Toaru Majutsu no Index:GT Volume1 Chapter4
Chapter 4: Interaction with Another World, the Starting Point — “R&C OCCULTICS Co.Ltd.”
Magic was a supernatural thing that should have been hidden from the world at large and carefully managed.
But after several large battles, doing so had become difficult.
And then a new disaster struck.
“Wouldn’t you like to know your compatibility with your crush? Fill in this online form with your names, birthdates, and your troubles and a professional fortunetelling group will accurately calculate your fortune together.”
It had appeared on the internet.
No one knew in what country its headquarters were located.
Nationality could be a vague matter when it came to giant IT companies, but in this case, no one could even explain where such an enormous company with so much capital had come from.
“Having trouble finding a new home? Then why not have the land or building assessed for you? Send us plans of the model room and a professional appraiser will calculate out your quality of life there based on the cardinal directions and ley lines.”
It had likely begun as a fortunetelling site.
They had gathered countless people’s personal information in the name of helping them with their troubles. And in the case of romantic compatibility, they would receive private information on a third party without their consent, so it was a very efficient method. The collection of people commonly known as the magic side was powerless to stop the giant corporation as it spread like an amoeba.
After all, they had no experience with someone so loudly announcing the existence of magic but also remaining entirely hidden.
And while the science side was in control of the internet, they could not properly detect the threat. A site producing firearms or poisons would be one thing, but they saw no issue with a fortunetelling site that sold occult goods.
So they did nothing about it.
R&C Occultics was growing by the second and it ignored the barriers between all things while setting its sights on the entire world.
“Bad luck is no reason for concern. With the right information, you can ward off bad luck. Ordinary herbs are all you need to purify that bad energy! Click the following link for a witch’s potion that only requires plants available for purchase at any florist and a siphon coffee maker.”
For example, in Academy City.
Inside and outside, science and magic. The attack used the internet to ignore those divisions altogether.
How many people had used their phones on this one day?
While they were smiling and heading out to meet someone, what was it they were actually viewing on that small screen?
“Tip: Answer just 10 simple yes-or-no questions and, like magic, this AI form will accurately pinpoint what is troubling you and find the perfect witch’s potion you need right now. Help us teach the AI with your input!”
That unique environment was already rooted in the supernatural and there were obvious power differentials between people. The powerless espers and even some of the adults would have a complex about that. Students made up 80% of the population and adults only 20%. Plus, the children had powers much greater than any “mere adult”. Not all of those adults would have accepted that state of affairs.
If only they too had some kind of power.
And once they started thinking that way, what if they came in contact with R&C Occultics…and thus with magic?
“Magic is nothing difficult. With a third-generation 3D printer that can do colors, you can create your own spiritual item – such as a Symbolic Weapon for one of the four elements – at the click of a button. A list of products and blueprint data for specific models of printer can be found here!”
A great number of people would have found this information.
There were no statistics on how many of those would actually act on it.
“Basic breathing and meditation techniques can be easily learned with simple training sessions that only take 10 minutes a day. The lecture videos are divided out by skill level and can all be found here for free! You can simply watch for now, but make sure to consider purchasing any equipment you deem necessary.”
But Academy City’s espers were different from normal people, so it was not hard to imagine there would be devastating malfunctions and side effects if they attempted to use a different and unknown form of the supernatural. Those who failed to consider that simple fact may have already collapsed in a pool of blood in their dorm rooms.
And what about the adults?
They were still normal people, so what would happen when they used the supernatural for the first time?
“If you are dissatisfied with anything about your life, why not take matters into your own hands?”
True chaos was beginning.
The division between magic and science was no longer the obvious one between inside and outside Academy City.
It was now the adults and the children.
The divisions of hostility took a marble pattern within a single city.
And it was all the work of some unknown figure who had to be laughing somewhere out there.
“When the world cheats you, cheat right back. R&C Occultics will supply you with true magic to support your efforts to achieve a better life!!”
Flames roared as they consumed oxygen.
“Feuerel. Construct a fictional port between Au and Cu, aka Path 14.”
Kamijou obliterated the thrown fireball with his right hand, but that was not Director Neoka Norito’s only weapon.
Mikoto clicked her tongue and raised her hand, but not toward Neoka himself.
She messed with one of the VTOL fighters stopped elsewhere on the rooftop and used the main flaps and the jet engine to forcibly turn it around without a specialized towing vehicle. Then she made a horizontal sweep with the 20mm autocannon installed on the fighter craft.
However, the man in a fancy suit still did not bat an eye.
“Erdeel. Construct a fictional port between Sn and Fe, aka Path 9.”
The ground was as flat as an aircraft carrier flight deck, but it suddenly swelled up and a thick rock shield appeared.
He had now used fire, water, wind, and earth.
“You’ve got as many options as a video game, don’t you!?”
“Who said I am limited to those four? Schmetterlingel Construct a fictional port between Au and Hg, aka Path 16.”
A swarm of glowing butterflies appeared out of thin air. Unlike before, they could not even guess what kind of attack this was. Were their wings as sharp as razors, did they scatter toxic scales, or did the patterns on their wings confuse the eye and knock you out?
The swarm took the form of a torrent as they flew toward the VTOL craft Mikoto had hijacked and swallowed it up. The machine visibly rusted over, corroded, lost its shape, and exploded. And after that detour, the butterflies flew toward Kamijou’s group once more.
What did they actually do?
There was no need to figure it out. Mikoto repeatedly launched lightning spears from her bangs, realized those only slipped unnaturally through the swarm without any effect, and then pulled an arcade coin from her skirt pocket.
Whatever these things were, they could affect metal badly enough to eat into and destroy a fighter craft.
She flicked the coin up with her thumb and then unleashed a Railgun that traveled at thrice the speed of sound, scorched the air, and destroyed everything in its path. The glowing torrent of butterflies was blown away and eradicated.
“How?” Kamijou gulped and unintentionally raised his voice while trembling in fear. “How did you get this!?”
“I thought a high schooler would be more up to date on the latest trends. You can access this from anywhere now. Although I will admit I was the one who gave it a little push by having my cracking servers make enough parallel posts to bring it to the top of the Japanese language trending lists.”
Kamijou was flabbergasted.
The terms this man was using were something even an amateur like him could understand.
“Anyone can do this now.”
It couldn’t be.
This was not something he had found in an ancient library or deep in some ruins.
“The tides are turning.”
“Please tell me you’re joking!! This can’t be true!!”
This was worse than leaving your bankbook out on the roadside. Was he saying this kind of thing had been put out there where anyone could see it!?
“This began when my automatic investment algorithm detected signs of something interesting brewing, but if I claimed it as my own, it would be too easy to trace it back to me. So I spread it around as a form of camouflage. Just like it is much ‘safer’ to use an ordinary mass-produced knife than a fearsome gun brought in from overseas. Ubiquity is excellent at throwing off pursuit.”
Index was focused on a different aspect of this.
If Neoka Norito really was using magic, then she would know where to look much better than Kamijou Touma or Misaka Mikoto.
“Exodus?” She was Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the grimoire library who had memorized at least 103,001 grimoires, and she opened her mouth to reveal it all. “No, this isn’t even a sanctifying vocalization. Are you simply adding ‘el’ onto the end of random German words to create a random angel each time you need one!?”
“Please, call it Minimum Collision Theory.”
“I do not particularly care if that is only a way to focus your mind properly, or if something occult is actually in the works. I only care that I have a technique that works and that I can use to escape this situation.”
There was no hesitation in the man.
Yet even Academy City espers were always aware on some level of the possibility that they could lose control of their powers. This was proof that he viewed his power differently. He had the fearlessness of a baby who had never touched a hot tea kettle before.
Had he never considered that he would do more than just burn his hand if this continued?
“I agree that it is a silly-sounding method, but history has apparently proven it effective. In a time when angel worship was heating up to the point of ignoring the Son of God, people apparently crudely created all sorts of angels never once seen in the Bible. And it was all ended by…was it Pope Zachary?”
They all heard something akin to a clockwork contraption.
“What is that?” groaned Misaka Mikoto like she was having a nightmare.
The devices that left his sleeves were a lot like assassination handguns. The double-barreled handguns were the size of cards, so they could easily be overlooked while hidden in the palm. These were magical tools known as spiritual items. In place of steel barrels, they had glass containers reminiscent of vacuum tubes, each with a girl smaller than his index finger enclosed within. With two guns and two barrels per gun, there were four such girls in all.
And those mystical girls had halos over their heads.
These guns weaponized the supernatural.
Had he taken inspiration from Maidono Hoshimi, or had he been the one to teach her to control her power like that?
“Lichtel. Construct a fictional port between Pb and Au, aka Path 7.”
His whisper brought a clear change to one of the glass containers. The hair, clothing, and halo of the girl in the sealed space changed in response to the man’s voice.
They became a glowing white light.
“Here it comes, Touma!!”
“If you think you can respond in time to stop light, then just try it.”
The man smiled and then the vacuum tube girl came apart.
She transformed into a massive amount of light that was unleased from the clear muzzle.
And the instant it touched the air outside the glass tube, a tremendous attack shot straight forward.
Neoka Norito was on Academy City’s Board of Directors.
Yet once he realized he could not win if he remained inside the science side, he had reached for the magic found in the outside world.
Such a horrific example of cheating.
But in that case, he could hardly complain if Kamijou cheated in his own way.
“I thought you’d never call, human.”
A blonde girl of only 15cm popped out from within Kamijou’s jacket. She wore a black witch’s hat and a distinctive eyepatch. She wore a thick cape that covered a lot of her body, but the outfit below was as revealing as a swimsuit.
She was a Norse god, albeit a downsized one.
She sat on the boy’s right shoulder and then kicked that shoulder with her slender leg.
That slight stimulation shifted the position of his outstretched right hand.
As a result, his palm accurately caught the warship-class beam weapon that could accurately shoot down even ballistic missiles. Whatever it might be, magic was magic, so his Imagine Breaker could instantly negate it upon contact.
Neoka did something with his fingers and a smoothly curved mass appeared within the vacuum tube that had lost its master. It took the form of a girl who could be dyed in any color.
“That is severely lacking in inspiration,” spat the small girl haughtily crossing her arms. “You have free use of the supernatural at your fingertips and all you do is recreate a warship weapon that can be created with machines easily enough? Your magic is weeping. But what else should I expect from someone without a tragedy warranting engraving a magic name in their heart?”
“Explosionel. Construct a fictional port between Fe and Au, aka Path 12.”
“How is that different from Feuerel?”
Othinus actually sounded exasperated now.
But Neoka did not aim this at Kamijou’s group. The girl became a mass of red, unraveled in the air, and was fired on the ground nowhere near them before triggering an intense explosion.
Othinus did not bat an eye.
“This is a simple adaptation of a sanctifying vocalization. A familiar and tangible metal is used to envision an invisible Sephirah and, much like a woodpecker, an extra ‘nest’ is embedded in the pathways between the tree’s spheres in order to alter the rules of the world. The Sephiroth are guarded by the angels, so is creating a fictional angel supposed to create a fictional sphere? I see. Fair enough. That is very much the kind of spell I can imagine a puny human coming up with. A truly hardheaded and boring type of magic that traps your infinite imagination in the realistic frameworks of metals or elements.”
While Kamijou Touma’s vision was blocked by the flames and smoke, gravity shifted.
“Othinus, what was that exp-whatever it was!?”
“Explosion. It’s pronounced almost identically to the English, you failing student.”
“Hey, I still might not be held back!!”
He had assumed it was some kind of gravity magic, but apparently not.
The helicopter carrier flight deck of a rooftop must have failed to survive the explosion and it was now tilting while falling apart.
He heard two familiar girl’s voices from beyond the smoke.
But he could not reach them.
“Wait, you idiot! Do you want to fall!?”
Or rather, he had his hands full with himself.
He could not keep his footing as the rooftop rapidly tilted and he started slipping down like it was a slide. There was nothing to grab onto with his hands either.
“That foolish villain is surprisingly cautious,” casually stated Othinus from his shoulder. “Eliminating any unknown elements took precedence for him, so he decided to split us up from the grimoire library and Academy City Level 5.”
He slid right off the edge of the skyscraper, but fortunately, he was not thrown out into the empty air. The next floor down jutted out a lot, so he fell into the garden there. The garden was larger than a tennis court, but Neoka’s explosion had left it unrecognizable. This place seemed like it might collapse too.
And there was someone else there.
Neoka Norito had also slid off the rooftop.
“What is that?”
This seemed to be an honest question.
As a member of the Board of Directors and a magician, he was a huge cheater, but now he had encountered something he did not understand.
Which was why he had focused his attacks on it to separate it from the others.
While keeping the two assassination handguns at the ready, he glanced down at the tiny girls loaded in the glass barrels.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that. It doesn’t appear to be one of the filaments I have in the flasks here.”
“This is what you get when a fool tries to use magic without knowing what he’s doing.” Othinus sighed in complete and utter exasperation. “How could you take step one into the world of magic without knowing of the Magic Gods who act as the final goal there? Yes, yes. I’m not getting into the details here, so if you want to know about this god here, you need only look back into the vast annals of history.”
“Othinus, I want to punch this asshole out right this instant and I want your help doing it.”
“Of course you do. If you couldn’t deal with a smalltime guy like this, you would make a mighty poor understander for a god, human.”
She spat out those words, but there was a look of enjoyment in the eyes hidden below her witch’s hat.
Her analyses were not quite the same as Index’s.
Hers were more aggressive and had a way of maliciously tearing down their opponent’s dignity.
“There is nothing original about his magic. It’s really just rehashed Golden stuff. To efficiently control the colorless and formless angelic power known as Telesma, the world’s largest magic cabal invented and split apart the names of 72 angels. What he is using here comes from a verse in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Magicians before the Dawn would extract the text they wanted from Exodus and create temporary angels by adding ‘el’ or ‘yah’ to the end. That is why you will hear a bunch of unfamiliar names in the lists of the 12 angels of the zodiac or of the archangels. This fool’s spell is no more than an adaptation of that. Angel names are simply a way of using high-level calculations to extract specific meaning from the full text, but adding a slight modification to the end of the word isn’t going to give you the full power of that thing.”
“As long as it gives me the power I wish, I do not care about the rest. Format is of no matter to me.”
“Is that supposed to be a reference to 19th century Hermeticism, you uneducated fool? Hermeticism was an attempt to explain all of the world’s mythologies and religions with a single combined theory based on Western ideas, but it was a pathetic attempt that forced their own reasoning onto any words or numbers they failed to understand. The very fact that a god is currently standing before you as an independent entity should be enough to show you that Hermeticism alone cannot explain everything in the world. Or do you intend to continue using that world map that is hopelessly inaccurate when it comes to anything outside of the conception of Europe invented by the Romans? Keep in mind that magic is always advancing.”
In the middle of their conversation, a high-pitched shattering sound shook the air.
The Director had supposedly used his left gun in a surprise attack, but without even uncrossing her legs, Othinus had struck Kamijou’s shoulder with her tiny heel. That stimulation shifted the position of his right hand just enough for him to shatter a steel blade before he even knew what had happened.
As soon as a lead-colored girl’s head stuck out of the vacuum tube, she shattered and transformed into countless razor blades that scattered outwards like a shotgun. Kamijou only realized what had happened after the fact.
“Your weakness is your limited stock of four and the requirement to state their name when you are switching from one to another. The attack we already know is easily dealt with and the movement of your mouth is enough to warn us of a new attack incoming. So no matter how you use your spell, it will never function as a surprise attack.”
“When fools feel cornered, they run to god instead of trying to solve things themselves. I imagine you were that type, but it ends here. A cheaply-bought power will only provide a cheap resolution. What kind of life did you live before this? You should have found some deeper lessons there.”
Othinus said it all while crossing her slender legs on Kamijou’s shoulder.
And she made sure her haughty words tore into the core of the man.
“Why did you choose to resort to magic, former rescue squad member?”
Now it was the boy who felt left behind by it all.
“Yes, human. I can tell from the distinctive way he fires those guns. They look like assassination weapons, but the way he always aims a little high is a habit picked up from firing rescue guns that launch ropes. He is used to aiming toward someone but not at them because he must send a gas balloon into the water near the panicked drowning person so they can grab onto it before running out of strength. By aiming too high, even a missed shot will leave the balloon’s rope nearby, so the drowning person can either grab onto that when it falls or onto the balloon itself when the rope is reeled back in.”
“Shut the hell up!”
The man’s veneer of politeness had been stripped away.
Neoka Norito was the kind of person who would injure himself and feign being the victim to keep Anti-Skill away.
He had received help from a doctor on that air ambulance, but that did not mean he had no medical knowledge himself.
That knowledge would actually increase the suspicions if he had done it himself, so he had wanted someone else to do it so none of his idiosyncrasies or techniques could be seen in it.
“If you had managed to engrave a proper magic name in your heart, you may have made a decent enough magician, but you screwed it up. Having a righteous goal does not always lead to a righteous conclusion. Choose the wrong methods and an attempt to save someone can kill them instead.”
There were some territories in which no one was allowed to tread.
Finally, he spoke in a truly quiet voice.
“I did save them.”
From a logical standpoint, speaking here had no meaning. It seemed odd to Kamijou. But since Othinus had managed to draw these words from him with a single attack, they may have lived in a world other than the magic side. This was a man who had discovered magic without knowing the proper route for such things, so Othinus pinpointing his flaws may have helped pull out whatever was jamming the gears.
So he did not resist.
Kamijou had seen a fair number of magicians himself. They would face the world’s cruelties, gnash their teeth at their own powerlessness, and then reach for the most secret of techniques. Normally, people would not reach for the occult unless they experienced something requiring them to choose to beseech god or to fear him. So the life of a magician may not have been a happy one, but they had all found pride in that life.
No matter how much was taken from them and no matter how stormy a life they had lived, they had always carried that pride with them.
Neoka Norito had reached for that power for a much cheaper reason, so searching his own heart here may have been the first real step he had actually taken on that path.
“I saved so many people. From the flames, from factories full of chemical smoke, and from the eye of the storm of sorrow created by their own rampaging esper power. …And what do you think happened to those people afterwards?”
Kamijou had no way of answering that.
Why couldn’t it be that they lived happily ever after?
Neoka Norito must have believed that to be the case at one point.
But something else had happened.
“They became targets of curiosity.”
This was not at all what Kamijou had expected.
The Director smiled with a sticky look in his eyes and his bizarre guns still aimed.
“If they had evacuated sooner or if they had been more careful, they would not have had to bother the firefighters and the people’s tax money would not have been wasted. Complete strangers criticized them on and on and on and on. …But they couldn’t have possibly prevented it. Some disasters are truly unpredictable and anyone who happened to be there would end up seeking out an expert for help!! I explained that as one of those experts!! But they couldn’t bear it. They were crushed by a responsibility they never should have had to carry. The people we risked our lives to rescue wasted away and finally ‘disappeared’! And you know I don’t mean that literally, I hope. In Academy City, you are trapped within walls covered in countless lenses, so how can someone disappear!?”
Was the visible or invisible side uglier?
Or was it the area in between? Or was there no distinction between the two in the first place?
Kamijou had occasionally heard mention of the dark side, although he had been fortunate enough not to have been directly taken into it very often.
But Neoka’s argument here changed how he viewed that.
The darkness was not just something to be feared; it was also necessary to gently surround people and give people security and sleep. In this digital society with cameras everywhere, no one could physically disappear, so that darkness was especially necessary in this twisted city.
“The darkness was necessary in this city with nowhere to hide!! There must be a dark space beyond prying eyes where people can soothe their wounded minds and bodies before returning to the light once more. I won’t vouch for all of it and I have no interest in letting the dark side take control of Academy City. But still!! There were people who could only find peace of mind in that stagnation!!”
This city had been designed by Aleister, so it made no sense for a territory to chaotically grow to such a large scale if it was truly unnecessary, meaningless, worthless, and valueless.
It was the gentle quiet that surrounded all injured people regardless of social standing. It was the veil that protected the weak from the harsh artificial lights so rudely trying to bring light to every last nook and cranny. It was the dark side. Was the only real problem that some had started using it as a hiding place for wicked research?
This twisted clean freak had targeted innocent Last Order, pushed Maidono Hoshimi onward when she had no choice in the matter, and never done anything to dirty his own hands.
But thinking on it now, that made sense.
Everyone had at least one thing they refused to compromise on.
And this man had never had a way to fight himself.
No matter how much he trained his body, he had never been given a chance to learn techniques he had never before deemed necessary. When he had heard a voice calling for help within the flames or smoke and when he had seen a small hand sinking below the water, he had rushed or dived in no matter where he happened to be. He had physically and mentally trained himself to the limit for that one purpose.
But that was why he had never learned to repel people’s malice.
He had lost much due to that.
He had cried, lamented, and raged.
Wanting to change, he had turned in a different direction and become something that feasted on the city’s malice to use it for his own purposes.
He had gone that far to protect the sanctuary of that dark shade.
And when he still felt fear even then, he had reached for further power.
“So I will protect it,” declared one of the Directors who stood at the top of the city. “I will protect that bedroom full of gentle darkness where the bright sun cannot reach. I will protect that silent cradle where you will never be woken by an unexpected explosion. I will protect that safety net that catches and saves those who slip through the cracks!! It need only be a small portion of the city, but when people reach a point where they want to disappear from this world, there must be a place where they can take their time and rediscover themselves. And I will break any taboo to protect that dark side. I am even willing to become a demon that does not belong in this city of science!!”
This viewpoint also existed.
There were people who viewed the dark side in that way.
When Kamijou Touma heard it all, he doubted he could understand even a fraction of the anguish this man had gone through. He could not even imagine rescuing people only to see them sink down into the quicksand time and time again.
Kamijou Touma did not look away as he spoke.
“Don’t give me that crap.”
He rejected it.
This man had his reasons for doing all this, so it would be rude if the person here to stop him were still having doubts.
The time had come for Kamijou Touma to stand up to Neoka Norito with his words and his actions.
“You said yourself you’re willing to become a demon.”
“So while you talk about eliminating tragedy, you knew from the beginning that you were an exception! You knew from the beginning that you would be sacrificing Last Order to protect the dark side and you knew there would always be people who continued to suffer like Maidono!! You wouldn’t be changing anything. You might think you’re controlling the dark side, but it can’t be that easy!! You’re already being controlled by it!! And the fact that you’re already creating new tragedies yourself is all the proof anyone needs!!!!!”
Kamijou did not know if the dark side really did function in the way this man claimed.
That albino #1 might know better than him.
But Kamijou Touma was the one here right now.
So he had to be the one to stand up to this here. For all his grumbling about misfortune, he was still one of the lucky ones. Because he had never been stained by the dark side, he could take an external view of it now!!
“The dark side might disappear today.”
He had to look the man in the eye.
He had to glare back at him.
He had to trust in the skepticism he felt. The scale of the issue did not change the outcome. What had he seen so far? He could never accept that Director Neoka Norito’s conclusion was the correct one.
“So a Director like you shouldn’t be clinging to the dark side. You should be remaking Academy City so it can protect everyone without the dark side!! I mean, you aren’t even talking about a fundamental solution. This clearly isn’t even about the survival of the dark side! It’s about creating a world where the people you rescue from the fire and smoke can live happy lives free of suffering!! That might be a crazy dream for a kid like me, but you might be able to do it now that you’ve worked your way up to the Board of Directors!! Am I wrong!?”
The boy had no money or political power.
It may have been strange that he could even directly stand up to a monster like this.
“Don’t run from it, Neoka.”
It was one-on-one.
A puny boy who simply lived in the city bared his fangs against one of the Directors who ruled it.
Because he knew he absolutely had to do this here.
“You never should have resorted to violence. And you definitely shouldn’t have cheated by relying on magic. What you needed was to put in the honest effort that’s unavailable to a brat like me who only has violence in my deck. It might not be dramatic, but you could have made progress, step by step! Then you could have changed things. The invisible power balance of the adults? You could have made it all visible if you had wanted to!! Whether you pulled up those who had fallen or caught those who were going to fall further, at least it wouldn’t have been this kind of safety net that only takes further lives!!”
“I see,” said Neoka while aiming his right gun, but not at Kamijou. “Feuerel!! Construct a fictional port between Au and Cu, aka Path 14!!!!!!”
Something could be heard breaking.
A red girl with a glowing halo unraveled into a mass of light that scorched the air in a straight line.
But that sound was not the girls Kamijou knew being roasted by the flames. It was the sound of him moving in between and destroying the deadly blast with his right fist.
“Makes you tremble, doesn’t it?” Neoka Norito laughed. “Not with your body, but in your soul!! This is neither scientific nor unscientific. This is what it means to have people you care for targeted. This is what it feels like to witness the moment of a life being taken! There is no logic here. I am not doing this because it is the right thing. This is all I have. I cannot even imagine how to rescue people any other way!!”
“Human,” called Othinus from his shoulder. She sounded exasperated and somewhat pitying. “Further conversation would be meaningless. He must know better than anyone that things have fallen apart for him, but he refuses to accept it. You could easily lose this, unless you receive some help from a god like me.”
“I will lend you some shrewd knowledge, but you must be the one to fight. Are you ready? You are both reckless and indescribably soft, so I imagine you are starting to want to save this man, aren’t you?”
With a dull sound, that puny boy clenched his right fist in order to win out in this clash of wills.
“If…” Kamijou Touma roared while ignoring how bloody his body was. “If there’s a chance!!”
“You must do it yourself. Show him the power you once used to save a god like me.”
Neoka Norito raised both assassination guns.
A single boy was headed toward him.
The man had four glass barrels. The tiny girls within, who could be easily dyed in any color, were how many cards he had in his hand. So what would he load in there? How could he defeat this boy and have his way?
Fire? Water? Wind? Earth? Or some other kind of power?
He had to think.
And the young Director smiled quietly.
He let go.
He dropped those strange products of magic and tightly clenched his empty hands.
For the first time, the boy and the small figure on his shoulder both looked taken aback.
As soon as the twisted assassination guns hit the solid floor, the man moved.
He tore through the air to rush forward.
“You’re in trouble, human!!”
“I know that!!”
This was a former rescue squad elite. Assuming he had maintained his powerful body, a mere high school boy like Kamijou Touma did not stand a chance physically. And his Imagine Breaker was no more than a bloody fist when no supernatural powers were involved.
This was the best possible answer.
This boy had faced the esper power of Academy City’s #1 and the ultimate magic of a true Magic God, but what he feared most was the ordinary martial arts that anyone could learn.
But there was no turning back now.
Neoka Norito intended to win this even it meant throwing out his pride. He was challenging the boy using his rescue squad body, not his power as a magician or a member of the Board of Directors.
Kamijou Touma had pushed him to this point.
This was the Neoka Norito he had most wanted to see.
So how could he turn away now?
How could he patiently keep his distance and face the man the smart way!?
He roared and stepped forward.
Two full-power fists crossed in the air.
A dull sound followed.
Kamijou Touma definitely heard it ringing in his skull rather than his ears.
In a pure competition of arm strength, he was no match for the man.
Neoka’s fist had slammed into his cheek, but Kamijou’s fist felt nothing. It had wandered right past this powerful foe’s face.
He had failed to land the cross counter.
“Did you think…”
Kamijou Touma’s brain was rattled, but he could still move his fist.
So he spoke.
“That was just a punch?”
His knees were already shaking and he did not have enough strength left for a fierce rush of attacks.
So he simply opened his clenched fist.
Specifically, he revealed what was hidden in that palm right next to the man’s face. It was his own blood. He flicked his fingers to launch the drops of blood soaking so much of his body.
Even that could be used to blind an enemy if used well.
“Sorry about the cheap move.”
The man used his fingers to wipe the blood from his eyes and shook his head, but an opening was an opening.
Blood would coagulate, especially when exposed to oxygen or other living things.
“From the moment I heard you were in a rescue squad, I knew I couldn’t win if it came to a fistfight. So I had to think up some way of winning even if it was dirty and underhanded. Just like you did!!”
After having his head rattled, Kamijou did not have the strength left to redo this from square one.
But he still gathered what strength he had.
“But if this is the only way I can protect the people I care for.”
Neoka Norito could not see, so he would probably rely on his ears instead.
If Kamijou feared pure martial arts, he only had to make sure his opponent could not use them. But Neoka could not crawl around in search of the spiritual items on the floor while blinded. If he was going to win, he too had to keep using his fists.
“And if you’ve trapped yourself in some nonexistent bonds of your own creation.”
But that was exactly what Kamijou wanted.
No matter how much they might understand each other now, they were still enemies. Kamijou could not have the man stalling until he collapsed from blood loss, so he opened his mouth to make sure that did not happen. He used noise and his voice to direct Neoka toward him. Because he was too weak to charge toward the man himself.
And this time, he really would deliver the finishing blow.
“Then I’ll destroy that illusion of yours!!!!!!”
This punch was the most he could manage.
After feeling the tactile feedback in his wrist and seeing the man collapse to the floor, Kamijou Touma fell to his knees and then collapsed alongside the man.
The powerful tremors and gunfire had stopped at some point.
The white-haired and red-eyed monster named Accelerator remained seated on the floor with his back against the secret interrogation room’s thick door. He had one leg stretched out and one bent up with his arms around the knee while he looked up at the ceiling. In that pose, the #1 confirmed something had come to an end.
That monster never had set foot outside that door.
Even though he could have obliterated this pathetic battle in less than a second if he had used his power as Academy City’s #1.
“Ee hee hee. Are you sure that was a good idea?”
Nothing was more irritating than the temptations of a demon. And just as he whispered into empty air, he heard something.
It was not quite a creak, but a definite sensation reached his back pressed against the door.
“It’s over, says Misaka as Misaka informs you.”
“Can you hear Misaka? This is a thick door, so maybe you can’t.”
“Oh, shut up. Do I have to respond to every little thing?”
After a quiet sigh, he finally answered.
The “atmosphere” was not a tangible thing. It would be undetectable even by the Academy City devices that could measure the faint and invisible AIM Diffusion Fields that espers emitted.
This conversation definitely changed something.
“There is no stopping you, is there? says Misaka as Misaka asks despite knowing the answer already.”
“Got a problem with this?”
“If this is what you have decided to do, Misaka will go along with it.”
That obedient statement may not have been a pleasant thing to hear when paired with the path the clones had taken to reach this point, but Accelerator detected a slight difference there.
Laws and morals.
The general public’s definitions of fortune and misfortune.
This had nothing to do with those established values. She was not obeying Accelerator’s words as a command; she had assessed them for herself and decided she agreed. It was a subtle issue and hard to put to words, but the two could not have been more different. Last Order could hear what Accelerator had to say and choose to either agree or disagree with it.
The white monster decided he could not allow anything to change that.
The demon floating in front of him grinned without saying a word.
“This is for the best.” He spoke softly while placing the decisive piece in front of the king. “This incident showed me my will can reach every part of this city to act in my stead. I can see and move through the entire city while remaining behind bars.”
Academy City was a den of the worst possible people. All sorts of people went unsaved even when things were successfully resolved and there were countless fools who would remain fools until the day they died.
But there were also people who would give him what he wanted.
They were not all part of a special category like him. Ordinary teachers would gear up in bulletproof armor and rush to the scene as Anti-Skill, EMTs would transport the injured to the hospital, and doctors would fulfill the duties of their job. And it was not limited to those professionals either. Ordinary students and office workers would work to suppress the chaos and wonder if there was anything they could do without relying on some kind of special talent.
Not all of them needed to punch out the villains.
People could demonstrate plenty of strength simply by clearing the path needed for the heroes who would protect people’s ordinary lives and spring to action whenever they saw a problem. There had to be dramatic events playing out everywhere and the people bringing together that great power were not even aware of what they were accomplishing. People who could do the ordinary things were strong in their own way.
He had sensed that here.
Maybe idealism was not enough and maybe reality was cruel, but he had sensed that this city was worth trusting.
“So this is for the best. It’s high time I gave up the title of ‘white monster’. That’s no more than a name that was forced onto me, so it’s time I removed that boring uniform they gave me. How can I call myself the true strongest if I can’t even do that?”
“You don’t have to stick with me. I’m choosing this path for myself, so you can choose a different path for yourself. As soon as this feels too heavy to bear, you can throw me out.”
“Misaka will come visit you. She can choose for herself and she chooses to come visit you every day! says Misaka as Misaka can’t stop trembling!!”
“You dumbass,” spat out Accelerator.
But the only person who could see the look on his face then was the supernatural demon.
There was a special sort of mirror on the interrogation room wall, but he had zero intention of looking in it.
No one else could understand.
There were as many ways for people to form bonds as there were people. So what was wrong with everyone having their own unique way?
He could not stop the girl’s tears without letting her lean on him, but he could not bind her with his words either.
So that human had just one thing to say.
It was just harsh enough in a way only they would understand.
“I won’t be waiting.”
Between the Lines X
Well, that should be enough for Set 1.