says Misaka as she lowers her head.”

There were two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…a seemingly endless number of footsteps.

“It seems the experiment caused you unnecessary worry, says Misaka as-…”

“But you do not need to worry…”

“So you were the one who called the police…”

“That was the appropriate decision…”

“Is the cat oaky, asks Misa-…”

“Every Misaka here is Misaka, says…”

“But what would you have done if Misaka had been the murderer?”

“The details are classified, so Misaka cannot explain, but there was no trouble here, responds Misaka.”

“…Ah?”

Kamijou naturally stepped back as Misaka after Misaka appeared from behind the first. His back ran into something. He turned around and found more Misakas with identical expressionless faces.

“What…?”

Index v03 117.jpg

Kamijou was left speechless at the sight and he tried to sort through everything that had happened.

Had what he had seen not been an illusion but actually the corpse of one of those identical Misakas? From the fact that Misaka Imouto was carrying the body, they seemed to be concealing it.

It was true that the blood could have been dried up in about a minute with a coagulant and heat from a dryer. Then they could clean it up as easily as tempura oil that had been hardened with a chemical. And the fingerprints and luminol reaction could be easily erased with chemicals.

But Kamijou found something to be odd.

From the very start, it was odd that there were so many people who looked exactly the same.

Monozygotic twins, often known as identical twins, were siblings with the same structure at a genetic level, but they were not actually as identical as they were often represented as being in dramas and novels.

Let’s take a hypothetical man named Tanaka-san. Tanaka-san would clearly have very different ratios of muscle and fat depending on if he trained every day in order to become a baseball player or if he just ate sweets all day long doing nothing in particular.

With differences in sleep, exercise, eating habits, and stress, people’s living patterns would change their physique even if they were the same at birth. And it was not normal for two people to maintain the exact same sleep, exercise, and eating patterns after living for 10 or 15 years.

The girls before his eyes were too identical.

They looked exactly like the girl named Misaka Mikoto.

It was like their sleep times had been measured with clocks, their exercise amounts had been measured with measuring devices, and their food portions had been measured with scales.

Yes, it was as if everything had been precisely measured in order to match Misaka Mikoto.

It was as if they had been created by someone.

“…………………………………………..”

Kamijou spun around looking at the area and then looked back at the body bag.

It seemed they knew him. It seemed they knew of the black cat. But then Kamijou had to wonder who the girl he had thought was Misaka Imouto had been. Was she with them or were there still more Misakas? Or was the Misaka Imouto he had been in contact the one inside the body bag?

“Do not worry, responds Misaka.”

The Misaka holding the body bag spoke to Kamijou who was frozen in shock.

“The Misaka you were in contact with previously today was Serial Number 10032. In other words, this Misaka, responds Misaka.” She pointed toward herself with her free hand. “The Misakas use their power to manipulate electricity to link their brain waves. The other Misakas merely share #10032’s memories, explains Misaka.”

Linking brain waves sounded unbelievable at first, but it was possible if they were twins. Brain waves differed from person to person like fingerprints and voice prints. Having someone else’s brain waves flow into your brain would just destroy your brain cells, but if two people who were identical on the genetic level did it…

But Kamijou didn’t particularly care about that.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“The Misakas are the Sisters, cellular clones created as mass-produced military models of the Original, one of the seven Level 5s of Academy City, answers Misaka.”

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Merely an experiment, answers Misaka. Misaka apologizes again for getting you involved in this particular experiment, says Misaka as she lowers her head.”

“What-…?” he started to ask, but then he closed his mouth.

The girls standing before him were simply too different and too remote.


Kamijou was all alone as he leaned against the alley wall while holding the black cat.

The group of Misakas had disappeared as if they were melting into the darkness. They were likely taking the corpse to eliminate every bit of evidence. And the experiments would continue. He didn’t know what they were, but those Misakas were being killed and then taken off somewhere without him knowing.

The term “cellular clone” brought the urge to vomit back to him. The spine of the book he had spotted in the used bookstore floated up in the back of his mind. “New! The Scientific Cows of the Farm Buildings”. He was reminded of those beings that lived within the windowless buildings, breathed air-conditioned air, drank nutrients, and were raised solely to be eaten. He envisioned them having their guts cut open, their innards dragged out, their flesh sliced up, and then being packed up and distributed to supermarkets and butcher shops throughout the city. He tasted sour stomach acid coming from deep in his throat. He doubted he would be able to eat meat for a while.

However, there were pragmatists who did not care about things like that. The people behind the experiment were killing people in the same way that cows were killed, gutted, chopped up, and packed up, so they would likely continue the experiments without caring. Kamijou did not know what exactly the experiments entailed and he doubted he would understand something that repulsive even if it were explained to him. However, he could say one thing for sure. Allowing that experiment to continue would lead to more people being killed.

(…An experiment?)

That term caught in Kamijou’s mind.

Misaka Imouto had called it an experiment, so was there a research facility behind it? If that were so, the use of the technical term “cellular clone” made sense. A cellular clone was not made like a normal baby. They were created from DNA extracted from a hair or a drop of blood.

Suddenly, Kamijou froze.

A hair.

To create a cellular clone, DNA was needed. It could be a single hair or a single drop of blood, but raw material like that was needed.

Misaka Imouto had said that they were mass-produced military models of Misaka Mikoto.

(It couldn’t be…)

Kamijou stopped breathing. He looked up at the rectangle of sky he could see as a thought of despair entered his mind.

(Does Misaka Mikoto know about this?)



Part 8


Dinner that night was yakiniku.

Komoe-sensei who looked 12 years old stood in the kitchen looking at a Luxurious Yakiniku Set she had bought on a special sale at the supermarket for 12000 yen. She had bought it partially because she had more people to feed dinner to and partially because it was a rank up from the 8000 yen Wonderful Yakiniku Set she had bought previously.

It was not that unusual for Komoe-sensei to be serving multiple people for dinner. She was an educator to the core, so she had a habit of taking in girls who had run away from home and giving them a place to stay until they found what they wanted to do.

(It’s been a month since Izanami-chan left to go train to be a baker. The calm has been nice, but that’s a long time to be alone…)

Komoe-sensei pulled multiple cans of beer from the fridge in order to compare their flavor.

She wasn’t sure which season yakiniku was reminiscent of. After all, she lived in a time when any kind of food could be gotten year round.

However, that female teacher who looked 12 but could taste the differences between beers always ate yakiniku in the summertime. She had also decided to leave the cooking of the meat to the person staying with her who was paying zero rent. Her role that night was just to drink beer and eat meat, so she was feeling rather like royalty.

Her temporary roommate, Himegami Aisa, had finished setting up the iron griddle on the tea table in the center of the room and she sat in the lotus position in order to kill the worldly desire that went by the name of hunger. The lotus position may sound ostentatious, but she was really just sitting cross legged and wondering how long she had to wait to eat.

Komoe-sensei was the type of person that seasoned the meat before cooking it.

People’s tastes varied, but Komoe-sensei loved to put tare on the meat before cooking it and then put more tare on after it cooked.

Of course, cooking meat with tare on it filled the room with the smell of smoke, but she did not mind. That room (for some reason) already had strange scribbles drawn all over the tatami mats and the walls, had the tatami sliced up by something like a sword, had blood stains left all over the place, had burn marks on the walls, and finally had its walls and ceiling destroyed by what seemed like a beam weapon. It had been patched up with plywood, but she could pretty much kiss her security deposit goodbye.

(…Uuh. Tomorrow I’m going to make sure to get Kamijou-chan to tell me what happened.)

Komoe-sensei sighed, but she brought a large plate of meat over to the tea table to get her spirits up. Himegami must have been the type that put a large amount of tare on the meat and ate it with rice because she already had the rice cooker nearby.

“Okay, now heat up the iron griddle. You lost the game of rock-paper-scissors, Himegami-chan, so you need to take those saibashi and begin your forced labor. Now cook up some yakiniku for me!”

“Okay. But first I will tell you a scary story from Academy City.”

“…I am not the type to cry when told about the seven mysteries of Academy City. In fact, I have the disgrace of often being considered to be one of them.”

However, the urban legends in Academy City were not the more occult type involving ghosts. They tended to be more along the lines of hidden bits of ridiculous science like UFOs.

A lot of the urban legends in Academy City had to do with the Imaginary Number District - Five Elements Institution also known as Primary Knowledge.

For example, there was the urban legend that Academy City started as a single laboratory. It said that the laboratory extended to include the company houses for the personnel, health facilities, and related laboratories until it reached the point of being a giant city.

However, no one knew where this supposed “first laboratory” was in the city.

There were of course plenty of rumors regarding that first laboratory. Some said it had been destroyed decades ago without anyone knowing what it was. Some said it was hidden deep underground. Some said it was seen every day but no one realized it because it had been disguised as an ordinary-looking school. Some said that a special power or imaginary technology had been used to warp space around it in order to hide it.

They may be referred to as the “seven mysteries”, but there were hundreds of variations on the rumors and there was not a single bit of substantiating evidence.

It was something that supposedly existed, but no one noticed it.

The Imaginary Number District - Five Elements Institution was said to be the district that did not fit any of the numbers for the 23 districts of Academy City.

And many different rumors of imaginary technology had been derived from this invisible laboratory known as the Imaginary Number District.

There was the supposed AI that controlled all of the ethics, militaries, and economies of the world via the internet.

There was the supposed Clone Dolly workshop that stored the DNA of great men and saints from around the world and had analyzed their genetics to the point that they could create as many geniuses as needed at the push of a button.

There was the idea that the silicorandom synapses used in Tree Diagram’s processing engine could only be made with imaginary technology from the Imaginary Number District and thus could not be remade.

There was the supposed Hound Dog unit that was secretly working to search for the Imaginary Number District and would abduct anyone who got close to solving the mystery in order to torture them for information.

(There is also the idea that research on eternal youth has been completed in the Imaginary Number District and I am one of the samples. …Saying that is just going too far. It’s a violation of my human rights.)

Komoe-sensei sighed as she held a beer in one hand.

Across the tea table from Komoe-sensei was Himegami who was waving both her hands around.

“Okay. Now for my scary story.”

“Oh, c’mon. Just hurry it up, hurry it up.”

“Okay. Here’s one. The scorched parts of yakiniku contains polynuclear aromatic carbons. That is a carcinogen.”

“Wait, that kind of real scary story isn’t summer-like at all!”

“You need not worry about it now. I am sure you have eaten plenty of them already without knowing it.”

“That’s just too much! Is this a plan to ruin my appetite so you can hog all the meat, Himegami-chan!?”

As Komoe-sensei was being toyed with in a bout of psychological warfare, the doorbell rang.

“Mh. It looks like I have a guest. It’s probably just a circular notice, so go politely deal with it, Himegami-chan. As you do, sensei will be here cooking and eating the meat.”

Himegami silently stood up while looking at Komoe-sensei who was clearly in a bad mood. She headed for the door, but then suddenly spun around.

“That beer can is made of aluminum which is a toxic metal. If you drink a lot, the toxin will build up within your body. That is one of the reasons that the Roman Empire collapsed. They used too much metal tableware. Heh heh.”

Komoe-sensei completely lost her appetite and she looked like she was about to cry.

“Also…”

“…There’s more?”

“I am in charge of cooking the meat today. You only need to eat the meat, Komoe-sensei.”

Himegami stood in front of the door and bent over to look out the peephole. Newspaper solicitors in the area were rather extreme, so in the worst case, there was no choice but to open the door just a bit with the chain lock still connected and take the “magic wand” known as an electronic gas gun from next to the door to stick it through the gap and respond with a full auto blast. (Note: Those were banned from sale in 1993 due to having too much destructive force. They are also known as Head Crushers.)

However, no one could be seen on the other side of the peephole.

“?”

Himegami grabbed the gas gun just to be safe and slowly opened the door to see if someone was playing a prank. As the door opened, it made a noise like it had struck something and stopped.

Himegami looked down to see if someone had left a block on the ground.

A pure-white nun was collapsed there. The door had struck her head. A calico cat was balled up next to her happily waving its tail around.

“I…I’m hungry.”

The collapsed person with an unknown residence and no job said something, but Himegami closed the door.

“Huh? Who was it?” asked Komoe-sensei.

“No one,” Himegami replied with complete calm.

However, someone started banging on the door with their last bit of strength. As she had no choice, Himegami opened the door again. The white nun held out Sphinx in her arms as if to say “at least take the cat”. Himegami felt too sorry for her, so she let Index in the room.

“I-I waited and waited but Touma never came home. I thought I was going to starve to death,” the limp white nun said. She was already sitting at the tea table and had grabbed a pair of saibashi in her fist. Himegami felt that it was a type of talent to feel that at home about having others feed you like that. The cat was sitting in Index’s lap with its mouth open and pointing up toward the ceiling. It seemed to be a tactic to snatch the bits of food that Index dropped.

Despite the sudden guest, the 12000 yen Luxurious Yakiniku Set had plenty in it. Index did not even know how to hold chopsticks properly and Komoe-sensei liked to help out others, so the teacher took the initiative and started cooking the meat.

“You’re asking what psychic powers are?” Komoe-sensei responded while flipping over the meat on the iron griddle.

Index nodded slightly while staring at the half-cooked meat.

“Simply put, it is based on Schrödinger’s theories, but you may not be familiar with them.”

Komoe-sensei tried to use the saibashi to get the other two to eat some carrots instead of just eating meat, but they ignored it.

“Schrödinger?”

“Yes. Schrödinger is the name of a teacher of quantum mechanics. He left behind the story of Schrödinger’s cat. The story may sound rather cruel to those who love pets, so I think I’ll change it a bit.”

Komoe-sensei put vegetables on top of the meat that had finished cooking and placed them on Index’s small plate. Index immediately took off the vegetables and gave them to the cat, but the cat rejected them with a cat punch.

“There is a box here,” said Komoe-sensei as she grabbed a box for chocolates from the floor with her other hand. “Now what do you think is inside, Sister-chan?”

“Mh. Chocolates of course. Touma has the same kind in his house.”

“But this box has hard candy inside.”

“Why would you put that inside…?”

“Now then, Sister-chan. What is inside this box?”

“You just said it has hard candy inside!”

“Yes, but you don’t know unless you open it up. I could have been lying.”

“…”

“So there are now two possibilities: the possibility that chocolates are inside or the possibility that hard candies are inside. Of course, only one of those can be true. However, when we’re just talking about possibilities, both possibilities are jumbled together.”

Komoe-sensei lightly waved the box for chocolates around.

“Those two possibilities appear as a single result once the box is opened to check on what the contents are. Originally, the contents had a 50% chance of being chocolates and a 50% chance of being hard candies, but once you look it changes to a 100% chance of being chocolates.”

Komoe-sensei opened the box and small chocolates were inside.

“Now then,” she said closing the box again. “Assuming the two possibilities were 50% chocolates and 50% hard candies, what do you think is inside this box, Sister-chan?”

“??? I don’t really get it, but I saw chocolates in there just now.”

“Yes. A normal person will choose the 50% chance of chocolates at this point.” Komoe-sensei waved the box around again. “But what would happen if there was a person who could choose the 50% chance of hard candies?”

“Mhh? Then the contents of the box would become hard cand-…”

Index trailed off and seemed to have realized something.

A strange phenomenon outside of the normal would occur.

“That is the true identity of psychic powers. There are many possibilities in this reality. Among them are the possibility that fire can come from one’s hand and the possibility of reading someone’s mind. Because those 1% possibilities differ from the 99% possibility of the natural thing happening, they can be referred to as supernatural powers.” Komoe-sensei spun around the saibashi. “However, this is also why supernatural powers are not almighty. For instance, in our example there was a 50% possibility of chocolates and a 50% possibility of hard candies, so there was a 0% possibility of gum being inside. These powers cannot be used in places or conditions that have no possibility in the first place.”

“???”

“When we refer to espers, we refer to someone whose ability to view the reality of the 50% chocolates vs. 50% hard candies differs from that of normal people. RPSK Syndrome, commonly referred to as a poltergeist, is caused by children who are no longer able to properly view reality due to trauma or excessive stress. The Ganzfeld experiment used in powers development purposefully seals off the senses in order cut one off from the proper reality.” Komoe-sensei continued to spin the saibashi around. “Espers who are cut off from the proper reality gain a personal reality that differs from ours. As a result, they can distort a micro world using different laws. In other words they gain the power to destroy things without touching them or to see one year into the future by closing their eyes.”

Komoe-sensei’s words seemed like an otherworldly language, so Index did not understand.

“The development we carry out is to artificially create personal realities. Simply put, we use things like drugs and suggestions to help cause certain types of damage in the brain.”

Index felt a stab in her chest at the word “damage”.

A certain boy was always saying that he had no power. And he did so casually as if it was to be expected. But all that effort had been put in behind it all.

Index felt that she could not save him from that.

It wasn’t the fact that the boy had gained nothing after all that. It was the fact that he had gained nothing but accepted it with a smile like it was to be accepted. She simply could not save him from that.

“Actually, Kamijou-chan’s type is very important.”

“…? You know about Touma’s power?”

“Well, Kamijou has been quite naughty ever since he came to the school. A lot has happened. Yes, a lot. Hee hee. Hee hee hee hee.”

As Komoe-sensei put her hands to her cheeks and wiggled her body around, Index and Himegami froze in place. In their hearts they had one thought: Again, you bastard?

“But I personally feel that Kamijou-chan and all the other Level 0s need to be researched, too.” Komoe-sensei alone did not notice that the atmosphere of the room had changed. “With powers development, a single curriculum should be able to awaken powers in anyone. Yet there are people in whom powers do not awaken. That must mean there is still a set of laws there we do not understand and that could be the key that leads to System.”

“System?”

“That is the term for one who is not a god yet reaches the will of the heavens. Our goal is something beyond Level 5. We humans do not understand the truth of this world. However, that makes things simple. If someone who has a status above that of a human appeared, that person would be able to understand god’s response.”

“…”

Index’s movements stopped.

She recognized what she had just heard. Kabbalah had the concept of the Sephirot tree. It was a diagram with 10 levels that divided up the positions of humans, angels, and god. And on that Sephirot tree, the crucial position of god was nowhere to be found.

Ain Soph Aur, Ain Soph, Ain.

000, 00, 0.

As god’s territory could not be understood by humans and the concept could not be expressed by humans, it was not shown on the Sephirot tree.

However, a religious system had appeared to take advantage of that.

Their doctrine stated that, if humans could not understand, they merely had to gain bodies that surpassed those of humans.

They claimed that humans were gods in the process of being purified, so they could gain the bodies of gods and freely use the techniques of god by training themselves. They were the first mavericks of the Christian Church and they were even considered dangerous by the Apostle John.

It was known as Gnosticism.

“Ars Magna,” Himegami muttered while touching the large cross at her chest.

The man who had once used alchemy to reach Ars Magna had likely belonged to that ideology. After all, Ars Magna of alchemy was not the technique of turning lead to gold. It was the technique of sublimating a human soul that had been dulled like lead into an angel’s soul that was like gold.

Gnosticism was popular among those who strayed from the proper path in the occult because it involved usurping the power of god. Regardless of the differences in how they thought, humans all wanted to reach the same place.


Or…

The sky had completely turned to the blue of night.

(…Oh, I wonder if Index is okay.)

Kamijou recalled the white nun who was (supposed to be) waiting back at his dorm room.

(I can’t exactly expect her to have the skills to cook, so she might be rolling around the ground out of hunger right now.)

He thought of calling her, but he quickly changed his mind.

He recalled that Index had ended up getting wrapped up the battle at Misawa Cram School the previous week because he had called her.

“…”

Kamijou stopped thinking about Index and focused on the task at hand.

He was heading for the Tokiwadai Middle School dorm in order to find Misaka Mikoto.

The bus stops in Academy City often used the names of school facilities such as “District 12 Takasaki University” or “District 22 Shizuna High School Pool”. That was not too surprising as all the busses in Academy City were school busses.

Luckily, there was a bus stop called “District 7 Tokiwadai Middle School Dormitory”. Normally, all of the busses would have stopped running by that time, but that line had special buses that ran at night for students that went to cram schools or summer courses. It was one of the many perks of a private school.

“So this is the place.”

Kamijou got off the bus with the black cat in one hand and looked up at the building. Normal concrete buildings were lined up around it, but that three-story building alone was made of stone. The Western-looking building was just stuck in the middle of everything else and it had an odd sense of history to it like a foreign dormitory had been moved from its original country and placed there. It had no garden or lawn. Just like the other buildings, it was standing right next to the sidewalk.

With such an impressive building, it almost made Kamijou laugh to see laundry hanging from the windows like in a normal dorm. The cat must have caught sight of the laundry flapping in the wind because it started moving its head in unison with it.

Kamijou headed for the main entrance, but it was locked up more tightly than he had expected. At first glance it appeared to be double doors made of wood, but it was probably actually made of a special carbon fiber material. It probably wouldn’t budge if a truck slammed into it.

The door knob seemed to be a sensor and he could see a red light inside the keyhole that was made to look old. Kamijou guessed offhand that it detected one’s fingerprint, checked one’s bodily electricity and pulse pattern from one’s skin, and maybe even checked one’s DNA code from the oil on one’s fingers.

A number of mailboxes were lined up next to the door. They were not much different from the newspaper box for a nice apartment. From the names on the mailboxes, Mikoto seemed to be in Room 208.

He had no option left but to use the intercom. Just like at a nice apartment building, it was set up so calculator-like buttons could be used to punch in the number of the room and it would connect directly to that room.

Contacting Mikoto’s room would be easy enough. He just had to enter 208 into the intercom.

But Kamijou hesitated to do so.

It was almost impossible that Mikoto had nothing at all to do with that experiment. After all, her cells would be needed to create those cellular clones known as the Sisters.

What was he supposed to say upon seeing her?

He was afraid to hear from Mikoto herself about that repulsive experiment that had no problem killing people. He was afraid to see Mikoto’s face as she spoke of that hidden truth.

The cat mewed uneasily.

Kamijou recalled the face of Mikoto, the girl he had met in front of the vending machine and who was certainly not shy.

Had that been an act in order to hide that truth?

Or was she actually so messed up that she could be cooperating with that repulsive experiment and knew the Sisters were dying, but was still able to smile like that?

Either way, that was not the image of Misaka Mikoto that Kamijou had built up in his head.

The instant he pressed the buttons for the intercom, that image would be shattered.

Kamijou realized that he was afraid of having that image destroyed.

He had no real reason.

It was just because walking back from school with Mikoto had been so comfortable.

“…”

Kamijou’s finger trembled as he thought about pressing the buttons regardless. Once he pressed those buttons, there was no turning back. He couldn’t erase the fact he had pressed them. Afterwards, the experiment Kamijou didn’t know about would surely come avalanching down on him like a roller coaster that had made it up to the top of the first hill.

Kamijou didn’t know what to do.

He still did not know what the best option was when he pressed the buttons for the intercom.

He heard the slight click of the plastic buttons being pressed.

With a bit of static over the speaker, an entrance to a world of the abnormal opened.

“Oh, um…”

He did not know what to say.

Yet he had to say something.

“…This is Kamijou. Is that Misaka?”

The words that left his mouth sounded horribly trite.

The few seconds of silence as he waited for a response seemed extremely heavy to Kamijou. He heard some noise over the intercom. It was the sound of someone on the other side breathing. Most likely, Mikoto was on the other side of the intercom. She would be relaxed because she thought Kamijou did not know anything of the experiment.

After a slight, ever so slight pause…

“Oh, Kamijou-san, did you say?” responded a much slower voice that was clearly not Mikoto’s.

“Oh, crap. Did I get the wrong room number?”

“No, no, you didn’t. Do you have business with onee-sama? I am her roommate.”

The voice sounded familiar, and Kamijou remembered why after thinking for a second. She was the Shirai Kuroko girl that had called Mikoto “onee-sama” the previous evening.

“Oh, I see. Well, from your response, I’m guessing Misaka is not back yet…”

“Correct. But she should be back soon. That entrance functions both as security and to enforce the curfew,” said the slow voice over the intercom. “If you have business with onee-sama, I suggest you come inside. Otherwise, you might just barely miss her.”


He heard the sound of the intercom cutting off followed by the sound of the entrance unlocking. From the multiple metallic noises, it seemed multiple types of locks were used. The cat looked surprised by the fairly brutal noise.

(Should I…really go in there?)

Kamijou looked unsure, but he really did need to speak with Mikoto, so he took her roommate up on her offer.

He passed through the main entrance to find a giant hall. The interior looked like a place nobles would live in. The walls and ceiling were mostly white and a red carpet covered the floor. He thought it might just have been nouveau riche tastes, but he also had a feeling that an intruder would greatly stand out with that coloration.

He wasn’t sure if the residents were merely well-behaved or if the building had good soundproofing, but the area was wrapped in a calm silence like a shrine or a temple. Kamijou ignored the corridors stretching off to the left and right of the entrance hall and headed for the staircase in the center of the hall that led to the second and third floors. According the mailboxes, Mikoto’s room was Room 208. Kamijou guessed that it was somewhere on the second floor.

He climbed the stairs and walked down the second floor passageway on the left.

He found Room 208 almost right away. The number was displayed on the wooden door in gold numbering. The cat stared at its reflection in the polished door and Kamijou felt it was like the door to a hotel room. However, there was not an intercom on the door inside like in a hotel.

Kamijou lightly knocked on the door and a voice responded.

“Come in. It isn’t locked, so you can open it yourself.”

He opened the door and the inside was like a hotel room as well. There was a door to what was likely a unit bathroom immediately inside and there were two beds, a side table, and a small refrigerator further in. There was nothing like a closet, so it seemed all personal items were kept in the giant suitcases next to the beds.

Despite being in her room, Shirai Kuroko still had her hair up in pigtails. She was still wearing summer clothes, so she looked a tad unnatural sitting on the bed.

Shirai must not have been very interested in animals because she did not look at the black cat in Kamijou’s arms.

(But y’know…)

Kamijou looked around the room again. Even if her roommate had given him permission, he still felt awkward being in a girl’s room when she wasn’t there. Seeing how he was acting, Shirai Kuroko laughed a bit.

“Sorry. This room is really only to sleep in, so it is not really made to entertain guests. Please just sit on the other bed while you wait for onee-sama.”

“…No, I can’t sit on her bed without permission.”

“Do not worry. That is my bed.”

“Then what the hell are you doing rolling around on someone else’s bed!? Are you some kind of pervert!?”

“Mh. You cannot just call people perverts like that. Everyone has things they could never tell people about but that they consider to be perfectly fine in their hearts. You know, like putting a girl you like’s recorder in your mouth or stealing the saddle to her bike.”

“I don’t do things like that! How can you pervert such pure feelings like that!? First Mikoto and now you! Is this the true face of the ‘high class lady’!?”

Despite Kamijou’s exclamation, Kuroko merely puffed out her cheeks as if she refused to accept what he was saying.

(Wow. Mikoto’s school life must be like a battlefield.)

Kamijou leaned up against the wall.

“I assumed you were her underclassman because you called her “onee-sama”, but I guess you’re actually a classmate.”

The cat started struggling because it wanted to check out the small space under the bed, but Kamijou did not allow it to escape his arms.

“No, no. I am most certainly onee-sama’s underclassman. I merely had her previous roommate leave…in a completely legal way of course.”

Kamijou’s face stiffened in fright and Kuroko continued to speak.

“…Onee-sama has a lot of enemies. I suppose that is the fate of those with great power, but don’t you think it would just be too tough for her to have a traitor sleeping in the same room as her?”

“…”

Kamijou fell silent and the cat stopped struggling and looked up at his face.

“So,” Kuroko said while looking at Kamijou, “are you the gentleman that has been having frequent disputes with onee-sama?”

“?”

As Kamijou had no memories, he wasn’t really sure. It seemed Mikoto was some kind of an acquaintance of his from before, but he didn’t know what kind of relationship it had been.

Kuroko glanced over at Kamijou’s curious look and she sighed.

“…If not, that’s fine, but I was just hoping to get a look at the person who has been supporting onee-sama.”

“Supporting?”

“Yes. She may not be aware of it, but everyone can tell that she happily mentions this gentleman at meals, during baths, and while going to sleep.” Kuroko sighed again. “…And yet she has someone who wants to be her ally right here. Her face makes it look like that is the one place for her in this world. Whoever it is has left quite an impression on her.”

Kamijou looked on with a puzzled expression as Kuroko started to get slightly contrary.

“…? But is that really the kind of person she is? It seemed to me like she was always standing in the center being the leader.”

“That is exactly why. Onee-sama usually acts as the leader, so she can stand in the center of everyone, but she cannot intermingle with everyone. She stands at the top and defeats her enemies, but she cannot avoid making more enemies at the same time. What is most important to onee-sama is someone she can feel on the same level as. That’s how I see it at least.”

“…”

Kamijou recalled the Mikoto he had met in the evening.

She had been selfish and hot-tempered, she hadn’t listened to what he tried to tell her, and she had started biri biri-ing the instant something happened. However, he had a feeling her shoulders had been quite relaxed. It was as if she were stretching after having a constant great weight removed from those shoulders.

The afterschool walk with Kamijou had been a safe zone for Mikoto.

Her smile had been believably honest and almost too defenseless.

But…

Was that really true? Was being next to Kamijou the only time Mikoto smiled? Was there no possibility that she was simply an abnormal person who could easily smile and talk casually with Kamijou despite seeing the Sisters killed before her eyes?

Kamijou thought about it for a bit and felt the urge to vomit.

Index v03 145.jpg

(Why can’t I just trust in her?)

“I’m sure onee-sama ended up acting like that without realizing it,” said Shirai Kuroko as she slightly narrowed her eyes.

Her voice sounded like she was dreaming of a position she herself could never reach.

“When she does realize it, she most likely gets embarrassed and becomes more aggressive than is necessary.”

Kamijou’s breathing stopped for an instant.

He had just thought of Mikoto as scary and then he felt he himself was pathetic for finding her scary. However, he still could not stop himself from feeling that way about her. If his guesses were correct, then Mikoto knew about the experiment and knew the Sisters were being cruelly killed and yet she was still cooperating with it.

And she had walked next to him smiling despite knowing all that.

A strange metaphor appeared in the back of his mind. He envisioned her chowing down on food that was on the same table as smashed up organs.

Kamijou did not want to think of Mikoto as being that kind of person.

He hesitated to ask her about the experiment.

However, he could not just leave Misaka Imouto in that situation either.

Because of all that, Kamijou no longer knew what to do.

And just as he was thinking through all that, he heard footsteps coming down the hallway outside the door. The black cat looked up.

A sticky sweat appeared on Kamijou’s palm.

(Is Mikoto back!?)

That was supposed to be what Kamijou wanted, but for some reason he was assaulted by intense nervousness and unease. His heart beat with odd strength and irregularity.

Kuroko listened for an instant and then jumped up from the bed.

“Oh, no. That sounds like the dorm supervisor making her rounds!”

“…Hah?”

Kamijou was taken aback by that unexpected comment and Kuroko waved her arms about.

“Wh-what do we do? This will get very bad if the dorm supervisor finds out about you.”

“You seem awfully sure. Can you tell just from the footsteps?”

“She is dangerous enough that you need to be able to tell it’s her just from her footsteps. Anyway, she is an evil existence that checks on people’s rooms without warning, so you need to hide under the bed.”

Kuroko suddenly started pushing on Kamijou’s head to force him under Mikoto’s bed. The cat mewed in dissatisfaction.

“Ow! Wait, dammit! I’m not gonna fit in that space!”

“It is not normal for a gentleman to be in Tokiwadai’s dorm! Ahh, this is a pain, so I’ll just teleport y-…huh? Why won’t my power work on you!?”

“Oh, that’s probably Imagine Breakermy right hand. It-….ow! Listen, damn you!”

Eventually, Kamijou and the cat were stuffed under the bed like luggage being stuffed into a car’s trunk. Surprisingly, the area below the bed had been cleaned nicely, so there was no dust.

(But they wear their shoes inside here, so there’s really nothing different about this than pressing my cheek up against the ground outside!)

Not only was the area under the bed cramped, but something was already there. Kamijou was being pushed into a large stuffed bear about as tall as he was.

Just as Kamijou was considering pushing the bear out of the way, he heard the door open without even a single knock. He heard a low female voice.

“Shirai. It is time for dinner, so get down to the dining room. …Where is Misaka? I have received no notification of her being away and roommates are responsible too when someone breaks curfew, so I hope you do not mind receiving a demerit.”

Apparently, it really was the dorm supervisor.

He was in a rather hopeless situation, but he was somehow relieved. He was relieved that it had not been Misaka Mikoto that had entered the room.

He then heard Kuroko speaking.

“Oh, I believe she had rather urgent business, so she did not have time to submit a notification. I believe in onee-sama, so I cannot accept a demerit.”

It seemed the dorm supervisor pushed Kuroko out of the room. Kamijou waited tensely under the bed for a bit. He could not tell what was going on while under the bed and it would not be too surprising if the dorm supervisor came back, so he couldn’t just casually crawl out from under the bed.

(Hoo…It’ll probably be difficult to leave the dorm with things like this.)

Kamijou sighed and then looked over at the stuffed bear under the bed with him.

At first he thought it seemed fancier than he would have thought Mikoto would like, but when he looked closer, he saw one of its eyes was covered with an eyepatch, it had bandages wrapped around its entire body, and it had stitches like with Frankenstein. It was more funky than fancy. The black cat in his arms glared at it.

Suddenly, the cat started punching at the bear with its front paws.

Despite being in the desperate situation of being underneath a bed in a girl’s dorm, Kamijou couldn’t help but find the cat punches to be cute. Suddenly, he heard a terrible ripping noise.

“Obwah! D-don’t bring out your claws, you idiot!”

“Fgyah!” the cat yelled as Kamijou pulled the cat away. He then ran his hand over the ripped fabric. He felt something hard inside the stuffed bear. It was like something was inside the bear.

Looking closer, he could see that a few of the stitches had been remade into zippers. It had quite a few small pockets in it. He stroked the bear to check and felt something like a small bottle inside. There might have been perfume hidden inside and the cat had been unable to stand the smell. It seemed Mikoto used the bear to hide the objects that were against school rules. It was almost like someone running drugs.

Given the size of the stuffed bear, Mikoto must have had a lot of things she didn’t want people finding. Kamijou sighed and took his hand off of the bear.

“Huh?”

He then noticed something.

The bear had a thick collar around its neck that looked a bit like a belt and it said “Killbear”. That was likely the bear’s name, but that didn’t really matter.

Looking from above, a zipper around the neck could be seen hidden by the collar. It was made so it could not be opened with the tight collar in the way. Also, the collar had a large padlock on it that doubled as part of the decoration. That zipper was clearly used differently from the others.

Most likely, what was in there was the thing Mikoto least wanted anyone to see. Kamijou didn’t want to pry, but the zipper was still half open. It seemed there was paper inside. The corner of a piece of paper was sticking out of the half open zipper. That was all. There was nothing else to it. Kamijou felt he could easily ignore it. It wasn’t right to dig down into other’s secrets. It wasn’t right, but the paper had the following written in typed lettering.

Test Number 07-15-2005071112-A. Using the Radio Noise Sisters to Shift the Level 5 Accelerator to

Kamijou was in utter shock. Only the corner of the paper was sticking out from the zipper, so he could not read the rest. He closed his eyes. Most likely, there would be no going back once he read that. He was at his last chance to turn back.

The cat let out a menacing hiss to express its dislike of the perfume.

“…”

Kamijou thought for an instant and then opened his eyes.

If he could just pretend he had not seen that, he would not have been there in the first place.

To get the paper out, he would have to completely open the half-open zipper. However, the thick collar with the padlock was in the way. Normally, that would have been a major problem, but this was a stuffed animal. Kamijou merely tightly squeezed the stuffed bear’s neck. The soft stuffing easily changed shape and a space opened up between the collar and the bear. Kamijou stuck his fingers in that space and opened the zipper.

He found a report of almost 20 pages inside. From the date and file name written on the edges of the paper it seemed to be a printout of a file.

“Using the Radio Noise Sisters to Shift the Level 5 Accelerator to Level 6.”

That was the name of the name of the report.

(Level…6?)

Kamijou was confused. He had thought the highest level was 5.

He crawled out from under the bed and started looking over the report.

The report never once mentioned the names of the laboratories or people involved. It was as if it had been made so no real evidence would remain even if the report were leaked out by some mistake.

The report was very technically written, so there were a lot of words that were not in Japanese. Kamijou used his knowledge to its fullest in order to somehow transform it into something he could understand.

“Academy City has seven Level 5s. However, the predictive calculations of Tree Diagram have established that there is a single one of them who is capable of reaching the as yet unseen Level 6. The other Level 5s are either growing in a different direction or their bodily balance would be lost by an increase in dosage.”

There was a list of 7 esper names with various types of graphs, but Kamijou skipped past them.

“The sole person who is able to reach Level 6 is known as Accelerator.”

Accelerator.

Kamijou frowned at that unfamiliar word.

There was a supplementary explanation in a foreign language, but Kamijou skipped past it as he could not read it.

“Accelerator is in reality Academy City’s strongest Level 5. According to Tree Diagram’s calculations, he would reach Level 6 after 250 years of undergoing the regular Curriculum.”

Kamijou read the next line in shock.

As reference data, it stated that a few ways of having a person remain active for 250 years were given in a different report.

“We searched for a method that does not require using those 250 year methods. As a result, Tree Diagram led us to a different method than the usual Curriculum. It is based on the fact that use of powers in actual battle quickens the growth process. There have been many reports of those with Telekinesis or Pyrokinesis gaining increased accuracy, so we are going to take advantage of this. By preparing special battlefields and having the battles proceed according to specific scenarios, we can control the direction of the growth gained in the battles.”

Kamijou’s hand froze.

Battle. He felt like that word clicked together with the corpse of the Sister lying in that back alley.

“According to the calculations carried out by Tree Diagram’s simulator, it was determined that preparing 128 types of battlefields and having him kill Railgun 128 times would allow Accelerator to shift to Level 6.”

Kamijou recognized the word Railgun.

You should be more proud of the fact that you defeated me, Misaka Mikoto of the Railgun.

Kamijou figured it must be referring to her, but he felt like the way it referred to her was not quite appropriate for someone who was supposedly cooperating with their experiment.

Kill.

Kamijou’s hands started trembling. His breathing grew erratic and he leaned up against the wall because he felt like the floor was shaking.

“However, we cannot of course prepare 128 Railguns as she is also a Level 5. That is when our attention turned to the Sisters project meant to mass produce Level 5s that we had been carrying out at the same time.”

His heart was beating oddly. He could tell that his body temperature had left his fingertips. The mewing of the black cat shook his brain like a church bell.

“Of course, there is a difference in specs between the original Railgun and the mass produced Sisters. The power of the mass produced model is largely estimated to be around Level 3.”

Kamijou’s heart told him there was something definitively wrong about what was written there.

“According to Tree Diagram’s recalculation based on those criteria, it was determined that preparing 20,000 battlefields and 20,000 Sisters would produce the same result as described above.”

However, they were going ahead and doing things that were wrong based on that wrongness.

“The 20,000 types of battlefields and battle scenarios are explained in a different report.”

Kamijou wondered what was written in that other report.

Twenty thousand ways of dying. By going down the list of the Sisters’ numbers, you could see when, where, and how they would all die. It was simply too repulsive. What Kamijou found most repulsive was not the ones carrying out the killing. It was the fact that the ones being killed were continuing to follow through with the scenario.

…It is impossible for Misaka to raise this cat, honestly replies Misaka. Misaka lives in an environment that is slightly different from yours, says Misaka giving a reason.

What had she been thinking then?

What had she been thinking as she looked at the cat and what had she been feeling when she gave it to Kamijou?

“The method of creating the Sisters was carried out the same as in the original project. A zygote is prepared from the cells taken from Railgun’s hair and growth is accelerated by administering Zid-02, Riz-13, and Hel-03.”

She was in such a hopeless situation.

What had that girl been thinking that lead to her not asking for help?

“As a result, they obtain physically 14-year-old bodies the same as Railgun in about 14 days. As the clones were created from the already deteriorating cells and had their growth accelerated with drugs, it is highly likely that they will have shorter lifespans than Railgun. However, it is estimated to not be extreme enough to affect their specs during the experiment.”

Had the girl been in despair?

Had she been in despair because she had determined that she could not be saved no matter what she chose or how things proceeded?

“The real problem does not lie in the hardware of their bodies. It lies in the software of their personalities. The basic information in the brain such as language, motion, and ethics take form from the ages of 0-6. However, the Sisters only have 144 hours for that due to their abnormal growth rate. It is difficult to teach them by standard methods. As such, we have used Testaments to install all of that basic information.”

Or…

Had she believed that her dying at someone else’s hands was part of everyday life?

Had she not been in despair, not given up, and merely believed that was the normal environment for her?

“The first 9802 experiments will be performed inside, but the remaining 10198 experiments must be performed outdoors due to the requirements for the battlefield. Due to issues regarding the disposal of bodies, we have narrowed the battlefields down to a single district of Academy City.”

(Fuck that.)

Kamijou crushed the report in his hands.

“Damn them…”

Kamijou couldn’t stand it. He gritted his teeth. No matter how hard you searched for a reason why it was okay to kill 20,000 people for a single elite esper, you would never find it.

However, this insane report still existed within Kamijou’s hands.

The reality before his eyes was so cruel that he wouldn’t have been able to stand it even if it had been fiction.

“…God damn them!”

A certain girl had been created just so she could be killed.

She was a mass of flesh that had been born by taking a nucleus from someone’s cell and implanting it in an unharmed ovum which was then mixed together with a few chemicals in a test tube.

That girl who looked 14 had spent her entire life imprisoned in a cold laboratory where she was referred to by a number instead of a name.

So what?

Even if Misaka Imouto had only been created to be killed, even if she had been created from the nucleus of someone’s cell being implanted in an ovum, and even if she had always lived in a cold laboratory referred to by a number instead of a name…

She was still the person who had reached out to pick up the drinks Kamijou had dropped.

She was still the person who had gotten the fleas off of the calico cat.

It hadn’t appeared on her face, but Misaka Imouto had seemed somehow happy with the black cat.

Those things may not have seemed too special. To normal people, those things meant nothing. They did them without really thinking about it and they looked like nothing other than that.

However, that also meant that Misaka Imouto was a human who could do normal things like normal people.

She was not something that could be referred to as an experimental animal.

“…Why don’t you realize that?”

Kamijou gritted his teeth.

The cat mewed and it resounded throughout the room that held a silence like a graveyard.

Since the report had been hidden there and since Misaka Imouto was a clone created from Mikoto’s cells, Mikoto definitely had something to do with the experiment. Kamijou could not understand how someone could go along with that bloody experiment that could only be accomplished by killing 20,000 people. He tightly clenched his fist without meaning to.

“Huh?”

He then noticed something else.

The report was a printout of a file. At the top left of the copy paper, the date and file name were written.

In and of itself, that was not a problem.

However, there were two barcodes along with those things. They were like the barcodes on the back of a book and there was one right above another.

“…”

Academy City had various types of network terminals and they all had different security ranks. For instance, a cell phone was Rank D, a computer in a library or at home was Rank C, the information terminals that teachers used were Rank B, the specialized terminals in research facilities were Rank A, and the secret terminals used by the board of directors were Rank S.

They connected to the same network, but a Rank D terminal could not access Rank C information.

This did not create a kind of ruling class or anything. It was simply that the ones managing the network did not want students to be able to access data on final exams or health examinations.

(Wait a second. These barcodes are…)

Kamijou looked at the barcodes at the top left of the report. He was pretty sure that the top barcode was the terminal ID and the lower barcode was the data ID. Similar to the barcodes on a box of sweets, it was a bunch of black and white stripes with numbers lined up below.

The top one, the terminal ID, was 415872-C.

The bottom one, the data ID, was 385671-A.

(That’s odd.)

The terminal rank was C, but the data rank was A. That should have been impossible. If Mikoto had obtained that report via a proper route, she could have just used a Rank A terminal in the laboratory.

That meant she had not obtained the information via a proper route.

Hacking. No, he thought it was actually called cracking when information was being spied on rather than destroyed. He didn’t really know too much about that kind of thing, but it didn’t really matter. What was important was that Mikoto had not obtained the report via a proper route.

In other words, Mikoto may not have been cooperating with the experiment.

“…”

Kamijou looked back over the report.

As he flipped through the pages, he suddenly felt a piece of paper that was thicker than the others. To find out why it felt different, Kamijou pulled that piece of paper out from the report.

It was a map.

The map displayed all of Academy City. It was folded up, but when spread out it was as big as a bookshelf. It had been stuffed in the middle of the report and was made of extremely thin paper, so Kamijou had not noticed it until then.

The map included the location of the back alleys and buildings making it rather detailed. And there were X’s written in red marker in various places on the map.

“…?”

Those marks seemed quite ominous, but the map did not give the names of buildings.

Kamijou pulled out his cell phone. It had GPS functionality just like a car navigation device. Kamijou looked at the X’s on the map and looked up their coordinates on his cell phone. When he magnified it, the name of the buildings came up on the map displayed on his cell phone.

“Kanasaki University Muscular Dystrophy Research Institution.”

(Muscular dystrophy?)

Kamijou was confused. Muscular dystrophy was a type of incurable disease. Simply put, it was a disease that left you unable to send signals to your muscles and the muscles grew weaker and weaker as they could not be moved.

But what connection did a muscular dystrophy research institution have to do with that report? Still confused, Kamijou checked the names of the other buildings with X’s on them.

“Mizuho Organization Pathology Analysis Laboratory.”

“Higuchi Pharmaceutical Seventh Pharmaceutics Research Center.”

Kamijou was not very familiar with the names of laboratories, but he then remembered something. He recalled the news scrolling by on the blimp’s exhibition display. It had said that 3 research institutions had been evacuated over a two week period. The cat mewed in dissatisfaction. What was it Mikoto had said upon seeing that news?

I hate those blimps.

Kamijou’s breath caught in his throat. There was the map stuck in the middle of the report, the X’s in red marker, and the laboratories all looking into the same disease. If you put together the report, the experiment, and the map, it seemed like it showed the laboratories that were working on that experiment. However, what did the word “evacuate” mean? And what did the red X’s on the map mean?

Kamijou felt dizzy. He did not know why. However, he suddenly had a single question in his mind.

It was fairly late at night, so why had Misaka Mikoto not returned to her dorm yet?

Where was she and what was she doing?

It might have been nothing. She might have steam coming from her head as she got lost in playing a fighting game in an arcade. However, something seemed ominous. The laboratories had been evacuated and there were red X’s on that map as if following them. It was almost as if the buildings had been crushed from the map by those X’s. And the marks were not black, they were not blue, they were not circles, and they were not squares. They were red X’s. What did that mean?

Kamijou had determined that the report had not been obtained via a proper route.

Due to that, he had guessed that Mikoto may not be cooperating with the experiment.

What if Mikoto had refused to cooperate with the researchers?

What if the experiment had continued anyway against her will and she later found out?

What action would she take then?

And if she were taking action to stop the experiment…

“I see…”

If she were taking action for the sake of Misaka Imouto…no, all of the Sisters…

“So that’s it.”

He did not know exactly what Mikoto was trying to do, but there was one thing he could say for sure.

Misaka Mikoto did not think that the experiment was nothing.

He didn’t know what reason she had to put on a smile before him to hide that truth, but Misaka Mikoto did not think that experiment was nothing.

Kamijou Touma could certainly be Misaka Mikoto’s ally.

He had a feeling that waiting around there would not help anything. No, even if that were the best course of action, he could not stand to wait around there doing nothing for even a second longer.

Kamijou grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck and burst out of the room. He gave no thought to the possibility of being spotted. Not caring if anyone saw him, he ran down the hallway, down the stairs, and out the main entrance.



Part 9


It must have taken him quite some time to read the report because the sky was completely covered in the darkness of night.

Kamijou ran through a shopping district at night.

The cat in his arms let out a sick-sounding mew at being shaken around.

Currently, Kamijou had no basis for his actions. He had no idea what Mikoto was doing, he had no idea where Mikoto was, and he had no idea if he should be worried about that. However, the vague situation that lack of knowledge gave him made him feel all the more uneasy. He ran on without knowing anything. It was like he was immersing himself in the action to rid himself of that unease.

He had no particular goal, but he had to search. That contradiction caused him to hurry even more. He had no choice but to blindly run around searching for Mikoto.

But he was also relieved.

He was relieved that he could actually worry about Mikoto again.

Kamijou ran on through a crowd. The blades of the distant wind turbines moved around slowly. Just as he started to think that he didn’t feel any wind, he suddenly stopped.

The blades were spinning despite there being no wind.

A single turbine was slowly spinning about 100 meters away. He found it odd and then a likely explanation came to his mind.

The power generator was actually a motor. The motor had an interesting property. The central coil that was supposed to spin when electricity was used would create electricity upon being spun manually. And the motors would rotate when supplied with specific electromagnetic waves. That was how Academy City’s latest microwave generators worked.

If the blades, and therefore motor, were spinning without any wind, then it must be reacting to invisible electromagnetic waves.

(If I head for that…)

Kamijou adjusted his grip on the cat and cut back and forth through the crowd. The boys and girls in the crowd focused on Kamijou who was disrupting the flow of the crowd, but he did not care. He did not have time to care.

At first the wind turbine had been only slightly shaking making it hard to tell if it was actually spinning or not. However, as Kamijou ran along the street cutting around corners in order to reach that turbine, the movements of the blades grew bit by bit. And past that slowly moving turbine was one moving slightly faster. And beyond that one was one moving faster yet again.

It was as if he were approaching the center of some invisible explosion.

Kamijou continued to run.

He ran to the outskirts of that lightless city as if drawn in by those windmills spinning in the windless night.



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