Toaru Majutsu no Index:Endymion Chapter2
The magician named Stiyl Magnus said, “A Hindu magic cabal has entered Academy City. Its name is the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens. Due to what they stand to gain and their ideologies, they wish to oppose this city.”
Kamijou Touma slowly opened and closed his right hand.
“What was it you said they put on the pillars of the wind turbines? Agni’s Festival Fire?”
“What they have set up on the individual turbines is no more than a single part of what makes up the whole of the Agni’s Festival Fire spell. The network created by these countless circles linking together is the true identity of Agni’s Festival Fire.” Stiyl plainly looked irritated that Kamijou was still confused. “You could say its effect is to greatly amplify the output of the electromagnetic waves that are constantly flying about. If the spell is activated, the area in its effective range will turn into a giant microwave oven. It is unknown at this time how wide that area is.”
Stiyl pointed at Kamijou’s face.
And without hesitation, he said the following:
“And your right hand has destroyed the trap I set to capture them. The cabal has likely detected that something has happened.”
“Then I just need to use my right hand to destroy the spiritual items that make up Agni’s Festival Fire!!”
“I just said it is unknown how far it has spread,” said Stiyl casually. “The only reason they have not done anything yet is because they need further preparations to crush all of Academy City. But they can use Agni’s Festival Fire at any time if they are fine with an incomplete result. And depending on how much they have set up, that ‘incomplete result’ might be enough to roast an entire district or two. The magic cabal is holding back due to greed. They think they can still recover. If the symbols for Agni’s Festival Fire start being destroyed one after another, they will likely decide an incomplete result is better than no result at all.”
“Then what are we supposed to do? If we know Agni’s Festival Fire is spreading even now, we can’t just do nothing.”
“The most effective method was lost thanks to your hand. But that does not mean I have no hints left. The accuracy of the information is much lower, but I have no choice but to rely on it.” Stiyl clicked his tongue before continuing. “I cannot be worried about appearances at a time like this. I don’t like it, but I will be using you as one of the cards in my deck.”
And then the following day arrived.
“Due to the Venus Probe Contest, rockets are being launched one after another from countries around the world.”
“But the hydrazine used for fuel is incredibly toxic, so I am worried about an accident occurring in Academy City when the fuel is being loaded or transported in the front container portion.”
“All drivers should be careful because of the intense light of the rocket launches. It is recommended you wear sunglasses.”
The flow of time was always equal, so today would come no matter what happened the previous day. Kamijou could not sit around sleepily watching TV forever. He had to make breakfast and head off to school.
But even if his schedule continued silently on as normal, his mental state would not always be the same.
“Um, I am sure all of you know the difference between ESP and PK, but we have a midterm coming up soon. I want to explain any of the areas that people often get mixed up.”
The 135 cm female teacher named Tsukuyomi Komoe was stretching up as high as she could to write on the chalkboard, but Kamijou was ignoring her and looking at his right hand.
(According to Stiyl, they can use Agni’s Festival Fire at any time if they ignore the ultimate goal they are working towards.)
“Now, about thoughtography. As the power allows you to learn of distant or future scenes, it seems that it would be categorized under ESP just like precognition. However, the power that affects the film is a physical one, so it is a power that influences an object external to oneself. For that reason, thoughtography is technically not classified as ESP but as PK just like telekinesis and fire creation! That one is often used as a trick question, so be careful! When a power sits on both sides of the boundary between ESP and PK, PK takes precedence in classification!!”
(The district we live in could become a sea of flames at any moment. Everyone could be roasted to death. I have a means of destroying the spiritual items set up on the wind turbines, so why can I only sit around and wait for a better opportunity to arrive?)
Kamijou had no idea where the priest had gotten it, but Stiyl had given him a prepaid cell phone. In other words, Kamijou was waiting for Stiyl to call. It seemed the priest would rather die than exchange phone numbers.
“Also, analog cameras that use film exposure have been on the decline in recent years due to the arrival of digital cameras. This has created the problem of whether espers who display the future on digital cameras should be treated as having the same type of thoughtography! As I just said, the main point of the thoughtography is not the future aspect but the photograph part. So if the method of taking and displaying the photograph is completely different…”
(But this magic cabal in Academy City…what was it called? The Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens, was it? Stiyl said he would find them, but how? What if he doesn’t find them…?)
“That goes beyond just not paying attention! I have been trying to give a final review before the midterm, but…wah! The bell just rang!?”
At the same moment as the bell rang to signify the end of class, the classroom door flew open.
The door made a ridiculously loud noise and then a white nun shouted out.
“Komoe, Komoe!! I want you to teach me about something called ‘electromagnetic waves’!!”
“Why did you come all the way to school, nun-chan!? Ahh! I get the feeling I will not be able to extend class time little by little now…!!”
Index did not want to start talking about magic cabals and Agni’s Festival Fire in the classroom, so she pushed Kamijou and Komoe-sensei out into the hall.
“Kamijou-chan! You are responsible for supervising her actions! And why am I being treated as a member of some strange journey!?”
“That doesn’t matter! I just need you to explain this ‘electromagnetic wave’ thing! Why does it make the TV go zap zap zap and make things explode in a microwave oven!?”
“Televisions do not zap things and microwaves ovens do not make things explode!”
“I see,” commented Kamijou. “I had thought you were being surprisingly quiet for something related to magic. I guess hearing about magic that ups the output of electromagnetic waves just didn’t click with you.”
When the base of the issue was related to science, the knowledge of the grimoires may not have been enough to understand.
“I-I feel like I am being left behind!” exclaimed Komoe-sensei. “And am I just imagining a hint of danger hidden between your words!?”
But as Index continued to pester her, Komoe-sensei began explaining electromagnetic waves and microwave ovens. Kamijou decided she was a truly caring person to actually go through with it.
“Basically, electromagnetic waves are invisible waves. They have a set amplitude, so they can cause a stable vibration in micro-level objects. A microwave oven is a device that applies heat to food by vibrating the moisture in it at high speed.”
“Vibrating the water makes it hotter!?”
Index looked completely amazed. She twisted the faucet for the drinking fountain in the hallway and started slapping the water pouring out back and forth.
But then her expression grew cloudy and she pouted her lips.
“…It isn’t even getting warm.”
“Eh? Um, nun-chan? That is not what I meant.”
“Sigh. I didn’t think you were this stupid, Komoe. I came all this way for help and you were no use at all…”
“K-Kamijou-chan!? Everything I said was correct, wasn’t it!? Do something about this improper assessment!!”
Komoe-sensei was begging him for help, but Kamijou felt the optimal way of handling the situation was to simply watch the situation play out rather than forcing his way into it.
But he did give one comment.
“In other words, the ‘zap zap zap’ of the microwave is a type of lightning. But it burns you instead of shocking you. It would be bad if that happened to everyone in the city, so we’re gonna stop them.”
“I see!! I guess you would be burned if you got hit by lightning! Now that I know that, I can find plenty of similar descriptions in my 103,000 grimoires!! You really are smart, Touma.”
“Huh!? I get the feeling you are heading on without correcting the mistake! And Kamijou-chan, I think you just casually said more dangerous things…!”
Since he did not want to bother with answering her questions, Kamijou mentally pushed Komoe-sensei’s voice aside.
“But Stiyl still hasn’t called. I can’t believe I can’t do anything despite being able to destroy the magic with my right hand.”
“Come to think of it, is this Stiyl person really the type to keep his word and call if something happens?”
Kamijou Touma physically froze in place for a moment, but he finally squeezed the prepaid phone tightly in his right hand.
“That bastard!! Did he have me wait for his call in order to keep me from doing anything else!?”
“He was saying your right hand and tendency to take action were in the way.”
“He headed out on his own when we don’t even know how many enemies there are! This is no time to be worrying about the distinction between expert and amateur! Index, help me out here. We need to find out where that bastard is!!”
“Touma, I don’t think you have any right to complain about someone heading into danger on his own.”
“Eh…um…Kamijou-chan? Kamijou-chaaan!! Everything you have been talking about sounds very dangerous! And how can you possibly start blatantly leaving school right in front of your teacher!? Wait!!”
Stiyl Magnus was pursuing the magic cabal known as the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens.
He might have to continually fight an unknown number of magicians all on his own. And if that fight grew unfavorable for those enemies, they could activate Agni’s Festival Fire that had been set up around Academy City to turn the entire city into a giant microwave oven.
Kamijou had run straight out of school, but…
“Argh, where is that bastard anyway!? Index, can you use your magical knowledge to figure out where they might gather?”
“Hmm… The fastest way is probably to investigate the magic circles making up Agni’s Festival Fire. If the two forces clash, it will be around them.”
“But those circles are set up on the turbines all across the city, right? How are we supposed to figure out which one they’ll focus on?”
“Despite having all those circles, the number of magic users is limited. There is sure to be a center controlling all the others that function as terminals. And anyone who wants to either use or destroy Agni’s Festival Fire will head to the center.”
“So is it something like a host server?”
Index looked confused.
But if all of those circles set up around the city were controlled by a single central point, every single terminal needed to be connected to that center. They might be able to find the center’s location by investigating a terminal.
“But this isn’t like the internet. How does the center send commands to the terminals?”
“…Let me investigate the spiritual item in question.”
Index stared intently at the base of the wind turbine’s pillar.
A magic circle was supposedly drawn there using the fading effect of ultraviolet light. Kamijou could not see the slight difference, but it seemed she could.
“He said this is a Hindu cabal, and it appears this is related to Shiva at the root.”
“Shiva is said to be the god of dance that creates everything that flows through the universe. It is said his great power disturbing the great universe is what causes the stars to move.”
“So does Agni’s Festival Fire use some kind light or power related to the universe as a communications signal? Or is related to the sun and moon? Maybe it uses gravity or solar winds. The scale of this just grew a lot, didn’t it?”
“No, Shiva is a god that rules over everything that flows, whether it is large or small. He is related even to everything nearby such as water and smoke.”
“The things that flow nearby…?”
Kamijou thought for a bit and then looked upwards.
What was it the magic cabal had drawn the magic circles for Agni’s Festival Fire on?
“Does it use the flow of the wind!?”
“Yes. The movements of all of the ‘turbines’ lined up along here are slightly different. And Shiva has a strong connection to Rudra, a god of roaring wind. The center and the terminals likely use the flow of the wind to communicate.”
“Index, can you determine the location of the center from the movements of the turbines?”
“Leave it to me.”
Kamijou followed Index’s lead and they found themselves in business district of District 7. However, this was not a line of giant buildings in which financial activities from around the world were collected. Instead, it was a fairly grimy looking place filled with small multi-tenant buildings.
“The Beehive, hm? It is the perfect place for a hideout.”
“Officially, this area is supposed to be rented out as business facilities, but the tenant review process is incredibly lax. Girls who have run away from home use these places as cheap apartments, people use them as cages for large and dangerous pets, people use them as workshops for creating eavesdropping devices and the like, and cults not recognized as proper religious organizations use them as their home base.”
People came and went from the place constantly, and a lease could be obtained just by visiting a website. Supposedly, the people running it often did not really know who was using the rooms or how.
Plus, people would also break into empty rooms to use them without a lease.
“So, Index, do you know more specifically where the center of Agni’s Festival Fire is?”
“Y-yes. It is in that yellow building over there.”
As soon as Index pointed at the building, orange flames burst from a window.
Kamijou was standing a good ways away, but he still felt an impact on his face like he had been slapped. The sound of breaking glass could be heard repeatedly from all around him.
He would have been in a much worse state had he been at the center of the blast, though.
But what exactly had happened?
“Flames…? Did Stiyl do this!?”
As soon as he said that, Kamijou recalled that Agni’s Festival Fire could produce effects similar to a microwave oven.
Which side had done this?
He could not be certain even of that.
“Not good. We need to hurry, Index!!”
In the time it took Kamijou to run the several dozen meters to the building, several further explosions occurred within the same building. He was very nearly knocked to the ground, but he somehow managed to reach the base of the building.
The sound of someone running across metal could be heard from the emergency staircase.
Kamijou frantically looked in that direction, but whoever had been there was already gone.
But just for an instant, he had seen some long black cloth disappear around the corner.
It had looked like his outfit, but he could not be sure.
Kamijou turned his gaze away from the corner the figure had disappeared around and back towards the emergency staircase.
“He escaped from there?”
Who had it been? And where had the person gone?
Kamijou looked back towards the main road, but then he heard a creaking sound from overhead. He looked up and frantically leaped out of the way.
A sign wrapped in flames had fallen down.
With a heavy crash, sparks flew in every direction.
And then Kamijou started thinking once more.
Should he head towards the main road in pursuit and give up on finding any kind of hint here?
Or should he head into the building in search of a small hint that might not even be there?
(I have no idea if anyone is inside the building.)
At first glance, it appeared he had two options.
(But to look at it another way, that means there could still be someone in there!)
Kamijou made up his mind immediately.
He spoke to Index who had only just now caught up.
“I’m heading inside! I don’t know how far the flames have spread. You wait out here, Index!!”
“What are you saying!? You have no magical knowledge, so you would have no idea what is important if you went in on your own, Touma!!”
In the end, both of them charged into the building.
From outside, it had only looked like orange flames were coming from the windows. But inside, the scene completely changed. The air seemed to burn the skin like in a sauna and over half of their vision was covered by black smoke. The flames had eaten through the thin interior walls and ceiling, so the layout no longer matched the diagram on the wall.
“Index! You need to head back!!”
“But it’s meaningless for you to go on your own!!”
“Then crouch down and cover your mouth with a handkerchief. Try to avoid getting caught in the smoke!!”
The two of them were supposedly inside a fairly small building, but their sense of direction and distance were thrown off so badly that it felt like they were walking through a pitch black forest. It soon became unclear if they were heading further inside or towards the exit.
The one piece of good luck was that it seemed no one had been left behind in the flames.
Had no one but the magic cabal been in the building from the beginning? Or had they or Stiyl used a people-clearing field?
“There’s a rune card,” said Index suddenly.
Something was melted to the wall where she pointed. The other side of the wall had become a sea of flames and the wall might have been as hot as a frying pan. While making sure not to touch it, Kamijou spoke what was on his mind.
“So does that mean it was Stiyl that did this?”
It appeared he had an answer, but that did not change the situation.
Kamijou and Index headed up the stairs.
Smoke travelled upwards, so the black smoke grew thicker and thicker as they approached their destination floor. The heat also seemed to increase. This was clearly not an environment in which humans could stay for long.
“Touma, it’s that room!!” shouted Index as she pointed at a half-opened door.
This would be where the explosion had occurred.
Kamijou kicked the door open while preparing himself for the sea of flames that awaited him on the other side, but he found something completely unexpected when he looked inside.
“The fire…hasn’t gotten here yet?”
The walls, floor, and ceiling of that room and that room alone were pristine. Not only was there no sign of the flames, no smoke could be seen either. Even things like plastic bags that would melt easily had maintained their original form.
(At least no one failed to escape and got caught in the flames. But what is this?)
Kamijou frowned and entered the room, but his right hand destroyed something as soon as he did.
A large amount of smoke suddenly entered the room.
“Touma, I think the explosion itself occurred in this room. But since Agni is the god of fire and lightning, they used those properties to send the flames away from the room! The flames were sent to the other rooms on the same floor and out the window!! They might have used some kind of curse evasion or something!!”
And he had destroyed that.
Which was why the flames and smoke were now entering.
“Dammit. This place isn’t going to last long.”
It did not seem anyone was hiding within the small room.
The place did not even have the bare minimum of furniture. It had a table and a few folding chairs. And in one corner was a square safe about the size of a washing machine.
Instead of further furniture, the walls were absolutely covered with paper. Some were just small memos and some were the size of A2 posters. One was a map of Academy City with red dots all over it, one had some kind of string of numbers on it, and one was a picture of what looked like hieroglyphs with no sense of distance or three-dimensionality.
The memos were not written in kanji or the alphabet. Instead, they were scribbled out in some kind of limply curving script. Kamijou could not read it, but he assumed it was the kind of writing used in India.
He turned to Index for help.
“Is this map of Academy City related to the wind turbines?”
“Some of these are drawings of Hindu gods. But this is…”
Just as Index stretched her hand out toward a scrap of paper on the wall, it grew black.
No strange occult power had activated.
Heat had passed through from the other side of the wall and scorched the wallpaper and the scraps of paper attached to it.
Before Kamijou had time to think, the wall burst into flames.
“Not good! The flames are going to consume this room!!”
“Touma, what should we do? I can use my perfect memory to reproduce that scrap of paper later. If there is nothing else you want here, we should escape as soon as possible!!”
“Wait.” Kamijou thought for a moment. “This is the center of Agni’s Festival Fire, right? If we destroy it, the magic cabal won’t be able to activate the spell. I want to make sure I negate it! Can you tell what is likely the center!?”
“The other wall! There’s a small version of those ‘turbines’ there. It has the same symbol they have used for Agni’s Festival Fire!!”
“I see. The ventilation fan!”
The ventilation fan was barely functioning due to all the black smoke. Kamijou reached up and stuck his right hand inside.
He felt something break to pieces within.
“I destroyed it!”
“Touma, we need to get out of here!”
Kamijou began to head for the exit at Index’s insistence, but then he stopped.
Kamijou looked back through the room.
His gaze landed on the safe the size of a washing machine in the corner.
Since they could not look inside, they could not use Index’s perfect memory to “bring its contents out with them” in the form of a memory.
They would be left with no clue where the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens had fled to.
Kamijou wanted any information they could get that might help them pursue the cabal.
“No, Touma! You can’t carry something that big with you! If you get greedy, you won’t be able to escape the flames and smoke!!”
“I just have to get it out without carrying it with me.”
Kamijou grabbed the edge of the safe with both hands and tried to push it.
It was incredibly heavy, but it was not held in place with any kind of earthquake-resistant latch. Ignoring the damage he did to the floor, Kamijou moved the safe bit by bit as if dragging it.
He was not moving it toward the door.
He was headed for the window.
“Good. No one’s down below.”
“Touma, what are you doing!?”
“Dropping it from the window, of course!!”
The distance from the floor to the windowsill was only about 70 cm, but that 70 cm seemed like hell. The safe was so heavy he thought his fingers would be ripped off. The bones of his waist and lower back felt like they were going to explode. And all the while, smoke was continuing to fill the room.
He somehow managed to get the safe up onto the windowsill and then pushed it off. Once it had escaped the bonds of its own weight, the safe fell straight down.
A tremendous sound of destruction rang out.
Kamijou and Index ran for the door.
“Let’s go, Index!”
They of course could not use the elevator. They headed down the stairwell that seemed to have become a giant smokestack. However, they could not move very quickly because they could not see very well. If they misstepped and sprained or broken an ankle, they would be unable to escape the flames.
It was a horrible time.
It could not have lasted even 10 minutes, but it felt like it had taken years off their lives.
But they had managed to escape alive.
The two practically fell out of the main entrance to the building.
It felt like ages since they had last breathed in a proper amount of oxygen.
“Cough, cough… Dammit. How much misfortune can I run across!?”
Finally, they started to hear the siren of a fire truck in the distance.
“Touma, what do we do now?”
“We check that safe.”
“Do you know the combination? Do I need to write down all of the strings of numbers I saw in that room?”
Kamijou approached the spot where the safe had landed.
It was the old style of safe that had a dial and lever on the door. He tried to spin the dial and it spun easily. Too easily. It seemed the inner parts had broken.
“This thing is really tough, but not tough enough to withstand that impact.”
He pulled the lever.
The door easily opened.
“The contents are still inside, Touma!”
“The attack must have been too sudden for them to retrieve them.”
After grabbing the notebooks and documents inside, Kamijou and Index finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“If these specify another hideout or method of escape, we might be able to lie in wait for them.”
Even if Agni’s Festival Fire was no longer usable, dangerous magicians were still inside the city. They needed to deal with that problem even if it took some time.
But then Index said the last thing Kamijou wanted to hear.
“…Touma, look at that ‘wind turbine’.”
“What about it?”
“It’s moving based on a certain set of rules. Agni’s Festival Fire is still active!!”
“But I just destroyed the center in that ventilation fan, didn’t I!?”
“They may be able to switch to a backup center or they may have a spiritual item that rewrites a terminal as a new center. At any rate, destroying that was not enough to stop Agni’s Festival Fire!!”
“Not good…” muttered Kamijou. His voice soon rose to a shout. “Stiyl physically tracked down and cornered the magic cabal. And the enemy magicians most likely detected that I destroyed the center of Agni’s Festival Fire. They aren’t going to have any leeway left. They might decide to activate Agni’s Festival Fire even in its current incomplete state!!”
And even that incomplete state might be able to roast a district or two depending on how much progress they had made.
Kamijou and Index did not have time to slowly think things over.
In the time it took to explain the situation to the firefighters as witnesses of the fire, some district of the city could be annihilated.
“Let’s go, Index,” said Kamijou as he forcibly moved his weary body. “We don’t have time! If we don’t defeat the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens here, the situation will pass the point of no return!!”
“Go where, Touma!?”
Kamijou spread the documents and notebooks he was holding across the road surface. They had come from that safe. They likely contained information related to the magic cabal, but they did not use kanji or the alphabet. Kamijou could find no clue how to decipher them.
“Index, can you tell what these say?”
“Instructions in case of emergency, choices for escape routes, and means of spotting pursuers… A few different symbols are given here. It seems they can casually draw them out while on the run to inform the others where to go if normal communications are unusable.”
“So if we follow those symbols, we’ll be led straight to the magicians!?”
“No, wait! There are also symbols to say whether something is a trap or not, so it is too dangerous to simply follow them!” Index quickly read through the writing in one of the notebooks. “They have three stages for losing any pursuers. If a pursuer gets too close, they will charge into a crowd and cause a disturbance to send a wall of people in the direction they want.”
An explosive noise roared in the distance
Kamijou and Index exchanged a glance and began running towards it.
As they rushed in the direction of the explosion they had heard, Kamijou asked Index a question.
“Which side is this!? Did the magic cabal do this!?”
“It might have been the Anglican Church,” said Index cautiously. “This people-clearing field is only keeping people from approaching. People outside of it can see and hear the explosion, but they are unable to reach the actual location. This version was likely created to minimize the burden so it can be used on the move!”
But with Index’s knowledge and Kamijou’s right hand, the odds were good they could ignore the restrictions of the people-clearing field.
At any rate, they had to head in the direction of the explosion.
It was unclear which direction Stiyl would head after causing the explosion, but meeting up with him as soon as possible took top priority.
With that thought, Kamijou and Index ran along the asphalt road.
But something happened before they had travelled even 300 meters.
It began with a noise.
It was a small dry sound of something bursting.
The actual event happened immediately afterwards.
Giant flames suddenly spread out above their heads at about the height of a three-story building. A stinging pain spread across their skin, but that was the least of their worries. The damage spread beyond them. The windows on the buildings along the road shattered. A shower of shards rained down.
Coming to a stop would have the opposite effect.
Index’s legs were cramping up, so Kamijou grabbed her arm and forced them both onwards. The spot they had stood in a moment before was swallowed up by flames and glass.
“What was that? An explosion? Who’s targeting us!?”
Kamijou finally turned around once he had found his way to a safe area.
But they did not have time to leisurely discuss the cause.
They heard the same noise as before.
This time it came from an alley to the side. Flames suddenly spewed from a supposedly empty area and blew a plastic bucket and cleaning robot to pieces.
It was a powerful strike, but it did not directly affect Kamijou and Index like the previous one.
“Is their aim not all that accurate?”
And something else had caught their attention.
Just before the explosion…
“Touma, I saw some kind of bluish-white lightning!”
“So even though it’s flames, the method is different from Stiyl’s? Is this the magic cabal amplifying the electromagnetic waves!?”
“There’s that sound like fireworks again, Touma! It’s Agni’s Festival Fire!!”
“Dammit. We need to run!!”
Flames exploded out again and again with only a short break in between. The accuracy was poor, but they had no way of predicting where it would come from next. It seemed it would be difficult to defend against with any kind of shield, so their only option was to run as fast as they could away from that small bursting sound.
“Touma, the source of the explosion has been getting closer and closer to us since the first one. Their aim is improving little by little!”
“If it reaches us, we’re done for…” An unpleasant feeling ran down Kamijou’s spine as he continued to run. “An opponent facing you head on like Stiyl is one thing, but how is this enemy targeting us so well!? We may be chasing after them, but they shouldn’t even know who we are!”
“Touma, you destroyed the center of Agni’s Festival Fire at that building. If that information was automatically sent to the enemy, it would make sense for them to give top priority to destroying you! I do not have enough information to determine whether they were merely informed of the danger or if this is an auto-intercept spell that does not need a magic user!!”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me… But the enemy magicians are on the run from Stiyl, so how could they search out our loca-…?”
Kamijou trailed off because a sudden thought had come to him.
The burning building they had entered before had been the magic cabal’s base.
In that case…
“They might have had some kind of spiritual item that they can remote control. If they are using it to monitor our situation…”
An explosion occurred overhead.
Mixed in with the concrete dust that rained down were the remnants of some kind cloth and wooden sticks.
The parts Kamijou saw led him to guess they came from a handmade model airplane.
“…Can magicians these days use UAVs?”
“U…A…? I don’t know what that is, but this was likely a reconnaissance spiritual item using the symbols of the god Garuda!”
“And I don’t know who or what this Garuda is!”
Even after the enemy’s reconnaissance spiritual item was destroyed in their own blast, the explosions continued to intermittently pursue Kamijou and Index.
It seemed the spiritual item was not needed once the enemy knew where they were.
While they continued to run because they were not allowed to remain still, Kamijou almost groaned as he said, “They can keep targeting us no matter where we run. And the accuracy of the explosions is getting better and better. At this rate, we’ll be cornered!!”
It seemed Stiyl and someone else were still fighting in some other place, because intermittent explosions could be heard in the distance. And it seemed that fight was growing closer to Kamijou and Index.
“…Is an enemy magician being driven towards us?”
“Touma, we will be unable to escape the explosions within 20 minutes at this rate. We need to find and defeat the enemy magician before that happens!”
They did not have time to just stand idly by.
This crossing of paths was probably their first and last chance.
From the intensity of the distant explosions they assumed were being caused by Stiyl, they seemed to be closing in on them. Kamijou wondered if the others could hear the explosions occurring near him and Index.
They were approaching each other without being able to see each other.
“Around that corner!!”
Kamijou tightly clenched his right fist once more and charged around the corner.
That was when something unexpected happened.
He ran into a silver-haired girl of about middle school age who let out that high-pitched shriek. She was wearing a white short-sleeve sailor uniform with a blue pleated miniskirt. Both the shirt and the skirt were very short. Kamijou had the feeling her brown belly and ass would be visible if she simply stood around normally. The girl immediately drew back and dropped the paper bag she held in both hands.
(Not good. She’s going to get wrapped up in-…!)
“No, Touma! A normal person could never continue acting normally within an Anglican people-clearing field!!”
Kamijou was left speechless and then he saw Stiyl pursuing the girl from behind.
The priest would be using the simplified people-clearing field for the area around him. If that girl was not affected by it…
Kamijou heard an unpleasant bursting noise.
“But once you make yourself an enemy, the distinction between expert and amateur doesn’t matter.”
In the next instant, Kamijou was swallowed up by an explosive noise.
Kamijou immediately held his right hand up in front of his face, but he did not have an actual plan. He did not even know what he should negate when faced with an explosion that suddenly appeared out of thin air. If the explosion caused by amplified electromagnetic waves was nothing more than a physical phenomenon caused as a result of what the spell had done, his right hand would be blown off.
However, Kamijou survived.
But not because his right hand had negated the explosion caused by the enemy magician.
The explosion that had occurred right in front of him had not been caused by the nearby girl. It had come from the flame sword held by Stiyl Magnus as he approached from behind her.
He would defeat his enemy.
He had given that priority and sent the shockwave to strike both Kamijou and the enemy magician.
He did not even have time to utter a question.
Kamijou and the magician girl were knocked to the asphalt. Kamijou was shaken so hard he was temporarily unable to tell up from down or remember what had just happened. But with his vision on its side, he managed to see the girl stand up before he could.
He immediately reached out a hand to grab at the girl’s leg, but she stomped on the back of his hand with the other leg. A short cry came from Kamijou’s mouth, but his attempt had not been wholly fruitless.
She must have put a lot of strength into the attack because something fell out of her pocket. It was an electronic device halfway between a cell phone and a data terminal.
The girl looked back at the fallen device for an instant.
But then she gave a cautious glance around the area and ran off. She ran as quickly as she could, leaving Kamijou still collapsed on the ground.
She was going to get away.
As soon as Kamijou thought that, Stiyl raced right past him without speaking a word.
The priest was treating him as more worthless than an insect, but Kamijou would likely have been struck by the girl’s magic had Stiyl not attacked. Kamijou might have been turned to ash had that happened.
When he heard Index’s voice as she frantically ran up, Kamijou finally felt his senses return to normal.
“We need to hurry, Index. The accuracy of the explosions is still increasing. If she gets away, we’re done for!”
As Kamijou brought his hands to the ground to climb to his feet, he felt something under his palm.
He looked down and found a plastic device between his palm and the ground. It was the data terminal from before.
(Since she didn’t bother to retrieve it, she might be able to reset it remotely. I need to get any information I can from it now!!)
With that thought, Kamijou pressed the power switch. But he could get no further because a password screen appeared.
A photo appeared behind the password screen as the device’s background image. Kamijou froze in place when he saw it.
A bad feeling spread across his entire body.
He felt like he had made some great misunderstanding.
He had no real proof and it was nothing more than his own personal conjecture, but Index seemed to agree when she glanced at the small screen.
“Touma, what you are thinking is probably right. For one thing, I can think of nothing this magician could gain by leaving the group and acting on her own. And the Hindi written on the photo means…”
As Index explained in a quiet voice, the device’s screen suddenly went black. A pie chart appeared in the center of the screen which filled up as the device seemed to complete some task. It would not stop no matter what button Kamijou pressed. Once the pie chart was fully filled with the color red, all light disappeared from the small screen. Not even pressing the power switch did anything now.
(So the data was wiped out remotely.)
Kamijou clicked his tongue and tossed aside the data terminal that was now a useless hunk of plastic.
Index said, “The center of Agni’s Festival Fire was moved elsewhere because you destroyed the one in that building’s ventilation fan, but that magician was not using it. She is causing those smaller-scale explosions using the terminals set up on those ‘turbines’, but it seems she hastily put this together. Otherwise, it seems a poor move on her part to only use a single portion of Agni’s Festival Fire when it is powerful enough to roast the entire city.”
“The Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens is the name of a magic cabal, right? Nothing says she’s the only one of them inside Academy City. There might be others.”
“And if those others have control of the center of Agni’s Festival Fire…”
“Then she’s just a decoy?”
As soon as Kamijou said that, his expression grew bitter.
Index nodded and said, “If the main force of the cabal continues on while we chase her around, they will have complete control over Agni’s Festival Fire. If that happens, entire blocks all over of the city could be roasted!!”
“But…” Kamijou hesitated. “Would a decoy really go this far? That magician is almost guaranteed to be captured and she could even end up roasted by the main force’s plan!”
“I do not know the details of the situation, but that is how it seems to have ended up,” said Index. “It is hard for even me to analyze because the structure is related those ‘electromagnetic wave’ things, but Agni’s Festival Fire is not something just anyone can control. By forcibly interfering with it the way she is, that magician has to be feeling pain like there is fire running through her nerves. …And yet she is putting up with it. She must be thinking about this in some way that makes this the best option.”
To protect Academy City from a great disaster, they had to search out the main force of the magic cabal.
But Kamijou and Index had no hint regarding the location of the main force of the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens. Their only option was to capture the decoy girl alive and have her talk.
In other words…
“Not good. If Stiyl doesn’t realize what is going on, he might try to finish this by killing the decoy girl!!”
“Not just that, Touma. Either the magician will be killed by the Anglican Church or she will use Agni’s Festival Fire too much and destroy herself. Those are the only two options. Either way, she will die without telling us anything. The magic cabal intentionally set the situation up that way to ensure their advantage!!”
“God damn all of these people,” groaned Kamijou. His voice then grew to a shout. “How can they choose to die or kill so easily!? The reason doesn’t matter. It’s wrong no matter what reason you have! We can think about what to do next after we save everyone, Index!!”
What Kamijou had seen on that data terminal had not been something complicated and technical. Nor had it been something only someone with magical knowledge would know how to use.
It had been a simple photograph one could find anywhere.
It had been nothing more than a photograph of that girl smiling along with another woman.
According to Index, the words written on it had meant the following:
So that we have the strength to protect each other.
Kamijou and Index belatedly began chasing after the magician girl just as Stiyl was.
Explosions were still intermittently occurring around them. It was unclear how the girl was aiming, but the margin of error was clearly shrinking.
“A subway tunnel…?” muttered Kamijou when he saw where the girl had fled.
It was a single straight path, so it seemed ill suited to losing pursuers. There were also no crowds inside that the girl could try to lose herself within. She must have been too cornered to think about anything like that.
Perhaps she was intentionally creating an unfavorable situation to save her comrades by bringing about her own defeat.
“Let’s hurry, Touma.”
They did not have any kind of light as they had not expected a situation like this, but they had to continue on regardless. Kamijou and Index set foot inside the tunnel that had a lukewarm wind flowing from it perhaps due to the large trains that ran through it.
They had no idea when a train would be coming, so they stayed as close to the wall as they could.
“This is basically a dead end. It’s like she intentionally chose to run towards the edge of a cliff.”
“I doubt the enemy magician would go very far in given the situation, but…”
But the situation changed in an instant.
This was because they spotted a figure further on in the darkness.
They recognized the person who was sitting down and leaning up against the wall.
“Stiyl!!” shouted Kamijou as he approached, but Stiyl only stirred slightly.
Kamijou could only see his silhouette in the darkness. He could not see the details, but it appeared the priest had been injured fairly badly.
Kamijou assumed this was the priest’s usual rejection.
But it was not.
A small bursting sound as if from a small firework could be heard.
An explosion appeared right in front of Kamijou and Index as if creating a wall.
The explosion created a clean wall across the entire tunnel. The level of accuracy was clearly different from when the magician girl was unable to hit Kamijou before. It was obvious this was intended as a wall. It was a warning. The girl was telling them she could swallow them up in an explosion at any moment.
“Her accuracy shot way up all of a sudden!?”
“It’s the wind,” said Stiyl feebly.
He had lost to another flame user. That truth gave Kamijou an even stronger sense of danger.
“The countless terminals making up the network of Agni’s Festival Fire use a Shiva based communications method. Namely, wind. That magician is interfering with the terminals to acquire attack power at an individual level. That is why she must use the wind to acquire targeting information.”
“The flow of the wind is very inaccurate on the streets surrounded by a complex array of buildings. That is what introduced errors into her targeting. But in this single straight tunnel…”
“There is only one path for the wind, so the accuracy of her spell is on an entirely different level!!”
Kamijou had been thinking about it all wrong.
The enemy had not chosen the tunnel in order to escape.
An attacker was silently watching him from within the darkness.
It had often been said that she was poor at grasping the trick to things.
When she constructed a spell, it was poorly optimized and had a lot of needless portions. The large number of pathways did not function as safety measures to prevent failure. Instead, the multiple signs and symbols would compete amongst each other and cause the spell to run out of control.
Even in the infiltration of Academy City, she had failed from the outset.
No matter how perfect it all seemed in theory, unplanned situations had a way of cropping up during the actual event. And because of something she had not taken into account, the spiritual item meant to obstruct the security from detecting her had failed to function. For the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens, she was the single person the enemies on the science side might have spotted.
But the very fact that she often failed was why she had never stood still after stumbling.
She contained the damage to its smallest possible level. By heading back in from a different angle, she could often gain something she could not have otherwise. She was used to making that kind of recovery. She would work as hard as she could towards success, but she would fail in the end. The situation would never progress ideally. It was because she understood that fact that the foundation of her thought process was in accomplishing something even when she tripped.
An assassin from the Anglican Church had arrived before they had finished setting up Agni’s Festival Fire.
If they had simply sat and watched, they would have been defeated before they knew it. The spiritual items for Agni’s Festival Fire would have been destroyed one after another and the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens’ plan would have been destroyed.
In that situation, the best card in their deck had been her.
It was specifically because they had quickly started to fail and be exposed that her role as a decoy had grown so important. Her value temporarily shot up when she could draw so many enemies away.
That was why she had chosen to do so of her own free will.
The higher ups of the cabal may have been holding their heads in their hands at her decision to head off on her own, but they would likely accept it in the end.
(This is fine.)
She thought silently in the subway tunnel.
(What matters most is profiting in the end. Any debt on the way does not matter. That is why I will give up everything here to create the opportunity for a great gain.)
Most likely, they would end up cornered in the long run even if she won the battle here. A flashy battle would cause an attack by the full force of Academy City’s law enforcement. And even if they destroyed Academy City, more magic side assassins would come.
That was what it meant to have one’s identity revealed.
Now that it was clear she could not escape unscathed, what did she need to do to gain the most? This was the stage where that sort of thought process was necessary.
She could not regroup with her comrades.
With no backup, she would be defeated eventually.
In that case, what was the best point to be defeated at?
She needed to protect her comrades.
She needed to protect her older sister.
If it was her best means of doing that, she would allow herself to be defeated without hesitation.
(The longer I keep them after me, the longer my sister and the others can move freely.)
Agni’s Festival Fire was not originally something she could control.
However, she knew the enemy had interfered with the spell by adding their own magic circle on top of its spiritual item.
She learned from her mistakes.
She took advantage of any unplanned situations.
Ironically, the irregularity the enemy had hoped to defeat them with had actually given her power.
(If I am utterly defeated after I buy as much time as possible, any hint leading to my sister and the others will disappear. That will ultimately lead to our victory. It has to!!)
She was assuming her own defeat would come, but the best option for the moment was defeating the currently gathered enemies. She brought her focus to the Agni’s Festival Fire she had interfered with.
She used the wind to aim.
In the complex structure of the city, the flow of the wind had been disorderly. That had thrown off her aim, but that was no longer an issue.
In the single, straight pathway of the tunnel, the flow was perfectly stable.
Her aim would be perfect.
Her biggest fear had been that her enemies would be too cautious to carelessly enter the tunnel. If the enemies sealed up all the entrances and injected some kind of gas or bacteria inside, there was nothing she could do.
But that risk had already been eliminated.
The enemies may have gained a false sense of security due to her poor aim before.
That had not been intentional.
But she would use that mistake to its fullest.
She knew very well that, no matter what happened on the way there, the last person standing would be the victor.
“You have no options left.”
She had an accurate grasp of the enemies’ locations.
A single shot would be enough to take down a flesh-and-blood human. And if that was not enough, she could fire again and again. She could create the same explosion every few seconds and she could accurately strike no matter where they might run. No matter what hidden skill the enemy had, they could not stand up to a string of accurate explosions.
“Whether you continue forward or fall back, you will be blown to pieces!!”
She did not hesitate.
As she muttered the spell under her breath, the explosion mercilessly attacked the enemy.
The wind blowing through that single, straight tunnel would not be thrown out of order.
And if the magician girl used that stable wind to aim, Kamijou could not escape the flames of her Agni’s Festival Fire.
He doubted he could use Imagine Breaker in time against explosions that suddenly appeared out of thin air.
And Kamijou’s body was not reinforced magically or otherwise, so if even one of them struck him directly, there was a very real risk that he would be blown to pieces.
The situation was hopeless.
And on top of that, the enemy had no reason to hesitate.
An explosion roared within the tunnel.
That finishing blow came much too easily. Even with an overwhelming advantage, the enemy did not let down her guard. She did not allow her opponent even the slightest chance for a counterattack. This was the attack of an expert.
He should have died.
There was nothing those on Kamijou’s side could do. He should have simply been swallowed up by the explosion.
“Wh-what?” uttered a girl whose face was made visible in the darkness thanks to the light of the flames she herself had produced.
Despite her supposedly perfect aim, the explosion of flames had missed.
Kamijou Touma still stood.
She once more used the Agni’s Festival Fire she was interfering with. But this explosion did not hit either.
It was not that he was defending against it in some way.
The explosions of flame that should never have missed were appearing in the completely wrong place. Her basic assumption of perfect aim had fallen apart.
“What did you do…? There is no sign of any further intervention with my spell. But then there should be no error in the aiming…!!”
“I didn’t do a thing to your spell. I wouldn’t know how if I wanted to,” said Kamijou with a small smile and a hand on the tunnel wall.
His unconcerned demeanor robbed all calmness from the girl’s thoughts.
“You’ll know soon enough.”
And he was right.
A change came over the flow of the dust thrown into the air by the explosions. It should have flowed stably along the path of the subway tunnel, but it did not. It was swirling around and a lot of it was being sucked up towards the walls near the ceiling.
“What…? You don’t mean… Smoke vents in case of fire!?”
“This may be a tunnel, but it isn’t a mine. Of course they take measures for emergencies.”
Kamijou removed his hand from the wall.
The emergency button for the smoke vents appeared from under his hand.
“No matter how powerful an attack is, it’s meaningless if the attack doesn’t hit. I knew all too well from the previous attacks that the shockwave alone was not enough to blow me to pieces.”
The girl sent an explosion not at Kamijou but at the wall nearby.
Kamijou immediately grasped what she was after, but he walked forward without rushing.
“It’s no use. This is an emergency system in case of fire. It’s made so the power line and cables can’t be destroyed so easily.”
His pace quickened from a walk to a run.
He charged forward.
The girl immediately tried to move backwards, but she quickly realized that was a foolish plan. A single, straight tunnel was ill suited for escape. With no obstacles, it would become a chase based purely on leg strength. And she could easily guess that Kamijou would be the faster of them due to his build.
She could not win with the cards in her hand.
The girl quickly came to that conclusion. She reached a hand around to her back and pulled a gold-colored blade from her blouse.
But Kamijou did not stop running.
He did not show any unneeded caution that would only give his opponent more time.
As he charged on, Kamijou said, “I know what you’re doing.”
The girl’s body stiffened and she tried to bring the blade to her own throat. Winning or losing here was a minor issue. What mattered to the girl was buying enough time for the main force to escape and to eliminate any hint leading to them.
As he was aware of that fact, Kamijou did not hesitate to speak.
“I know what you’re doing. And I won’t allow it. I won’t!!”
The girl was actually able to stab the blade into her neck before Kamijou could stop her.
He was unable to stop her from sending the pointed tip digging into the skin.
But that was as far as it got.
In the next instant, Kamijou’s right hand reached the gold weapon in the girl’s hands. And the instant his extended fingertips touched it, the blade shattered. It was completely destroyed before it could make it any deeper than the skin.
Kamijou grabbed the girl’s collar with both hands and slammed her back forcefully against the nearby wall.
“Will you admit defeat here or do I need to punch you first? It’s your choice,” said Kamijou as the girl struggled to breathe. “Whatever happens, you aren’t getting a chance to end this by dying. Keep that in mind as you choose.”
Stiyl restrained the girl magically. He placed a few rune cards on her body which prevented her from refining magic power.
“She was likely a decoy meant to buy time,” said Kamijou when Stiyl had finished his work. “The main force of the magic cabal is elsewhere. What do we do now?”
“For now, we need to put together a plan to prevent her from escaping or being rescued by her comrades. …Of course, the simplest method would be to kill her here.”
“We can’t do that!”
“If you know of a reason why I need to listen to what you say, I would like to hear it.”
“I’m the one that won here. If it had just been you, you would have died. Do you have anything to say to that?”
Stiyl clicked his tongue.
And then he spoke disinterestedly.
“Then we need to lock her up in some random place. Since she is restrained, it does not have to be a specialized detention facility, but we cannot just let her go free. We also need to get information on the Gate of the Gods Come from the Heavens from her.”
“What if we report her to Anti-Skill?”
“That is the first place the cabal will think to look. If they learn of the girl’s capture, they might attack.”
“So as long as the cabal would not think to check there, it can be anywhere?”
Stiyl let out a large sigh when he heard that.
“Well, if you’re willing to tell an enemy magician where you live, that’s fine by me. It might earn you an early grave, but that’s no concern of mine.”
Kamijou got the feeling he must have made a ridiculous suggestion, but he could think of no other possibilities.
While making sure not to touch her with his right hand, Kamijou grabbed the restrained girl with his left hand. He held up his other hand. He could see taxis driving along, but almost all of them were already full.
“I doubt remaining silent will help anymore. Then again, I don’t understand any of the technical stuff.” Kamijou spoke to the girl as he waited for a taxi. “There was a photo in your cell phone. …I don’t know who that was, but it’s someone important to you, right? I won’t say anything about that.”
The girl gave no response.
Finally, an empty taxi noticed them and drove up. The backdoor opened automatically, so Kamijou began to push the girl inside.
When he did, she muttered, “I wanted to protect my sister.” Her voice sounded feeble. “Was that so wrong?”
“There are plenty of ways to do that,” replied Kamijou. “At the very least, there are a lot more ways than you think there are that are better than this.”
The girl raised her head slightly.
She started to move her lips as if to say something.
A small unpleasant bursting noise could be heard.
It happened so suddenly, Kamijou did not have time to react.
An orange explosion occurred right next to the girl.
All the glass in the taxi shattered and one side was horribly dented in. Kamijou and the girl were both thrown to the ground. Due to the damage done to the car, its horn began blaring meaninglessly. The driver was yelling something, but Kamijou paid no attention to him.
Still on the ground, he yelled to Stiyl.
“What happened!? I thought you restrained her!!”
“The restraining effects are still active! She cannot refine magic power. There is no way she could have used the spell!!”
“Touma, it wasn’t her! Another magician tried to use Agni’s Festival Fire to silence her!!”
Kamijou felt a thick liquid on his palm.
A dark red stain could be seen there, but it had not come from him.
He frantically got up so he could check on the girl’s condition as she lay on the ground, but he was an amateur. All he could tell was that she had blood flowing from her head and that it was not simply a scratch.
The girl lay sprawled out on the ground with no strength in any of her limbs, but she still managed to speak.
A small smile appeared on her face.
She smiled despite having been betrayed by the allies who she had risked her life to protect.
“This will surely protect my sister… Good…”
“That isn’t true,” said Kamijou through clenched teeth. “I just said there are plenty of ways of doing that! Helping out with that ridiculous plan is not the only way to protect her!! Why can’t you tell that the best way to save someone is to have them leave that world of kill or be killed!?”
Despite Kamijou shouting in anger so nearby, the girl’s reaction was dull.
Kamijou was not even sure if his words were reaching her.
He slammed his fist against the ground and pulled out his cell phone. He was of course going to call an ambulance, but then Stiyl spoke up.
“You are free to do whatever you like, but they will likely send an assassin if they determine they failed to finish her off. To be blunt, any attempt to save her will likely be useless.”
“That just means you need to capture that assassin or whoever they send. You can view this as a trap with her as a hostage if you wish! In the meantime, I’m going to focus on saving her life!!”
As he waited for the phone to ring on the other end, Kamijou looked down on the girl collapsed on the ground.
He looked at the wound on her head, grimaced, and spat out some words.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. How can this result be ‘good’?”